Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

by Zachary Gorman | 2/14/18 1:10am

by Jee Seob Jung / The Dartmouth

When you attend a college in the middle of nowhere, it might be difficult to maintain a romantic relationship with someone back home. Countless high school romances are broken up not by personal differences, but by physical distances. However, with technology that allows us to contact nearly anyone, anywhere, at any time, the barriers to making a long-distance relationship work have drastically decreased. Even at a remote school like Dartmouth, these relationships are exceedingly common.

College students in long-distance relationships have discovered some of the ups and downs of the arrangement. Xiao Li ’21 has begun to learn how to deal with the strain distance has put on her long-distance relationship.

“I think it’s a bit easier now with modern technology because we can still see each other, but not being physically near each other or having intimate contact with each other is really tough,” Li said. “Also, the time difference now is a really big factor. One of us has to compensate. Either he has to wake up earlier or I have to stay up later so that we can have some time ... to actually talk to each other.”

Li will be the first to tell you that it takes some serious effort to maintain such a relationship.

“It definitely takes more work,” she said. “A relationship, in general, takes work. But if you’re able to see each other every day, it’s less work. Now, you have all these other distractions. If you don’t actively make the time to talk to the other person, it’s really easy to feel neglected or left hanging. So you have to schedule in a part of your day to make time for the other person. If you’re in the same place, you can just spend that time together and study together. Here, that’s not really possible.” 

Scheduling time to talk seems to be a common tool that students use to make long-distance relationships more manageable. Savannah Miller ’21, who was in a long-distance relationship even before she came to Dartmouth, knows the effort it takes to schedule time for a partner.

“Being in a long-distance relationship forces you to make time for that other person because it’s not like that other person can be with you during the day,” Miller said. “You have to make specific times to talk with them or Skype with them … [it] really makes you focus on communicating a lot more than you might in a traditional relationship where you’re close each other.”

Any Dartmouth student knows all too well the hours of work that are necessary to succeed at this school. Unsurprisingly, it’s difficult for students to find time in their schedules for their significant others. Ricardo Serrano-Smith ’21 finds that balancing his work and his long-distance relationship can be tough.

“[Coming to Dartmouth] has made it a lot harder,” Serrano-Smith said. “It’s harder to communicate with each other sometimes because my schedule is very hectic. We’re not able to FaceTime a lot and it’s a strain sometimes. But whenever we meet up it’s always very nice to be able to see her again.”

While difficult, long-distance relationships have taught these students how to make the best of a tough situation.

“[I’ve learned to] be inventive with the ways that you maintain the relationship when you’re apart,” Miller said. “Schedule Skype dates where you get the same kind of food and watch a movie or Netflix. Come up with playlists that you can listen to at the same time on Spotify. Find really inventive ways to stay connected to each other even when you’re far apart.”

Long-distance relationships can reveal new communication issues that arise from partners’ personalities. In Li’s case, however, she has discovered how to reconcile the differing tendencies that could cause tension with her partner.

“I’ve learned to really think about what the other person needs ... I don’t respond to texts very well, but he likes when I check in throughout the day, so I just FaceTime him whenever I have time and talk to him a little bit,” Li said. “Or when I’m doing something, I can FaceTime him without talking to him and just do what I do with him in the background. That’s really helpful. I get distracted and busy in my day, and it’s really hard for me to have sit-down time. But by checking in every once in a while, it’s been good.”

Their long-distance relationships have also given these students some valuable lessons about how to maintain healthy relationships.

“I’ve learned to be patient and to trust her, and she’s learned to trust me,” Serrano-Smith said.

There’s certainly a common notion that long-distance relationships can’t be long-term relationships. Relationships in which partners live near each other can often be regarded as more serious and long-lasting. This is one reason why so many students choose to end their healthy relationships when they move away to college. However, students in long-distance relationships have other ideas.

“It does get kind of rough sometimes when you go weeks or months without seeing each other,” Miller said. “But just knowing that when you graduate you can start your own life together with your own goals and aspirations makes it all worth it.”

Miller is a member of The Dartmouth staff.