Going the Distance
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is definitely in the air. As people make plans for this upcoming Thursday night — whether that entails finding a special someone in a frat basement, having a romantic dinner out with a partner or perhaps celebrating another annual Single’s Awareness Day with friends — some will find themselves wrapped up in conversation over the phone, facing the less-than-ideal but unfortunately inevitable reality of a long-distance relationship.
Especially in a classic college campus setting, where hook-up culture and one-night stands often dominate the scene, being in a long distance relationship can pose a number of challenges. For Jeffrey Taylor ’21, the most challenging aspect of his relationship thus far has been maintaining solid, consistent communication with his girlfriend, particularly on days that were busy for both of the two. He shared, however, that even on those days, he made a mindful effort to give her his daily support from across the globe.
“The biggest difficulty has definitely been days when we don’t have a lot of time to communicate, especially with the time zone difference of me being in the States and her being in Spain,” Taylor said. “It’s really important to me, though, to always make it known to her that I’m still there and that I am making a conscious effort to be a part of her life.”
For Samuel Tabrisky ’22, one particular aspect that made maintaining his long distance relationship more manageable was the fact that his girlfriend was able to visit Dartmouth several times per term. According to Tabrisky, being able to see her and spend time with her in person was what made all the difference.
“Being able to be with [her] in person when she visits reminds me that I really do love her a lot and that I really enjoy being with her,” Tabrisky said. “The most important thing for me is being able to see her face-to-face, and I think the one thing that has made long distance so much easier for us is that she’s been able to visit me fairly often.”
On the other hand, Taylor shared that he was only able to see his girlfriend a handful of times per year. Despite this, however, Taylor, who had been in several long-distance relationships before this one, shared that this time around, the distance actually proved to be much easier than he had anticipated. He attributed this fact to the immense trust he had in his partner, which was not the case in previous relationships.
“I’ve done long distance two or three times now, and every other time I went into it with a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t fully trust my partner, whether I was willing to admit it or not,” Taylor said. “Now that I’m in a long distance relationship with someone who I completely trust and who I know is the one for me, it completely changed my perspective on distance. I went from swearing I’d never do it again to recognizing it as something very doable and enjoyable.”
Not all, however, have the same idyllic experience as Taylor. Rosy Zhong ’22, who decided to end her previous long-distance relationship, found it was difficult for her to pour time and effort into the relationship, especially after becoming more invested in her life on campus. Furthermore, she shared that when she faced struggles with her partner, she devoted herself even more to her on-campus activities, leading to a self-fulfilling cycle of difficulty in her relationship.
“I’ve always been the type of person to get easily excited by everything around me, so last term I had a lot of fun meeting all these new friends and loving all the activities I was involved with,” Zhong said. “I think one reason my breakup might have happened is because I was so focused and involved at school, and I came to realize that my relationship wasn’t making me as happy as all the opportunities here at Dartmouth were.”
One unanimous conclusion reached by all those who had experienced long-distance relationships one way or another was the importance of taking care of themselves and finding healthy, meaningful ways to grow and improve individually outside the relationship.
For one, Taylor shared that by setting serious personal goals for himself, he was able to find great joy in his own independent commitment to his aspirations.
“A major key to keeping yourself happy when you’re in a long-distance relationship — aside from the other person, of course — is having your own personal goals to reach,” Taylor said. “For example, although it’s great to have my girlfriend’s support in my bodybuilding goals, I know that at the end of the day, it’s something dependent solely on me and my repetitive dedication, which is really rewarding.”
Another critical form of self-care shared was the act of re-evaluating a relationship, particularly when it isn’t quite going the way one might have predicted. Zhong had insight into this type of situation, sharing advice with anyone who may find themselves in the same boat.
“I think it’s okay to commit to a long distance relationship and later come to realize that it isn’t going exactly the way you thought it would,” Zhong said. “It’s okay to decide that what’s best for both of you at the moment is different than what you had thought previously, and it’s especially important to try to adapt to your new situations and environments.”
So whether you’ll actually be with your partner this Valentine’s Day, snuggled up alone while on the phone, or whatever else the holiday might bring, one thing is clear: above all, prioritize your own happiness, self-awareness and well-being. After all, as cheesy as it sounds, the most important person to love this Valentine’s Day — and for all those after — is yourself.