Relationships in college can be very complicated, even more so when you live on opposites sides of the country- or even plane journeys apart. But it can definitely be worth it. I spoke to four current students who have experienced the difficulty and joys of long-distance relationships.
Did you start going out before or after you moved?
Rachel (Literary Student, Amsterdam): We started dating before I moved here but it was pretty much always on the cards for us. I was initially planning on going to Berlin for college and we discussed this on our first date, and he was the one who told me about university in Amsterdam.
Evan (Masters Student, UCC): We’re from the same town, but were studying in two different cities for the first few months/ first year of our relationship. It’s probably for the best that it started out at a distance, because if we’d been as dependent on each other as we are now it would’ve been a lot more difficult.
Anna (Drama Student, Cork): We started dating officially in March of our respective first years of college. It originally started as a serial hook-up that neither of us talked about, but after Christmas that year we got more serious.
Robyn (English Student, Cork): Our situation was different as neither of us moved out. I was born and raised in Cork, and him in Kildare. We met on tinder, and no, I didn’t have my distance set for miles away, he works in Cork frequently, so we matched when he was in the city.
How often might you see each other?
Ra: My boyfriend came to visit me 2 weeks after I arrived here and now, we’re planning a weekend away in October. He is also trying to get a VISA to move here around the beginning of next year. He’s originally from Mexico though and is going to visit his family for a few months but I’m hoping to fly over for Christmas.
E: We had the opportunity to see each other most weekends however we had work and other commitments which sometimes made it difficult to meet up. We pretty much ended up just carving time out of our sleep schedules, so many of our early relationship memories are from 11pm onwards and in (shady) pubs and bars.
A: We saw each other as often as we could afford to be in the same time zone. I flew to her from Ireland a few times and we travelled from Florida (where she goes to college) up to Pennsylvania (where we are both from originally) and she came to Cork a few times. Maintaining regular visits with someone 3,000 miles away is financially impossible for students to keep up with on a basis that can sustain a relationship, though.
Ro: We see each other every one or two weeks, but it can be longer, like when he is working abroad. Over summer I didn’t see him for four or five weeks at a time.
What forms of communication did you find the most helpful for keeping your sex life active?
Ra: I feel like this was one of the most difficult things about being in a long-distance relationship. It’s hard to go from having an active sex life to only having technology as a reliever. My boyfriend bought me a vibrator and we send nudes and sext over video call quite regularly. There’s nothing that could replicate the intimacy of being with the person you love but I suppose we’re lucky now because we do have social media at our disposal, and we can constantly be talking on Whatsapp even in different countries.
E: We mostly communicated using messenger. Although snapchat might be the most obvious communication method, in terms of visual sexuality, it just so developed that it was more natural for us to engage with each other through words. I would probably attribute a decent amount of our initial personal connections with those long, often steamy, weeknights spent on messenger
A: It always felt nice to know she was thinking about me- whether it was sexual or not. Just a quick text every now and then. Neither of us really ever got into video sex calls or anything. Sometimes I would send or receive a racy picture, but it never felt necessary or forced. Longing for another person is incredibly romantic if you’re a good communicator.
Ro: Snapchat is handy because its easy to send something provocative when it only lasts ten seconds. We can see each other’s face every day that way which makes it easier being apart.
What problems did you run into in general?
Ra: Our biggest problem was separation anxiety and the way it manifested into thoughts of infidelity. From his perspective, I was moving into a new country, completely anonymous and capable of cheating on him without him ever finding out. For me, he was a former lothario ready to sew some wild oats before he moved on with me. He believed that I was having a freshers fling while realistically I was trying to make friends with the people on my course and spending too much money on KFC. I believed he was living like a bachelor while realistically he was playing a lot of Pokemon and working as much as he could. The only way that we got through this was communication. Explaining the truth of the situation and knowing that you only feel this way because you care so much about the person is important. He visited me and got to see what my reality was over here and got to meet my friends. Once he realised that I wasn’t hanging out with tall, threatening Dutch men his anxiety eased and once I realised he had spent two weeks missing me and being miserable too, mine eased.
E: Obvious problems, really. It’s taxing to be constantly missing your partner, and there’s no denying that that can have an effect on focus or general mood. We were lucky that no major arguments came about in that first year, that’s a situation that distance can make even harder. There’s also a wider space for jealousy to creep into sometimes, when you have such geographically separate social live.
A: Being on the same page was ultimately what proved to be the most problematic thing. You can’t exist in two places at once, and we both found ourselves sacrificing things in our own lives to make the other person feel involved. Social media is tricky for that- it’s great to see what the person you love is doing, but you can find yourself getting lost in that world. It made me really sad to have a window into the life of the person I loved and to not be able to be a part of it.
Ro: We have run into no real problems! Granted, we missed each other but you’re so excited when you do get moments together.
What tips would you give anyone entering a long-distance relationship?
Ra: Communicate- regularly and truthfully. If something is bothering you or your thoughts are turning to a dark place, discuss it.
Support and trust each other, it’s easy to be overwhelmed but you are both going through the same thing.
Understand that it does get easier- the first two weeks were so painful and empty but now I feel much more confident in our relationship and much more capable of dealing with the distance.
Buy a sex toy and try not to cry every time you see a couple in public.
E: The main thing for me would be mutual trust. If you feel that there’s isn’t a strong sense of connection and trust in the relationship, living apart could prove a bit rough. Communication is key, and if communication isn’t your strong point, making the extra effort to chat or call to talk about your days or sending thoughtful messages at night can really make a huge difference to your partner’s day. Effort is always important, but when functioning long-distance it can be absolutely crucial.
A: Keep it simple, for as long as you can. Meeting a significant other again after a long time apart is almost intoxicating, but it won’t always feel that good. Setting boundaries is also a good idea. Be interested in what they’re doing but foster your world as well. I think it takes a lot of self-love to get over the jealousy and loneliness that can come with any relationship, but long distance is all of that on steroids. Also, in the same line with keeping it simple, don’t commit to anything serious unless you have a clear enough plan for the future that includes both of you in the same place.
Ro: Make sure you communicate your feelings. It’s easy getting trapped in your own thoughts while apart, so its so important that you do talk things through. Make sure you let them know how important they are to you. Finally, if you so desire, ride them like its going out of fashion to make up for lost time.