Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bridging the Love Gap: Long Distance Relationships in College

College is a time of major transitions, hard work, new friends, and freedom from the chains that bound many people during adolescence. Time seems to fly by and opportunities to socialize and network come and go like lightning. While most students are breaking out of their familiar cocoons and becoming social butterflies in college, some hold deeper roots at home because of long distance relationships.

“Long distance relationship” can be an intimidating phrase to hear. Some people cringe at the thought of being bound to someone who is miles away for long periods of time. Others see distance as a small hurdle in their relationship that is worth it in the end. In the age of social media, texting, Internet dating services, and Skype, keeping in touch is easier than ever. But is leaving for college and leaving behind a loved one still enough to drive couples apart? Does it hinder the college experience?

“I think about it so often, how different my life could have been if I wasn't in that relationship,” Jessica Ciulla, a student at Stony Brook University, said. “Instead of trying to go out and meet people my first semester of college, I would stay in and talk to him because of how much he missed me.”

According to the former Center for the Study of LongDistance Relationships, approximately 4.4 million college students are in long distance relationships. In addition, studies show that long distance relationships do not break up at a greater rate than couples who live close to each other. One study found that 23% of proximal couples and 11% of long distance relationships break up after 6 months of dating. Another found that 25% of proximal couples break up after one year of dating, and only 8% of long distance relationships do.

“I did finally start to make friends towards the middle of the semester but he would worry too much and didn't like that I wasn't talking to him as much since I was hanging out with other people,” Ciulla said. “He would get really jealous and basically didn't want me to have fun unless he could be there too.”

According to research by Statistic Brian, the average distance that a couple in a long distance relationship lives from each other is 125 miles. The average amount of times the couple visits each other per month is 1.5 and the average amount of time in between phone calls is 2.7 days.

“Dating someone who doesn’t check their phone or go online often is stressful for someone like me who relies on technology for communication,” Lisa Ritter, a junior at St. Michael’s College said. "When we were apart, it was nearly impossible to get ahold of him to have a conversation. We just got to the point where we missed each other too much and didn’t want to stress out about the distance anymore.”

Matt Egan, a sophomore at Northeastern University has been dating his girlfriend for over two years. They are long distance when he is away at college.

Matt Egan and his girlfriend, Kym Van Heemst. (Source)
“Being in a long distance relationship is definitely hard because there is always the longing to get to see that person,” Egan said. “That being said I think the distance helps build trust and confidence that the other person really cares enough about you to endure the same emotional longing that you are going through in order to stay together.”

People seem to have very diverse views on being in long-distance relationships during college, and how it affects their college experiences.  While Matt Egan is in a successful long distance relationship, not everyone is so lucky.

Jesse Suhaka, a sophomore at St. Michael’s College came out of his relationship of over two years during his freshman year of college.

“I would certainly say that it was difficult to enter college in a relationship,” Suhaka said. “It made the whole transition much harder than it would have possibly been if my Father was the only one I had to say goodbye too. In terms of my social life, I viewed the relationship as my social life. I hardly gave a shit about the students who attend this school and what their lives were like. I was busy counting the days down until I could get home again.”

Matt Egan’s college experience is affected much differently by the distance between him and his girlfriend.

“Being in a long distance relationship has definitely affected my college experience, although in my eyes the effects are positive,” Egan said. “For starters not having the distraction of the opposite sex on my mind while at school because I was already taken was helpful when it came to focusing on academics and success. Also, having such a strong bond has made me realize what's truly important in my life and what I want for my future; enabling me to have priorities which I believe to be above those of most college males.”

Long distance is not as easy for some people. Jake Wexler, a sophomore at the Purchase College, experienced trust issues and realized that his relationship was taking a toll on his college experience.

“We never got to see each other as much as we wanted and trust really became an issue,” Wexler said. “I do not regret it because I learned a lot about myself, other people, and managing a relationship but I don't think I'm ever planning on wanting a long distance relationship again, although I’m not totally opposed if it were the right person.”

Tanya Marceau and her fiance, Clinton Black. (Source)
Tanya Marceau, a sophomore at St. Michael’s College, has been in a long distance relationship with her boyfriend for the better part of 7 years. They have been engaged for the last 2 years.

“I don’t think it’s affecting my college experience at all, I now have extra time for homework and friends which I would not have if he attended my school,” Marceau said. “He would have been too much of a distraction. The benefits would have to be the free time I have, also having the bed all to myself and being far apart helps me keep my individuality -something that can get lost in the shuffle when couples spend all their free time together.”

Although many people agree that long distance is not ideal and quite difficult, there are definitely success stories like Matt Egan and Tanya Marceau.  

“The only downside to my long distance relationship is in its description: long distance,” Egan said. “To me the benefits far outweigh the distance because I know that someday I will get to be with my significant other and every second away from her will be worth the future I pray that I will have the pleasure of spending with her.”

Long distance is a complicated thing, especially in college. The best thing to do is follow your heart. It seems to work out differently for everyone and even if it fails, it can be a good learning experience. Over 4 million college students in the United States are taking their chances with long distance love. As they say in The Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Bruno Mars- "Long Distance" on YouTube. (Source)

Well Cast's Advice and Statistics for Long Distance Relationships on YouTube. (Source)

·         (All personal interviews conducted on Facebook)
·         Jake Wexler, Purchase College, 4/14/13, Facebook
·         Jessica Ciulla, Stony Brook University, 4/19/13, Facebook
·         Tanya Marceau, St. Michael’s College, 4/15/13, Facebook
·         Lisa Ritter, Saint Michael’s College, 4/14/13, Facebook
·         Matt Egan, Northeastern University, 4/14/13, Facebook
·         Jesse Suhaka, Saint Michael's College, 4/14/13, Facebook

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