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Reconsidering the stigma around long-distance relationship

(Marc Levin/Flickr)

(Marc Levin/Flickr)

As I write this, I am on FaceTime with my long-distance boyfriend. It’s our third week apart after a whole month together over winter break. Yes, it’s been a tough three weeks. But to me, a long-distance relationship, no matter how far apart, is worth it.

I met my boyfriend during my senior year of high school. I figured it would break off by the end of the school year and we would go our separate ways. Needless to say, I was wrong. Even though everyone (and everyone’s parents) told me that a long-distance relationship was a waste of time, my boyfriend and I decided to continue our relationship. Despite the 460 miles between us, we have been together through the entire first semester of college and plan to stay together for this semester.

Now, I wonder why people, and even parents, discourage people from long-distance relationships. I’m currently taking a class in sociology where we discussed how in American culture parents are less likely to believe that their children are in love during adolescence.

You’ll see dozens of Thought Catalog articles about “How long distance wasn’t worth it” or “How long distance destroyed my relationship.” There is a stigma in our culture surrounding long-distance relationships, and I believe that this is not completely underserved.

But, that stigma is starting to change. In the United States, 75 percent of college students have tried long-distance relationships, according to a 2013 study by Cornell University. The study also looked at 63 long-distance couples, with the average age of 21 years old. Many were in college or of college age. The findings were very surprising to the researchers. They found that yes, long-distance couples interacted fewer times a day, but their interactions were more meaningful. Long distance was also found to have just as much positive trust as “geographically close ones.” This is because you do not see your significant other on a daily basis and you do not know what they are doing every second of every day. You have to trust that your partner is being faithful and yes, this can be tough for some people.

People also tend to think that long-distance relationships are more likely to fail than a regular relationship. That is not the case. According to The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, a long-distance relationship is just as likely as a regular relationship to fail. This positive data about long distance relationships could be attributed to FaceTime and Skype, which allow face-to-face connection with your partner.

The Cornell study revealed that long distance couples learned more deep information about their partner due to the more meaningful conversations. Due to this deeper connection, partners may realize that this person is not the match for them and will break up, just as any other relationship. Or this deeper connection will bring the couple closer while apart. Another thing about long-distance relationships is that they require trust between the couple. If you do not trust your significant other, long distance may not be the fit for you.

To many, it sounds like long-distance relationships don’t have many benefits. I would disagree. The biggest benefit that I have found is that I have time to do something for myself without my boyfriend. I can be my own person and do things that I enjoy. Being on my own has taught me a lot about self-love and it’s been a very enriching experience. Yes, I get lonely and miss my boyfriend, but that’s normal. But that pushes me to get out there and participate around campus.

People think that a long distance can ruin your college experience and that it is not ideal. To you I say that if it feels right and the person is right for you, you should try. You’ll never know unless you try. And for all my friends out there toughing it out long distance, you’re not alone and you’re certainly not doing anything wrong. The cliché saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is true. Long distance is like college in the sense that it is what you make of it.

I never thought that I would be in a long-distance relationship, let alone write a column about it, but being in a long-distance relationship has made a large, positive impact on my college experience. I’m glad that I gave long distance a chance and I encourage others to do the same.

Emelia Beuger is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu.

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