Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass students navigate dynamic of long-distance relationships

Justin Surgent/Daily Collegian
Justin Surgent/Daily Collegian

Hannah Burbidge was already in bed when she heard her phone vibrate on an October morning around 3 a.m. It was a text and at that hour, she thought it could only be from her mother or her boyfriend.

“I go out and I sit down at a table set for two,” read the message from her boyfriend, Lance Corporal Kyle Francis, a 19-year-old Marine. The borrowed lyrics from singer Gavin DeGraw’s “Not Over You” were written about a breakup, but in this context, they refer to a long-distance relationship. Francis first sent the same lyrics in a July love letter from boot camp.

Burbidge, a freshman psychology major at the University of Massachusetts, recognized the song and started singing it out loud. She has been in a long-distance relationship with Francis for two and a half years. In the UMass community, this is not an uncommon circumstance.

“It was almost like he could hug me or kiss me right there,” Burbidge said of the text. Francis is stationed in California and is on a deployment list for Saudi Arabia. “It’s when you get hit with an emotion, it’s like a little surprise.”

The two met in 2011 in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, Francis’ hometown and a family vacation spot for Burbidge. They started dating two months later.

Distance has been a factor for the couple since the beginning of their relationship. Burbidge traveled 45 minutes by car from her Plymouth home and Francis often met her halfway after a 45-minute boat ride. They met every weekend, despite the demand of high school and sports, soccer for Burbidge and hockey for Francis.

Burbidge has spent years talking with Francis on Oovoo, a video chat service, and said patience is key for a successful long-distance relationship. Still, she admitted she occasionally gets frustrated, especially when her friends make plans with their boyfriends.

“They’ll say, ‘Do you want to go get pizza at Antonio’s on Wednesday,’” Burbidge said. “I’ve never been able to do that – to pick up the phone, say, ‘Come meet me here,’ and 15 minutes later, I see his face. It’s always been a process.”

She added that Valentine’s Day “stings” without Francis, but said lows like that are worth it when she sees him in person. Burbidge compared the feeling to joy on Christmas morning.

Sophomore biology major Damien Cranshaw is also in a long-distance relationship that’s approaching three years. He and Veronica Hayden, his high school sweetheart, have plans in Amherst on Feb. 14 for the second consecutive year. Hayden is a sophomore at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in New York.

Cranshaw said the Blackstone natives had to ask a tough question upon graduation: how committed were they to their relationship?

Once the pair realized they could stay true to each other, they made a symbolic promise in the form of a childhood teddy bear exchange. Cranshaw received Tumbles, a dark black bear, while Hayden welcomed Dexter, a light brown teddy from Build-A-Bear Workshop.

“Sometimes it just gets tough,” Cranshaw said of the distance. He visits Hayden once or twice a month, since he doesn’t have a car. “You wish you had your best friend with you, but she’s far away,” he said. “(The bears) are a reminder that we’re always there for each other.”

Cranshaw, like Burbidge, confessed a degree of jealousy over friends having their significant others on campus. He said distance is not ideal, but he “makes it work.”

Kelsey Evans, a junior, knows the difficulties of long-distance relationships from firsthand experience. The natural resource conservation major from Ipswich dated hometown friend Guy Lopes, 24, for just over a year. He lived in Ipswich during that time.

Evans said she sacrificed schoolwork on the weekends in favor of spending time with Lopes. She also saw her absence from school impact her social life and relationships with friends. Evans mused that a lack of focus could have been to blame, or she could have just been “love sick.”

She’s rekindled old friendships since becoming single, and though distance wasn’t the reason for her breakup, she said she doesn’t plan on getting into another long-distance relationship while still in school.

“You just have to be willing to put in a lot of effort,” Evans said. “But I have no idea if I’ll meet someone who might change my mind. It all depends on the person.”

Peter Cappiello can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @petecapps.

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    PhilMar 8, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    We put together a course on long distance relationships by asking a couple who’d been through one for 6 years to share their story:

    Let us know what you think!