It’s a Saturday morning and you’re sitting at breakfast, surrounded by your friends, performing the typical forensic post-mortem of the night before. Many of the guys are proudly boasting about the girl they met, telling stories of how smooth they were, painting themselves as regular Don Juans. Opposite you, that newly-formed couple from the next staircase over are adorably yet sickeningly feeding each other breakfast and giggling incessantly, lost in their own little world of romance and happiness. Sheer bliss. As for you, you’re on your phone, anxiously waiting for a reply from the one you left at home, or who is studying at another university. Each week you tell each other stories about your individual nights out, filling your significant other in on yet another night that didn’t involve them. Being in a long distance relationship at university isn’t always as satisfying as one would hope.
When you find yourself, however unwillingly, in a long distance relationship, scenes like this are typical and perhaps that explains why so many people are so vehemently against them. Before I left for uni, and certainly during freshers’ week, as I informed everyone of my situation I was met with a mixture of pity, amazement and sheer bafflement. No one actually seems to believe it’s possible and I can’t count the number of times I heard variations on the phrase, “It’s never going to work. Don’t put yourself through that.” Sometimes these warnings were easy to disregard, as they came from people with little or no experience of dating someone several hours away, but when someone with bad experiences warns you, it gets harder and harder to ignore.
As I started out on this long distance thing I was terri ed, but my experience has been nowhere near as dire as I originally thought it would be. Okay, at times it can be lonely and frustrating, especially when the one person you need to to talk to just isn’t there. It can lead to absurd arguments and over-thinking, where you read a text saying, “Have a good morning” and scream, “What did you mean by that?” It can make the weeks drag on like no one’s business and it fills you with an uncontrollable bitterness, the kind of bitterness that makes you want to throw your cereal into the face of the new-found couple sitting opposite you at breakfast. This isn’t all they are, though. Let’s not forget that long-distance relationships open you up to experiences you never get when your girlfriend lives just down the road.
First of all, there’s the Skyping. Although Skype dates are not a touch on the real thing, it’s the closest you can get and allows you to be creative. So what if you can’t go out to dinner, the surreal experience of sitting down to a shared meal with your computer screen can sometimes be more fun than the awkward standoff as you try to decide on a place to eat. Now suddenly you can gorge yourself on a McDonald’s whilst your health-conscious girlfriend makes do with her three-leaf salad free from any conflicts of interest. More than this, conversations begin to sparkle. Naturally, the wealth of new opportunities university gives you affords you a plethora of things to talk about. You swap your stories, share your memories and compare your different experiences. As your dates generally tend to be you both sitting in a room focusing simply on each other, your attention rests more on the conversation and they do seem to improve.
Then, when you actually see each other, it’s always an event. Instead of growing complacent, used to the sight of someone you see nearly every day, you’re always inordinately excited. Standing at the train station and seeing that person stepping onto the platform, it’s like seeing them for the first time all over again. You find yourself filled with a hedonistic joie de vivre, so happy to be together that it becomes almost like a holiday. You eat out more, go to more places, do more in order to fully maximise your time together. Okay, they’re not perfect. Certainly they don’t come close to a conventional relationship but, should you find yourself in a situation where there’s no other option, try not to be put off. Focus on the little things, those things you never thought you’d end up doing. Just remember, if as a couple you can get through this then frankly you can get through anything.