I first started dating my boyfriend during winter break of my second year at McGill. He was a close friend from high school, studying in Vancouver. I was heading back to McGill soon, and so we had to contend with the fact that we would be entering our relationship at a distance, which was definitely intimidating. The first semester was pretty rough, as we were both busy and rarely had time to talk, but seeing each other in person again in the summer made the time apart worth it. Throughout my third year at McGill, we communicated mainly over Facebook Messenger or Skype, and saw each other only during winter break and over the summer.
Now that summer is over and school is starting up again, many university students will face the difficulty of leaving their partners in other cities, provinces, or even countries. Long-distance relationships in university are very common: According to Maclean’s, 75 per cent of students have been in a long-distance relationship at some point during university. Today, in our social media-powered society, it is easier—and faster—than ever to stay connected with someone who is far away.
However, even with the advantages that technology offers us, long-distance relationships remain challenging to maintain. Just being away at university can feel isolating and stressful, and since long-distance relationships lack the physical component of other romantic partnerships, they require additional communication between partners. In my experience, when I am stressed about something, my boyfriend is generally good at comforting me if I am with him; however, he found it much harder to do so over the phone.
“Personally, […] I don’t think that doing long distance is ideal,” Erica Zhu, U4 Science, said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I definitely don’t think this is something that people can do [forever], especially if there’s no [immediate] end in sight.”
Indeed, the stereotypes associated with doing long-distance relationships may scare off many young couples. Feelings of loneliness, lack of physical intimacy, growing apart are all challenges that many people face when in a long-distance relationship.
Of course, that isn’t to say that all long-distance couples are destined for heartbreak. They can, in fact, establish unique bonds irrelevant to close distance relationships. For instance, a study by Cornell University found that long-distance relationships lends themselves to more intimate communication. Though couples communicate less on a daily basis, they are more inclined to share meaningful feelings to each other. In fact, a 2013 study by Queen’s University found that couples in long-distance are just as satisfied as couples who live close to each other, and that individual characteristics are much better predictors of relationship quality than distance.
“It’s definitely possible to […] still feel close and not live completely separate lives,” Zhu said. “I think it’s all about finding activities that you like to do together [.…] You can [stream] movies together on this app called Rabb.it. I also find that sending care packages or snail mail is a really good way to feel connected.”
For me, I enjoyed Skype calling my boyfriend while doing work or studying. Finding little ways to spend time together or show gestures of appreciation can go a long way in allowing long-distance relationships flourish. Interestingly, there are some unexpected upsides to it as well. Seeing my boyfriend only every four months has made me appreciate our time together and has helped us grow closer. Despite the difficulties we face, long-distance has ultimately only made us stronger.