Relationship becomes a long distance one

Originally Published: September 25, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 1, 2013
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Dear Alice,

I am eighteen years old and will begin college in a couple weeks. My boyfriend, however, has one more year of high school to complete. We've been together for just over seven months, and I've chosen a school that is only about twenty minutes from home. We have a wonderful relationship, and he has grown to be one of my best friends. As the time approaches for me to move into my dorm, we've both been troubled with apprehensive feelings. You see, we're used to being at the same high school and living within walking distance of each other. We've had several talks about this, and have agreed that we want to give it our all and try to adapt to our changing circumstances. Still, I'm scared and I know that he is, too. Is it possible for people accustomed to spending so much time together to cope with separation? What can we do to make the transition (and the next year) easier on one another?

Dear Reader,

Whether or not "long distance" relationships can work is one of those age-old questions in the book of love. They are, undoubtedly, a challenge, but challenges can be a good thing.

You and your boyfriend are in a unique kind of situation. College life is likely to differ in many ways from "life back home," where he'll still be. At college, you will be learning all kinds of new things. You will meet new and interesting people, study subjects you may not have even known about, and also have a chance to learn about yourself in new ways. Since your boyfriend will remain at home and attend high school, he is likely to continue life as he has for the last couple of years — studying at the same library, listening to similar music, sipping sodas at the same  diner. At times, it may seem as if you don't have anything in common anymore, and this can be scary. At some point, you may feel that this is true, and the two of you can reevaluate where the relationship is headed.

But being apart can also give you an opportunity to share things in a new way. You will only be about twenty minutes away from one another, so visits would certainly be possible, and phone calls are likely to be inexpensive. There are many ways to stay in touch: Calling, sending pictures, emailing, text messages, and video chatting are all good options. Don’t forget about social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram! Even though you will be relatively close by, old-fashioned snail mail is still a great way to connect with loved ones, and it can take on quite a romantic air, too!

You and your boyfriend are already setting yourselves up for success because you are communicating clearly about your feelings. This is probably the single most important thing to continue doing in order to make your time apart manageable. Since you live near one another, you may even want to set aside a special time each week to check in and talk about what's going on for each of you. If you're both busy with schoolwork or other commitments during the week, maybe you can get together during some weekends, and then there's those long holiday breaks, too. You will both need to listen carefully and hear the other's hopes and needs. For example, you are likely to be eager to share with your boyfriend the details of classes, activities, and new friends. This may be hard for him at first; he may need reassurance that you still care for him in a special way and are interested in what he's doing. You, too, might need to know that you are missed, but that your new experiences are something to be proud and excited about.

Long distance relationships can be tough, but they're not impossible. Keep the lines of communication open, and you and your boyfriend will have a great chance to get to know each other, and yourselves, better. For other ideas related to your question, read The up side of a long distance relationship, Long distance relationships, and the section on Long distance relationship. Good luck.

Alice