Relationship becomes a long distance one

Dear Alice,

I am 18 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 relationships can work across any distance is one of those age-old questions in the book of love. They’re undoubtedly a challenge, but challenges can be a good thing. Keeping the lines of communication open and continuing to share your lives with each other may be your best bet at making this relationship more manageable, despite the miles in between.

You and your boyfriend are in a unique situation. As you embark on this new journey in college, life is likely to differ in many ways from "life back home." You’ll 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 his life may continue as it has, it can feel like, at times, you two don't have anything in common anymore. The good news is that you and your boyfriend are already setting yourselves up for success by communicating clearly about your feelings — this is a key factor for making your time apart a positive.

While being apart and having different life experiences may seem scary at first, it can also give you an opportunity to share things in a new way. For example, you may be eager to share with your boyfriend the details of classes, activities, and new friends. Keep in mind though that 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’re missed, but your new experiences are something to be proud of and excited about. In these moments, remembering how you feel about each other and why you decided to try long distance may help you focus on re-connecting.

On the bright side, staying in touch with loved ones is easier than days past. Phone calls, sending pictures, emailing, text messages, social media, and video chatting are all great ways to stay connected. Since you’ll only be 20 minutes away, you may even try scheduling visits with each other. This will give your boyfriend an opportunity to meet your new friends and feel like he’s part of your new life. It may also help you feel like you still have a place in his life as well. If you're both busy with schoolwork or other commitments during the week, maybe you can get together during some weekends, and over holiday/school breaks. And, even though you’ll be relatively close by, old-fashioned snail mail is still a great way to connect with loved ones, and adds a bit of romantic flair, too!

Long distance relationships can be tough, but they're not impossible. Continuing to communicate and listening carefully to the other's hopes and needs will give you a chance to get to know each other, and yourselves, better through this time of transition.

Last updated Dec 09, 2016
Originally published Sep 25, 1998

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