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Column: A survival guide for long-distance relationships

August 7th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By Jakob Asplund

Beyond the first months of the candy-and-flowers period, the butterflies and the sparks and all the breathless excitement, relationships aren’t easy. Some may look easier than others, but that usually means there is a lot going on behind the curtains. To make things worse, take into account that your partner is going to live more than 5,000 miles away from you—is it even realistic to expect it to survive?

Long-distance relationships are not only common in the Utah and LDS community, where many young couples have to be apart during 2-year church missions. Long-distance relationships are on the rise in general. According to USA Today, half of college-age couples live in different places, and up to 75 percent of all college students will be long-distance partnership at some point.

To save all you hopeless romantics out there a ton of emotional distress, the answer to the question above is no: It isn’t realistic to expect your long-distance love to last. Discouraging comments from people on several online forums suggest that the failure rate for long-distance relationships is high. Jealousies, too little communication, too much communication, cheating, and even parting life paths are only some of the potential obstacles such couples face. It is not because long-distance relationships by default are set to fail, but because romance and love alone aren’t enough.

Coming from someone who has endured this first-hand, here comes a guide that may help if you are thinking about committing to this gruesome test of emotions.

1. Be upfront with expectations from the get-go

If you sit down together and set ground rules before you commit to try to maintain a long-distance love affair, it is easier for you to know what to expect. This can include what you are comfortable with your partner doing while you are apart. Is flirting allowed? How many calls or e-mails per day and, if possible, how many times will you travel to see each other? People who just jump into the long-distance relationships might be in for a surprise. Changes happen in your lives and if you haven’t talked about a plan for how to deal with them, trouble is coming your way.

2. Express yourself
Communication is important in any relationship. Couples living in the same town are not necessarily better at communicating than those living apart. But they do have the advantage of physical proximity and contact. Since you will lack this essential component of any relationship, you will have to rely on words to express your affection. It doesn’t have to be an entire speech about how much you love them. Smaller comments can be just as effective, if not more so, like, “If I would be with you I would hold you in my arms.” Sometimes the pen can even be mightier than the phone. Writing letters helps us become more creative in how we express ourselves and makes for great distance romance. Make sure you communicate often and keep each other updated on what is going on in your lives. Because when you do get together again, there won´t be an awkward feeling of being strangers.

3. Be comfortable and enjoy independence
Until a year before getting married, Nate and Megan Ballam had to spend time away from each other as Nate went on a mission for his church for two years. There were many times when they both thought it might not work out, Nate said. The two were both lucky to grow up in a culture that helps prepare them for such a long break from each other, but he said since all you get are letters and e-mail, it was still very hard.

“All of Megan´s friends were dating and off doing fun things,” Nate said. “You want her to be off having fun to, but we were still committed to each other.”

Don’t ever propose putting your entire life on hold just so you can be with your partner. If the relationship is new, do not sacrifice so much of your own freedom for something that, according to so many, doesn’t seem to work out in the end. Instead, try to give each other a chance to feel good about being alone, by yourselves. Not because this will guarantee a better shot at your relationship working out in the end, but if it does work out, you must have cared about each other a lot all along, which is important to realize. Don’t make your partner your whole life. In the end, if you still want each other, you will feel more committed to each other.

4. Love-life on the road
Yes, your intimate life might be best experienced when the both of you are in the same room, but you shouldn’t think for a second that a long-distance relationship can’t be intimate, or even physical. Creativity is a must, which is why Facebook, Skype and e-mail become not only great but must-have tools for staying connected and together. They let you keep your intimate spark to a certain extent. Sure, it might be frustrating to read something that makes you feel warm inside and not be able to touch the person, but that doesn´t mean you can’t do anything about it. Phone sex, webcams, writing each other intimate messages are all ways to let your partner know how you feel. And if you are not fully intimate with each other just yet, expressing how good the person makes you feel can be just as powerful a tool as any.

Long-distance relationships are difficult and challenging, but not impossible. They do not equal failure and emotional misery, but if not done the right way, they can cause a lot of pain that can be avoided. Keep in mind you need to be honest and up-front with each other if you really want it to work.

Jakob Asplund is a senior JCOM major from Sweden who spent the summer home in Stockholm while his sweet baboo was in Logan.


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