A very common feature of college dating these days is the long distance relationship. According to Statistic Brain 32.5 percent of college relationships are long distance, which is a high percentage of couples one would expect to commit to this daunting feat. I've witnessed long distance relationships of all ranges, from living in different cities in the same state, cross-country lesbian relationships through Tumblr and friends who attempt to stay with international students after they return to other continents.
Why would anyone, especially fun-loving college kids, try to maintain a long distance relationship? It's hopeless, expensive and illogical to be with someone who is not actually there. All this technology that's supposedly facilitating these relationships allows you to know everything that goes on in your partners' lives, but in the end you're not actually in your partners' lives. On a bad day you could trip out and realize that your relationship may as well be hypothetical, as it's not something that's taking place in your immediate reality. Basically, everyday in a long distance relationship can be a struggle. Not to mention all your friends will be extremely incredulous and judge you the whole time.
But people do it because of feelings. It's easy to forget that they exist, but feelings often drive people to engage in illogical actions -- such as pursuing a lover who is far, far away. Sometimes you meet someone who rocks your world, a person you may never come across in your own vicinity, or someone you've been with for a while who you want to stay with and is worth the blue balls.
Also, it's what pre-marital dating entails these days. Young love is being challenged by longer paths to careers, unpredictable job mobility and personal ambitions on both sides. Richard Setterstein and Barbara E. Ray's sociological investigation of 20-somethings in their book Not Quite Adults finds that:
Where once young people married first and then together set off on a path toward their goals as a couple, today they forget those paths separately, on their own. Only later, after a string of accomplishments ... do they begin to consider marriage.
If you and your current college sweetheart both have career goals, you two will probably be separated at one point or another before landing secure, long-term jobs -- if those even exist in the near future. And you both probably have a lot of things -- and people -- you want to do on your own before you settle.
Having strong feelings at a young age is scary and unsettling. We don't get married, get a house and have kids in our 20s anymore. The time we envision ourselves settling down seems much further away. There's no way of knowing if you'll make it through all that time with your current partner, and whether this person will become your life partner despite what you want now.
Young adults need to spend this time building connections and doing the right things. Thus the consequences of every action seem much more drastic and a lot seems to be at stake. For those in long-distance relationships, in which the full benefits of having a relationship aren't experienced on the daily, the opportunity cost of maintaining an unpredictable relationship in your youth can feel exponentially higher.
In times of extreme doubt, the only thing that will make you carry on is faith. Not faith in fate or a higher power, but your personal desire to be with this person and your mutual ability to make it work. It takes an immense amount of faith to drop loads of money to go see someone you don't ever see. But if you trust that you'll still be together at a certain point, buy those tickets and make plans to spend time together in the future. Be with someone who lives in a beautiful travel destination if you can help it.
If a long-distance relationship is making you extremely anxious and unhappy, this might not be the right time to have this relationship. The incredible benefit of being young is that even if you can't be with someone you really like right now, you'll have time to reconnect with that person at a later time -- and still go through a few relationships in between.
Be honest with yourself about what you want and talk to your partner. Communication and setting up non-monogamous boundaries can facilitate the relationship. Do not fall into the "they're not here so they'll never know" mindset and sneak around. Being shady is easy in this kind of situation, but obviously unfair and mean to your partner -- plus you never really know that they won't find out.
So for the indecisive, perpetually uncertain young adults who are in long-distance, or any kind of emotionally invested relationship, there are always two options. You can either have faith like hell and do the work, or you can let it go if it's too confusing and pray that you'll find each other again at a better time down the road. Both scenarios are romantic, and whichever trajectory your relationship follows is bound to make that a worthwhile one.