Thinking back to the beginning of my first year, I remember feeling like half of my class entered college with commitments to significant others back home—myself included. As the months went on it seemed like more and more people were breaking up with their partners from home and joining the “single community” here on campus.
At the time, as someone who was freshly out of a long-distance relationship (LDR), it was hard for me to imagine myself ever willingly doing anything like it again. For me, being in a LDR felt like I still had one foot in the door back home, never feeling fully present here. Sometimes I would choose FaceTiming my partner over hanging out with my friends, having dinner with my roommate or visiting office hours with my professors. In an entirely new place, surrounded by totally unfamiliar faces, it was comforting to have 24/7 unconditional support. But, at the same time, it limited how I participated in life here.
Realizing that I was prioritizing my relationship over new experiences at college, I became resentful towards the relationship itself. I blamed long distance for stifling my growth as a friend, student and overall individual. My pessimism about the ability of long-distance relationships to work out wasn’t unfounded, but it was exaggerated to an extent that was toxic to myself and my relationship. In retrospect, one of the main reasons I couldn’t make long distance work was my negative attitude towards the distance.
However, a year and some months later, I ironically find myself in yet another long-distance relationship. My current LDR is vastly different than my last—factors such as the amount of time we will be apart, our ages and how far away we are made the circumstances of this relationship a bit more practical. However, the main change which is making my current LDR more successful than my last is my outlook. Rather than counting all the reasons why I’m sad to be separated, I’m counting the benefits of having some distance between us. Instead of dreading the months we are going to be apart, I am welcoming them with excitement.
The distance between my partner and me has given me the chance to slow down and focus on myself. I find myself filling the time that I usually spent with him doing activities that help me grow as an individual. I feel a different, new sense of independence knowing that I have the love and support of my partner even though he is far away. This safety net of sorts has helped me branch out and find new ways to occupy my time. Sometimes this is easier said than done. While I would obviously love to be together, I am happy to be apart so that we can both take time to grow and have unique experiences.
Long-distance relationships work differently for everybody, but I think it is important for people to find the value in being apart. Long distance can also strengthen the health of relationship. It is important to mourn the distance between two people; these relationships are by no means ideal. But they offer beautiful silver linings. More people should view long distance with optimism because there is so much to be gained from time away from someone who you love wholeheartedly. In the end, it makes being together that much better.