When individuals are separated by time and space, long distance relationships require a unique management style. Generally, long distance relationships fall into three categories:
- Friends and acquaintances
- Dating relationships
Working to maintain these relationships requires certain elements that are common to all three, but some are unique to each situation. It is important to remember that you only have so much time and so much energy as new relationships build. In your present life at school, certain old relationships will, out of a natural process, begin to change or shift in their importance. Being thoughtful about the choices you make in your relationships is an important part of personal growth.
Friends and dating relationships are a different story. While some of the same issues can occur, these relationships follow a different progression. Again, open, honest communication is extremely important. In relationships with friends or in dating relationships, couples need to discuss the goals and expectations of the relationship and also some of their wants and needs. It is also important to be honest about the fact that many relationships in these two categories can be outgrown, as you change and meet new people at school. If individuals wish to maintain these types of relationships, special effort and understanding need to be created. Particularly in dating relationships, time apart can allow individuals to focus on their studies and academics in a very creative and positive way. It is also possible that, because of the distance, extraordinary efforts can be made to maintain and cause a relationship to grow and become stronger.
Tips for Survival
#1: Effective Communication.
It is important for both parties to be able to feel that if they need to talk or write to the other person, communication will be welcomed and met with active communication from the other. The quality of the relationship is more likely to increase if both people develop the ability to share feelings openly with each other.
#2: Commitment to the relationship by both parties.
What kind of commitment, and how serious or light it is, will be different for different couples. Being so far apart can be a scary and risky endeavor for most couples.
#3: A willingness to take risks, and the presence of a solid and secure trust between the two people.
This doesn’t mean that each person needs to skydive from a plane, but rather, that each will trust that the other person’s social life in his or her own town will not be a threat to the relationship. Trust is so important that if it isn’t strong, you can make a conscious effort to work on it, both on your own and together.
#4: Independence for each person, with a healthy level of dependence upon each other.
When these are present, there is a balance of power in the relationship between both people, and each person can be autonomous but still get emotional needs met by the other person.
#5: A mutual respect for each other.
#6: Clear expectations on the part of both people.
It is so very important that you figure out your own personal expectations of the other person and the relationship, and then discuss them with the other person so that both of you are clear and/or can work out differences in expectations. Without this, each person is working on a very different relationship than the other, and problems are likely.
#7 Make time together quality time.
Build in some alone time during visits. Do things that draw the two of you closer, rather than emphasize the distance between you.
Get Involved! Pro-Active Suggestions for Coping
- Get involved! Join organizations or causes that you personally believe in. Put meaningful things in your life other than your significant other.
- Help those who have challenging life circumstances. For example, volunteer at a nursing home or orphanage.
- Make sure there are supportive people and places in your life.
- Every once in awhile, do something that is atypical of yourself, although not self-defeating. For example, go to a movie on a weeknight or get a hair cut!
- Tend to your spiritual needs.
Specific Strategies to Try when the Depression of Missing Hits You
- Let out the emotions: cry, scream, sing, exercise, go for a run, play a sport, take a walk
- Write a letter to the person, whether you send it or not, letting her/him know how you are feeling
- Go to the TV lounge or study lounge to have other people around you; don’t stay alone in your room
- Call, visit, or study with a friend
- Take homework to a restaurant and do it over coffee or a meal
- Contact Counseling Services to talk about it. Phone: 576-4454
It is also important to remember that all relationships, whether ones you create in your current space at school or those with people that are distant, change. It is simply part of life. In each of these relationships, it is valuable to sit down and talk with individuals about the relationship itself. How has the relationship been? Where is it now? Where would you like it to go? Whether it is with family, friends, or a dating relationship, time apart can add richness and perspective to a relationship. People can grow to new levels of understanding and appreciation. A new kind of adult-to-adult relationship can begin to occur with your parents, once you have left home. If you still depend on your parents for economic support or live at home over extended breaks, you need to talk with them about expectations and responsibilities.
Relationships require people to relate. In the vary nature of relating to stay connected, consider using some of these ideas as a framework to establish how you balance your relationships in other places and spaces, with the relationships that you have with individuals in your school environment.