I remember the day I met my husband. It was the summer before our sophomore year of high school, and I had just joined the marching band as a member of the front ensemble. He was the marimba player and I knew almost nothing about percussion and mallet instruments, but he was patient with me as I learned to play the major scales. We became friends throughout the band season, and in December he asked me to the Christmas Dance, just as I hoped he would.
We’ve been together ever since, but not without some hard days and discussions that made me wonder if we would (or should) stay together, especially as we moved closer to our high school graduation. Brad planned to stay in Fort Wayne for school, and I was going away to college in Ohio, three hours away. I wondered if a long-distance relationship would work, but we decided to go for it.
I know a lot of couples are faced with this decision as they plan for their lives after high school. And I know the uncertainty is scary. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that a long-distance relationship is easy, because it’s not. But for those of you who want to go for the long-distance relationship, I want to share a few things I learned and a few pieces of advice. And I do want to tell you, in case no one else has, that your relationship is not automatically doomed just because you go to separate colleges.
Make a Commitment to the Relationship
While we were in high school, Brad and I saw each other multiple times a day. We were in classes together, we sat together at lunch, we talked in the band room before and after school. Once we were in college, it wasn’t so convenient to see each other, or even talk to each other. In order to remain a couple, we both had to make a conscious effort every day, and we had to commit to it. We had to actually set aside times to talk to each other.
Brad and I talked on the phone almost every day while I was away at college. Some days we’d talk for an hour, and other days we’d talk for just a few minutes. But every day, we had our evening phone call. Some days I wouldn’t really feel like talking, either because I’d had a bad day or was in the middle of something else, but I knew I had to put in the effort if I wanted the relationship to last. We both made a conscious commitment to the relationship every day.
Communicate Often, About Everything
Communication is one of the most important parts of a relationship (and I’m not just saying that because I majored in communications.) Unlike high school, while I was in college my closest friends were people Brad had only met once or twice, if at all. I had experiences that were important to me, but he wasn’t there to experience them with me. I think this was one of the hardest parts of the long-distance relationship.
We talked about our experiences, anything from who we ate lunch with to applying for jobs and internships. As we learned new things and formed new ideas or interests, we shared them with each other. We both grew and changed throughout our college years, shaped by our new friendships and experiences, but we were able to do it together by sharing our thoughts and talking them through together.
At the risk of sounding like I’m eighty years old, I think talking face-to-face or on the phone is much better than just texting. Texting is great, but when you’re on the phone with someone (or on FaceTime or Skype), that person has your full attention. When you’re texting, it’s easy to respond to messages while you’re distracted by something else.
It’s Okay to be Apart for a While
As hard as it was, I think it was good for us to go through the four-year period of putting work into our relationship. It’s not a good idea to choose a college just because your significant other goes there. Brad and I each had our own interests to pursue, and we were able to follow our own paths and grow as indivdiuals, which I think is important.
The advice in this post isn’t a magic formula. I’m not going to say that you’ll definitely be able to stay together just because you put effort into the relationship, because you may not. And that’s okay. You grow and change so much as a person during your college years, and sometimes you may just grow apart. You may realize that the things you want out of life are different than what your boyfriend or girlfriend wants.
Uncertainty in relationships is never fun, and it is definitely something to pray about. But I do hope this post offered some practical advice for you if you’re facing a long-distance relationship next year. It can be done! Brad and I came out of college knowing that we wanted to be together. And I can honestly say our relationship was stronger at my college graduation than it was when we finished high school.