“Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
Or does it?
I have heard about plenty of failed attempts at long distance relationships. Relationships succeed and fail for many different reasons, whether distance plays a role or not. My long distance relationship experience, like everyone else’s, was unique. I studied abroad in Europe for two consecutive semesters, about seven months in total. During those seven months, I was back in the United States for a two-week period to work on getting my visa for France. Knowing there was an end date helped us hang on and look forward to when we would see each other again.
We had been dating for almost a year when I hopped on the plane to Spain for my first semester abroad. Before dating, we had been friends for about a year. This gave us a strong foundation, which is one of the first things that is important in a long distance relationship. We knew each other well way before I left. If you are going to study abroad, I would recommend that you:
Evaluate yourself honestly. What kind of person are you? Do you get jealous easily? Could you fall into the trap of meeting someone and flirt with them because you are missing the physical or emotional affection and attention your partner gives you?
Ask yourself: What kind of person are you dating? Is he/she happy for you to have this opportunity to study elsewhere? Is he or she letting you experience everything without holding you back? Do they support you and encourage you or do they get jealous?
The most important factor in a relationship arguably is trust. I remember a time where I was playing a board game called “Loaded Questions” with my family and my cousin’s boyfriend. The object of the game is for the person asking a question that they read off a card to guess what each person playing with them answered. It is a great way to get to know people. The question asked was what we thought was the most important thing in a relationship. Unanimously we answered: trust. Where is your relationship at? Are you two in a serious, committed relationship or an open relationship? Are you both on the same page about where you are at? Do you two know you can trust one another?
Another hugely important ingredient is communication. It is important not to miss out on your abroad experience by always talking to your significant other. What worked for my boyfriend and I was setting up a schedule of when we knew we could both talk on Skype. It was consistent. We always had something to look forward to and made it work with the six-hour time difference. We talked often. We talked about what was going on in our lives. I downloaded a texting app called Whatsapp, that made it possible for me to communicate with anyone from home as long as I had data or wifi.
Every person is unique and therefore everyone’s relationship will be unique based on who both people are. Not everyone will be going abroad for seven months, have a six-hour time difference or be dating for about a year before going abroad. Some people’s significant others will visit them. Some, like mine, will not, and that’s okay.
Being in a long distance relationship is not easy and I would not recommend it for everyone, especially for those looking to start a relationship right before going abroad. Personally, myself and other people I knew in both of my programs were surprised at the number of people in our programs who were in a relationship. As far as I know, all of them made it work, even if the distance made things difficult. Long distance relationships are not impossible, although very sad at times, and I want to encourage those who are currently in one or going to be in one that they can make it though.