There are two words that committed or long-term couples dread hearing at the end of their senior year: long distance. After celebrating prom and graduation, the thought of not seeing each other every day—or for months, in some cases—is utterly depressing. The decision to go to separate schools, possibly hours away from each other, was one of the most stressful and difficult choices you two have had to make as a couple. You both hear the constant stories from people already in college about how you’re “never going to last,” that “it’s not even worth it,” and that “you might as well break up now,” regardless of how long you have been together. I’m here to tell you, from personal experience, that that does not have to be the case if you don’t want it to be.
My boyfriend and I met when he was a senior and I was a junior in high school; we met with about a month of school left, which meant that he was graduating and that I still had to endure another year of high school. We fell in love about three weeks into that month, and there was never any discussion about breaking up before he left for school about three months later. The school that he’s attending is about three hours away from our hometown, and the only way to get there is by car or by $70 bus ticket. So, because we never saw breaking up in our future, we had to deal with the distance.
I’ll be honest: the first few months without him were hell on earth. Once you get used to seeing someone nearly every day in the summer, not seeing them for weeks at a time in the fall is nothing short of frustrating. But, being in high school, school dances saved my sanity—for the sole reason that I would see him, albeit for a day in total. Even spending a few hours with him was better than nothing. There would be “weekends” that he would come back, and I would only see him for a total of six hours. There would be weekends that he would plan to come back, only to be told by his coaches that he can’t leave campus because he had practice the next morning—the day before he was supposed to leave.
The first year was incredibly difficult; dealing with the stress of college applications, AP classes, and my senior art exhibition was almost too much for me to bear. Being an art major, there was an intense amount of pressure to go to “real school,” i.e. pick a program that can get you a good job, regardless of whether you liked the curriculum or not. To add to the stress of applying to art schools, there was a thought looming in the back of my mind: apply to his school, get into the decent art program, and begin my life with him. With the stress of senior year and not seeing my boyfriend, it seemed like an easy way out. However, there was one huge disclaimer to this idea: the location of the school. Set on the border of Illinois to Iowa, with little to no direct connection to the expansive Chicago art scene, there would little chance to get the job I wanted in the art world.
I decided against even applying to his school to avoid the temptation of picking it based on sheer emotion. It was difficult to separate the logical thing to do and what my heart wanted; but I knew that I had a duty to my talents and my future, and I couldn’t give that up. I couldn’t give up going to the best private art school in the entire country, something that I had dreamed of my entire life. I love my boyfriend, but I couldn’t give up on my talents.
And so, on came this school year: he left to go back to school, and I began my freshman year at SAIC. I’ve learned throughout out the past year and a half, doing long-distance is incredibly strenuous on both you and your partner; adjusting to college is difficult, but doing it on your own is the best and only way to go. Learning how to be independent from each other doesn’t mean you’re going to break up; it simply means that you will individually be able to survive and detach that dependence that held you together at the beginning. I get it, you miss your partner; I missed my boyfriend more than anything when he left the first time and equally as much the second. But if you are both planning on keeping the relationship alive and well throughout college and the rest of your lives, you both need to spend a healthy amount of time apart.
The temptation to transfer will be real. Trust me. You’ll try to convince yourself that you should transfer, simply because the pain of the distance will be unbearable, especially when the only thing preventing you from seeing them is the cost of a bus, train, or plane ticket. I get it. You want to see them every day—especially if you come from an experience like I had, where your partner left for school while you were still left behind in high school.
But in the end, it’s better if the two of you learn how to be financially and socially independent in college. Think of your end goal as you and your partner both earning degrees in their fields from good schools and being able to comfortably come together after graduation to say, “Okay. Now we can start our future.”
Plan to visit each other at school, if it’s in your financial and social budget. Find friends that are experiencing the same thing. Long-distance is like running a marathon: it requires an immense amount of stamina to get through. Love can, and will, survive it; trust me. You can do it.