Op-Ed: Long Distance Relationships Can Foster Growth

Photo+purchased+from+BigStock.

Photo purchased from BigStock.

Grace Papas, Executive Editor

The picture is clear: a fourteen-year-old watching the people around her with a longing in her heart to be needed by someone. I looked from my TV screen to the real world, expecting the plot of those teen Disney movies I watched growing up to come to life before me at any moment.

So when it never did, I was confused. That confusion soon festered into disappointment and a sense of loneliness that felt too big for my own body.

“You’ll find someone eventually,” my friends assured me. My response was to laugh, scoff, do anything to brush it off, and pretend that I wasn’t distressed by the fact that I wasn’t living my “teenage dream”.

There was no love-at-first-sight the moment I walked through the doors of high school. Drop the orchestra; the music will not be swelling into an emotional symphony, because it turns out that romance is a lot more complex than a reasonably timed movie can paint them to be.

Most people don’t think of hours of FaceTime, countless text conversations, and in-person dates once a month when they think of their ideal relationship. Quite frankly, neither did I. But when I met my first partner, who lived in Connecticut, through a mutual friend, for the first time I reconsidered my stance.

While our living situations aren’t exactly ideal, the experience of having a long-distance relationship has built not only trust but personal growth in both of us as people.

One of the myths around long-distance relationships is that they are always or more likely to fail than other kinds of relationships.

However, there is actually no evidence to suggest that this is true.

Around four and a half months is the average time before a long-distance relationship breaks down. A surprisingly low 40% of all long-distance relationships end with a break-up, and 70% of those failed long-distance relationships fail due to unplanned changes.

With this in mind, is that actually the catalyst for these long-term distanced romances?

“What’s an unplanned change to you?” I asked my partner last night over the phone. I heard them stop and think, considering my question. It was a loaded one, I can’t blame them for their hesitance.

“Something unexpected,” they told me. “Something that throws off the equation.”

Their answer surprised me, but long after I hung up the phone, I began to come to a conclusion. In other words, long-distance relationships can be a formula, one that requires a lot of hard work, emotional strength, and communication.

I will say this: two years ago, there was no way that I would have survived this relationship. Despite long-distance relationships being very doable, it all boils down to the people within them. Some are more well suited for this kind of romantic endeavor than others.

So if you don’t think that it’s for you, there is no shame in that. It’s better to admit it than to cause the two of you unnecessary heartbreak.

Even after a year into this relationship, I still find myself crying some nights, wishing that things were different, and feeling as lonely as I was before. It’s difficult to remind myself that these moments are temporary sometimes, but I have learned to remember why it is I am still in this relationship: because I truly care for my partner, and they care for me.

But even still, despite all of the lonely moments, this relationship has let me find the most ordinary things to be magical. Things like meeting up for coffee or going on a walk during the summers are treasured memories and the mundane can feel like the most incredible thing after months apart.

In other words, I am excited to see how I can grow even more from this experience, and go forward with the reminder that this distance is not going to be permanent.