Does absence make the heart grow fonder?

Studying abroad can be a hectic time.  School work, travel, learning a new language, and maybe an internship demand a lot of time.  For many students, new cities and experiences also change the way they view themselves and their lives.  With all of this in the mix, many may tell you that going abroad is bad for your romantic relationship at home.

However, it appears that relationships can last through a stint abroad. A study of 283 college students found that only 34% of students who had a significant other when they went abroad broke up while a partner was abroad or just after they returned home.   About 36% of those who broke up said that studying abroad did not really contribute to the breakup.

Being apart from a partner can bring additional stress into your life while you are abroad.  Poor communication while you are apart can lead to disagreements, and a lack of trust can strain the relationship.  Of course, when you are trying to make the most of a once in a lifetime opportunity, relationship problems are the last thing you want to think about.

Here are some tips for being in a romantic relationship while studying abroad:

Before You Go Abroad:  Talk with your partner about how and how often you want to keep in touch.  Will they come visit you?  Will you go visit them?  Phone, iChat, gChat, Skype, or  email?

Also, get an understanding about the state of your relationship.  Is your relationship completely committed or just sort of casual? Understanding what your partner thinks about your relationship can help both of you set boundaries for your behaviors while you are apart.

When You Are Apart: Take an interest in each others’  ‘routine’ and keep the other person updated on any thoughts or feelings that are going on.  If you are in a location where internet access is intermittent check out cheap ways to talk on the phone.  Some suggest setting up a joint blog where you can share your experiences with each other.

When You Get Back: Adjusting to life in The States when you return may be difficult or stressful.  These feelings may influence your relationship. Let your partner know what you are thinking/feeling.

Also, make sure that you spend time with your significant other when you get back.  During your time abroad you may have made new friends or developed new interests that you do not share with your partner.  These divergent interests can make spending time together a little harder.

Go Ask Alice also has great tips on coping with the stresses of long distance relationships.

Have a great trip!

Reference: Wielkiewicz, R.M. and Turkowski, L.W. (2010). Reentry Issues Upon Returning From Study Abroad Programs. Journal of College Student Development, 51(6), p. 649-664.

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