For some couples, distance is a deal-breaker that brings the relationship to a close; however, for others, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Traveling can be hectic – academics, getting around, possibly learning a new language, and maybe an internship – regardless of your exact situation, traveling takes up your time. And for many students, new cities and experiences change the way they view themselves and their lives. Poor communication while you are apart can lead to disagreements, and a lack of trust can strain the relationship.
Whatever your situation, being separated from loved ones can bring stress into your life.
Despite this, it appears that relationships can weather a stint apart. Proximity can lead us to take people for granted, whereas being distanced allows us to know someone in a different way. 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.
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 at a distance:
Before You Go: 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 talk about thoughts or feelings as they arise. If internet access is intermittent, seek cheap ways to talk on the phone. Some suggest setting up a joint blog where you can share your experiences with each other. The extra effort you both make to keep in touch can foster a special intimacy. In the end, you may learn more about each other’s values, ideas, and dreams than folks who are together every day.
When You Get Back: Adjusting to regular life after traveling may be difficult or stressful. These feelings may influence your relationship. Let your partner know what you are thinking/feeling.
Also, set aside time to be with your significant other when you get back. During your time apart 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, but also can open up new avenues for connection.
Have a great trip!
This article was adapted from an earlier blog post written by Kadija Turay, a former graduate student who worked for Wellness. The adaptations were made by Sara Stahlman, Marketing and Communication Coordinator for Campus Health and CAPS.