“Yes, I’m in a long-distance relationship.” It gets repetitive when you have to keep explaining your relationship status. Following the big reveal, you’re plagued with questions of how, why, who, and where. Maybe you’ll get a “been there, done that” from the other person, or they’ll take the sympathy route. It can feel exhausting and discouraging. After all is said and done, you’re the one left continuing to grapple with a quasi-single identity while being committed to someone far away.
As someone in a long-distance relationship, I can’t seem to find a one-size-fits-all solution for the problem I, and other love-struck young adults, face. In fact, conversations rarely do touch on the topic of individuality in relationships. Sometimes the overcompensation for distance leads to an undercompensation for ourselves. There is a lack of interest in what we’re doing for ourselves. For those of us that suffer from this tightrope-walk identity, it feels all too real to come to terms with.
Such are the struggles of a long-distance relationship. Sophomore Creative Writing major Abigail Hadfield revealed that the initial part of their long-distance relationship displayed this phenomenon.
“I found it a lot more difficult to maintain individuality at first,” Hadfield said. “But now we’ve gotten into a better balance of recognizing that we each need to still be living our own lives.”
Studying abroad at Kasteel Well, a six-hour time difference wedged itself into Hadfield’s nine-month relationship. Such a factor can play a significant role in making both partners realize how much their lives are interwoven. When grappling with such an issue, it can be unsettling to have your partner/support system so far away. Hadfield admitted that finding a balance was difficult.
A troubling facet for every relationship, long-distance or not, is navigating social media. In a short-distance relationship, couples already face the dilemma of “to post or not to post,” where the line of partner appreciation versus bombarding followers is blurred when posting about a significant other.
For people dealing with distance, this headache is magnified. Using technology as my primary method of communication with my long-distance partner lends itself to conflicting feelings about sharing one too many pictures.
While talking to my partner, Noah Pennington, who goes to school in Los Angeles, I sought out his perspective. Social media has been both a blessing and a curse. It is a platform he feels he can use to connect with me, but also one in which it is too easy to get lost in.
“It can sometimes impede if I have work or if I’m doing something, and it’ll take place over something that might be more immediately important to my personal life, like my academics or my job,” he said. “I’ll give up that to try to be more in the know of what my partner’s doing.”
Sophomore Visual Media Arts major Lily Walkow has had a different experience in her own relationship, which began as long-distance. This aspect, she said, has prepared her for maintaining individuality.
“It’s easier [to retain individualism in] long distance because there is separation, not always in a good way. But for individuality, it’s helpful because it gives you your own time to find yourself and what you’re interested in,” she said.
It’s a seesaw of emotions gathered into a collection of experiences. But these occurrences have led both Hadfield and Walkow to find a rhythm of maintaining equilibrium. Hadfield chooses to avoid instant messaging, but rather, sets aside time in their day to talk to their partner over the phone. On the other hand, Walkow prefers to use texting as her primary form of communication with her partner.
“We both have our separate school lives and we have time to do our school work and have a healthy amount of time for our relationship, too,” Walkow said.
Walkow said she’s seen relationships where partners do everything together until they split, when both parties question how to divide their shared identity. In fact, this archetype is something we are all familiar with.
“It’s important to have your own interests, likes, and dislikes,” Walkow said. College and school clubs have helped her discover her own identity and passions.
Discussing my experience and sharing stories brings a relief of knowing I’m not alone. And even though we walk a fine balance of dependence and independence, momentary emotions do not define us. The strength that comes with knowing that miles away, our loved one feels the same, cures those Friday night blues for the evening.
“You should know how to be alone, no matter what,” Walkow said.
Illustrations by Somari Davis