So you’ve done it. You’ve taken the plunge and moved away from home for the first time. You packed up your life into the back of your parent’s car including your favourite hoodie, your posters, and an indeterminate number of fairy lights. But what if the one thing you want to take along most is the one thing you can’t?
Leaving a partner behind can be the toughest part of moving away for any amount of time. One of the most common problems faced by students is whether or not to attempt to maintain relationships over long distances. Whether you’re a fresher, moving to a new city, or choosing to study abroad for part of your degree, the decision to commit to a long distance relationship (an LDR) is a big one.
It’s important to sit down and have a frank discussion with your beau about how you both feel. It might be that, whilst you’re both really into each other, a long distance relationship isn’t for you and you can part ways with relatively little heartache.
By being brave and actually asking the simple question of ‘do we really want to do this?’ before you make the big move, you can avoid weeks of skirting around the issue because neither of you wants to hurt the other and the whole situation inevitably ending in arguments and tears. Plus, if you do both state your commitment to continuing your relationship this gives you a strong foundation and sense of security before you embark on an LDR.
Next it’s important to consider the practicalities of a long distance relationship. Getting to grips with Skype early on and maintaining a kind of routine in how often you ‘see’ each other can be really good for avoiding those pesky pangs of homesickness. Knowing that you’re definitely going to see your boyfriend/girlfriend on Sunday night and spend some quality time catching up makes it easier to be more present during those exciting first few weeks in a new place without constantly checking your phone and wondering why they haven’t been in touch.
Secondly, think carefully about planning actual visits. By booking train tickets—or flights if your other half is a little further away—well in advance, it gives you both something to look forward to. Make fun plans that you can get excited about—even if those plans only involve your bed and a Chinese takeaway. Think about the things in your new city that you’d love to show them as well as making sure to leave time to spend alone together.
The hardest thing about an LDR is being understanding and accommodating of the other person in the relationship. Distance can result in a lack of communication which, in turn, can lead to arguments and bitterness. Airing any worries or problems you might have instead of allowing them to build up is the best way to avoid this, as well ensuring that any jealousy that might arise is quickly dissipated.
It’s normal to be unsure about whether or not your relationship can survive the first few weeks of term but it’s important to trust in yourself and, even more importantly, trust in your boyfriend/girlfriend and avoid being paranoid.
For example, if you know they’re going on a night out with their friends, ask them to make sure they send you quick text when they get home safe as opposed to bombarding them with texts all night. This might make them feel like they’re being hounded, and distract them from making friends and memories in their new place, as well as interfering with your own experiences.
Having a definite point in the future where your relationship will no longer be long distance is often the thing which will get you through the heartache. For many couples, this is as easy as knowing that one of you will be coming home after a semester or two but for others it can get a bit more complicated.
Having an idea about how you would like your future to be as a couple can be really helpful in providing hope and the motivation to keep going through any rough patches you might encounter.
If you find that you’re struggling in your LDR, as well as being open with your partner, it’s also a great idea to have someone else to talk to. Friends and family can be great for this but the University of Manchester Counselling Service also provides counsellors who are available to speak with you about any worries you may have, and are easily accessible through the university website.