When your lover leaves for college: Will absence make the heart grow fonder?

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By Julianne Mosher

Campus News

Every day another parent of a college student tells their child that they met their partner while attending college. This isn’t necessarily true for everyone but in reality people are going to meet other people at work, school, clubs or through other friends… It’s human nature.

But what happens when the person you fell hard for decides to go to a college hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away? Is trying out a long distance relationship during “the best years of your life” worth the risk of getting hurt? Is it even worth it?

Catherine Torlentino, a human resource management major at SUNY Oswego, says that her parents suffered through a long distance relationship when they were growing up. For about two years, the couple wrote letters back and forth from Long Island to Italy when they were 19 and now they will be married for 30 years this summer.

Torlentino believes that long distance relationships can work because she knows first hand that people could stay together after a long time apart. “People just have to work at it like any other relationship,” she says.

Although Torlentino’s case is a bit dramatic, college students today face the struggles of distance when one gets accepted to a school in a completely different state. Corryn Isler and her boyfriend were high school sweethearts but faced a struggle when she was accepted to study biology at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Her boyfriend, Ryan, was accepted into UNC Chapel Hill, twelve hours away from each other.

The two have a positive and optimistic outlook on the distance saying that it makes them grow stronger together as a couple and, with a lot of effort, is not as bad as other people think.

“Long distance relationships can work if both people put in the effort,” she says. “It’s truly worth it.”

Isler also says that communication is key when it comes to being far away from the one you love. “We set up times to FaceTime and catch up on each other’s day,” she says, noting that even a few minutes on the phone can help alleviate the stresses of not seeing her boyfriend for months at a time.

She says that it can be really tough having Ryan away, noting that the hardest part is, “Not being able to spend quality time together and not having each other there physically if we have a bad day.”

Chris Snyder, a recent graduate of Stevenson University, agrees with Isler, saying that not having his girlfriend around him physically can get very aggravating.

“The hardest thing was probably not being able to always be there physically for the person when they may have needed help or comfort,” he says about the distance he encountered between him in Maryland and his girlfriend, Nicole, who studied at SUNY Cortland.

“You have to learn though how to provide support and motivation in other ways, like by just talking to them.”

He says that communication is also very important while being away and acknowledging the differences the two may have to confront. “You have to realize that they are miles away from you and are most likely on a different schedule than yours.”

“This may cause them to not be able to communicate as often with you as you are used to but make sure when you do have the time you do communicate… I would say it’s really important to be patient and understanding with the other person,” he added.

He and his girlfriend are still together after they began dating in the beginning of high school, non-stop, despite the huge distance between them.

However, although half of the student population who has to struggle with a boyfriend or girlfriend going away may say it can work, sometimes it simply does not.

Heather Rosenbaum says that she partook in three long distance relationships throughout her life. The 22-year-old says when she was 17, her boyfriend was attending Binghamton University, five hours away from her. The relationship soon became rocky.

“He wasn’t allowed to have his car, and this is before FaceTime or any of that was really around. So I wouldn’t see him for more than a month, and when I finally did it was frightening,” she says. “He changed completely as a person, physically and mentally. Not seeing someone for so long, that you felt like you didn’t even know them anymore.”

She says that he changed, and she was unhappy about it. “He turned into a huge partier, and I felt like I couldn’t trust what he was doing… Sort of out of sight out of mind thing,” she says.

After another failed distant attempt and then a positive relationship where she went away and her current boyfriend stayed home, Rosenbaum says that in the end it is going to be difficult despite how hard one may try.

“I don’t think long distance is for everyone. It’s hard to keep such a bond as tight as it, for both people. If you’re the one that goes away, you’re trying to build a new life, a new comfort zone, and it tends to be overwhelming,” she says.

“If you’re the one that stays home, you feel like you’re ignored, or being clingy, or that you’re watching the person that went away, completely change in front of you because of them adapting to their new comfort zone.”

Rosenbaum does have some hope for distance relationships saying that, “If you constantly put effort in and really try, it will work out.”
Marissa Martinelli, a sociology major at Stony Brook University, says that her high school boyfriend also appeared to change when he moved away to SUNY Oswego.

She believed that when he joined a large fraternity on campus, she felt like he no longer needed her and she was not a “part of his daily life” anymore.

“He found the fraternity as a replacement, which changed his mentality from independent to that of the frat,” she says.

His lack of affection and caring began to make Martinelli sad and depressed. “He made me feel invisible and worthless because after all that time it all happened so quickly after he went away,” she says.

Health science major Holly Lavelli, who studies at Stony Brook University, says that showing as much affection as you can is the most important aspect of a long distance relationship. Without it, it cannot succeed.

Speaking from experience, Lavelli said that her ex-boyfriend, who studied at University of Connecticut while she was away at Stony Brook, was emotionally unavailable and difficult to communicate with.

“So on top of the distance, it just made me feel so excluded from his life,” she says. “In turn, I was able to get closer to other people who actually acted like they valued my presence – people who were emotionally available and that made him feel excluded from my life.”

Lavelli also says that she would spend her money and free time visiting him while he never came down to her. She found it unfair that she would put all the time and effort into a visit when he did not reciprocate.

“If we were closer physically, it might have been different. But we weren’t close, and we wouldn’t have the chance to be for a long time. I realized I started to fall out of love with him,” she says.

Martinelli says that if one isn’t happy with their long distance relationship or their partner isn’t what they once were, it is better to break it off it in the end.

“If you’re unhappy, I’d just break up and focus on yourself. It would probably happen anyway; let’s just speed up the process.”

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