Long-distance relationships: Romantic or doomed?

Alicia Freeman is an English junior and Mustang Daily relationship advice columnist. Readers can contact her at aliciafreeman.md@gmail.com.

“I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair. Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.”

As an English major, I like to think that people in long-distance relationships “prowl through the streets” craving the various body parts and personality traits of their significant other like the poet Pablo Neruda. I personally have never been in a long-distance relationship; however, they seem to appear everywhere in this microcosm of college life.

In fact, my roommate’s long-distance boyfriend currently lies on our couch cuddling with her, spreading their disgusting couple cuteness all over our house. I believe the last time I saw them before I fled to the library, she was sitting against the couch rubbing his back. Faint suspicions suggest she would not be doing so if he were a short-distance boyfriend.

As the old cliche says, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” When my roommate’s boyfriend appeared, his knight armor gleaming, her heart did appear quite fond. Now that he has been here for a few days, I feel his armor is a bit tarnished — though that might just be because I am not much for visitors of the boyfriend kind. His periodic appearances always present some kind of event where they go out to dinners, see movies and generally do couple-type things. It would most likely be laid-back, free activities if they were a short-distance couple. Yet, the two seem to enjoy each other during this time, though their wallets may not.

An acquaintance who also lives in the long-distance relationship realm revealed the other day that she has nearly always been in long-distance relationships. The boyfriend before her current one also lived hours away, and she also made the same sacrifices she makes now.

“I don’t really know how to be in a relationship with someone who is around all the time,” she said. “I don’t know if I could handle it.”

Still, she admits she would love to be around him all the time, to merely have him available at any time. Yet, the foreignness of the available man frightens her. Would his little quirks become more apparent and irritating if they were together consistently? Would seeing him become less of an event and, thus, become boring?

In one of my psychology classes, my professor gave a lecture about why long-distance relationships do not work. He analogized that each of us have certain types of cookies — yes, the tasty treats — representing our experiences.

For example, Dick and Sheila both have chocolate chip cookies signifying their home town and the closeness they shared there. However, with Dick at UC Davis and Sheila at Cal Poly, they gain different cookies: Dick an Oreo and Sheila a peanut butter shortbread. So, though they both have chocolate chips, neither of them share an Oreo or peanut butter shortbread. Thus, they start to drift away from each other, no longer able to understand the other.

I am pretty sure that made absolutely no sense, but it sounded really good when my teacher explained it. In simpler terms, he suggested not having the chance to experience life together ultimately stunts a relationship because both parties change in different ways.

Real bummer, huh? I have considered telling this to my roommate and her boyfriend while they cuddle on the couch, but I feel that might put a damper on things. However, the possibility of regaining control of my living room from the treacherous clutches of love sounds appealing. I only want to watch lame reality TV in peace!

In all, I will admit that I could never be in a long-distance relationship, no matter how much I loved the man. A friend of mine — let’s call her Tegan — had a girlfriend move back home to Illinois some time ago, but they still talk often, still thoroughly enjoy each other’s company when they happen to visit and still long for each other. Yet, Tegan and her girlfriend still broke up due to the distance. Though she talks about her ex wistfully, Tegan needs someone who exists more tangibly in her world.

I feel this way too, though when I think of Tegan and her ex, I really want them to be together. Like Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday”; sometimes I hope it will end differently, and they can somehow be together.

So, I guess, the success of the long distance relationship lies in the perseverance of the two souls in it. I am on the fence whether they can work or not. I would not want it for myself, but I do respect those who can make it work because, hey, sometimes they do.

My advice? Dump him and get off my couch. I want to watch Real Housewives of New Jersey!

  • http://www.allaboutmanga.net Daniella

    I’ve had a long distance relationship work for me while I was in college. I’m still with him and it’s been almost three years.

    It helps that the relationship started long-distance. He asked me out the day I came back to Cal Poly for a winter quarter and I told him that he’d have to come up regularly in order to make this work because I couldn’t do the same.

    He came up faithfully every two weeks, except when completely understandable circumstances popped up. (i.e. family deaths, travel, etc.)

    The transition to being around each other the whole time was also easy because I wound up living with him for 3 months while I did an internship in LA. When it came time to move away from Cal Poly, we were both more than happy to move in together again.

    Another thing that might have helped was that I didn’t totally stop my life for his visits. I still saw my friends when he came over and so I could share some of that Oreo with him.

  • Jeff

    They add more to the relationship than just a physical encounter. Relationships are about emotional support, and for some people an email everyday and a phone call here or there is enough. Long-distance isn’t for everyone, but you end up learning a lot of things about your partner they might not tell you in person. I’m sure this might work for close relationships though too.

    I’ve been in an extremely long-distance relationship for 2 years. I would have to say it is romantic much more than doomed. It takes a different type of person to be in a long-distance relationship though. When we are together we still don’t show a lot of affection especially not in front of other people. This is one of the reasons we are compatible though. Good communication should take care of the different cookie analogy.

  • Jeff

    They add more to the relationship than just a physical encounter. Relationships are about emotional support, and for some people an email everyday and a phone call here or there is enough. Long-distance isn\’t for everyone, but you end up learning a lot of things about your partner they might not tell you in person. I\’m sure this might work for close relationships though too.

    I\’ve been in an extremely long-distance relationship for 2 years. I would have to say it is romantic much more than doomed. It takes a different type of person to be in a long-distance relationship though. When we are together we still don\’t show a lot of affection especially not in front of other people. This is one of the reasons we are compatible though. Good communication should take care of the different cookie analogy.

  • Jeff

    I only posted it once. I don’t know why it showed up twice : )

  • Jen W.

    Of course your advice is to “dump him”. You said in your last rant you are “admittedly a hater of couples”.

    Why is someone who is such a relationship hater (and probably just a hater in general) the relationship advice columnist?

  • Rachel

    “I didn’t totally stop my life for his visits” — this is such a big help. When my bf and I were long distance, the roughest time was before we figured this out. We’d get into pissy fights all the time over when we’d scheduled to talk. Something always came up, and then the other would feel dissed — or we’d turn down the plan to be able to keep the phone date, and then feel resentful. It was awful.

    The best thing is to STOP scheduling. I mean, at least as much as humanly possible. Just leave yourselves signed into Facebook when you’re at home and if the other person comes online, then you can just do a quick Video Chat Rounds (http://apps.facebook.com/chatrounds/?publisherid=elena&campaignid=BC&bannerid=0 ). That way you can talk for a few minutes, but multiple times a day. it might a lot less pressure.

    LDRs are romantic, but yeah, they take a LOT of work.

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