Columns

Savello ’18: Bad romance: defending long distance

By
Staff Columnist
Friday, September 30, 2016

The summer before my first year at Brown, I remember people in the Class of 2018 Facebook group creating a long-distance relationship support page. It was called “Love Shows no Bounds” or “Miles of Love” or something equally cheesy. The comments section included a wide range of opinions from “dude, you should dump your girlfriend. She can’t date you from China!” to “I plan on enduring five-hour-long train rides and sending snail mail gift packages.” A year ago, I would have agreed with the former comment.

But through my experiences — including learning from my hypocrisy — it’s clear that long-distance relationships don’t deserve the bad rap they get. It’s a common misconception among college students that these relationships aren’t sustainable because they require too much effort and unreasonable commitment. But the reality is much fuzzier and these negative attitudes promote an unhealthy message about meaningful relationships.

One of the biggest arguments against long distance is the prolonged separation, which can be difficult, if not painful. Travel expenses, travel time, scheduling differences and in some cases, time zone differences create additional hurdles. In many ways, the comment I saw on Facebook disparaging a transnational relationship was justified. Another perceived disadvantage is the overwhelming amount of effort it takes to stay in touch with your significant other. As a college student, it’s hard enough to juggle coursework, extracurriculars and a social life ­— anything more may seem impossible. Finally, there’s the perception that there’s an increased risk of infidelity, sustained by the circulation of heartbreaking tales and unhealthy stereotypes about long-term commitment. But none of these biases against long-distance relationships tell the whole story.

At this stage in our lives, most teens and twentysomethings have the emotional capacity necessary to overcome such hurdles. Many students have overcome much more difficult challenges during their college experience, though not always voluntarily. We shouldn’t assume that just because a relationship is difficult or less convenient, young people will throw it away and move onto the next option without a second thought. My peers are not so irresponsible. Such assumptions, while often exacerbated by the “hookup culture” buzz in the media, are unfair and set an embarrassingly low standard for the kind of attitude people should have when they approach romantic relationships.

College-aged students, whose status grants them ample freedom and autonomy, are able to make mature decisions regarding their relationships — and many of them do. Oftentimes, the decision isn’t as simple as choosing to stay with or leave someone based on distance alone. The disgruntled student encouraging his peer to dump his partner because they couldn’t date across borders is unrepresentative of how people actually make their decisions. Relationships are more complicated than that. To view it in such absolute terms is an insult to the sensitivity and compassion involved in these situations.

Many of the couples who do choose to go through with long-distance relationships end up having mature, satisfying relationships. In fact, they often discover advantages that aren’t otherwise present. Those engaging in long distance learn to cherish and value every moment they spend with their partner. They also learn how to cope when their partner isn’t physically there, eliminating the risk of partner-dependency or clinginess. It can also be relieving to have an off-campus partner to serve as an objective listener and offer advice as you experience stress and drama within your own social group. Ultimately, long distance can make relationships stronger and more mature by giving individuals the skills they need to both love someone else and remain autonomous and self-driven.

It’s ironic that some question the capacity for maturity among college-age students who pursue such relationships, when in reality, their greatest benefit can be their authenticity. Partners who choose to stay dedicated to each other regardless of distance demonstrate both maturity and genuineness.

Samantha Savello ’18 is in a long-distance relationship but is not biased at all and can be reached at samantha_savello@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.