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The extra mile: Undergrads consider long-distance love

Communication can be difficult without the affirmation of physical proximity, students say

Though activities such as SexPowerGod may make Brown infamous for activities conducive to a hookup culture, a subset of students maintain love from afar.

 

So close, yet so far

Anastasia Gorodilova ’16 said she didn’t expect to leave Barcelona with an Australian boyfriend this summer.

“It’s a cute story until you get to the whole we live continents away part,” she said. Gorodilova, a Herald contributing writer, was spending a week in a hostel with a friend when she met her boyfriend, Patrick Cordwell, who was visiting Spain on his gap year, she said. After spending three weeks in different parts of Europe together, including her home in London, the two decided to date long-distance. “We stumbled into it,” Gorodilova said. “We honestly just didn’t see another option.”

Gorodilova said she plans to visit Cordwell in Australia over winter break, and Cordwell is considering spending a semester abroad at Brown.

Gorodilova hugged herself tightly as she spoke about getting to see him again. “Physical proximity can be quite affirming,” she said, explaining that phone conversations lacking body language make communication difficult.

“You have to be careful there’s no difference between your behavior and your words,” explained Catie Straut ’11, who similarly described possible hazards in phone communication during her long-distance relationship in college. Without being physically near each other, she added, honesty was key to maintaining her relationship.

 

Distance with benefits

It is easier to be in a long-distance relationship at Brown than at other schools, said David O’Connell ’16. “There is less of a culture of being rewarded or praised for meaningless one-night stands,” he said, explaining that he never felt left out on weekends because he had a long-distance girlfriend.

Straut said her life at Brown had more structure while she was dating her boyfriend, who attended Bowdoin College. “It helped me clarify what was important to me at Brown and what I wanted to spend my time on,” she said. “I was able to experiment more into my style and really get into my work.”

She added that there is a lot of time management that accompanies being able to frequently visit a long-distance boyfriend.

Long-range pain

“You have to be committed that it’s going to work,” said Colin Schofield ’14, who has been dating his high school girlfriend long-distance for almost four years.

While Schofield said he sometimes feels like he is missing out on activities with his fraternity, he looks forward to traveling to see his girlfriend in New Hampshire every month. But it is difficult not always knowing her friends and all of the people in her life, he said.

O’Connell had trouble during his first year at Brown, when he dated his girlfriend who was still in high school, he said. “In the beginning of the year, it made me less extroverted,” because he knew he already had a girlfriend and a stable life at home, he explained.

O’Connell said he felt overwhelmed maintaining his relationship during the second semester of his first year. While taking a heavy course load and pledging a fraternity, he was “at a peak stress mode and just needed to take a step back,” he said.

O’Connell broke up with his girlfriend over spring break that year. He doubts he will ever be in a long-distance relationship again, he said. “It will probably cause you more pain than good,” he added. “I’ve learned that, for me, it’s really hard when there’s not the frequent (in-person) interaction.”

 

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

Jessica Fisher ’16 has managed to find different ways to keep things interesting with her long-distance boyfriend, she said. She and her boyfriend often Skype each other and will watch movies together or even play card games, she added. But she agreed that Skyping can get boring and will never be the same as physical proximity. “It just isn’t the same as sitting with my head against his shoulder,” she said.

Eric Wittgrove ’15 said he and his high school girlfriend decided to break up before their first year of college to try being independent, but the two decided to try dating long-distance the following summer. “Our feelings didn’t just magically disappear,” he said.

Wittgrove’s favorite part about dating his girlfriend is reuniting with her, he added. He paused, closed his eyes and smiled to himself before describing their reunions as “warm … just so very warm.” He recounted that his favorite part is “simply getting to hold her hand again.”

“It’s definitely not the ideal situation,” Schofield explained, “but I can’t think of a reason why I would rather be apart from her than with her.”



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