By Brianna Kudisch & Megan Alms | Echo & Contributor
When two love-struck students are torn apart by attending different schools, it can certainly put an end to a lot of things. It's the end of regular face-to-face conversations; it's the end of studying together, spending weeknights together and making your friends the third wheel. But long-distance relationships can also begin a new chapter: a strengthened relationship that can withstand all kinds of setbacks.
Though couples struggle with living far away from a significant other, it doesn't necessarily have to hurt the relationship. Sophomore Kelley Hershberger, a Taylor student with a boyfriend who attends Purdue University, experiences both struggles and successes of long-distance dating. Sophomore Joe Dickman and senior Diana Romeos face similar situations-Dickman's girlfriend goes to school in Wisconsin and Romeos's fiancé lives in Greece.
"I think it's a good experience. You're able to grow individually and as a couple," Hershberger said. "You learn to trust each other a lot more."
She said that a long-distance relationship can show couples how to release their partners to experience life without them. Since long-distance couples can't be together all the time, they need to learn how to appreciate their significant other's life independent of them. Hershberger advised other long-distance couples to embrace the separation through independence.
One daunting obstacle of a long-distance relationship is communication, according to Dickman. "Communication is essential," he said. Dickman's girlfriend attends Richland Center High School in Wisconsin. "The better your communication, the stronger the long-distance relationship will be." Since face-to-face conversation isn't always an option, long-distance couples find more creative ways to communicate. "(We mostly communicate) through text, but I always make sure that I call every two days," Dickman said.
Hershberger schedules regular video chat sessions with her boyfriend. "We don't text very much," Hershberger said, "but we FaceTime or call every day."
After dating for four years, Romeos and her fiancé, 24-year-old Kostas Tassos, became engaged this past January and are well-acquainted with navigating a long-distance relationship. Romeos emphasized communicating the little details of her schedule with her significant other. "I keep him informed of what's going on in my life, whether it's small, like something in class, or big, like a huge event coming up," she said.
Along with the updates, the couple makes sure they each maintain a schedule so the other knows what's going on their life, despite the seven hour time difference. They keep in contacting by sharing meals over Skype-she eats a quick lunch around 1 p.m. while he gets dinner around 8 p.m.
Another challenge of long-distance relationships is knowing that each partner is experiencing a completely different environment than the other. Hershberger and her boyfriend have to be very open about everything in their conversations so they feel involved in each other's lives.
According to Hershberger, the Taylor community can help relieve the stress of separation. "The community at Taylor is so supportive. It can provide a friend group to get connected with when you can't be with your best friend," Hershberger said.
Taylor's community can help those in long-distance relationships in a practical way too. Dickman appreciated the small acts of kindness that are common at Taylor: "They can ease the problems inherent in a long-distance relationship," Dickman said.
Romeos attributes the success of her relationship to the trust she and her fiancé share. "If you really are going to work out, you need to trust each other," Romeos said. "We had to learn that at first."
She and Tassos don't believe their long-distance relationship is easy, but they do believe it's worth all it's ups and downs. "It's not worth it if you don't have an end goal to it… (but) it's really worth it if you give it time and are patient, leaving out jealousy," said Romeos.
Through all of the setbacks and obstacles, all three students agreed that long-distance relationships are feasible and even beneficial. Maintaining a positive relationship when you can't see each other often can be an opportunity for growth rather than a means of separation.