The good, the bad and the ugly: A long distance relationship at university

[First published in the print edition of Kettle Magazine]

Last summer, UCAS controversially endorsed and distributed leaflets encouraging aspiring university students to break up with their school sweethearts before they become freshers, but is doing so really necessary?

University is a time for personal growth, and couples may grow indeed apart, but every relationship has a chance to flourish if you’re willing to work at it and be an honest and committed partner. Obviously, the choice is a personal one, and students should not make a decision based on the advice of one person, but instead judge for themselves.

My partner and I, despite initially agreeing otherwise, chose to stick it out.

After missing out on his firm choice, which was coincidentally mine too, he enrolled at a university in Leeds, whilst I moved to Salford to complete our dream journalism course. It was a challenge, and it did have its ups and downs, but I believe it made our relationship stronger. However, we were extremely lucky, and after doing well in his first year my partner transferred to Salford where we moved in together.

As we were spending our first year apart, Andrew and I decided we would visit one another every other weekend. At first thought this seemed a tall order, as we were essentially having to make sure half of our weekends were free, and missing out on parties and nights out. However, what initially seemed like a negative and a sacrifice, actually turned out to be a huge social positive. Andrew first visited me at Halloween, and coincidentally there was a Halloween party at my halls, so he was thrust into it and met all of the friends I had made in the first few weeks of university.

We found that the ‘full university experience’ was both overrated and over exaggerated. Not everyone goes out and gets drunk every single night, taking a different person to bed each night. Most of the time, students have pre-drinks, go out, have a takeaway, and share a taxi home with their flatmates to make it cheaper. Being in a relationship does not mean you can’t do just that as there is no law against having fun with your friends, and by all means, you should have it and encourage your partner to do the same.

We essential had two university experiences rather than just one.  I even got a free Domino’s pizza and t-shirt in two different university freebie fairs. We got to explore two different cities, doing different activities in each. Another plus is that these weekends – which sometimes stretched to three or four days – felt like mini breaks, and time where we weren’t together was spent looking forward to seeing each other.

Naturally, we missed each other a lot, but we had separate places to be for the sake of our individual futures, meaning our relationship was no longer the priority and got pushed to the backseat. The cliché, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” was certainly proved.

Fitting university work and busy schedules around seeing each other one was the difficult part. Sometimes, we’d burn the candle at both ends and try to write assignments on the train, only to fall asleep as soon as we reunited. Being too exhausted to socialise was not the ideal in someone else’s halls, as you have to see their flatmates to get to the kitchen for a drink or a snack, and you cannot be rude if you are a guest that they are allowing to stay. As of this, we had to forgo some weekends together, and suffer the withdrawal symptoms.

Travelling not only takes the energy out of you, but also empties your bank accounts. The cost of buying train tickets on a regular basis meant that our student loans depleted, but luckily we found that booking in advance meant we could avoid paying extortionate amounts and going into our overdrafts. We also realised that we did not need much money to have fun. The students unions were a good shout for getting cheap drinks and partaking in the occasional free pub quiz, and offering to review lesser known bands and artists, meant that we got free tickets to gigs.

Although I did not experience it myself, some couples did not have the best support network, and endured opinionated individuals telling them that their relationship would not last, and that one of them would cheat on the other. Listening to statements like the latter, mean that the ugly green eyed monster may show its face, and that all the trust you and your significant other could be lost in a heartbeat. In order for any relationship to work, trust is paramount. Your partner could be a two-hour train ride away, or in Timbuktu, but without trust you’re going to be constantly fretting about what they might be getting up to.

There’s no need to worry though, if you both know your relationship is strong before leaving for university then that means trust is a given.

Did you try a long distance relationship while at university? How did it work out? Let me know in the comments below!

6 Replies to “The good, the bad and the ugly: A long distance relationship at university”

  1. Mine is a bit of an extreme case but since I’m studying here in the UK and my boyfriend is back home in Singapore (bloody miles away) we don’t exactly have time and it would cost too much to fly back anyways, I’d rather use the money to travel to places nearby! So we go about 8-9 months without seeing each other but of course we FaceTime/message each other pretty much everyday.

    Trust is really important like you’ve mentioned but I think communication is essential, we wouldn’t have lasted as long as we did otherwise 🙂 but I think if we hadn’t already dated for three years before I went overseas I think I would have struggled a little with the distance.

    1. Aw bless you Eve. It must be so difficult, but thank God for technology letting you do that and keep in touch so well. Communication is so important and the best tool to keep you both in the loop and in love. It must be so nice to reunite with each other after so long!

  2. My boyfriend is actually studying in Kingston, whilst I’m back home in Northern Ireland. I think it’s absurd that a University would tell students to end their relationships, and that anyone would be so opinionated about it… although I certainly don’t think long distance is for everyone!

    I think the longest Matthew and I have spent apart is around 2 months… as money is so tight, it’s hard for us to see each-other as frequently as we’d like to – but it also means that when are together, it’s much more meaningful and we plan every day together. For instance M’s coming home on Friday night, so we’re going to get a Chinese and snuggle up on the sofa with a movie and his dog Coco (she’s a cockapoo).

    1. Wow, I know, I couldn’t actually believe what I was reading when I saw it on the news, it’s a personal matter and shouldn’t be treat as so black and white, especially by a reliable company like UCAS.

      It definitely isn’t for everyone, but I’m so glad you’re both happy though and making it work in your own way. It’s so weird that it’s still in the UK, but can seem like it’s the world away. Now that sounds like a great date night – good company and good food. Who says you need to spend a lot of money to have fun? I hope you have a fab weekend and get to make the most of your time together (including with the dog, cockapoos are so cute!)

  3. Seems very odd advice for UCAS to give out – obviously long distance relationships won’t be for everyone, but surely you’ve got to give it a shot? Your experiences prove it can work, it just takes a bit of effort – and I imagine it makes you appreciate the time you do actually spend together much more.

  4. Well done Rae for successfully going against the grain, ignoring everyone else’s interfering advice and sticking with and working at your relationship. It’s hard to find someone you gel that well with and it’s worth fighting for! And you are right, a lot of people will be jealous of that.

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