Students share what makes their long-distance relationships work
It was her junior year at Davis High School when Jenna Farboud and her current partner had chemistry — that is, AP Chemistry.
“Actually when we were really young we went to preschool together, apparently,”
Farboud said. “But I didn’t really know him so that doesn’t count as when we first met.”
Junior year rolled into senior year and Farboud and her boyfriend received acceptance letters from the colleges of their choice. He flew off to Montana while Farboud stayed in Davis where she is now a fourth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, but that didn’t stop the two from staying in a relationship.
“We weren’t going to base our decisions on ‘Oh, I’m going to follow you.’ We wanted to do what was best for ourselves and our majors,” Farboud said. “The summer went really well and we decided ‘let’s give it a try,’ but the first year was definitely really hard.”
Despite the distance, Farboud and her boyfriend celebrated their five year anniversary in April. The toughest challenge they face now is deciding what they want to do after college.
“I’m planning on taking some more classes in the summer and he’s going to be working here […], but after that I’m planning on applying to nursing school, and he’s thinking about going to paramedic school,” Farboud said. “We’re trying to make that work, but it’s hard to plan. We’ve definitely talked about how it’s like Grey’s Anatomy, he’s the paramedic and I’m the nurse.”
Farboud said taking their long-distance relationship one step at a time, alongside trust, is the glue that keeps their relationship strong.
“I think the most important thing about a long-distance relationship is being able to trust each other because if you’re not feeling very confident about the strength of your relationship, that can make it really stressful,” Farboud said.
Trust is a vital component to most relationships, but especially ones where opportunities to see one’s partner in person are few and far between. Savannah Vandenbos, a third-year nutrition science major, said that she’s learned a lot about trust since starting her long-distance relationship with her girlfriend who lives in Santa Cruz.
“What I hear from a lot of people is that they’re afraid to be in a long-distance relationship because they’re not sure what the other person would be doing or thinking,” Vandenbos said. “[Since] I’ve started out in a long distance relationship, […] I don’t have the worry that anything is going to happen or that [anything] isn’t going to be communicated or transparent between us. I think you need a higher level of willingness to trust when it comes to long distance.”
Finding the time to do anything between schoolwork, jobs and internships can be challenging in college, especially on the quarter system. Vanderbos sees her partner roughly once every six weeks, but to fill the time they spend apart they often communicate via classic Skype calls, daily text messages and, more thoughtfully, through mail.
“We decided on sending each other letters a lot,” Vanderbos said. “I don’t think either of us went into it thinking it would be super challenging because I think if you just go into it with excitement that you can feel close to someone without being physically next to them, it can totally work out.”
Vanderbos and her girlfriend try to call each other when they have random breaks in their days, and they don’t have any particular structure to the amount of time they talk to each other. This works for some in long-distance relationships, but for others, it’s easier to manage time with partners through scheduled one-on-one time.
Monica Doyle, a fourth-year statistics major, met her partner in high school and faced a situation similar to Farboud. While she came to Davis, her boyfriend went to UC Santa Barbara. Although at first she was nervous coupling a first-time move away from home with a first-time long-distance relationship, she has since decided that long-distance relationships are definitely doable.
“You can’t see them all the time, […] it takes a toll on you because their support is not directly there,” Doyle said. “But I think as long as you set aside time to talk to each other you can still stay connected. For me personally, I like to Skype, so we make sure to set aside one day the week that we would always skype and have something regular to stay connected.”
After quickly discovering how easy it can be to become distracted with schoolwork and other responsibilities during casual Skype calls, Jill Marzolino, a fourth-year plant biology and English double major, likes to schedule phone calls and Skype calls with her long-distance girlfriend too.
“It’s really easy to be like ‘yeah I’m talking to you but I’m reading this article, I’m taking a quiz, I’m working on my paper,’” Marzolino said. “In the beginning [of our relationship] we would be talking to each other [via Skype], but after awhile we’d just be working next to each other — which is great — but when one person is trying to talk and one person is trying to work, it doesn’t work. It’s real bad.”
With long distance comes the understanding that each person in the relationship is going to be busy and has their own lives to worry about.
“I think if you can handle juggling a lot of things, you can be better at a long-distance relationship,” Marzolino said. “If you have a full life of your own, that’s always really good, but also you either have to already be really solid [with your partner] or you have to figure it the f— out.”
Marzolino’s girlfriend lives in Berkeley, and the shuttle that runs between her school and UC Davis is a great way for the two of them to visit each other. Although they’ve each forged their own lives with their own communities and friends, time together back home in southern California is invaluable. Whether that means running around on a fun adventure in a big city or cooking a meal and watching TV on the couch, Marzolino doesn’t take a moment for granted.
“When I’m home for vacation there’s always that feeling that you need to do everything, that it has to be perfect and you have to have fun every single second you’re together, [but] it’s good to have normal time,” Marzolino said. “It can still be a little special and a little normal. [When we] just sit together and chill, I’m always like ‘oh no but we need to be doing something epic right now!’ but then taking a deep breath and being like ‘no we don’t, this is good, let’s just be happy.’”
Whether it’s going off to college for the first time, going into the real world or just going back home for the summer many miles away, long-distance relationships don’t have to be scary. Instead, with the right attitude, they can be exciting and fun.
“I would say [approach a long-distance relationship] with the idea that it doesn’t have to be sad,” Vanderbos said. “I think it can be super fun and super cute, even though you don’t get to see the person on a daily or weekly — or sometimes even monthly — basis. You can still be spontaneous or fun and have a good time even if you’re long distance.”
Written by Marlys Jeane — firstname.lastname@example.org