Long distance caller: Communication is key when your partner is far away

I’ve been in a lot of long-distance relationships. Of my four significant relationships, all of them have been long distance in some regard.

The reasons for these arrangements vary. Unexpected moving plans, long-term study abroad trips and two-hour commutes to spend just three days together have all uprooted and altered these relationships.

In a weird phase of your life, your early 20s, the decision to pursue a long-distance relationship is a strange one. For some people, they’re ready to start thinking about a long-term partner, whatever that might mean for people. For others, that thought is unfathomable for the near future.

I know I’m not alone in this challenge and I find comfort in that.

Veronica Casarez, a senior at Loyola Marymount University, has been in a long-distance relationship since May 2021.

“If you think it’s worth it, it’s probably worth it,” Casarez said. “If you have the idea that maybe there is an endpoint or an endgame with it, run with it. And if they prove that point, then great. But also if you’re young, you’re young, you have time to find somebody else if that’s really the issue you’re taking with it.”

Casarez has been with her boyfriend for over a year and a half. When their relationship started, they were both living in their hometown. When their classes moved back in person, though, they went from being three miles away from each other to 3,000.

“We’d maybe exchanged a couple sentences about ‘should we break up,’ but ended up being too emotionally attached to each other to want to separate,” Casarez said.

Ultimately, when the question of moving arose, the two decided to try long distance in the wake of their circumstances.

In long-distance relationships, it can be hard to find the time to prioritize quality time with your partner. For some couples, one solution to this is to plan out virtual  “date nights” to mimic that time they could have spent together in person.

Casarez and her partner schedule out date nights on Friday nights where they can FaceTime and watch movies together. They often watch Netflix and Disney Plus, ranging from Marvel and “Star Wars” movies to “You,” a Netflix show starring Pen Badgley from “Gossip Girl.”

Casarez said that even if they miss date night for whatever reason, they try to reschedule in order to prioritize that time they do have together.

“It can really give you that quality time with somebody that’s so far away because you can feel close with them in those one, two hours,” Casarez said.

Tim Cole, a communications professor at DePaul, said that it’s important to establish clear expectations for contact in long distance relationships.

“It’s really important to not get too tied down and always having heavy conversations, but it’s really important to have that small talk, that daily small talk,” Cole said.

Even with available technologies like FaceTime, it’s hard to establish meaningful connections when you’re not physically around your partner.

“Having affectionate communication is critical for your emotional, cognitive and physical well-being,” Cole said. “And that’s hard to do via technology even though you can do FaceTime, you’re not really getting the same benefits as being co-present.”

Cole says that being physically present is important for relationships because it helps you feel in-sync with each other and that is hard to achieve — even with the technologies available to nurture relationships.

Sam Cruz, also a senior at Loyola Marymount University, has been with her current partner for over two years. The two are roughly two hours away from each other, but that distance has fluctuated throughout the pandemic as they have shifted between school and their hometowns.

During the pandemic though, Cruz was able to visit her partner and his family and said this allowed her to be closer with him and build those connections with his family as well.

“What made that different from any other relationship I had is that those kinds of emotions would be not talked about, or swept under the rug,” Cruz said.

Cruz said it was important to make sure that they both felt as if they were an active presence in each other’s lives.

“Family is really important to me, so I feel like us making sure we both do our part to be a part of each other’s lives and part of each other’s families, I think that’s really done that with the long distance that it’s been,” Cruz added.

In my own relationships, establishing clear expectations has always proved to be important. Especially when work schedules or time differences don’t align, taking the time to check in throughout the day and prioritize virtual date nights has allowed me to prioritize fostering the type of connection that is essential for a long distance relationship.

Now, pondering potential moving plans as I move closer to my graduation date, it has been helpful to remember that I’ve been able to make these situations work through open communication and transparency.

Cruz offered a piece of advice for people that are considering a long-distance relationship.

“If you’re both really clear in what you want and how you can both work together to get through long distance, then I think things should still be okay and things should work out for the best,” Cruz said.