Last week, my boyfriend and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary. Thankfully, it lined up with Thanksgiving break, otherwise we would have been celebrating over the phone. We’re long-distance during the school year so that I can be at school in Ithaca, and he can work at his job back home. I’ve found that being in a long-term, long-distance relationship is somewhat off the beaten path for college students, and I have struggled to figure out how my relationship fits into my life as a student, both academically and socially.
In today’s world of technology, we’ve found ways to make the distance work. We video chat often and work to find creative ways to spend time together even while apart. Teleparty has been a godsend so we can continue to watch our favorite Netflix shows, and because my hometown is less than a 4-hour drive away, we also find time to visit each other a few times each semester. In general, I’ve found the distance to be much less of an obstacle than I originally anticipated. The truth is that I’m so busy with everything that being a college student entails that even if we were in the same city, we’d still spend a lot of time apart.
Speaking of being a busy college student, it can be really challenging to balance academics with my relationship while still setting aside time for other aspects of my life such as my job and extracurriculars. My boyfriend has a fairly regular schedule as a full-time employee, whereas you may find me waking up at 7 a.m. some days or almost noon others and staying up past midnight working on assignments or just to get some much needed “me time.” It’s often difficult to find times that our schedules line up, and a lot of communication and time-management has gone into making all these factors come together (somewhat) harmoniously. I am thankful that it has always been an important pillar of understanding in our relationship that education always comes first. This allows me to prioritize what I need to do to be successful while still maintaining the integrity of our relationship.
All that aside, the facet of my college life in which I most struggle to integrate my relationship is socially. In most social situations, I am usually the only one (or one of very few) in a committed, long-term relationship. Because of this, I find myself struggling to relate to and be accepted by my peers. I feel like I inadvertently give off a snooty, holier-than-thou vibe when I share my relationship status. There are two reasons for this.
The first is that my peers are so deeply ingrained in the casual dating scene and campus hookup culture that as soon as they know I am not a devout member, they stamp the mark of disapproval on my forehead, and I am instantly marked as an unrelatable outcast. Okay, this might be a bit dramatic, but the point stands. While their idea of a fun Friday night is finding a new frat guy to kiss, mine is binge watching The Vampire Diaries with my boyfriend — he doesn’t like to admit it, but I got him hooked on the series a few years back.
The second reason is the doubtful glimmer in their eye as if to say, “what makes you think that you’re so special that you’ve already found your person when the rest of us haven’t?” The truth is, being the independent person that I am, I really struggled with allowing myself to succumb to a serious relationship at my age and to have it become a defining part of my life. As the title says, I’m well aware that young love can be a long shot, but my honest answer is that I’ve learned that relationships are what you make of them, no matter your age. We have cultivated a relationship where we leave space for each other to grow and actively encourage each other to thrive, and quite frankly, I couldn’t ask for much more.
The stark divide in dating attitudes between me and many of my peers has made it difficult for me to feel like I am getting the typical college student social experience, but at the end of the day, I know that my relationship situation is right for me. I certainly don’t long for the days of “Why hasn’t he called?” followed by “I didn’t like him anyways.” Being in a healthy long-term relationship offers a support system that I have been thankful to lean back on many times throughout college, and I’m thankful to have ventured off the beaten path to find a trail that better suits my life and values. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay, but it is for me.
Halle Swasing ‘24 (she/her) is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Goes Without Swasing runs every other Sunday this semester.