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The pros and cons of long-distance love

By Lee Bierer Correspondent
Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

For high school couples it must seem like the world doesn’t believe in love. Everyone – well, maybe not everyone – is telling them to break up and start fresh in college.

Long-distance romances can be challenging in the best of times. Trying to maintain a high school relationship, dealing with the transition to college AND being separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles is not a recipe for long-lasting love. No, that doesn’t mean it can’t work, and yes, love can conquer quite a bit. But be prepared for messy times, tears and maybe heartbreak.

Long-distance relationships require hard work. Everyone knows that. Maintaining a long-distance relationship can be distracting for some students because they are less engaged in what’s happening on campus. For other students, being faithful removes the social distractions of parties and Greek life and allows them to focus on academics.

When couples decide to try to stick it out, they’re usually both on the same page at first. But problems arise when their definitions of “hard work” differ. Tackling the issues of trust, loyalty, jealousy, commitment, intimacy and satisfying the partner’s need for reassurance can be taxing.

Set the ground rules

The biggest discussion point is deciding to be exclusive or agreeing that it’s OK to date other people. This decision often comes down to: “Are we gonna make it; is it worth the effort?” If you do not both agree in that initial conversation, the forecast is gloomy. You need to ask yourself how you feel about sharing your boyfriend or girlfriend with other people. It’s important to be honest with yourself. If you feel that you’re hanging onto to your high school relationship for security reasons, you’re better off cutting your losses sooner than later.

Here are some thoughts from students from “Survival Secrets of College Students” (Barrons, $12.99):

• “I wish I would have come in with freedom to date around instead of with a long-term boyfriend. There’s a lot of exploring going on, and I wasn’t able to do that. At 18, you aren’t looking for a life partner; you’re looking for a good time.” Emily Gravett, Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y.

• “I have been discouraged by parents and friends saying that long-distance relationships don’t work out. … Don’t say you should break up. Try it and see.” Tanner Kokemuller, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.

• “I knew when I was a freshman here that the relationship I still had with my high school boyfriend was rocky, and why I continued with it, I’m not quite sure.” Brianna Orton, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

• “I’m glad I didn’t date anybody my freshman year, because that’s when you develop friendships.” Chelsea Chaney, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas.

Bierer of Charlotte is an independent college adviser:
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