Whether On-Campus or Long-Distance, Relationships Take Work

When it comes to college relationships, there are two types: on-campus relationships and long-distance relationships. The question is,

“Which one is better?”

There’s no clear answer as to which type of relationship is superior to the other. It really depends on the couple, how much they trust each other, and how willing they are to commit themselves to the relationship.

Becca Sage, a recent graduate of North Central College, was in an on-campus relationship during her educational career. Sarah Lambach, a junior at Western Illinois University, is currently in a long-distance relationship. Lambach has been dating her boyfriend for over a year and three months, and they live an hour and a half away from each other. Both women shared their experiences and advice on maintaining healthy relationships while in college.

Sage met her current boyfriend during her freshman year. At the time, she was in a different relationship and didn’t have any expectations of dating anyone on campus. “I’m glad I ended up with someone new,” she said.

Between classes and extracurricular activities, one may wonder how a couple who is able to see each other practically daily can manage a busy schedule and still find time to be together. When asked if juggling all of these obligations was a challenge, Sage said, “It wasn’t difficult because we always lived close, and we made things like studying (into) activities that (we’d do) together.”

Sage added that school has made a positive impact on her relationship with her boyfriend. “I think it has made our relationship stronger,” she said. “We are both really serious about education, and we supported each other a lot during undergrad. We would study together a lot and help the other in whatever our strongest areas were.”

Not only do college classes and activities play a role in how much a couple spends time together, living arrangements are also factors. When asked if where she lived on campus impacted her relationship, Sage said, “I got pretty lucky on that end and didn’t have much of a problem.”

While Sage’s on-campus relationship worked out well, she admitted that it wasn’t always as peachy keen as it seemed. “We would actually argue because I’d cut into his ‘bro’ time, but I’m friends with his friends as well, so it was a little challenging,” Sage said. “I don’t know if we ever really solved the issue, but I did try to not hang around as much.”

Lambach originally met her current boyfriend in high school, and they reconnected through her brother after she was already in college. “He was the new drummer in my brother’s band,” she said. “We really started to hit it off while I was home on summer break, and by the time school rolled around, we saw no reason to call things off despite the distance and time restraints. I’m glad we didn’t! I was nervous about what would happen when summer was over, but I’m not really one for a “fling.” Right from the start, I was dedicated to the relationship. I think in the beginning, I just tried to focus on the present time I had with him, and as our relationship progressed, I started to think about what the near future and then distant future could hold for us. I definitely never saw him as a temporary thing.”

For Lambach, managing school while being in a long-distance relationship has been challenging. “I have kind of felt like I’ve had to put the brakes on some things as a result of school,” she admitted. “The longer we are together, the more I want to move forward, but that’s not always possible. The majority of my time goes into school. We only get to see each other every weekend, or every other weekend, and while phone calls keep us going, it’s difficult to move forward as a couple over the weekend or on the phone. Fortunately, he understands the situation and is willing to work extra hard. Vice versa, my relationship has impacted school by making me want to work even harder. I have endless support from my boyfriend. I want to make the time away from him worthwhile and get done as soon as possible.”

Lambach says that her boyfriend living an hour an a half away from her college campus makes it difficult for them to find time to be together. “We try to talk on the phone at least every night, but sometimes, our schedules don’t line up, or I’m up until 4 AM writing a paper,” Lambach said. “I always try to work ahead so my weekends are at least somewhat homework-free, that way, we can just relax together or talk on the phone as long as we want. He also tries to come to my big events on campus like orchestra concerts, so all that time spent in rehearsals and practicing pays off when we both get to enjoy the final product.”

Although Lambach is currently in a long-distance relationship, she previously dated someone who lived on campus. Having a boyfriend that lived closer to her during college made spending time together a lot easier. “When I was in an on-campus relationship, we learned each other’s schedules, so we always knew when the other person was free if we wanted to spend time together,” she said. “We also would do our homework together on occasion.”

When asked if she and her boyfriend have ever had difficult times during their relationship due to college-related reasons, Lambach said, “The amount of time I have to put into my classes feels like a huge burden sometimes, especially when he’s having a not-so-great day, and I’m wrapped up studying. Sometimes, there’s a little bit of tension, but it’s only out of wishing we were together, so it’s easily resolved. I find it really helpful to always plan ahead and know the next time he and I will see each other. Then, if one of us accidentally blow off some texts or miss a phone call, we understand that this time is dedicated to us to look forward to. Another issue that arises is if one of us wants to go out while the other wants to stay in. We let staying in trump going out, so we can both enjoy at least being together. I think just spending time together where you both are comfortable is more important than that rager down the street.”

Lambach fortunately has her living space at school, but that doesn’t mean there still aren’t issues. “I live in a single room in a dorm,” she said. “Long story short, my boyfriend isn’t a huge fan of the living situation when he visits. The beds are comically small for two people, and noise leaks through the walls like it’s nothing. Quiet hours can be a damper on the fun as well. He’s also not a huge fan of having to go to a men’s floor to use the bathroom. We also have visiting restrictions, a maximum of three consecutive nights within a ten-day period, but I have yet to have an RA enforce them, thankfully.”

During her previous relationship, her boyfriend shared an apartment with a roommate who liked to have people over a lot. “It made it difficult to be alone at times with everybody flooding the living room and even randomly popping into the bedroom uninvited,” she said. “We took it in stride, though, and appreciated the quiet days alone even more. We also put our foot down at times, like for Valentine’s Day, demanding the whole apartment to ourselves.”

To those who are considering being in an on-campus relationship, or are already in one, Sage provided these words of wisdom:

“Make sure you have things in your life that are just yours. You need to branch out. Make sure (the relationship is) not keeping you from the things you’ve said you’ve wanted to do in college.”

Sage has been with her boyfriend for over three and a half years, and she admitted college isn’t the only time when serious relationships take a lot of effort. “It’s challenging after school, too!” she added.

If you’re considering being in a long-distance relationship, or you’re already in one, Lambach offered these wise words of wisdom:

“Remember that the first reason you’re at college is for college! Your partner MUST respect that and support your educational pursuits. You will learn to appreciate the time you find to unwind together outside of school. I promise, it won’t be the end of the world if you have to sacrifice a date night (or Skype date) for that huge project you still haven’t started. Make sure you are just as serious about your education you’re paying the big bucks for as you are about them. A lot of people ask why I would want to be in a committed relationship in college. They say it’s supposed to be a time of exploration and fun. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Personally, I’m in college to transition to being self-sufficient and work toward a career in a field that I am passionate about. Of course, I still go out and and have fun time to time, and my being in a relationship has never stopped me from doing so. He makes me happy and provides endless support. I’ll take that over ‘exploring’ any day.”

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Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts is a senior at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois pursuing a degree in English Writing. She has been an Editor for the North Central Kindling humor magazine, Assistant News and Arts Editor for the North Central Chronicle newspaper, as well as a DJ and Rock News Reporter for WONC-FM 89.1, her college’s radio station. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends, boyfriend, and his cat Willow.