Long-distance relationships. These three words are undeniably controversial. It seems as though most people have an opinion on whether they work out or not, regardless if one has experienced a long distance relationship themselves.
So, do long distance relationships stand the test of many miles? Does distance truly make the heart grow fonder or does absence make the heart go wander? Pierce College students are all too familiar with the benefits and detriments of the complex long distance relationship.
Many students at Pierce are personally affected by long distance relationships. This does not come as much of a surprise, thanks to the USA Today article “More young couples try long-distance relationships” by Sharon Jayson.
According to a study found in the article from the journal Communication Research, “as many as half of college students are in long-distance relationships, and up to 75 percent will be at some point.”
This isn’t surprising when correlated with Pierce College students. Many are in relationships with partners who attend different schools, whether it be relative community colleges or universities, and many more are affected by involvement in the military.
This leads to one question. How much distance is required to officially define a long distance relationship?
Scientific studies on long-distance relationships have differing requirements on how many miles a couple must be separated in order to have one.
The scientific study “Perceptions of College Students in Long Distance Relationships,” primarily conducted by Breeanna Skinner and courtesy of the UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research, states that the majority of studies incorporate a “miles separated” criteria. One study claimed there needs to be 50 miles distance minimum, while three other studies used 200 miles or more to officiate a long distance relationship.
However, a few other studies utilized a more general approach, using statements such as “my partner lives far enough from me that it would be very difficult or impossible to see him or her every day” and “my partner lives close enough to me that I could see him or her every day if I chose to.” Last but not least, one study let couples decide whether or not their relationship was long distance or not through personal opinion.
Pierce student Jenna Pedersen considers her relationship to be one of long distance. Pedersen’s boyfriend lives and attends a community college in Seattle. Though distance between them is only “about an hour or so”, both lead productive, busy lives that make time to see each other relatively difficult.
“We see each other one to two times a week, usually only on the weekends,” Pedersen says.
Throw the cost of transportation into the mix and maintaining a face-to-face relationship becomes even more of an issue.
“In order to meet up, I have to drive up to Seattle or he has to drive down to Puyallup… and that equals a lot of gas money,” she says, sighing.
Pedersen then begins to laugh while putting her relationship into perspective.
“It’s interesting because this is my first real relationship. It’s like learning how to do everything in a relationship combined with distance, so it’s a funny combination.”
Undoubtedly, long distance relationships are not without their problems.
When asked if distance was beneficial in a long distance relationship, opinion was split.
Student Brittany Jarman has been in a relationship for more than 3 years with her boyfriend, who is currently attending school in the Tri-Cities on a baseball scholarship. Her opinion on distance? Detrimental.
“No, I don’t think the distance is beneficial. We (used to see) each other every day, now I may only get to see him once every two months, (so) I don’t think it helps at all,” she says.
Jarman believes that the distance from her boyfriend enhances unnecessary conflict between the two.
“We find ourselves getting into little fights a lot of the time. There are simple things that you blow out of proportion, things that you interpret wrong. Fights that wouldn’t happen if we were around each other regularly,” she says.
Student Kyle Litzenberger, whose girlfriend lives in California, has been in a long distance relationship for over a year and a half and has mixed feelings on distance.
“Honestly, I would much prefer for her to be in Washington, but I can see how (the space) would be beneficial.”
And some Pierce students ultimately do find the miles of separation healthy for their relationship.
Student Trevor Montgomery believes it helped his relationship last longer than it would had they been together physically at regular intervals.
“The space was beneficial because it gave us time to be in our own worlds,” he says of his now ex-girlfriend.
“We were together for eight months. Distance wasn’t a part of why it ended, really. She’s moving to Utah and I’m moving to California, so we wanted to end it before we got too emotionally attached, therefore making it harder to truly end things.”
Pedersen agrees that the space is for the better, if only for the sake of independence.
“I think the distance can be a good thing because it helps me keep my sense of independence, and it makes the time we spend together that much more special,” she says with a smile.
That said, every student agreed that putting forth the effort to see each other ultimately makes a world of difference.
In fact, Litzenberger decided to surprise his girlfriend for perhaps the most important day for couples everywhere. Valentine’s Day.
“I secretly bought tickets to go fly down to California and see her,” he says.
“I talked with her parents beforehand to make sure her schedule is cleared, so we’ll get to have the weekend to ourselves and celebrate Valentine’s Day together. I’m really excited.”
Luckily for Pedersen, distance can typically be pacified through popular technology.
“Thank God for cell phones,” she says, laughing again. “We usually text throughout the day and talk on the phone when we’re not busy, but he has classes in the morning and I have classes at night, meaning we don’t have much time to talk on the phone, so we usually text instead.”
As for the future, some of the students are optimistic about surviving their long distance relationships.
“I want to marry her,” Litzenberger says. “(Marriage is) definitely in the cards.”
Pedersen thinks for awhile when asked where she sees her relationship in the future, or if she even sees one at all.
“I believe that it can only get better because we’re both doing really well. I don’t think there will be much of an issue with distance because if I transfer to Seattle like I plan to, I think the lack of distance will only make things better.”
She pauses for a moment.
“Yeah, I could see us being together for a long time.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost