Feb 062012
Authors: Colleen Canty and Elisabeth Willner

With hair carefully parted, teeth sparkling like diamonds and a blouse intentionally picked to reveal just a little skin, but not too much, Esther Miner, junior environmental sociology major, was ready for her big date.

It was the fall of 2010 when this CSU freshman first scented the aroma of new love in the air. Lady Esther and Jafar (although the infamous “pet name” may seem cringe-worthy for anyone who has never been subjected to such raw affection, according to Miner, they are imperative) shared a class together that semester, and Jafar’s “cute style” and even cuter face won her heart immediately. They began to date the following spring, and as the snow melted from the plains, the elk began their love calls, and Miner retired the name Jafar for Kevin Baby.

One year later, Miner sat at her desk, poised for the moment her love was to make his highly anticipated appearance for their weekend date.

Only this wasn’t your typical dinner and movie.

It was 9 a.m., and Kevin Baby was 5,000 miles away. And for the remainder of their date, they both sat and stared at their computer screens.

The young couple, although no longer together, represents the 75 percent of college students who will engage in a long-distance relationship over the course of their four years at university, according to a study by the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships.

And while this type of dating is not generally preferred, in the age of Face Time and Skype, it is becoming increasingly manageable.

“The physical aspect of any relationship is so important; it was so hard to not be able to kiss him goodnight, hug him or hold his hand,” Miner said. “I missed all that, and not being able to touch him ever, but it was comforting to just look at each other. I know it sounds dumb, but it was really comforting just to see him.”

Studying abroad placed Miner’s boyfriend in France last semester, leaving them faced with the decision to break up or to toil on, knowing half a continent and an ocean separated them. But according to Miner, it was simply assumed they would remain together.

Video conferencing programs like Skype, Face Time and iChat have revolutionized the dating experience, allowing significant others to wander miles away, yet project themselves into each other’s offices, bedrooms and backyards with the click of a button and slightly broader Internet bandwidth. Such technology allows couples to replace kissy-face emoticons for the real deal.

“When we Skype, I have a routine to get ready: I do my hair and makeup, and it’s fun for me,” said senior health and exercise major Jasmine Higgins, who has been dating her boyfriend Zac Pollitt for nearly two years. Pollitt currently lives in England, where he is from. “We can talk about everything going on more in-depth (as compared to emailing or text messaging) and can see each other instead of just a smiley face on a text message.”

With impersonal land-line phone calls more or less extinct, and with cell phones quickly becoming highly capable computers, the historically dreaded LDR has shed its negative image and adopted an almost attractive persona.

In an email to The Collegian, Andy Merolla, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies, said that emotionally, social media communication venues allow for partners to feel “integrated into one and other’s daily lives.” And monetarily, it’s cheap.

“Some people even say that periods of long-distance relating can, in the long run, strengthen relationships because partners learn new ways of communicating with one another,” Merolla said.

Higgins said the distance between her and her partner assured her they were compatible on a more emotional level despite the absence of physical intimacy.

“You don’t rely on just hanging out, and you get to know the person more. That’s something I really value,” she said.

According to Merolla, distance and separation are necessary factors in most relationships. Realistically, many people find that circumstances often arise, making it impossible for them to live in the same town as the people they love.

“All of the factors that contribute to good same-town relationships apply to long-distance ones, such as honesty, patience, kindness and active listening. Partners also have to get good at making plans for communication,” Merolla said. “Long-distance partners can get frustrated if there is uncertainty regarding when they will interact next or when they’ll have their next visit. Effective communication — which can take a lot of practice — can help partners manage these problems.”

Connor Garland, a sophomore political science major, said that during a typical week, he and his long-distance girlfriend, Jessica Knuth, keep in touch through Facebook, text messages, calls before bed and even sometimes Twitter.

They also make sure to plan time to see each other face-to-face.

“We try to schedule as many visits as possible and coordinate breaks around each other’s schedules,” Garland said.

Garland and Knuth are a bit of a special case: they’ve always been a long distance couple since they met while Garland was visiting a friend at Knuth’s school in Wyoming. Garland said he thinks one of the reasons the relationship works is that they’ve always been a long-distance couple.

He also admits that sometimes the distance can be tough.

“Some weeks it’s harder than others. Some weeks you don’t do a really good job of communicating,” Garland said. “A lot of people do struggle, if something is not right in front of them, to remember it’s there.”

What keeps Garland going is the future. Knuth will be moving to Denver when she graduates in May, and Garland looks forward to seeing her regularly on the weekends.

For Miner, a similar idea was key.

“With Kevin, it was just like, ‘Okay, we were together, and now we have to be apart for a while, and then it will be okay again,’” Miner said. “I was fine knowing that in the future we could be together again; that was total assurance and worth being in a long-distance relationship.”

Collegian writers Colleen Canty and Elisabeth Willner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Tips for maintaining your long distance-relationship

Develop a regular routine for communication.
Don’t over-obsess about constant communication; don’t let your long-distance relationship detract from your same-town friendships.
Use pet names: it shows your partner just how special they are to you
Always let your partner know you are thinking about them even when you aren’t constantly communicating; short goodnight texts or messages are effective.
The love letter isn’t dead! Get out your stationery and dot your “i”s with hearts.

 Posted by at 2:53 pm

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