LDR: Heartache or Headache?
Distance does to love what wind does to fire, it extinguishes the weak and fuels the strong. Wind will destroy most college long-distance relationships, but the remaining 35% are fueled by it. Stress in a long-distance relationship is like a tornado, each phase of the storm represents a different element of stress within a college student. The first breeze, social life, the second gust, academics and finally, the storm, your long-distance relationship. These strong winds come together to create a tornado, and that tornado is a headache.
A college student in a long-distance relationship can experience high levels of stress while being away from their significant other. After analyzing many sources, I created the “Heartache or Headache?” theory. This theory suggests that higher levels of stress can be determined by personal characteristics or internal problems within a relationship. Studies have found that people in long-distance relationships create coping methods to handle the stress that comes along with the distance and helps keep a healthy balance to calm the storm.
The largest stressor a college student in a long-distance relationship encounters is trying to find a balance between their social life, academics, and their relationship. Students often feel they must give up one aspect to keep the others. It is common for a student to give up their social life in order to improve their relationship. For students in long-distance relationships here at WWU, they feel as though giving up their social life was not a sacrifice, but something they wanted to do. Megan, a student at Western, and her boyfriend Anthony, are an example of a couple who minimizes their social life for their relationship because they want to.
“How has being in a long-distance relationship affected your social life?”
Megan: “I don’t feel like I need to reach out to people as much because I already have a good group of friends and a good relationship so I don’t feel the need to.”
Anthony: “I think my social life has been limited but not in a bad way, because I feel like I already have all the friends I need.”
Both agree that their relationship is at a point where they do not need to go out and meet new people during college. Although, not every college long-distance relationship is the same, Megan and Anthony balance their relationship off their personal opinion and create their own balanced triangle.
Going the Distance
Even after a couple balances aspects within their relationship, the physical distance between a couple creates a stress that does not connect their triangle, but can be managed by each individual. Research done by psychologist Steven Du Bois suggests that college students experience stress from the distance. Du Bois discovered that couples in long-distance relationships create coping methods to lower stress levels within their relationship. One of the coping methods is exercising. Exercise is a common method used by millions of people to relieve stress about any personal issue. A couple in a long-distance relationship, uses this method to cope with the distance, when a student or their significant other begins a healthy lifestyle, it is common for their partner to follow their lead. Long-distance relationships with a healthier lifestyle is suggested in Du Bois’ study when he concluded that, “LDR participants looked ‘‘healthier’’ on more outcomes than PR participants. LDR participants ate healthy with their partner, and exercised both with and without their partner, more frequently than PR participants. And, LDR participants reported better overall health; greater satisfaction with their social role; and less anxiety, depression, and fatigue.”, although my theory suggests that there are only two outcomes of long-distance relationships, Du Bois extends my theory by adding the ways that students in long-distance relationships cope with distance and stress.
When you look at the bigger picture, college long-distance relationships affect a wide range of students. It does not matter what school you go to, how far away you are from your significant other, or how long you have been together. Stress in a long-distance relationship takes a toll on everyone involved in one, that is why I believe colleges should consider more programs to help students in long-distance relationships learn coping methods to help specifically with stress in their long-distance relationship. Programs like this could potentially raise students grades and create positive changes in their lifestyles, leading to a healthy and stress free college experience while still having a positive relationship with your significant other.