I have not seen my boyfriend in two months.
Not straying far from our home in New Jersey, he attends New York University while I am here, at Northwestern, hundreds of miles away.
Every week, I nestle into my fluffy throw blanket, get comfortable under my covers and turn on my bed light. I reach for the phone charger, knowing I’ll need it for the long call I am about to make.
Every night when I go out, I watch from the sidelines as people split into pairs as the night goes on. I dance happily with my friends, trying not to notice the boy making out vigorously with a girl to my right. With lights flashing around me and the bass filling my ears and feeding my energy, I don’t find it difficult to lose myself in the music and be present in the moment. However, getting back to my dorm, I follow my typical routine and call my boyfriend. The night ends with me feeling empty and meaningless without him.
Our weekly FaceTime calls are the closest we get to seeing each other for over two months. Knowing all too well the trials and tribulations a long distance relationship would require, one might wonder if it’s worth it.
McCormick first-year Ken Hockenberry experiences similar feelings as he maintains his nearly year-long relationship with his girlfriend, who is finishing high school in Ohio. He admits his experience has not been without its obstacles, but so far they have made it work. The hardest part for him is feeling like he can’t fully fulfill his duties as a boyfriend.
“When she is dealing with something with her family, it’s hard to not physically be there,” Hockenberry said.
McCormick second-year Barbara knows this pain better than most. Her girlfriend of over a year attends college thousands of miles away in Brazil.
The first month of her freshman year at Northwestern was the hardest for Barbara. They almost broke up, letting their insecurities of whether they’d each find someone else nearly tear them apart. However, the couple got through their rough patch by focusing on their communication.
“Long distance is a whole other type of relationship,” Barbara explained. “You have to learn how it works and how to do it.”
Eventually, the pain of missing each other faded, replaced by proactive conversations and spending time with each other in original ways. Barbara’s favorite way to connect with her girlfriend is watching the same TV shows, from Jane the Virgin to Orange is the New Black, together over FaceTime. Even merely being on the phone with each other while studying brings the two closer.
However, continuing a long distance relationship requires a greater commitment from both parties, likely with an end goal in mind. Barbara explained that her girlfriend plans on attending graduate school in the U.S. and, even if she doesn’t, Barbara knows there needs to be some kind of plan for the future.
“A huge part of having it work is an end goal,” Barbara said. “We both are working toward the same thing.”
The faith that one day it will work out for her and her partner is essential to the success of the relationship — a sentiment that applies to nearly every long distance relationship.
School of Communication first-year Gabrielle Schulz left her boyfriend in their hometown of Phoenix, but couldn’t bear to end the relationship. Schulz said the two prioritize communication above all else, and cited that as the key to staying together.
The hardest part for Schulz is not being able to physically see her boyfriend, especially when she’s stressed. As most first-years during fall quarter, students often lack strong relationships with their peers, having only been on campus for a few months. Therefore, not having a support system yet makes Schulz miss her boyfriend even more, and ultimately, feel even lonelier without him.
Another struggle Schulz faced upon starting school was learning how to deal with the very prevalent hookup culture at parties. At the beginning, she said it was challenging to see people hook up, making her feel almost as if she might be missing out on something. However, after a while, Schulz started feeling more grateful, and even relieved, that she was in a relationship.
“My friends would be pining after some person, and see that person with someone else,” Schulz said. “They’d just be sad about it the next day.”
I resonate with all the highs and lows Hockenberry, Barbara and Schulz experience. I understand the failure Hockenberry feels at not being able to be there for his girlfriend. I understand the hopeful faith Barbara places into the future with her girlfriend. I understand Schulz’s loneliness in missing her boyfriend.
Despite all this pain, each minute spent talking to my boyfriend over those weekly FaceTime conversations fuel me. Without him, I wouldn’t make it in this school. With all the pressures from academics, organizations and social life, he is my rock — even if he’s thousands of miles away. For me, every tear shed for him is worth every minute of knowing he’s there for me.
Clinging on to that same faith Barbara has, I know we’ll make it. Not seeing him the past two months is just the hardest part.
In the end, is long distance worth it?
“When you find someone you really like, you have to try everything you can to keep them,” Hockenberry said.
We’re all trying everything we can.