Speak Your Mind: Making long-distance work on Valentine’s Day

Sammi Boas, Olivia Demetriades, and Anika Mittu

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SAMMI BOAS: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Sammi Boas.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: I’m Olivia Demetriades. Welcome to “Speak Your Mind,” a weekly podcast dedicated to discussing mental health and self-care on Northwestern’s campus. Our goal is to facilitate a conversation about mental health that goes in-depth about what students are really experiencing and try to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health.

SAMMI BOAS: With Valentine’s Day coming up, candy-grams being sent and Freshman Fifteen serenading random people with telegrams, students are celebrating all kinds of relationships. But not all relationships are that easy to celebrate. For long-distance relationships, students have to get creative and work around challenges to keep the relationship going strong. Weinberg freshman Brigid Devine has spent a third of her relationship with her boyfriend Hudson hundreds of miles away. While she attends Northwestern, he goes to Ohio State.

BRIGID DEVINE: We started dating after junior year in the summer, so we’ve been dating for like a year and eight months now and when we’re home we go on walks and hikes and picnics when it’s warm out and then we go watch movies and go to drive-in movies. Then he went to school in August, which was a month and a half before I went, and it was really hard when he left.

SAMMI BOAS: For the past six months, they’ve made their relationship work by calling each other once or twice a week, and texting and Snapchatting every day. But with Valentine’s Day and her birthday coming up this weekend, she has a small hope that they can do something more special than FaceTime.

BRIGID DEVINE: My parents are coming up this weekend for my birthday. Which also, I was like, I have the false hope that they’re going to surprise me with him, but I know that based on what time they’re planning on getting here, he has class. So I’m still hoping but I know it’s not going to happen.

SAMMI BOAS: Instead, Brigid got her boyfriend a box full of Valentine’s Day treats.

BRIGID DEVINE: And then I know that he has something for me because his little sister and my little sister are in school together, and apparently, she brought her something at school today to take home.

SAMMI BOAS: Brigid is one of many college students currently in a long-distance relationship. Out of an estimated 14 million people in the U.S. currently in a long-distance relationship, nearly a third are in college. Brigid makes it work by being proactive and talking to her boyfriend when there are any issues.

BRIGID DEVINE: It’s always good to be open and honest with each other. That was our goal that we talked about when we left. We’ll always communicate with each other and even make a schedule. Like, we usually call on Wednesday nights, just to make sure that we will talk in person even if things are really crazy with school just to make sure that we have that connection.

SAMMI BOAS: According to a 2016 article in the Northwestern Business Review, the rate of inter-Northwestern student marriage peaked in 1979 at a rate of 2.5 percent. Given that low number, it’s easy to see why some students still choose to do long-distance.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: Medill freshman Jenna Spray is another student who chose long distance. Her boyfriend, Nick, is a first-year at Duke. They dated on-and-off throughout high school, but got back together senior year and have been dating since then. At Jenna’s high school, she felt some stigma about long-distance relationships.

JENNA SPRAY: At graduation, there were a lot of other couples that were making the same decision — whether they would be breaking up or trying to go through the summer. I think that I definitely felt a little pressure just because a lot of people around me were breaking up, and also with parents, that was kind of looked down upon, not they didn’t like him, but it’s hard being in a long-distance relationship, and we both go to very demanding schools.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: During Wildcat Welcome and at parties, Jenna found herself unintentionally bringing up her boyfriend in many conversations, which often got mixed reactions.

JENNA SPRAY: I wouldn’t even do it on purpose, but I felt the need just because he is a big part of my life. I would notice that once I did mention that I had a boyfriend, a lot of people, both girls and boys, would just be like, “Oh, OK.” It was definitely a negative reaction. I felt kind of self-conscious about that, but ultimately, I realized that, it shouldn’t matter, and I don’t really want to be friends with people who that matters to. I can definitely still go out and have fun even though I’m in a long-distance relationship, so it shouldn’t affect my social life.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: Many couples in long-distance relationships worry about keeping the “spark” alive, but Jenna has found that small romantic gestures go a long way.

JENNA SPRAY: I think first coming into college, we were really worried about that and so we went out of our way to like have a plan and be really intentional with what we were doing. But honestly, since winter break, we don’t have to think about it as much. It’s just not as big of a deal just because we’re getting into it more. But first quarter we’d watch shows together. We watched “The Crown” and we’d say, “OK, we’re gonna watch it at this time.” We would call each other and hit play at the same time. We write letters to each other sometimes, which is fun, just because it mixes it up a little bit. But overall, I think that if you have to try really hard to maintain that, then it’s ultimately not going to work out because I’m planning on being here for four years. That’s a long time to force it, so I think that I’m just really lucky because I don’t feel that way.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: For her final project in her intro journalism class, Jenna wrote an article about students in long-distance relationships. She was able to meet other freshmen in similar situations and compare their relationships. Jenna often found herself playing the role of relationship counselor, listening to and sympathizing with them.

JENNA SPRAY: I was really surprised by the number of long-distance relationships in the freshman class — that was a really encouraging thing for me. They tend to be super open. I attribute that to the fact that people seem to not be very receptive to long-distance relationships if they’re not in one, so at least when talking to me because they knew I’m in one, I think that they found that kind of therapeutic. They like to be asked about it because people who are dating other people on campus, I feel like are asked about their relationships all the time, whereas people who are in long distance relationships, since people don’t know their partner, it doesn’t really come up as much.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: Jenna was able to visit her boyfriend over the MLK weekend. While they aren’t able to see each other in person on Valentine’s Day, he’s visiting her in March. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t still celebrate.

JENNA SPRAY: Since I can’t visit my boyfriend, I’m going to Milwaukee to visit my friend and have Galentine’s Day. My boyfriend’s in the middle of his first round of midterms right now, too, so I think I’m gonna send him Insomnia Cookies or something to his dorm to surprise him or something like that.

OLIVIA DEMETRIADES: Being in a long-distance relationship definitely isn’t for everyone, and each one comes with its own set of challenges. For the students who are currently in long-distance relationships, having that one person you know you can rely on makes the troubles worth it. That’s all we have for today on “Speak Your Mind.” I’m Olivia Demetriades,

SAMMI BOAS: And I’m Sammi Boas. Thanks for listening!

SAMMI BOAS: This episode was reported and produced by me, Sammi Boas, Anika Mittu and Olivia Demetriades. It was edited by Kalen Luciano and Heena Srivastava. The editor in chief of The Daily Northwestern is Troy Closson.

Email: samanthaboas2023@u.northwestern.edu, anikamittu2023@u.northwestern.edu, oliviademetriades2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BoasSamantha, @anika_mittu

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