Posted inColumns

Ask Aunty Annabel: Young, wild, and free – will I miss out on the true university experience by being in a long-distance relationship?

Illustration by Iris Bowdler

Dear Aunty Annabel,

I’m an international student far from home and as a result my love life has taken to spanning multiple miles and an ocean. Last summer I got with my best friend and while we promised we’d just be friends with benefits it is now a year later and we are still both hopeless for each other. We talked recently about what it would mean to try long-distance and even though I’ve been wanting that for ages when it was finally brought up I got really scared. I don’t plan on going home anytime soon (lots of things to do, and see) but he said that he’d follow me. Still I feel like my freedom might be squelched. Would I be doing myself a disservice by doing long-distance? Would I be missing out on some quintessential uni experiences of late night booty calls, and park end eyes-meeting moments? Or should I just take the leap? (btw I’m obsessed with your column) Please help.

Mon cherie

I like you. I’ve decided that you’re my favourite – absolutely nothing to do with that compliment at the end (just wait until I show my mum), I just do. Massaged ego to one side, I’m intrigued by your dilemma: is it worth kicking your heels waiting round for someone you’re in love with and risk missing out on university rites of passage? I wonder whether a  theory recently posed to me might shed some light on the issue. The theory is that people fall into one of two categories when it comes to relationships: according to the first type, if you’re someone who is sagacious and steady, you’ll either have had no relationships (because you’re not going to make rash decisions and hurry into one) or two (because you tread with caution but aren’t so put off by your first relationship that you vow not to get into another). If you fall into the second type, and have a slightly less stable, more erratic personality then you will either have had multiple relationships (because you can’t bear to be single and so rush into them) or just one because as a kind of ‘overcorrection’ after a hefty relationship, you seek to renounce relationships and make up for lost time by dating casually. 

While I think there are plenty of exceptions to this theory, I reckon it might contain a kernel of truth, that is, many students graduate feeling that their university experience has been defined and limited by a relationship – be that long-distance or not. Can you imagine yourself reacting like this? Not everyone does feel this way, afterall, and would feel no regret about dueting their way through university and in missing out on ‘late night booty calls and parkend eye-meeting moments’ as a result. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s pretty difficult to make eyes across the cheese floor when you’re sandwiched between some very clammy LAX girls (yum.) 

I can’t deny that there are experiential doors which are slammed shut when you enter into a relationship at university and I would always discourage someone from getting into anything which doesn’t justify shutting those doors. Nevertheless, I don’t think you should feel that you have to do anything: you don’t have to lock eyes in parkend or pedal across Oxford at ungodly hours for a *cough* ‘rendezvous’ just because you think that’s what you should be doing. So when you ask, ‘would I be doing myself a disservice?’, I want you to be frank with yourself about whether you actually want those things or whether you simply feel that’s what you should be doing. You don’t have anything to prove to yourself or anyone else, and you don’t have to obtain experiences for the sake of it – when they’re mumbling all that Latin nonsense at your graduation ceremony, there won’t be an extra award for most wild university experience (carpe DM ladies, seize the bae.) 

All that said, I wonder if this has to happen now. While I wouldn’t sacrifice a rip-roaring romance with another student for university singledom, long-distance is a different thing altogether. University is a tiny period of your life so why not put the romance on hold until you’ve graduated and don’t have to do long-distance anymore? Neither of you are going to spontaneously combust between now and then, and if it’s really meant to be, then when you finish university you can rekindle the romance. I don’t actually feel that you have to make a choice here, you pretty well can have your cake (mine’s a red velvet s’il vous plait) and eat it: enjoy university life now in all its single, messy glory and then give things a whirl once you’re finished. You can keep those university experiential doors open and still have one foot in the potential relationship door. Remember, maxima enim, patientia virtus.

Yours in agony

Aunty Annabel