Going the distance
There’s a lot to learn during your freshman year of college, like how to do laundry or live off of Top Ramen. But for some students, there is an additional challenge: Learning to navigate and maintain a long distance relationship.
Slater and Elyse
Freshman Elyse Kelsey has spent the last nine months in a long distance relationship. While Kelsey made the decision to stay in-state, moving just two hours north of her hometown, her boyfriend, Slater Ong, attends Santa Clara University in Southern California.
Kelsey and Ong met seven years ago, when they were assigned to be locker mates in sixth grade, Kelsey said.
“I had the locker over his,” she said. “I would always say, ‘hi,’ and he’d look at me and run away. So I always thought he was scared of me.”
After years of friendship, the two began dating in May 2016. Since then, they’ve gone to two proms, graduated high school and made a number of other memories. Both Kelsey and Ong agreed their favorite times together have happened on the road, during the multiple road trips they’ve taken.
“Over the summer me, Slater and two of our friends went to Leavenworth,” Kelsey said. “We didn’t really have a plan, we just drove over there one day… We got this 20-person paddle board, just for the four of us. We got to paddle it down the river, it was super fun and really spontaneous; none of us had swimsuits.”
Although they’re over 900 miles apart, the two still make it a priority to stay updated on each other’s lives, Kelsey said.
“Sometimes, we call [each other] after class, so we can tell each other what we learned,” Kelsey said. “I’m a lot more science-minded, and he’s a lot more math-minded. He loves hearing about my math class. I know, we’re really dorky.”
Though typical date nights may be out of the question, Kelsey and Ong find a way to improvise through video-call, they said.
“We’ll watch a lot of shows together long distance, where we put up a video call and press play at the same time,” Kelsey said. “That’s like our date night on the weekends.”
Ong’s favorite thing about his girlfriend is her kindness and willingness to care for others, he said. For Kelsey, it’s her boyfriend’s ability to patiently listen that she loves best.
“We compliment each other really well. I’m really outgoing and a very emotional person, I feel things very strongly,” Kelsey said. “He’s a lot more calm.”
For Kelsey and Ong, resolving conflicts has proven to be the most difficult. They both agreed talking things out over technology is not the same as being able to do it face-to-face.
“It’s easier to say something that you regret over messenger, rather than when you’re talking over video-call and can read each other’s facial expressions,” Ong said.
Though the couple manages to make long distance work, it’s not something they hope will continue, they said.
Malacki and Melanie
Freshman Melanie Blair is no stranger to the difficulties of long distance relationships. In the fall of last year, Blair left her life behind in Spokane to come to Western, whereas her boyfriend, Malacki Griffen, headed southeast to Carroll College in Helena, Montana.
“His college is five hours away [from Spokane],” Blair said. “And I’m about seven or eight hours away. All said and done, we ended up about a 12 hour drive away from each other.”
The couple met over three years ago at their high school choir’s Christmas party. Blair found Griffen annoying at first, but after getting to know one another over the course of several months, they began dating in February of their sophomore year, she said.
The two have been through a lot these past few years, creating lots of memories along the way, they said. One of their favorite moments together was this past summer, when they took a spontaneous adventure in Spokane.
“There’s this rock, called Big Rock, that looks over a bunch of the outdoorsy parts of Spokane, and I really wanted to take her there,” Griffen said. “But there’s a special trailhead that’s hidden in the town somewhere. We went and tried to find it, and couldn’t find it for hours. So we just drove around together… laughing in the car.”
For Blair, it’s her boyfriend’s drive and perseverance that kept her hooked these past several years, she said. She admires how he’s handled life’s challenges and how he pushes her to better herself.
“He’s always been very independent,” Blair said. “Ever since he was young, since his mom is a single mom. He works really hard for what he wants, which has helped me a lot getting through school and figuring out what my goals are.”
For Griffen, the best thing about his girlfriend is that she never judges him for his mistakes, he said.
“She accepts me for who I am, and the type of person that I am,” Griffen said. “I love that she can be herself around me, and just goof around, and be ‘Melanie.’”
For Blair and Griffen, one of the most difficult aspects of their long distance relationship is not, physically, being together. Sex can be an important part of a relationship, so not always having that physical connection can be tough, they said.
“For a while, we weren’t together,” Blair said. “We sought out other people to take care of that [need] for us, whether or not feelings were there.”
Although coping with the lack of physical connection has been difficult, things got better over time, Blair said.
“You just have to deal,” Griffen said. “Find other things to do. And luckily, once we’re together, it’s really good.”
Their philosophy is you can’t see the future when it comes to relationships. But they hope to still be together, long distance or not.
“I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but, I’m always going to have some type of relationship with her,” Griffen said. “That’s never going to change.”
For both couples, the transition to college was difficult. Going from spending nearly every day together to not seeing each other at all was a challenge at first, Griffen said.
“The hardest thing about parting ways was just being away from someone you’ve had for so long, not having that person anymore,” Griffen said. “We both wanted to grow through college and see who we wanted to see. But, I mean, feelings never left between us. I still love her.”
For Blair, it was difficult being away from her boyfriend. But after maturing throughout this year, she came to an important realization, she said.
“It was just [finding] the acceptance that we both love each other and that we need to do things on our own, in order to be good for each other again,” Blair said. “Getting that grown-up perspective was probably the hardest part.”