Yale v. Long-Distance Relationships

Image by Itai Almor

Yale is filled with attractive people. This is a fact. My first semester here, Berkeley’s Dean Miller had the first-years take a poll to determine how well we were settling in. One of the questions asked was “On average, how attractive are Yalies compared to what you expected?” The overwhelming majority answered “More than I expected.” And surpassing most college campuses’, Yale’s casual hook-up culture is so rampant that it is rare to spend a night partying at Yale without awkwardly bumping past at least five couples acting upon their sexual desires. But for those of us in long-distance relationships, living in an environment so replete with intimacy can make the distance between us and our significant others seem even bigger. Nevertheless, a long-distance relationship is worth the effort and occasional inconveniences, and can be fulfilling even at Yale.

In long-distance relationships, not only are couples unable to spend time together face to face, but other means of communication are often hindered by time differences. And as if this weren’t enough, Yale’s culture adds some unique pressures as well. A disproportionate amount of the social events here, especially in your first year, encourage you to find a date. First Year Screw, residential college screws, fraternity rush date nights, cultural houses’ formals… the list is endless. The rampant hook-up culture only makes things worse. Even if you find yourself in bed instead of on the grimy floor of Woads on a Wednesday night, it is inevitable that you will hear someone in your Thursday 9am lecture detailing their previous night’s escapades. These factors may not act as distractions for every person in a long-distance relationship, but having my friend excitedly tell me about the 3 girls he hooked up with last weekend was certainly a painful reminder of every mile that stretches between me and my significant other.

Whenever I tell someone that I am in a long-distance relationship, I am met with looks that range from apologetic to pitying. Even the ostensibly neutral “How’s that treating you?” often betrays concern. Some people question how, or even why, I haven’t broken up yet. After all, college is meant to be a period of exploration and maximal opportunity. Why commit yourself to someone that is so far away and thereby restrict your experience at Yale? I understand the stream of logic behind these questions. However, reactions like these only serve to remind me of how hard long-distance relationships can be when what I really need is a reminder of what the relationship means to me. I find myself wondering, at what point do the pros outweigh the cons?

Having said all this, I speak from experience when I say that long-distance relationships are one hundred percent doable, even in an environment like Yale’s. Despite all the anti-long-distance-relationship features encoded into Yale’s DNA, you will find support in the wonderful friendships you form here. For starters, most people will wholeheartedly support you going to a screw dateless or with a group of friends. If you would still much rather walk in while holding someone’s hand, go with another kindred soul who is in a long-distance relationship. Trust me, there are more than you might expect. You could also go on a friendly date and enjoy your night, while still remaining faithful. And while some people might sow seeds of doubt in your mind about the feasibility of maintaining your relationship, there are more who will gladly remind you that you have made it this far and that it is worth it.

In fact, I would even argue that long-distance relationships are in some ways easier to maintain than on-campus relationships. Distance can afford some much needed perspective and help you focus on what really matters. Due to the shortage of time available to long-distance couples, the time they have together is usually spent meaningfully. We Yalies lead busy lives, and on-campus relationships can sometimes add unnecessary pressure to our already mounting workloads. Our relationships should relieve stress and put smiles on our faces despite the incomplete psets we have due tomorrow. Instead, serious on-campus relationships can often be demanding and make us feel even more crunched for time.

Long-distance relationships existed back when pigeon messengers were the fastest mode of communication. Today, on the other hand, there is an unbelievable number of mediums through which you can get in touch with your loved one and no distance is too far to show someone you love them. Send them a care package filled with their favourite stress-eating snacks. Have some flowers delivered. Let them use your Netflix account. And despite all the drawbacks about Yale’s culture, Yale bestows us with a very generous holiday schedule. Maybe you could even make a surprise visit.

Your undergraduate life is multifaceted. Despite how important your First Year Screw may seem to you right now, there will be other opportunities that will shape your college experience in more meaningful ways. You probably won’t even remember the hook-ups your friend told you about. No single person’s experience is the same as another’s, so claims such as ‘hook-ups are a core part of the college experience’ are baseless. You make your own experience, and you can find happiness on both ends of the spectrum, through casual hook-ups as well as long-distance relationships.