UCF students share long-distance relationship advice
Having a successful relationship already takes a lot of work on the part of each person involved, but what if you're also trying to keep the flame going in a long-distance relationship?
This is the situation freshman computer engineering major Kelsey Cameron has been in since July 2012, when she first met her boyfriend, Florian Gawlitta, on an advice app called Thumb.
"We had a mutual friend named Jessica, and she made a post about how many questions she had that day," Cameron said. "The top questions were his, and I thought they were interesting, so I added him and I talked to him."
Cameron and Gawlitta's relationship blossomed from there, but there was one small issue — Cameron lives in Orlando, while Gawlitta lives nearly 5,000 miles away in Merseburg, Germany.
With a transatlantic flight needed to close the geographical distance between the two, the distance between them hasn't always been an easy feat to overcome. In fact, they were in a relationship for a year and a half before finally meeting face to face at the Orlando airport.
But the couple says that while the distance is rough, their commitment to each other outweighs the pain of the physical separation. They make a point to visit each other every six months, and the hard work they put into their LDR is what keeps it going.
"We love each other, we listen to each other and we trust each other," Cameron said. "And we have fights too, just like normal couples, but they are quite rare because the distance makes us seriously value the time we have together."
Gawlitta agreed, adding that although the distance is often hard, it makes seeing each other again much more worth it.
"It's actually just a matter of dedication. The biggest challenge … well, it's not being together. Every day it hurts a bit more … sometimes it can be really painful," Gawlitta said. "That is really the only challenge, and frankly, if there'd be others, they would be nothing against the distance."
And although many people were skeptical about the success of their relationship, Cameron said the two have grown closer despite the distance.
"No one we knew, thought or believed our long-distance relationship would work, but more than two years later we have proved them all wrong," Cameron said. "And now they are starting to believe it can."
To help with these challenges, registered mental health counselor intern Sandra Stanford said that there ways that couples can help strength their long distance relationships. One is to manage expectations.
"Make sure you both are on the same page as to what your expectations are," Stanford said. She said that couples should discuss things such as how often and when they will message or talk to each other.
The other thing that Stanford said helps LDRs is honesty.
"Be totally honest, even though this may be a given," Stanford said. "They need to be honest and not think the other person is going to read their mind."
But Cameron is not alone in battling the challenges that come with a LDR, though.
Other UCF students opened up about their LDRs in a Facebook thread started to share their experiences, as well as receive and give advice to others in the same situation.
Freshman nursing major Savannah Grillo and her boyfriend have a considerably shorter distance between them — two hours, as he lives in Gainesville and she is in Orlando — but it didn't start out that way.
"We started dating the end of my freshman year of high school, when he was a junior. [Then], when I was a junior, he left for Virginia Tech. It was extremely hard at first, but we made a huge effort to talk every day, Skype at least twice a week and always update each other on our daily life," Grillo said. "I would send him a care package every month with things that reminded him of home and me. Because we trusted each other, it made things easier than it could've been."
The distance factor has become easier for them to handle since her boyfriend transferred to UF, Grillo said, and the two have now been dating for three and a half years. Now, they are able to get on a bus or drive to see each other, but Grillo advises other Knights in LDRs that although the distance is difficult to deal with, it does get easier.
"The longest we will go is three to four weeks apart. We still text every day and call a few times a week. It gets easier once you pass the one-year-apart mark," Grillo said.
And if you're in a situation where you need to decide if being in an LDR is worth the effort, Gawlitta advises that you ensure both you and your significant other are willing to put in the work during difficult times to make the times together that much better.
"If you are about to go into one but aren't sure, you should think about if you really have enough patience and dedication; in short, if it really is what you want," Gawlitta said. "If you are in one, well, keep on it. Love can overcome anything, even distance."