Doing it long distance – Is it possible?

Elsa Maishman 15 February 2015

Midnight is approaching on 14 February 2014, and I’m sat at the back of a train that was supposed to arrive in Swansea 15 minutes ago. After the train has crawled along at a painfully slow pace for another hour, there is an alarmingly loud thud, and we stop again. The train operator announces in a cheerful Swansea accent that, “We appear to have run over somebody’s shed roof. Sorry about the sudden halt.”

Eventually, the train arrives at my destination at three in the morning, following two subsequent collisions with trees on the track. For myself and anyone else trying to keep up a long distance relationship, travelling on Valentine’s Day 2014 during the storminduced disruptions was a pretty tortuous experience. I can remember several moments of despair on that eight hour journey when I angrily thought of fellow Cambridge students who complain about having partners in London – oh, if only!

Despite all this, I am in fact glad that I have been in a long distance relationship whilst at Cambridge. The kind of working environment that we are in tends to encourage a little bit of hermithood, but I can happily retreat to the library for evenings on end without feeling guilty, whilst friends around me try to juggle time with their partners, friends and supervision work. Once my boyfriend attempted to visit me for a week during term, rather than ourstandard two weekends, and it was a complete disaster. There are only so many times that he could make me tea, pat me on the back and admire my beautiful posture as I hunched over my desk all day, frantically trying to write a particularly terrible essay. I ended up feeling like I’d failed at my work, and failed at being decent company too. It’s far better to put concentrated bursts of affection into a short phone call or weekend away.

From three years of long-distance experience at long-distance, I’d say that the hardest thing to reconcile is the work difference. Most of our arguments have stemmed from me feeling irritated when I call him on my way back from the UL, dragging books during an enormous sugar crash, whilst he describes how he “hasn’t been up to much, just lectures, watching TV, the usual.” Quite often he has got upset because he has felt that I prioritise work above our relationship.

We’ve established certain rules: One – Skype is the devil, Two – If one of us puts the phone down on the other they are obliged to ring back after five minutes to apologise; Three – We know that we’re probably going to have an argument during weeks four and seven; Four – When I’m being a miserable, irritable and unreasonable mare, it’s Cambridge speaking, not me; Five – Everything will be fine once the train pulls into the station.