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F reshman speech pathology major Casse Hogan had been dating Sean for three months before she left for Temple. They agreed to stay together as she came to Philadelphia for college, and he stayed in their hometown, Mountaintop, Pa., to work.
“I’m just afraid of us growing apart,” Hogan said.
Temple social psychology professor Dr. Kareem Johnson said this situation, among other obstacles, is common in long-distance relationships and can especially become rocky in college.
“It is very common for high school relationships to begin to fall apart,” Johnson said. “Both of the people are changing, which makes it harder to keep the relationship going, due to the perception of similarity.”
Johnson said “perception of similarity” is how similar someone feels in relation to his or her partner. He said when people go to college, they go through different experiences and slowly become less similar, which could lead to disagreements.
“Our last fight was because he wants me to transfer to a college that is closer to home, but I want to stay here,” Hogan said. “I’m afraid that he’ll eventually get sick of me being away, and I really don’t want us to break up.”
Another thing that holds a relationship together is investment, Johnson added.
“When a couple is very invested in each other, they are more likely to stay together. Three months is not a very long time, so it makes the relationship more fragile,” he said.
Growing apart isn’t the only problem distanced relationships can face. Infidelity is also a common issue.
Freshman linguistics major Tristany Caggiano has dealt firsthand with the effects cheating can have on a relationship. Caggiano had been dating her boyfriend, Tommy, for about a year and a half before she left for college from West Milford, N.J.
She said almost immediately Tommy became extremely jealous, and they would fight about almost everything. She said the worst of it came after she learned Tommy had kissed another girl.
“It really hurt me,” Caggiano said. “I took that anger and tried to hurt him, too. So, I ended up hooking up with someone here. I know it doesn’t make it any better, but I did it.”
The pair has since worked things out.
“It’s not really the same between us. It’s hard to trust someone who’s so far away,” she added.
“A big problem in this relationship is the reciprocal of bad behavior,” Johnson said. “This basically means they have the mindset of ‘If you hurt me, I hurt you.’ This type of retaliation is not a good sign of a healthy relationship.”
Unlike Caggiano, freshman sports management major Kyle Terramoccia didn’t want to work on his relationship, he said. Terramoccia dated his girlfriend Jamie for 13 months in West Milford, New Jersey, before he left for college.
“When I got here, things were good until I realized I could get way better girls here,” he said. Eventually he hooked up with someone else.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it when it happened,” Terramoccia said. “I didn’t really feel bad after it happened because I achieved my sexual goals, and that’s all that mattered at the time.”
Terramoccia said he broke up with Jamie and told her the reason was because distance was rough.
“I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I hooked up with someone. I’ve lied in the past, so I figure I can just lie continuously,” he added.
“The main thing we’re seeing here is the comparison level for alternatives,” Johnson said. He said this can often mean a person in the relationship thinks he or she can do better.
“This young man seems to not be looking for relationships, just for sexual access. This kind of behavior is common in males, who tend to choose quantity over quality of their sexual partners,” Johnson said. He explained as long as Terramoccia continues to find girls who don’t expect anything of him afterward, he will continue to engage in no-strings-attached sex for as long as possible.
Not all long-distance relationships fail, however.
Freshman biology major Rita Taste has known her current boyfriend, Clarens, since eighth grade, and they have been dating for about 14 months. Taste said Clarens decided to stay in their hometown of Bloomfield, N.J., to go to school, but he supported her decision to go to Temple.
“In the beginning, we fought a lot about really small stuff, but we talked about it and realized to stop because it was stupid,” Taste said.
“I’m not really concerned about growing apart,” she added. “We talk all of the time, and we see each other a lot.”
“The only real problem was the fighting in the beginning, which was actually misattribution of arousal. What they were really feeling was sad and lonely, but they interpreted that as anger and took it out on the other person,” Johnson said.
Johnson said not everyone will have a situation like Taste’s. He said college and distance could put a strain on any relationship.
“I think it’s ridiculous to enter into college with a relationship,” he said. “The person you will be by graduation is very different than the person you are now. It is very unlikely that you have already met the person that will be right for you once you become an adult.”
Katie Charbonneau can be reached at email@example.com.