With a struggling job market, freedom of movement and opportunities to move abroad at any point of our studies with Erasmus, young European couples are increasingly struggling to find themselves in the same city. Yes, we are more connected than ever and keeping in contact has been made easier in the age of Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime as well as Easyjet and Ryanair. 

But at the same time it means that also more and more couples are plagued by distance. 

We are more educated and qualified than ever before, so we are less likely to settle with the job we get and prioritise being close to our loved one. But how do young Europeans actually feel about long distance? Does distance really make the heart grow fonder? Do you value the time you actually spend together in a long-distance relationship more than you would if you saw each other every day? Do you enjoy your freedom during your week, coming home whenever you want to, drinking a glass too many, binging the series without having to explain to someone why, laying across your bed all sprawled out, give your leg-shave a break? Or do you rather feel lonely or disconnected or you just really miss your partner and you are annoyed that you cannot share the daily laughs and pains? Do you think it has to do with trust? Do you think it is healthy to do distance for some time – but only with the prospect of living together in the same city ‘some day in the not-too-far-away future’? Is it a no-go? A win-win?

We spoke to young Europeans on why they had long-distance relationships, how they went, what they learned and if they’d do it again. 

Nicoletta, Italy

Growing up, I moved countries approximately every 4-5 years, sometimes changing schools multiple times within that. Lacking roots and stability, I developed quite intense emotional attachment issues, in a search for stability I often launch myself into personal relationships, seeking the impossible. Because of this, long distance always felt impossible to me. I’ve been lucky that my current boyfriend and I came to the realisation that we both hold a certain type of ambitions, and we feel comfortable and strong enough to be able to withhold the distance. I’ve always considered myself particularly ambitious, and feel lucky to be with someone that never makes me feel guilty for exploring my options across the world.

I feel lucky to be with someone that never makes me feel guilty for exploring my options across the world.

Nonetheless, emotionally, for me it is a massive challenge. Plagued by a feeling of instability and rootlessness, this is an added layer of turmoil and insecurity. I am ambitious, and continue to suppress these feelings, in the hope that in the future I will be in a comfortable position to be able to find a job where my partner is. But I also enjoy the challenge, attempting to fend off my instincts. I feel empowered by the challenge that long-distance poses, as I manage to achieve something I never thought I would.

However, if I could avoid it, I always and always would.

Rossella, Somehow never where her boyfriend is

I am often asked “How do you guys do it?” when I mention my relationship with my boyfriend. And really, I have no more answers to give for this question that has been haunting me for the past few years.

To be honest I do not know. There is no magic formula to long distance relations. We are just in one. And, trust me, no one intentionally signs up for long distance. It just happens, at least in my case. I surely did not know when I decided to leave Italy that I would keep living abroad in different countries for almost 6 years by now. I guess I – and we – are really lucky. Curious as I am of the world and with such a strong partner by my side I have always had the chance to let my “dreams” come first. Same for him. Sometimes I think I am egotistic but I also know that if I could not do so and if I did not have his constant support I would probably be very unhappy.

I am not saying it is easy, in no way it is. But every relationship is different and every person has different needs for her/his relationships. My boyfriend and I, we do not have a secret – we are just two soulmates currently living in different places. I also live away from my best friends and my family, but this does not mean I cannot be close to them.

Love can carry you a long way, folks.

Of course one day, rather sooner than later, I will want to live with him and transition to a more stable life. That is the goal and sometimes I marvel at how we have managed this lifestyle until now and how we will manage until then. Love can carry you a long way, folks.

I do not want to feel guilty or invent some answers when you keep asking me how we manage. My go-to answer these days has been: “It is what it is” – wise and yet meaningless words mumbled by a very good long-distance friend in a Berliner Kneipe at 4am in the morning once.

It is what it is and we will see what it’ll be.

(Editor’s note: Boyfriend in question has seen this summary and replied (via text, d’uh) “I love you. We are a great team.”)

Friederike, Germany

I was in a long-distance relationship – in several, actually, with the same person. We got together in our last year of school. It was a summer full of first love and excitement – and the summer of choosing where to go for university and what to study.

We both went to the universities we wanted to go to and thus were separated by 4 hours on the train, barely a year after we started dating. And then I went abroad to Erasmus it up in Italy, and we continued dating. We had a period of two years after my year abroad where we actually managed to live in the same city – until he went to study abroad in Australia. Shortly after he came back, we broke up.

Almost seven years of dating were rarely spent in the same city, not being able to share the daily life struggles and laughs. But we both were able to study and travel and do what we wanted to do and the distance wasn’t enough to stop us from dating. In hindsight, I am so glad we were selfish in our choices – because we were so young. I think we were both scared that upon looking back later, we would realise that we gave up our dream semesters abroad for a relationship in our early twenties, and that we would regret our choices and come to resent the person that meant so much to us in those defining years. Of course it was difficult.

Ultimately though, I am sure that our relationship did not end because we were long-distance for the most part of it. It had to end because we were compatible for a while, but not forever. Our expiration date had nothing to do with the kilometres between us. I think we were still able to be there for each other. And oh, it was so nice to anticipate the time we would spend together and to plan it out. Our time together was always (mostly) filled with excitement and adventure – to not ‘ruin’ the scarce time we had together. Maybe that disallowed us to grow together and work through issues, I don’t know. But it also made us so much more creative – we communicated via surprise postcards and letters, we skyped, we messaged, we had surprise visits and long holidays and the semester breaks. And we always had so much to say when we saw each other. The distance allowed us to form our own group of friends, to go out all night and be independent. Saying goodbye so often was hurtful, but saying hello so often was delightful, too.

Saying goodbye so often was hurtful, but saying hello so often was delightful, too.

I’d say it was right at the time. Now that I am older, I would not shy away from long-distance, but it would come with a but. I would do long-distance again only if there was a clear end in sight, a clear plan that in half a year or a year we would be together again. A long-distance relationship with an expiration date to the distance, not to the relationship. It can be wonderful to enable your partner and yourself to live your dreams in terms of long travels, work opportunities, education or curiosity – as long as you both allow the other to grow with you.

Cover Photo: Priscilla Du Preez (Unsplash), C00

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    Thoughts and experiences of young Europeans from across the continent.

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