Love U: Long distance made us strangers, again

Elizabeth Gu | Daily Trojan

Elizabeth Gu | Daily Trojan

From break ups to make ups and everything in between, “Love U” captures the nuances of college students’ relationships. “Love U” runs in DeeTs on Mondays.  

I have always been a really positive person, and I truly do believe that having a little faith can go a long way. Yet despite this optimism, I have never had much faith in long-distance relationships. After witnessing one of my high school friends struggle with her own long-distance relationship, I vowed to avoid putting myself in the same situation at all costs.

Three months later, I found myself in a happy relationship. Things were going great with us, and I was heading off to USC to start my freshman year. We had the entire summer left to be together, and I knew it would be pure bliss. Going into the relationship with him, I had promised myself that we would not do long distance so I could enter USC without any high school attachments.

When the end of summer rolled around, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about long-distance anymore. Maybe we were different? Maybe we would be the lucky ones and could stand the test of long-distance? There was something so appealing about the idea of us having our separate lives at different schools and being able to share them with one another.

Though I still had my hesitations, he promised me that we would make it work. He promised me that we would be together in the end and we would crush long-distance. And so, I decided to take my own advice and had a little faith, hoping it would take us through the four tumultuous years of college. Little did I know that this relationship would make me realize, at that time, I actually knew nothing about the importance of being treated in a way that I deserved.

I remember how empty it felt saying bye to him the night before I left for USC. I was venturing into this new chapter of my life, and was terrified for what the future would hold. I was scared and nervous and excited all at the same time. But I knew having his support, even if it was many many miles away, would make a world of difference.

At first, long distance was going pretty well; we promised we wouldn’t put our lives on hold to just run home and be able to Skype each other. We made time for each other, of course, but also ensured that we would not miss out on the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. I actually felt great going out knowing that there was someone who would do anything for me miles away. Unfortunately, this positive mindset didn’t last very long.

It was really difficult when, at the end of a long day, all I wanted was a hug from my boyfriend, and instead I had to watch him through a computer screen. Then, after the first couple of weeks when school really started and our lives started to get really busy, we would go days without talking to each other. I guess when someone isn’t a part of your daily life it’s really easy to just cut them out. And so, long distance began taking its toll on our relationship. When we would talk, it wouldn’t be catching up on how our classes were, or what new organizations we had joined; it would be arguing about why he hadn’t reached out in so long or accusing each other of not caring about one another. He became really invested in his fraternity and other interests which were just so far from my own. I was in an extremely hard major, became really focused on school and joined various other organizations that consumed most of my time.

On most days, I didn’t recognize the person he had become. I missed the old him, the guy that I fell in love with in high school. I missed the guy that would take me stargazing, the guy that I could talk to for hours on end.

He was gone now, and it took me a really, really long time to come to terms with that. We dated for two and a half years –– out of those, one and a half were long distance. That is, before we broke up. I was heartbroken, and so was he. I think the hardest part of it was that we did nothing wrong. There was nothing wrong with being invested in your college experience, and there is nothing wrong with putting your love life on the backburner while trying to get your career and education in order. He didn’t do anything terrible and neither did I. It was just that instead of growing together, we grew apart.

Even though I knew he had changed, I missed the old him and knew that he was in there somewhere. I was firmly convinced that the root problem of our breakup and the reason for him changing was due to the fact that for a majority of the year there were so many miles in between us. We were both spending that summer in our hometown, and though I didn’t admit it at the time, I was really excited to see him again and hoped that maybe he would revert back into his old self once there were no longer miles between us anymore.

We hung out my very first night back at home, and it really did feel just like it did when we first started dating in high school. We fell back into our old ways that summer, knowing very well in the back of our minds that what we were doing was absolutely self-destructive. At that time, It didn’t matter to me because I had my old boyfriend back. That summer, we were essentially together without ever admitting it to each other.

I was falling more and more in love with him each day, and a part of me wanted to ask him to get back together, to give long distance a second chance after I saw just how good we were when we were in the same place. And so I mustered up the courage and told him how I felt.

“Just because we have feelings for each other doesn’t mean we should act on it,” was his reply.  

Confused, I asked where this was coming from. He said he needed to enjoy his time and not to be tied to one girl during the best years of his life. College was his time to experiment and having a girlfriend would be an unnecessary burden on his life. I was truly heartbroken.

I returned back to USC my junior year with my heart in pieces; I was in love with someone who still had feelings for me but didn’t think I was worthy enough of his time to be in a relationship. Though I fully realized this at the time, it didn’t stop me from contacting him.

Every time we were physically together, he was his old self, but things were always so different when I returned to USC. There was radio silence between us: he would never text me first and every time I gathered the courage to text him, he wouldn’t respond. I started hearing about girls that he was trying to get with and I confronted him about it. He would always say, “They mean nothing compared to you, I promise. You are the one I actually care about but I need to be able to have the full college experience.”

In my mind, I concluded that if I acted less like me and tried to expect less of him, he would want me back and I would be “low maintenance” enough for him to care about me. So, I never tried to argue with him about what I thought was fair and what I was upset about. My friends continued to tell me how terrible he was, but I wrote them off as unable to understand the feelings we had for each other.

This situation went on until this past winter break which was my final straw. Once again, we were in our hometown together but this time we barely saw each other. He stopped prioritizing me and would leave right after we hooked up. It became clear to me that he was no longer treating me right — he always had excuses for why he had to leave or why he was busy. It dawned on me: Why should I be the one to settle for his excuses? Why should I be the one who waits for him to decide that I am worthy of his time?

At the beginning of this semester, I made solid effort to cut him out of my life for good and stopped any attempt to interact with him or even see him. The pain still reappears: Just recently, he texted me out of the blue simply to tell me that he had started seeing someone. At first, I was heartbroken, and it felt like we had broken up all over again.

I wondered if I hadn’t cut him out of my life for the past couple of months, would we still be in our twisted version of a relationship? If we continued talking, would he have found someone else? But then I remembered that this changed nothing — it only confirmed how incompatible we were. Just because he was seeing someone else didn’t change the fact that we were completely different people now. It didn’t change the fact that for two years he treated me solely as a hook-up while he searched for someone physically closer to him.

He asked if we could remain friends. I declined; I didn’t want his friendship. Perhaps the most important realization I had at that moment was that I do not owe him anything, especially my friendship. I am aware that some people feel the need to be friends with their former significant others, to stay true to what they were before they started dating. But it’s hard to stay friends with someone who is no longer there. The person that was my best friend before we started dating was long gone, as was the person that I dated.

Today, we aren’t friends, we aren’t enemies — we’re just strangers with some great memories, and I’ve finally accepted that I can live with that.