We’re all aware of the difference between high school and college relationships; many high school relationships come with their fair share of drama, toxicity, and codependency. But, that’s not to say that some of them can’t thrive. As the hopeless romantic that I am, I’m a huge supporter of marrying your high school sweetheart if life works out that way.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly my mindset as a high school student. I had quite a few sweethearts (nothing wrong with that!), none of which I carried a relationship with through starting college, because I was a true believer in the freshman mantra that long distance doesn’t work, ever. However, as a sophomore I now believe that distance has no effect on love.

There are struggles that accompany distance, sure, but there are difficulties in any relationship. I met my girlfriend in high school and, long story short, it took us until we were in college and in different cities to realize that maybe, just maybe, we really do love each other. Of course there are many obstacles we face: she’s at a different college, people think we’re crazy and the most obvious, I don’t get to have sex very often. I’m sure some of you who can definitely relate to the latter problem. So, here’s how I’m dealing with the struggle of my almost non-existent sex life.

I’ll get Young Adult novel level sappy soon, but first and foremost: masturbation. If you’re a particularly sexual being (as I am, I admit), actual physical arousal is something you can’t ignore. Keeping yourself satisfied saves you from the built up frustration that may cause tension between you and your partner. No one really wants to talk about it, but masturbation is super natural (and super healthy!) It’s also something you can share and discuss with your partner, but I won’t get super detailed about those conversations. It can take some time to achieve that comfort level in your relationship to talk about scary things like mutual masturbation, but (and I speak from personal experience), it’s worth it.

Another option to solve this problem would be to consider an open relationship. Though there are many stigmas surrounding these types of relationships, having more freedom in a relationship doesn’t devalue the love that you have for your partner. My girlfriend and I are painfully monogamous, so it’s really not for us, but some couples thrive with less exclusivity.

The most important thing to realize is that intimacy can exist without sex. Intimacy doesn’t imply arousal, it implies closeness. I find it with my girlfriend over hours of video chatting, planning our life together, and developing a deep intellectual connection. Not that sexual intimacy isn’t great — if you’re into that, it really is.

Though you’ve probably been dreading the moment I say this: distance really does make the heart grow fonder. While it may impose some literal physical barriers, it eliminates some emotional ones. If you’re committed to someone that lives hours away, you’ve got to be serious about them. Say goodbye to not knowing what your partner is feeling or not knowing what your future together is.

If I had the option, would I rather be in a ‘normal’ relationship with my girlfriend? Would my relationship be easier if she lived down the road? My impulse is to say yes, but that’s not necessarily true. Distance has given our connection a strength that I didn’t know was possible. I’m not going to recommend that you move away from your partner on purpose, but don’t let distance get in the way of a person who could be your forever.

Cover Photo: Hannah Leibovich