Long distances hurt relationships



Lisa Zhuang

Between panicked 2 a.m. texts asking what the chemistry homework was and high tailing it out of A lunch to grab Shakespeare’s pizza, friends seem like a constant, as unchanging as the chicken patties served in the cafeteria or the after school parking lot traffic.
Then out of nowhere, like that calculus test no one remembered, graduation arrives, and distance, schedules or simply an obligation to move on with their lives pry friends apart. Suddenly, that best friends forever promise from middle school seems daunting.
“I do plan on keeping in touch with some of my friends,” said senior Megan Polniak, who will attend Miami University next fall. “It’ll help with the stress of attending a college out of state where I don’t know anyone.”
While many seniors hold the same mindset as Polniak, promising to keep in touch through social media, texting and meet ups, the outlook is bleak.
According to a study conducted by Shaver, Furman and Buhrmester, pre-college friendships and relationships tend to become less satisfying and decline in both quality and quantity during the first year of college.
[quote]“Proximity to a given context allows the opportunity for developing a shared friendship reality based on frequent interaction, communication, mutual peer groups and participation in joint activities,” psychologist Debra Clark said in a study on high school friendships. “The transition from high school to college changes the social context of adolescent friendships… Thus the contextual factors that led to the development of the high school best friendships may no longer exist, resulting in the deterioration of those friendships.”[/quote] Ninety-five percent of participants in Clark’s study reported still being best friends with their high school best friend in the fall of college freshman year, with that number dropping to 54.7 percent by the spring of freshman year.
“Honestly, you tell yourself you’re going to keep in touch,” Jaehyung Rhee, 2016 alumna, said, “but when you’re actually there, a bunch of little things get in the way.”
Rhee, who attends Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, finds Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook to be the easiest ways to keep in touch with far away friends while managing a hectic schedule of classes and studying.
“I feel like social media lets me catch up on people without getting too personal but still letting me know what they’re up to,” Rhee said.
High school friendships aren’t the only ones that come out scathed. Romantic relationships are just as prone to dissipating in college with fewer than two percent of all marriages in the United States being between high school sweethearts.
“I want to keep in touch with my boyfriend because he is the person who I talk to the most every day,” Polniak said. “However, I’m not sure if we will stay together because it will be long distance.”

“Honestly, you tell yourself you’re going to keep in touch, but when you’re actually there, a bunch of little things get in the way. – Jaehyung Rhee”

The commitment of college also makes a difference, with only 19 percent of people who marry their high school sweetheart choosing to attend college and two percent of them earning a degree. With the distance and workload that comes with college, relationships often suffer. Not all high school friendships and relationships are doomed, though.
“An emerging area of literature has begun examining behaviors that are used to maintain relationship satisfaction and commitment,” Clark wrote in her study. “Using factor analysis, four types of friendship maintenance behaviors have been identified: interaction, positivity, supportiveness and self-disclosure.”
These four “friendship maintenance behaviors” tend to predict friendship satisfaction and commitment and differentiate between casual and close relationships, according to Clark’s study. While the terms of the study can sound scientific and sterile, the study’s advice is close to what seniors aim to do.
“I plan on keeping in touch with my close friends and boyfriend by texting and facetiming often,” Polniak said. “Also, when I come back into town for holidays and such, I plan on spending time with them.”
While graduation will be a happy time filled with relief, pride and nostalgia, a few bittersweet farewells are expected as well.
“I am afraid of losing touch with my close friends,” Polniak said. “High school has been a very important time of my life, and I don’t want to lose or forget about the relationships I’ve created with the people I care about.”
Have do you handle long distance friendships? Let us know in the comments below.