When love is not enough
‘Holy shit’, Wiki thought when she heard her boyfriend of a year had been accepted to Lund University in Sweden. ‘If I don’t get in there with him, it’s over. We’ll be finished.’
At that moment, with both of them living in Sweden, Wiki still felt very comfortable in her relationship. ‘We always made time for each other’, she says, ‘and we always put in the effort.’
But while he had been accepted to that particular university, she had been wait-listed. ‘I became obsessed with trying to get into that school.’ She called them for information daily and sent letters of recommendation, but none of it made a difference. ‘I didn’t get in.’
Wiki, currently studying European languages and cultures at the UG, hoped to give long-distance a try anyway. After conducting some online research and observing other couples, she concluded that, for some, a long-distance relationship can even be positive. ‘And I wanted us to continue.’
The same was true for Chiara, who left her boyfriend in La Spezia, Italy, when she came to Groningen to study European languages and cultures. ‘I wanted to try because we were in love.’
However, she soon realised it was challenging to balance the relationship. ‘I had nothing except for a connection back home with him. But he had everything.’ This included their mutual friends, who were an important support network for her.
It was also challenging to do without her ‘love languages’, Chiara says. ‘Quality time, physical touch, those are things I need in a relationship.’
For Emilou, preserving her relationship felt like a Hail Mary. She had relocated to Groningen to study human geography and planning, leaving her boyfriend behind. She understood it wouldn’t be easy, given behaviour that is still too difficult for her to discuss. ‘He had shown before that he did not deserve my trust.’
But then again, she says: ‘He was my first love’, and so she stayed in the relationship. One of them in Groningen, the other in Winchester in the United Kingdom.
Wiki quickly realised that her hopes of continuing the relationship were futile. ‘Both parties have to be willing to make a relationship work’, she says.
And her boyfriend was not willing, not with this many miles between them. So, the couple decided to say goodbye, taking their time to do so. ‘But we had an expiration date on our relationship. I cried a lot in disbelief and because I felt so vulnerable and stupid.’
Chiara, too, soon encountered communication struggles. She believed she had found a sort of compromise with regular video calls, ‘but I was just lying to myself’, she says. ‘I was much more accommodating than my boyfriend was.’
She decided the relationship had to end. She’d really wanted to convey the message in person, so she could comfort him. But then, during a phone call, he brought up that he felt something was wrong. ‘He asked about it, and I couldn’t lie to him.’
Emilou also ended her relationship with a phone call, when she realised she was not getting what she wanted out of the relationship anymore. It wasn’t a decision she made lightly, and she did her best to figure out the best date to break the news. ‘I waited until after his birthday, but before he started university.’
The talk ended abruptly, though, when her newly former boyfriend decided he had heard enough. ‘It was a four-minute phone call over a relationship that lasted two years.’
She was distraught over the break-up, but she knew it was the only option. For too long she had not felt heard by her boyfriend. ‘When you move to a new country, it’s scary, and you want to talk about that. But he would just sit in silence.’
Emilou had also noticed how other long-distance couples behaved. ‘The way that they were excited to call their partners, that was very different from how it was for me.’
The fact that she moved may have caused her break-up, Wiki says, but in the end, it also marked a new beginning in her relationship and in her life. ‘What happened was good’, she realises now. ‘I cannot force someone to learn to love me or to be with me.’
She’s moved on, rediscovering her passions, like writing, something she hadn’t done for a long while. That has really helped her, she says: ‘If I’m not busy, I get sad.’
Chiara found it hard to be alone, but she dealt with that by calling the people she loves more often. She went back to therapy, focused on new friends, and, like Wiki, dove into her hobbies. ‘I started reading again, that’s a great way to escape.’
Breaking up with her boyfriend has ultimately helped her other relationships, she feels. ‘I got really close to my mom because of this. And I definitely started living here. Last year, it was just me moving.’ She recommends journaling to try to get some perspective. ‘When you see things written down, you see it differently. It’s like taking things out of your head.’
Emilou now realises she has regained her individuality. ‘I have a city and a school for myself, I’m on my own, having my own experiences, my own life.’
She, too, grew closer to her loved ones and would advise everyone in a similar position to try and find good friends. ‘And then treat them nicely, because that will affect how they treat you. It doesn’t have to be romantic; you can really thrive off platonic love.’