Hi! I’m really new to the whole idea of being polyamorous. I’m currently in college, and my boyfriend of 4 years goes to college in our hometown about 3 hours away. This is the man I love to death and can see myself/want to marry. However, the distance is starting to get to me. When I’m home, it doesn’t affect our sex life at all, but I only go home about once every two months. With us both being so young and the distance factor, I was wondering what advice you had for someone in my position.
I was delighted to the point of giddiness to get this question, because I was in your exact same situation all through college! Well, sort of. Long story short, my boyfriend and I lived a 6 hour plane flight apart for all 4 years of college and polyamory is one of the major reasons we were able to stay together happily. I heartily recommend polyamory - or at least an open relationship with sexual freedom - for young people in long-distance relationships, especially in college.
Now, I’m not trying to sound all doom-and-gloom, telling you that a college LDR will never ever work, or that mono people can’t be successfully long-distance. I can say that I didn’t see a single mono LDR work among my college friends, and explain some of the reasons that they fell apart - cheating, resentment and jealous paranoia being the main three, as explained below. I can also say that being poly was what allowed my boyfriend and I to maintain a successful LDR through college, sometimes going up to 6 months without seeing each other. We made it through, had plenty of fun in the process, and are moving in together in August! So my advice would be: either try going poly, or, if you decide to stay mono, be really cognizant of the three factors I explain here, learn how to recognize them when they start to threaten your relationship and figure out how to head them off.
The 3 Biggest Threats To A LDR In College (and how polyamory helps ward them off):
Cheating. College is a sexual wonderland full of new people and intoxicating substances. There will be people you meet who are new and exciting and sexy and available. Much of your social life will take place in bedrooms. If you are like 100% of everyone I knew in college, you will give in to the temptation. And if you’re poly, you won’t have to give up this wonderful relationship for the chance at a drunken hookup with that really hot philosophy major. That is a really shitty tradeoff, but it’s a tradeoff you’re very likely to make. But if your relationship doesn’t have to end to allow you to have fun and explore in college, you won’t have to lose the bird in your hand if you want some dick in your bush. (I don’t know whether you are actually a woman but I couldn’t resist that pun, please forgive the heteronormativity.) Going poly makes your relationship essentially cheat-proof!
Resentment. Going poly will also help ward off the danger of you two growing to resent each other. This is something I didn’t realize could poison an LDR until I was in one. When you are long-distance and monogamous, it is easy to get frustrated with your partner for not being there. When you get lonely, you start to irrationally blame them. Slowly, “I miss you and wish you were here” loses its absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder tone and gets more and more accusatory. Now, not all LDRs suffer from this and plenty of mono people make LDRs work just fine, but I recognized early on that this was a risk for me, and I was grateful that being poly let me enjoy everything my boyfriend could provide for me without being resentful about his inability to provide me with other things. I could go out and get my needs for physical companionship met, so when my thoughts turned to the boyfriend, I could focus on how happy he made me even from far away, not how sad his absence made me.
This resentment also creeps in when it comes to sexual encounters you’ll have to turn down if you’re mono. If you really want that hot philosophy major, and there he is suddenly in your bed watching Arrested Development at 2am, but you summon all your self-control and resist, that will be a moment of high emotional tension where you lose out on something that you really wanted because of your obligation to your boyfriend. If your brain starts in on the thought loop of “if it wasn’t for him, I could have everything I want that’s right here in front of me,” that will be a tough rut of resentment to climb out of. When I was in college, I saw this happen over and over. My friends started facing lose-lose choices - either they cheated and had a messy breakup, or resisted cheating and in the process grew lonely and resentful and then broke things off when that frustration got too much. But if you’re poly, your relationship doesn’t become this thing that forces you into unpleasant decisions and prevents you from taking advantage of opportunities that you really, really want.
Jealousy & Paranoia. Even if you’re totally happy in a monogamous LDR, remember that on the other end of things, your boyfriend is also meeting hot philosophy majors and getting drunk in other people’s bedrooms and missing you with a passionate longing that threatens to turn malignant. If you’re constantly worried about him cheating on you, you’ll make yourself miserable. I saw friends who were previously not jealous or possessive get into the awful habit of scrutinizing all their partner’s FB photos to see whether they were standing near the same person in too many of them, or getting worried when they didn’t text back quickly enough on a Friday night. Jealousy and paranoia are not welcome guests in any relationship. Knowing that he has the freedom to enjoy college without having to give you up in the process will help you keep these at bay.
There you have my two cents on polyamorous LDRs for college students. I am a big fan and a happy success story. Congratulations on having found someone wonderful! You’re young and smart, so you should be able to have it all - the college experience you want and the great boyfriend. Good luck, and enjoy!