It is no secret that St Andrews (there are no secrets in St Andrews) has a bit of a romantic reputation as the place to meet your future spouse. It would seem one cannot help but allude to the ‘Kate and Wills’ story when thinking about love in our little town and people want to believe the fairy tale applies to us all. If I had a penny for every time I heard “oh you might meet a prince!” a student loan wouldn’t have been necessary. But what about relationships that exist outside ‘the bubble’?
Having still not come to any sort of conclusion, and, being an English student, I turned to literature for an answer. I needed an example of a passionate relationship and what relationship could be more fervent than that of Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.
I wondered could Cathy and Heathcliff have survived their three years apart had they been able to Skype a couple of times a week? One can’t help but feel the two would have found it tricky.
However, later in the novel on Cathy’s death bed Heathcliff says: “Be with me always- take any form.” This would suggest that if all he could have was a pixelated image, then he would take it without hesitation. What is even more interesting is Heathcliff’s words after this: “I cannot live without my life” implying that Catherine Earnshaw is his life. This led me to realise that for a long distance relationships to work you have to accept the distance as part of the relationship and see the relationship as a part of your life you cannot live without.
So this is one relationship that might have survived the test of distance had the internet been around but I decided this wasn’t enough to come to any sort of conclusion. I needed an example of a different sort of relationship.
In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Anne Elliot and Fredrick Wentworth are parted for more than eight years and yet their love still survives not only the distance and the time they have been apart but the betrayal of Anne. He says to her “I have loved none but you…You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in Fredrick Wentworth.”
This indicates that for a long distance relationship to work the person has to be a Wentworth, by this I mean they have to recognise you as a person that is worth the distance. For over eight years Wentworth and Anne never found anyone worth being with and so they believed it better to be alone than with someone they didn’t really love. In St Andrews terms it’s like knowing Morrisons sells a specific brand of chocolate you like but knowing that there’s Tesco much closer by. You have to weigh up whether the walk is worth it or whether to take the risk and see if Tesco’s has something just as good. If you really like the chocolate enough there should be no hesitation, in fact the walk should only make you appreciate the chocolate more.
Of course, another thing we have to realise is that distance is not just the separation of the people themselves, but their daily lives. If they are at another university they are entering into a new stage of their life. They will have different friends, hang outs and will essentially become a different person to when you first met them.
The understanding that you cannot separate your life with this person and your university life is critical. You have to let them in and realise that whilst this might be difficult, it is not impossible.