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Couples grow closer from a distance
Patrick Stack, director of counseling and life development at Webster University, said many long distance relationships don’t last. He warns against the potential for one individual to become dependent on the other for happiness.
“The reason I married the woman I married was because I didn’t need her and she doesn’t need me, but we want to be with one another,” Stack said. “Wanting to be with someone is far more powerful than needing to be with someone.“
Webster University students Jen Baker and Will Rieger are in long distance relationships. Neither are shy in admitting their lifestyle can be a challenging one but credit mutual effort and a worry-free approach to their success.
Jen Baker & Jeff Pike
Webster University senior Jen Baker spent more time away from her fiancé Jeff Pike than with him.
The two met in high school in 2003 through mutual friends and jazz band.
“I knew he had a crush on me and I was like, ‘oh that’s cute, you’re like a little brother, so adorable.’” Baker said.
Baker said Pike always hinted around about dating, but the two were nothing more than friends for the remainder of high school.
Pike attended Missouri University of Science and Technology after graduating from high school. Pike would drive up to St. Louis after his classes and track practice to pick up Baker. After hanging out, Pike would drive her back to St. Louis late in the evening, altogether a six-hour round trip.
“I just kept telling myself ‘we’re just friends, we’re just friends,’ and, eventually, it became ‘oh crap, this was not supposed to happen.’” Baker said. “I was sitting in his room with him, and I was like ‘I really want to kiss you, but I’m afraid,’ — just kind of blubbering all over the place. He was getting sick of listening to me just go on and on and on. He just grabbed me by my arms and kissed me.”
Baker said it terrified her that if the relationship didn’t work, she and Jeff would never be able to return to the friendship they built over so many years. The distance, though, did not. By that point, they were used to it.
Pike accepted a job in Cincinnati about six months after graduating from Rolla. Again, the couple would have to live apart because Baker was attending college at Webster.
At the time, Pike was also considering jobs in San Diego, West Palm Beach and Connecticut, potentially increasing the distance between the couple even more.
“There was little choice in the matter of moving,” Pike said.
Pike and Baker agree there are challenges to long distance, such as being out with other couples without one’s significant other. Baker believes the time apart has actually made her a more independent person.
“I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet, spend time with friends besides him, and do the things that I want to do, when I want to do them, and realize that I don’t need him to be with me all the time to be a happy productive member of society,” Baker said.
Pike and Baker communicate daily and visit each other when they can. When Baker flies or drives to Cincinnati and the couple spends the evenings and weekends together.
“I look at it from the stand point of it’s almost like we’re getting ready for what things are going to be like,” Baker said.
Baker took a 10-week internship in London over the summer. While visiting Baker, Pike proposed to her on a beach in Barcelona. They had been dating for four years. The wedding is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2014.
Baker plans to move to Cincinnati after she graduates this May, but the two hope to come back to St. Louis eventually.
“Ultimately, this is where we want to be. This is home,” Baker said.
Will Rieger &
Webster sophomore Will Rieger said the hardest part about being in a long distance relationship is planning for the future. He and girlfriend Mary Otrembiak began dating the summer before the two left for Webster and Quincy University in Illinois, respectively, schools that are two hours apart.
Rieger is from Trenton, Ill., and Otrembiak is from German Town, Ill. They met in their community theater. Rieger said he did not intend to start a relationship before college.
“The social circumstances worked out, and we decided, ‘well, we’ll just let it go with the summer, and we can have our summer thing, and we don’t necessarily have to plan anything afterwards.’ But we just kind of stuck around. We kept talking and decided that’s not an option,” Rieger said.
The couple gets to visit one another about once a month. Neither has a car, though, so Rieger has to return home to get his before he can travel to Quincy. Otrembiak recently took the Greyhound to visit Rieger over the Labor Day weekend.
Otrembiak said the option of transferring schools has come up in conversation, but was quickly dismissed.
“We knew it would be a bad idea if one of us were to transfer to the other one’s school. Neither of us actually wanted to do that. We knew that that would just have the adverse effect; we’d be spending too much time together. It just wouldn’t work, so we tossed it out,” Otrembiak said.
Otrembiak said she thinks distance has strengthened the couple’s relationship. She calls Skype “God’s gift to college students.”
Rieger said making the effort to talk and see one another is necessary to make any relationship work, but couples can’t stress themselves out over it.
“You can’t be really worried about it. You go and make an effort, because you genuinely want to stay talking to that person,” Rieger sad. “That’s going to work more than ‘oh, we have to talk this often on the phone, and we have to get on Skype every afternoon. It just has to work out, It has to be perfect.’ If you genuinely want it to work out, you’ll be talking enough.”
Otrembiak said it can be hard to relay funny stories or campus events she attends to Rieger over text message. She wishes he was closer when she’s has a really bad day, but venting can be done over phone, text or Skype.
They said their relationship is grounded in trust, so jealousy is rarely an issue. Otrembiak thinks meeting each other’s friends and getting a general feel for the environments at Webster and Quincy has reassured both of them.
“If we feel anything is wrong, we instantly tell the other one. If there is, we talk about it and we can usually resolve it just through discussion,” Otrembiak said.
Rieger said as the couple spends another school year apart, he wonders if this semester will continue to work out as well as the last. They were able to spend this past summer together. He said while goodbyes are difficult for the two, they’ve adjusted.
“We both recognize that it works,” Rieger said. “We’ve been doing it for long enough now, and we feel confident that it’s not going to be a problem. We’ll see each other the next time.”