Lizzie Heisler is a sophomore nursing major here at Valpo. Two years ago she and her current boyfriend, junior electrical engineering major Connor Russell, started a long distance relationship.
The two met at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind. while Heisler was a sophomore in high school. According to Heisler, they met in a musical performance at the school.
“We were both in choir in high school and we’re both in Chorale now. And so we both did a musical. Usually we don’t, but we just did it because we thought it’d be fun and we met through that,” Heisler said.
Russell is a year ahead of Heisler in school, and at first this was of little concern. Eventually, she realized that meant he would be going away after his senior year.
“I kind of thought about it like when we first started dating… like, ‘Oh, I get to go to prom a year early,’” Heisler said. “But then after that when he started looking at colleges and stuff, that’s when I thought about it I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, we were going to have to do the whole long distance thing.’”
According to Heisler, long distance does put stress on a relationship and takes “a special kind of communication.” It was difficult at times to not know what each other was doing in their daily lives. For example, Heisler knew that Russell was going to join Chorale because of his prior interest in it, but had no idea he would have interest in joining a fraternity until he was already going through recruitment.
“There was this gap where he didn’t know what was going on in my life every day and I didn’t know what was going on in his life every day,” Heisler said. “So it kind of caused a little bit of strain that way.”
In spite of the difficulties, Heisler says that long distance can make the relationship stronger and had some benefits to each of them as individuals. For example, the two were in a robotics club in high school. After Russell graduated, Heisler took his old role on the team, and was able to experience doing it in her own way.
“I feel like when you’re in a relationship you kind of can become really dependent on that person, and having that time apart helped him blossom as a freshman in college and me as a senior in high school,” Heisler said. “Because when we got together I was only a sophomore and so I got that little bit of that individuality and it grew my own personal strengths.”
Heisler didn’t want to introduce bias to her boyfriend’s decisions in schools but was relieved when he decided to go to Valpo, only an hour-long drive from their home in South Bend, Ind. She hadn’t heard much about the school until then, but upon looking into it, she realized the nursing program fit what she was looking for, and ultimately decided to enroll.
Heisler said that while they did have a healthy relationship in their time apart, their day-to-day relations have become stronger now that they’re at the same school again.
“Now like he’s my best friend and we see each other all the time and we’re like each other’s support system. And I wouldn’t have that if I didn’t see him every day. It helps a lot because then I’d get that support on like daily things that I wasn’t getting when I was a senior in high school,” Heisler said.
As for celebrating Valentine’s Day and other events, Heisler says that it was difficult to do while he was away. The two would try to see one another on weekends but that weekends are when people planned things, so they did their best when it came to special occasions. Currently, the couple like to do small things for one another often. With their anniversary close to Valentine’s Day, it would be difficult for them to do something big for both, but they do make time for one another for the holiday.
“We kind of just like spend the day together and make sure to block off that time for each other in our schedules,” Heisler said.
Heisler and Russell have been together for four years now.
“I feel like a lot of people are like, ‘That relationship’s not going to last,’” Heisler said about long distance relationships. “Don’t listen to those people. You can make it work and it takes a lot of effort…but every relationship, if it’s going to be a healthy one, is going to take work. And if you really care about that person, if you focus on the fact that you’re together and that you really care about each other then it’ll work