Going away to college is a time for new beginnings. New places, new people, new experiences and for a good number of people, new romances. For me, that wasn’t the case.

I had been with my boyfriend for a year and a half when we both got offers to two different universities. He got into George Washington in DC, and I got into St. Andrews in Scotland. That’s right. We decided to go to two entirely different continents.

We’ll be celebrating our six year anniversary this year, and five of those will have been long-distance. A little crazy I know, but honestly, looking back, our long-distance relationship didn’t mess with our college experiences as much as you'd think it would. In-fact in some ways, it made it even better.

The thing about keeping a long-distance relationship going is that you really can’t afford to let bad juju fester. You’ve already got all that physical distance between you. Letting it fill up with "you-said-you-were-gonna-text" and "I-keep-seeing-this-person-in-your-pictures-who-are-they?" messages creates all sorts of toxic emotional nastiness that neither of your need.

We learned very early on that if we wanted to keep things good between us, we needed to learn how to communicate really, REALLY well. In that vein, cooling off after fights easier to do too. The benefits of having all communication limited to Skype, Facetime and texting is that if you need a little breathing room, you just leave your phone at home and go for a walk.

I can honestly say that all the communication skills I practiced with my boyfriend have spilled over into my other relationships and made them much stronger. I’m better at having tough conversations with people. I know how to nip nonsense in the bud before it grows out of control. I’m much, much better at picking my battles and knowing when to let old arguments go.

All that distance made us much better communicators and compromise-rs. It also forced us to get creative with how we stayed connected (got a long-distance honey of your own? Give these LDR activities a try? Or maybe some of these foodie care package ideas).

Coming back to that point about college being about new beginnings, being so far apart allowed us to have our own unique college experiences. If both of us had been in the same university, it would’ve been so easy to just form a little world around our relationship. We’d have spent every second together, made all the same friends, done everything together and probably killed each other within a month.

I have been able to make my own friends, my own routines, and my own—very independent—ife. The person I have become has been influenced by my relationship but has not been defined by it.

So, was being in a long-distance relationship in college a good thing for me? Absolutely. I got the space I needed to figure out how I wanted to run my life, with the security of knowing that if I needed support I had someone who loved and understood me just a Facetime call away.

I feel whole, in a way I’m not sure I’d be able to feel if I had spent my college life with my boyfriend. I know my emotional happiness is improved but not dependant on him.

At this, some of you might be wondering “right ok, if you felt so independent then why stay together at all? You obviously don’t need him around.” Well, that’s just it.

I don’t NEED him around. However, my life would profoundly SUCK if he wasn’t in it. So, I very much WANT him around. At the risk of sounding extremely up myself, I kind of feel that distinction is important. Not being with my boyfriend would make life very sad, yes. But all that physical distance has meant we’ve learned to be independent and exist outside one another.

I saw so many relationships in university crash and burn because the couple in question got too wrapped up in one another and just drove each other crazy. Since we didn’t have the opportunity to do that (or at least, it wasn’t so easy for it to happen in our case) we figured out how to complement each other, but we didn’t need to complete each other.

The biggest advantage of all are those bragging rights you get with having a long-distance relationship (“Oh my God five years long distance? Ya’ll are crazy!”). Pretty damn sweet.