“You’re crazy if you think this will work.”
“Focus on your career. Relationships will come and go.”
“They could cheat on you, you know?”
“You won’t even have the time to sleep, let alone find time for each other.”
“What if you find someone else there?”
“Are you SURE?”
“You really love them na?”
These were some of the words of caution and concern my well-wishers threw at me when they heard I was planning to balance an MBA with a long-distance relationship. I can’t blame them, though. They were the seasoned warriors. Already 3 trimesters deep, some of them already graduated. Their Insta feeds were full of convocation pictures or posts about swanky summer internships. You would have to scroll for a long time to find old photos of lovers, seemingly inseparable in those #datenight posts. But in social media and in life, those date nights eventually got trumped by hostel life and friends celebrating birthdays at midnight.
That’s how life is, right? Situations change and people move on. I saw this predictability play out in front of my eyes. So many of my classmates arrived on campus with grand promises to their sweethearts back home. But the rigour of B-School (or perhaps something else?) broke them in. Those relationships collapsed. Some found solace, some true love, in the course of doing group assignments with other heartbroken peers. Others upgraded to Tinder Premium. But a small number of people, which luckily includes me, somehow survived what I call the B-School break-up epidemic!
I have come to realize one thing: B-School is the ultimate litmus test for any relationship. You learn new things about yourself in these few months. It’s like a simulation of life. You can put to test your ability to balance your personal and professional life in a way that no other life experience before B-School does. Are you a workaholic who ignores calling home to work on case studies? Are you someone who snaps at your partner when you do badly during a quiz? B-School reveals habits, attitudes and outlooks that maybe you never knew you had. It also puts that mirror in front of your face and forces you to look at things you need to change. Just like an MBA enriches you professionally, it also exposes your personal flaws to you at a time when you are at your most vulnerable, tottering between education loans, parental and peer pressure and finally, placements. You are at your rawest.
It’s natural that in the middle of all this stress and the adrenaline rush of new (sometimes exhilarating, sometimes terrifying) experiences, your relationship is what you lose. Often, it’s a symptom. That you haven’t yet mastered the fine balance between the boardroom and the bedroom! It’s not like every relationship is meant to last. Nor does it mean that a break-up only happens because you can’t do a balancing act. Both partners are equally responsible for this, of course. And in every love story, there are some unique factors that make up your destiny. But if you have someone in your life who you know is a total keeper, don’t let that person go.
You could scoff, easier said than done. When you have 3 quizzes lined up in the next 24 hours, and an angry partner back home waiting for your call, you are gonna study for the quiz. No choice. But if your relationship is meant to last, you have to make it your source of strength, not just another cause for anxiety.
No article, here or elsewhere, can tell you whether or not your partner and you are meant for the long haul. That only the two of you can decide. In my case, I knew I had found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. And that’s why, despite the difficulties, misunderstands and inane arguments, I knew I had to make it work. It didn’t come easy and the biggest challenge is always the distance, coupled with the gruelling schedule. But there are ways to work around it, if love is all you need.
I am grateful I have a partner who made my life easier by understanding my hardships. If you are someone who’s S.O. is trying to do something difficult (like giving CAT, that tops my list of difficult things), be a bit more accepting. You have to learn how to put the other person first at a time like this, often swallowing your hurt and pride. On the other hand, if you know someone’s waiting for you back home, just for a 5-minute phone call, don’t abuse their patience. Talk. You will fall apart if you don’t talk. A ten-minute conversation won’t ruin your GPA. Don’t lose sight of the things that helped you bond. You could still Netflix together (if not chill!). Fight over watching series together, so you won’t have to fight over “You aren’t the same person anymore.”. These difficult months of distance will bring you closer to a better future together. Build up that dream, one day at a time.
No doubt that long-distance relationships can be cruel. But I learnt to see the silver lining in situations that used to make me feel cranky before. Not being close to your partner means no missing study hours to go on dates. True, it’s way too much effort keeping your partner up to date with all that’s happening in your life. But since they are in a different space, it means that every time you share your troubles, you gain a fresh perspective on things. I never lost focus of the world beyond the four walls of a B-School because of these conversations. Gradually, I began to depend on our discussions to know if I’m on the right track or whether I developed tunnel vision. Despite the down-sides, there are also some things to look forward to, if you genuinely connect with your loved one.
Yes, any day I would prefer to have the warmth of someone’s company. in my dark hours but in the long run, I am glad I went through this litmus test because this is one exam where you get the hacks straight from your life partner!