This piece was originally published by Skirt Collective at www.skirtcollective.com.
I recently received a kind e-mail thanking me for this article and requesting more on the subject. While I’m not an expert, I am happy to republish my insights with the hope to help other couples make love work despite distance.
Long distance relationships suck. There, I said it.
It sucks to check your phone every five minutes. It sucks to spend Saturday with a book while your boyfriend is at a party 3000 miles away. It sucks trying to find someone to see “Gone Girl” with because all of your friends already saw it with their significant others. It sucks to stare at a pixilated face on a screen instead of a flesh and blood, kissable person.
When your partner is hundreds or thousands of miles away every aspect of your relationship is trickier – communication, trust, fights, sex. My boyfriend and I have been battling the distance for the better part of three years. Like many twenty-something’s we are nomads, moving where our jobs, family obligations, or travel adventures carry us.
Unfortunately, despite our efforts, our lives often carry us to different corners of the U.S. During the past three years we have become accidental experts on long distance relationships and the trials they bring. We’ve fought, we’ve lived together, we’ve moved away from each other, we’ve planned, and we’ve been disappointed. We’ve said goodbye and reunited more times and in more places than I can count – in airports, strip malls, the side of the highway, front porches, and urban street corners.
Long distance relationships may bring a fair amount of suckiness, but they also bring wisdom. The lessons I’ve learned about love, live, and myself during these three years (and counting) of distance have been hard won but valuable – not just for my long distance relationship, but for any relationship.
Communication is key
Frequent and honest communication is the most important aspect of any relationship, and long distance relationships are no different. Since my relationship revolves around talking (on the phone, through text message, over Skype, etc.) I learned quickly that it will not survive unless I communicate effectively. Passive aggressiveness does not work. I know, because I’ve tried it. Every time I have given my boyfriend the silent treatment during an argument, I ended up punishing myself more than him. When he would send me an honest message about how he was feeling, I just ended up feeling like a brat for playing games. Communicating honestly about our emotions, fears, desires, and needs is the most important thing we do to keep our relationship healthy and strong.
I am More Than Half of a Relationship – I am Whole
Long distance relationships bring a lot of alone time, and learning to be alone has been extremely valuable for my relationship and my life. When we first moved thousands of miles away from each other, I spent weeks missing my boyfriend and feeling sorry for myself. I was miserable and brought nothing but negativity to my relationship. After a messy few months, I started turning time lost missing my boyfriend into time gained loving myself. I found new hobbies and passions, strengthened relationships with friends and family, and took myself out to lunch. I am happier now and able to bring my happiness into my relationship. Self-care is always worth it, regardless of relationship status.
Trust is Hard
Anyone who has ever been in a relationship or seen a romantic comedy knows the importance and difficulty of trusting your significant other. Without trust, a relationship gets bogged down with insecurities and arguments. In a long distance relationship, hours can go by without communication, spending time with members of the opposite sex is inevitable, and you can’t rely on behaviors and body language to relay emotions. Trust takes work – doubts can arise in even the strongest relationships. I have learned to ignore baseless worries and doubts, so my energy can be spent on something better, like planning our next reunion.
Change Will Come Whether
You Like it or Not
The oft-quoted saying by Heraclitus says it best: “No man ever steps in the save river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” People and circumstances are constantly changing, and any relationship needs resilience to survive. My long distance relationship has seen countless changes in plans, most of them bringing heartache. A winter that was supposed to be spent traveling through Asia together ended up with my boyfriend and I on opposite coasts. A temporary work assignment took him to a rural area with no cell or internet service. A trip was canceled due to illness. Life is messy, complicated, and out of my control. Learning to see unplanned changes as road bumps rather than reflections of our relationship has helped me roll with the punches in my relationship and in life.
Relax, Be Patient, and Enjoy Today
I’m a planner. I constantly look ahead, to the day, the next item on my to-do list, to the next chapter in my life. My boyfriend is not. He lives in the moment and tends to go with the flow. The uncertainty of when we will see each other can turn me into a planning, worrying mess, obsessing with plane ticket prices and calendars. I’m slowly learning to value each day and trust that when we do finally close the distance for good, all of the waiting will be worth it.
I will never love being away from my partner. But I have learned that the joy gained from loving each other – even from afar – overpowers the nights spent alone, the dropped calls on Skype, and all the other little things that suck. Isn’t that what relationships, long distance or not, are all about it?