(Disclaimer: I will try really hard to keep this post as un-self indulgently sentimental as I can. But I’ve currently got a playlist of my favourite love songs playing on full blast. Whoops.)
It’s 2016, we’re in the age of the Internet and finding love from the opposite side of the country (or the world) is the new black. Entering and maintaining a relationship with significant degrees of distance, also known as a long-distance relationship (LDR) is a heavy decision to make, and it’s not for everybody.
I guess it’s an issue close to my heart seeing as my boyfriend and I have been in such a relationship, separated by some 3 000 miles, for over a year now.
We met during my first year of University and became friends straight off the bat. By the end of year, instead of parting ways as he returned home, we embraced the distance and ended up joining the millions of other millennials taking advantage of the ease of international communication with the help of applications like Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Facetime… etc. (you already know the deal).
While this year in particular has been far from easy, it has undoubtably been the best. Falling in love with him was the best decision my fickle heart has ever made and our relationship is definitely still a work in progress.
My views on relationships with distance will be a regular feature of this blog as I document some of the challenges I face and learn from. It’s really not exclusive though, and I hope that even my single babies will be able to get something from this. For today, I will be focusing on some of the initial realities of entering a LDR for the first time.
You will have doubts. Like, several.
Every relationship will have it’s fair share of doubts. Do I trust him? Is he the right guy? But not being able to see each other for long stretches of time can actually exacerbate these doubts and cause you to lose faith in the relationship itself.
This is where trust is so important.
You need to be able to tell each other details about your lives and have trust that the things you hear are true, as you won’t always be able to verify these things yourself. A relationship where you’re constantly asking him to prove where he is or who he’s with may end up driving him away, leading to secrecy and lies.
You and your partner will have to establish a framework of trust and honesty to cover the insecurities of not being physically around each other.
But to trust in someone wholeheartedly when you cannot see them also requires a high level of honesty. You and your partner will have to establish a framework of trust and honesty to cover the insecurities of not being physically around each other and to help defuse the inevitable doubts that will spring up.
If your doubts are of great significance to your relationship, like ‘Would he be prepared to wait years for me, or move town/country?’ these are also things that you will have to be honest and talk to each other about. You’ll find that airing these questions out (especially if the relationship is very new) is quite daunting, but so necessary, and can save you a lot of wasted heartache in the long run.
It doesn’t get easier; you get stronger
A common misconception with most challenging things in life is that they get easier. If you go for a run today you may struggle, but keep at it for a few weeks and you may see an improvement, right? But that doesn’t mean that the act of running is suddenly easy, it’s that your muscles have strengthened over time.
And being in a relationship with distance is very similar. Be prepared to give your emotional ‘muscles’ the workout of a lifetime as you go through the normal ups and downs of having a partner, with the added strain of being far away from each other.
Sometimes we had to fight to get to the good places.
Is saying goodbye to him now any easier than it was a year ago? Heck no. I still struggle to deal with the fact that several months lie between the next time we will see one another. The difference now is that practice has taught me patience and understanding on a level I had never had to experience before.
I guess this strength also represents a maturity that you’ll both grow into. You’ll learn quickly that you’ll need to establish a routine (and respect it!) based around each others commitments. You will also have to learn how to fix all issues solely through the art of communication (apologies kissing and touching enthusiasts, lol).
In fact, there are half a million things I’ve had to learn to do during the last year that for the sake of time and space I cannot name now. Long story short, none of them have been ‘easy’. Sometimes we had to fight to get to the good places. And we’re stronger for it.
You will feel alone
Remember that birthday party you’ve been invited to? About that… You’re going alone.
I would say that this is one of the enigmatic parts of being in a long-distance relationship. Especially one with a gap that does not allow to see each other regularly. You may spend morning, evening and night speaking, but that still doesn’t stop the fact you’ll be actually doing things alone. Birthday’s, Christmas, anniversary’s, Valentine’s Day; you will have to be prepared to be physically alone through these times.
A big part of struggling with this, for me, was making comparisons with other people’s relationships. Getting sucked into admiring cute Insta updates or Snapchat stories of friends having a great time with le boo would rear the green-eyed monster within me.
Thankfully, I’ve always been a strong believer that comparison is the thief of joy and that you should only aspire to have what is yours and meant for you. Today, I see a happy couple and I genuinely feel joy towards their happiness. I wish them well, and after I have finished enjoying the green-ness of their grass, I turn back to water my own.
Comparison is the thief of joy and that you should only aspire to have what is yours and meant for you.
And that’s really what the matter comes down to. Unless you are willing to overlook the fact everyone else looks like they are having a great time, and invest time into watering your own grass, you will end up despising the distance. And if you don’t find a way to fall in love with the distance too, you will end up hating it. Seeing as it will be a massive feature of your relationship, it’s really not healthy for it to be something you just tolerate.
Spend some of this time to work on yourself. Spend some of it talking about each others family, aspirations, opinions. Immerse yourself in things you enjoy and around people who love you and you will not feel lonely even when you are not together. Remember that you have made the decision to commit yourself to long-term goal for someone you love and do not be disheartened.