Long distance relationships suck. There’s a certain level of freedom that you can fool yourself into believing is kind of a cool benefit of not having your significant other around all the time. And then there’s the fact that when you do see each other, it’s just one giant extended date. Like even sitting on the couch, eating popcorn and watching TV still seems special several years into the relationship because you do it so very little.
And sometimes I think people glamorize long-distance. (NOTE: People who are not and have never been in a long-distance relationship). They say, “Oh, you’re so committed to stay together over such a distance for such a long period of time!” or “You get to extend the honeymoon phase of your relationship so much longer, don’t you? I’m jealous!” And you just kind of have to grin and bear whatever expectations they put on you and your relationship.
There is also the rather unhelpful older generation that says “Why don’t you just get married!” after two dates, like that fixes any of the problems of living and working in two different place. While I understand the sentiment, I’m growing up in a very different world than my parent’s generation did. Long-distance is no longer a relationship killer, but when jobs in your field are hard to come by, “just getting married” really doesn’t help. Unless you want to move from the uncomfortable reality of having a long-distance boyfriend to the pretty unbearable awfulness that is a long-distance husband. (Military spouses are doing this already and with legitimate reasons. It seems kind of silly for me to get mixed up there when the thing standing in the way is a viable career option rather than fighting for your country.)
So here are some truths about my life:
I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for four years (five if you count our year of “casual dating” when I was on holiday breaks from university). In that time period we have lived either one or two hours apart (so between 60 and 120 miles). In the entirety of our relationship, we’ve never actually lived in the same area unless you count when I first met him, and he slept half the week on a cot at his place of work to minimize travel. We’ve gone through periods of seeing each other at least twice a week to seeing each other only once or twice a month. We’ve met in the middle and switched off on who does the majority of the traveling because of fluctuating incomes. All-in-all for most “long-distance” relationships, we probably see each other more than average, but I also feel like we’re in the unique place of starting and building our relationship from a place of distance which I think made the seeing each other as often as possible so important. I think if we hadn’t been as committed to making the trips, it would have ended a long time ago. And honestly, many of our biggest fights and times of hardship came from travel and distance issues. It’s made us sacrifice a lot of our time—weekends can’t just be for “fun,” they’re dedicated time to build our relationship. That means friendships and familial relationships sometimes had to take a backseat because it would become a choice between spending time with family/friend or the boyfriend. Or when I’ve tried smashing it all into the same small time span, I usually end up with deteriorated health and morale.
So I guess you could say that I haven’t had the WORST long-distance relationship (not by far!), but as you can see, it hasn’t been a walk in the park either. Which has lead me to some truths about long-term, long-distance relationships that I thought I’d share with you.
- No one understands your relationship as well as you do – People will try to tell you how to run your life and how to work your relationship. Don’t listen to them. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Sometimes there’s some good advice that can be gleaned from the mess, but usually, its just people who’ve never been in a long-term, long-distance relationship, trying to tell you how to run yours. Always trust your gut before you listen to these “helpful friends.”
- If you can’t see each other on a Wednesday night when one of you has had the worst day, it’s long-distance – Sometimes people would argue with me about whether my relationship was actually long-distance. They’d say because it was “only 100 miles” and not several states or a country away, then it wasn’t “real long-distance.” And it’s true, the first few months, even the first year of 100 miles—a two-hour drive—doesn’t feel so long or tough. But that’s where long-term comes in. The longer those 100 miles go on, the farther those 100 miles seem. You wonder if it’s really worth it. If you’ll actually see the other side of this relationship. If a future will actually come out of it. If you’re fooling yourself in thinking you’ll ever live in the same area.
- It only ever gets harder – Most things, with practice, get easier with time. Long-distance relationships do the opposite. However, I will say that if you’re able to weather the hardness of it, you will find strength in yourself and in your relationship that you didn’t know was possible.
- Know when to give up and when to push through – There have been several times in the last 5 years of our relationship that we gave up. Fortunately, we’d find that the moment we gave in, we realized we were far more miserable that way than the uncomfortableness of long-distance could ever cause. And it always brought us back stronger. However, I know this can’t and won’t work for everyone. Which is why I think it’s important to periodically reevaluate your relationship. Sometimes it means that the only time you see each other will mostly be taken up by not-so-fun discussions about how you’re feeling and where you’re at emotionally in the relationship. There will probably be a lot of tears. But I think it’ll save you from either harder heartbreak later or from mismanaged expectations from your significant other.
- You have to take time for yourself – Long-distance is so much about giving. You have to give and give and give to your significant other, your family, and your friends in order to stay sane and with well-functioning relationships. But where does that leave you and your own mental state? What I think we forget (as people in long-distance relationships and those supporting those who are) is that we do have to take time for ourselves. Sometimes my boyfriend and I need a weekend apart. Which, depending on schedules, can either mean two full weeks or even a month apart. Long-distance relationships are always about sacrifice. They’re about sacrificing your time and money and energy to make a harder-than-average-because-of-physical-distance relationship work, but they’re also about sacrificing time with that loved one in order to take care of your own mental and emotional needs. Whoever you’re in the long-distance relationship with has to understand this sacrifice. He’ll need to make it for himself, and respect it when you make it too.
So don’t listen to the haters or the naysayers. Your long-term, long-distance
relationship is all about you and your significant other. It’s about your choices and your happiness whether you live 100 miles away or 1000 miles away. Distance has created a barrier in your relationships, and you’ve decided to fight against that barrier with the hopes of one day bringing it down. I can’t give you anything but praise. It’s a hard job and fight.