How To: Long Distance Relationship
When I began college I was dating a boy from my hometown. Life had been great (ish) up until graduation, all ice cream dates and asking my parents to extend my curfew just this once. But when I moved two and a half hours away to start school things started to fall apart. I grew to dread the awkwardly silent phone calls; visits always ended in fights about not spending enough time together; I even started getting angry when he didn’t text me goodnight and good morning. Yes, I was that girl. Obviously all was not well on the relationship front. It ended not far into my first semester, as many high school relationships do, and I vowed to never again date someone that lived further than a suburb – two if I really liked him – away. I felt adamant in this vow, and didn’t stray from it once all through college.
Fast-forward four years. In my final year of undergrad I got a boyfriend that I grew pretty attached to. We’d had one or two brief conversations about what would happen post graduation, very vaguely confirmed that we would stay together and try to live near each other, but left it at that. As John Green wrote, though, "life is not a wish-granting factory," and my boyfriend and I secured jobs thousands of miles apart. It’s not all bad though. We’re still dating and, more pertinent to the following blog, I became an expert/queen of long distance relationships. In my opinion, at least.
DON’T dedicate all of your time to it.
My first semester of college I went out exactly two times. I was so afraid that I’d miss a call from him and accidentally prompt a fight that it all wasn’t really worth it. Additionally, I spent almost all of my weekends at home with him. I barely met anyone. And how could I, what with my nose in my phone, texting him constantly. So go out, try new restaurants, talk to new people in your city. Don’t dedicate your life to a singular person that exists purely on screens for the most part.
DO dedicate some of your time to it.
Set boundaries. Your lives are in completely different cities, with different people, cultures, and schedules. This simply means there’s an important balance to be found there. Maybe you don’t text during the day, but you always call on your commute home from work. Or, maybe you check in via text in the mornings you’re busy, but set a Skype date once a week. The possibilities are endless.
DON’T take an attentive personality for granted.
If your boyfriend is taking time out of his day to call you and check in, pay attention. Don’t shoo him away just because the new episode of Real Housewives is on. Pay attention if he wants to talk at a time you normally wouldn’t otherwise. You should also try to notice when he does nice things for you, no matter how small, and then return the favor. Give and take and all that.
I’m not saying every weekend. I’m not even saying every other weekend. Seriously, once a month can be too much depending on your schedule and particular situation. With Skype, FaceTime, texting, e-mails, and front facing cameras on your damn e-readers it can be easy to turn your relationship completely digital. But nothing compares to actually holding hands as you walk down the street. Skype could never give you the same feeling that a hug after a long day could. He can’t make you dinner, or even surprise you with coffee, via text. If you’re into the love languages at all, then you know one of the most common ones is touch. Have you ever had one of those crazy busy stretches where you don’t hug anyone for a couple of weeks and then when you finally do its like eating apple crisp for the first time? It refreshes you, instills confidence, produces happiness, and every other small and good thing there is. So visit.
DON’T give all of yourself.
There’s a special circle of hell for people who ignore text messages. Or even people who read your message and then forget to respond. Hopefully this never happens in your relationship, but if it does then you know the weird sadness that can sometimes follow. It’s important to remember that you’re not actually coming home to this person. So don’t act like it. Don’t rush home to complete a knitting project when you could go out for drinks with coworkers. Don’t text and call and text and call when your partner never does. Don’t even assume that it will all work out in the end and eventually you’ll be in the same city and in similar financial situations with the exact same end goals for life. There’s something to be said for keeping your guard up.
DO put in what you want to get out.
This is relatively self-explanatory, but I’ll expand for those of you struggling to keep up out there. Now, I’m going to contradict myself. While keeping your guard up is one method, if you do it too well then you’re not going to have a relationship to guard. Every once in a while you’ll need to put yourself out there. You’ll have to be the first to apologize after a fight. You may need to be the bigger person. For those of you who know the golden rule say it with me now: do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.
DON’T jump to conclusions.
Unless you’re dating a sociopath, chances are your partner isn’t in it to screw you over. Most likely, they’re just as into the relationship as you are. You know what happens when you assume: you completely poison your relationship. Thinking about sending that panicked “Where are you” text at one am? Better not. Whenever you’re in a situation where you start to think the worst, take a deep breath and have a nice long logical talk with yourself first. If it turns out that there is something to be concerned about, be sure to talk it out first. At the risk of sounding like a washed up TV doctor, I’m just going to say it. Communication is key.
DO trust your partner.
This goes a bit deeper than trusting your partner to not chat up everything that moves at their local bar. Perhaps you’re worried that you’ll never end up in the same city, and that the hell that is a long distance relationship will last a lifetime. Whatever the case may be, you got into this relationship for a reason. Reflect on what that reason was, and what it is now, before you start asking any existential questions.
So maybe I'm not an actual expert, but I have seen the dreaded LDR from several angles. After my first terrible long distance break up via Facebook I believe I was right in taking a break from the call/text/Skype game. But I know a good thing when I see it and, with a little luck, I believe that you, too, can partake it the excitement that is seeing him at the airport for the first time in months and months and months.