So Long to the Long Distance Blues
When you search the term "long distance relationship" on Google, about 931 million results show up. Many, seeking help on how to make an intimate, romantic relationship work while not residing in the same neighborhood, city, state, or country. It's a daunting realization that not only are relationships hard in general, but tack on hundreds or thousands of miles apart, and you've got yourself a hefty task of keeping this thing afloat.
If you asked me nine months ago if I'd be willing to do a 2,500+ mile long distance relationship, I don’t know if I would've said yes. But just seven months ago, that's exactly what fell into my lap, and I truly can't be more grateful for it.
You all know about the beginning days with my current boyfriend, but what you may not know is that he currently lives in California, while I live in Massachusetts. When we met, it was only two short months before he was heading to the west coast for work for what we thought would be six months (cut to now, and he has been extended there for a total of 1.5 years).
While never having a true long distance relationship before, this was extremely daunting for me to say the least. Every thought raced through my head from, we barely know each other yet, to how will we make it work, to I'm never going to see him. But what I came to find out is that long distance made our relationship grow faster than I had experienced in any other relationship, and also much deeper. Throughout this blog I'm going to share our experience, and tips that I think may help anyone in a similar situation.
What's hard about long distance?
The first obvious answer to this is not being able to see each other as often as we'd like. Luckily, one of us has been able to fly out to the other's state at least once a month, which I know is not always the case for everyone. But, we are still apart more often than we are together, which is less than ideal in our eyes.
Second, is different time zones. While not every long distance relationship will experience this, we have a 3-hour time zone obstacle that can make time when we get to talk even more of a challenge.
Third, is travel. Having to either drive for an extended period of time or book flights can be hard both physically and financially. Not to mention, some may have to take time off work. Luckily for me, I work remotely, so I've been fortunate enough to work during the times I go to see him, making this less of an obstacle for us.
Fourth, is trust. While I've never previously experienced trust issues in a relationship, long distance requires a level of trust that may be difficult to form if you haven't been dating very long prior to being long distance (or especially starting a relationship doing long distance). For many, trust is earned over time, but when you embark on a long distance relationship, it's essential to give your partner your trust up front (or you'll simply drive yourself crazy).
What's easy about long distance?
It's so easy to think about all of the negatives about long distance, but there actually are some positive aspects to it, just like anything else. For one, distance does in fact make the heart grow fonder. Whenever my boyfriend and I see each other for the first time in a while, we're reminded of why we're so committed to doing long distance in the first place—we love each other and love being together!
Second, you have a lot of time to focus on filling the other cups in your life—think friends, family, hobbies, work, etc. When you may have made weekend plans with your partner if they lived near you, you can instead go to dinner with some friends, go home to spend time with your parents, or go take that paint class you've been wanting to try. (note: you can and should of course do these things when your partner lives near you too!)
Third is maintaining your sense of self. When getting into a new relationship, it's easy to want to spend 100% of your time with your partner, and get fixated on the high that you feel when you're together, so much so that you lose sight of the things you liked to do before you met them. Having space to still have your own lives in your own states actually helps your relationship grow, in my opinion.
So, what are some tips?
FaceTime is your new best friend
While some may think it's a bit excessive (and I would have too before this), my boyfriend and I FaceTime usually at least twice a day; in the morning before we start our day, and at night. This has made long distance SO much easier, because it actually feels like we're together each day for at least an hour or two. Figuring out a time or time(s) that work to see each other (virtually) face to face is essential in maintaining a connection from hundreds/thousands of miles away.
Intentional date nights are a must
Whether they're in person when you do get to visit each other or virtual via Facetime, my boyfriend and I have learned to become intentional with planning date nights when we can. While it's easy to think of in-person date nights, you have to get a little creative when it comes to the virtual ones. It could be surprising each other with takeout and eating together on the phone, watching a movie together while on Facetime, or even playing a game. The activity doesn't really matter, as long as you feel connected.
Make your next plan to see them ASAP when possible
It's not always feasible, but when you can, plan your next trip ASAP. It can be stressful not knowing what your schedules look like or when you'll see each other next. Making a plan in advance allows you to look forward to the next trip and feel at ease that you know exactly when it's happening.
My boyfriend and I have tried the app called "How I'm Feeling", which allows you to choose a word that describes how you're feeling, and what you're doing/where you are/who you're with when you're feeling it. You then can share it with the other person. While you could always just tell the person how you're feeling when you're talking to them, it can be a cute check-in throughout the day if you're both busy with other things and don't have time to talk on the phone, or just another form of communication that can be a fun way to interact and see how the other person is doing.
Make your time together intentional
Intentional date nights are a must and so is any other time you're spending together. This means it's ideal to have no distractions when you're either together physically or talking on the phone. The time you get to spend together is fleeting, so make it count!
Ever heard communication is key??
Well, it turns out, it's the truth. I've learned the hard way that I need to express how I'm feeling when I'm feeling it and not let things bottle up to the point of explosion. Check in with each other about what's working and what's not. It may sound like a simple concept, but it might take a little bit of time to put into practice. I've been lucky enough that my relationship is built on honesty and communication, even if there are things that are hard to discuss or hear. It truly does make your relationship grow leaps and bounds.
Sweet gestures go a long way
You might not think there's a lot of thoughtful things you can do from thousands of miles away for your partner, but that's simply not the case. Whether it's sending flowers, ordering their favorite meal as a surprise, Venmoing them for coffee, or just sending a sweet "thinking of you" text, the little things mean more than ever when you're far apart.
Learn how each other likes to receive love
This is one of the most important tips!! While my boyfriend and I are still learning this about each other, it is so important to learn not only how you receive love but how your partner receives love, and make a conscious effort in showing it in that form. Learn more about the love languages here.
See? Long distance isn't so bad. No matter your circumstance, there are ways to connect even from time zones apart, and in many cases, it may make you grow stronger than you ever would've if your partner was right down the road. And when the time does come for either of you to take the leap and move to the other's city (like it finally has for us...updates to come), you'll be grateful to have built such a solid foundation from the get-go.