Going the Distance

           It has been said that distance makes the heart grow fonder, which sounds sweet enough, right? Some couples thrive on the distance, savoring the time together made more special by their time apart. I didn’t understand those couples. Unfortunately, the feelings I have associated with the long-distance relationship (LDR) are more on the bitter side. Most commonly these feelings include loneliness, sadness, frustration, fear and uncertainty. Full disclosure, as I began my own LDR, I carried about so much doubt as to whether I would manage such an ordeal. Luckily, I was not alone, and I quickly learned ways to stay connected despite the distance.

 

Communicate

“One of the things that can kill a relationship is someone expecting the other to be 24/7 on top of communication. A healthy relationship does not need the assurance of being there every second of every day.” – Abbie Osgood, MNSU Junior. 

           Communicate! Not too much, not too little. Juuuust right. We have it much easier than, say, couples before the 1980s. Love letters (although endearing and encouraged) are not the only means of communication that we must select from. Technology has made LDRs more manageable than ever. Make the calls, via the phone, Skype or FaceTime. Pencil them in when it works for both schedules and be reliable! How couples communicate must be taken seriously in a LDR; it is essentially the main provider of sustenance with all things physical removed.

 

Make plans

“Little things are easy to let slip through the cracks, and not having that physical connection all the time can be difficult to compensate for. That’s why I find it important to show you care, in whatever way is comfortable for you.” - Autumn Anderson, MNSU Junior. 

           Do things together and be creative! No, you are not together physically, but that does not mean there are not ways to stay connected. If there are things that you would typically do together, like watching a certain TV show or movie, find ways to watch them at the same time. If going out to eat was a habit, take your phone or laptop for a Skype date while you dig into sushi at Tokyo’s finest (it’s not that embarrassing 😉). Cook meals together, do homework together – sometimes that’s enough. No, it won’t be the same, but it will be time spent with your partner trying and growing. Of course, plan times to visit one another in person – whether it is one weekend a month or one week every few months, make that effort. Short visits may take away the ache for just a beautiful bit. Appreciate those moments of brevity.

           Also, sex - it’s a bummer when you have to face the drought. Really, all the great things that come with the physical intimacy definitely become more and more infrequent. That is a staple component of the LDR, but IT WILL NOT BE FOREVER! One tip to those who need a bit of the big O: toys (s/o to Sven). 

 

Honesty & Trust (two different things)

“Sometimes it can be difficult to trust one another. There isn’t that security of being able to go see one another anytime you want and know what the other is doing throughout the day. I find myself faltering a lot over silly things just because we’ve been apart for so long.” – Autumn Anderson, MNSU Junior. 

           “This is not enough,” I found myself thinking one night. The following day, I could feel myself pushing my partner away out of frustration and self-pity; I was not being honest. It is essential to disclose emotions as they are felt, rather than waiting for them to boil over and make a mess. My LDR is learning to coexist with loneliness, doubt, and frustration – all-natural, human things. To be successful in a LDR does not mean being free of these heavy emotions. To be successful is to be honest with your partner and to trust in them and your relationship.

           Honesty with the self is equally important. I advise that you do not head into a LDR thinking that you can make everything stay the same. That’s not possible. Accepting that the relationship will and must change is a good thing – it may be for the better, or for the worse, but regardless – it is inevitable. The comfort in habitual, the ritual, some will be impossible to continue with the distance. 

 

Make an end goal

“At this point in my life, I’m looking for something that will last and that I can build the rest of my life around. Having a time in which I can have him be physically in my life is important.” – Abbie Osgood, MNSU Junior.

     It is important to make an end goal, although it can be terrifying. The future, that creature we try to study and understand, is unpredictable. However, rather than staring into a void, it helps to visualize a shiny gem in the distance symbolizing the end of the distance. Most LDRs are temporary things, waiting for the planets to align, and when partners are able to coexist in the same area together. As time is prolonged, it may seem that the unsatisfactory is an inevitable product of the relationship. I have felt and feared this. That is where sacrifice and compromise comes into play. Personal, professional, and academic priorities are all on the table when making those future plans. The great thing about a LDR is the opportunity for two people to pursue their plans and goals, even when their partners are led to a different path. Understand the need for people to grow on their own as well as together.

 

Opportunities – seize them!

“It is definitely important to make sure you know how to make yourself happy – you can’t rely on them to make you happy when you are miles and miles away. You have to be there for each other when you can and be understanding of each other when you can’t.”- Lauryn Smith, MNSU Junior. 

         When a relationship transitions to long-distance, time is opened up for both parties. This time can be utilized with a fresh perspective to seize opportunities. Prioritize things that have been left on the back burner, nurture some passion, and challenge your independence. Utilize the time to reevaluate your day-to-day routine. Perhaps, dedicate more time to your personal or professional life. Maybe you will recognize unfortunate neglect among family or friends – adjust. I know I did! I have definitely shifted my balance of work and fun, finding ways to dedicate my time to writing, hanging with the roomies (my GIRLS), and making that money. Time apart does not have to be time feeling lonely. 

 

It is OKAY to miss them

“If you want to keep things beautiful and poignant, you must find the time to miss them.” – Christopher Poindexter

        If you’re at all like me, sometimes it’s difficult to sleep. Sometimes you’re at the bar with your girls having a great time, and then it hits you like a shot of tequila – the absence of them, your dance partner, your every-secret-holder, your best friend. Sometimes you feel this looming loneliness regardless of who surrounds you and begin to unstring that spool of self-pity. Don’t let yourself feel like a victim! You have chosen to love from a distance. Still, it is okay to miss them. I am still very new to my own LDR, and I’m pretty horrible at it, as I am cynical at heart. However, I’m trying. Luckily, I have partnered up with a man who has more optimism than most, contained just barely by stupid humor and movie quotes. For that, I am so thankful.

        If you have embarked on this relationship type, you have courage. It is no walk in the park. I am still learning day by day how to get to the next, but guidance from friends (and the almighty Google) have aided in my strategies of connection. Communicate, make the plans, and have a goal to get to together. Practice both trust and honesty, ruthlessly. Seize the opportunities before you; spend time with your girls (they miss you), and don’t focus on what your relationship was, direct the focus on what it can become. I am by no means an expert in the trial of long-distance, but I have signed up, I am all in, and tomorrow is another day closer to something great.