If you know me at all, you know that relationships are not my forte. I tend to go for the overly-confident jocks that just end up breaking my heart. So, when my best friend last year told me (a month before the spring semester ended) that he was falling for me, knowing full well that I was spending my summer at home in California and was going abroad to Madrid the next semester, I was definitely shocked. As I stared at this guy whom I cared for deeply as a friend, who told me he was prepared to wait for me to come home seven months later, I honestly didn’t know what to say.
After many discussions about our feelings and what a long-term relationship would look like, I finally decided to open my heart a month into the summer, and I can say without a doubt that it has completely changed my outlook on healthy relationships. Here are some lessons that it has taught me:
1. It has taught me that trust is the most important part of a relationship.
You always hear couples that fight about where their significant other is, who they are hanging out with and what they are up to, but as I have learned very quickly, it comes down to pure trust. You need to be able to look at your significant other and say, “I trust you wholeheartedly.” Yes, we tell each other most everything. Yes, we still do get jealous. No, it’s not perfect but I can say that I trust him and never feel the need to question him.
2. He is my best friend.
I know this seems like a given but I am realizing how many couples these days forget that before anything else you need to be friends. This means being goofy, sharing music, laughing together and crying together. Being friends is the most important thing in a relationship and before him I honestly didn’t know truly important it was. I was always friends with the boys that I had dated, but this is different. He is the one that I always want to turn to. He is always my friend before my boyfriend, and I didn’t know that this one thing can change the course of a relationship, because there is more too lose than just your boyfriend. There is a friendship always on the line.
3. Distance taught me how to be vulnerable.
I am the worst at opening up to people, asking for help, or leaning on others, even those that I consider to be my closest friends. You would think that distance would create a gap in the getting-to-know-you part of a new relationship, but it did the absolute opposite. We were able to open up about hard topics, cry, and be vulnerable, and the physical distance allowed us the opportunity to take the time that we needed to reset. We could take a few days before talking to each other, letting the other party process and digest the information that they just learned and allowed the latter to come down from the emotional high that being vulnerable can cause. This was always one of the biggest problems with my past relationships; I was not able to talk to my significant other and tell them what I needed or what was going on in my life. I now find vulnerable comments just slip out of my mouth before I even think about it and every day I learn how to better share my feelings with my boyfriend. Initially, it was the physical distance and the fact that I would not see him the next day that allowed me to feel comfortable to share how I was honestly feeling.
4. You learn to love all the little things.
Pre-being in a long-distance relationship, I didn’t really know how much we take advantage of the little things like simply holding your partner’s hand. I learned how much you start to miss these simple nuances. I have learned that I look forward to this the most. I miss holding hands, going on dates, and being in each other’s presence. The longer we are apart the more I realize that these are the little things that I will cherish the most.
5. Yes, it’s cliche, but distance makes the heart grow fonder.
You all knew that this was coming but it is honestly true. We all know that when you are with the same person 24/7 the little quirks that every person has start to get on your nerves. If distance has taught me anything it is that I miss every little thing about him, even the things that drive me crazy! I have learned that distance is sometimes exactly what you need for your heart to realize that even though this person can drive you absolutely insane, at the end of the day you still love those aspects of them.
Distance is hard. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing easy about this, but it has taught me some valuable lessons about being in a healthy relationship that I know that I will keep with me forever. When it is right, love is worth fighting for and sometimes distance is exactly what you need to learn all these lessons just like me. Distance is not the end of all relationships, but rather can be what makes them survive.