Making It Work Long Distance

Last summer, I met someone. He was funny, intelligent, and kind, not to mention easy on the eyes. There was only one problem: When the summer program we were both enrolled in came to an end, I had to fly back to my town in Maryland. And he had to return to his home in Spain. 

            On our last day together in person, we talked about the possibility of a long-distance relationship. I quickly dismissed it. Being constantly separated from someone I cared so deeply about sounded tortuous and, considering the fact that we’d only met a few weeks prior and that most long-distance relationships fizzle out, it didn’t seem like a logical decision to me. Unfortunately, the heart doesn’t seem to care too much about what’s logical. So, a few days later, I found myself in my bedroom in tears, missing everything I’d left behind. 

            Luckily for me, technology allowed the two of us to stay connected. And it quickly became clear to both of us that we’d rather try long-distance than sacrifice what we had together on those summer days spent exploring town, drinking far too many milkshakes, and talking about everything under the sun. And, although I prepared myself for heartbreak, I’m thrilled to report that I have yet to experience it. 

            My boyfriend and I have now been together for a little over a year and, with the exception of a week-long visit to Spain over winter break in 2019, we’ve been apart for all of that time. As I suspected, our relationship has been a challenge, and I miss him every day. But what the past 15 months have shown me is that long-distance relationships are absolutely worth it and they can work.

            Now, because of the isolation forced upon us by COVID, more people than ever have found themselves going long-distance. Many people are probably feeling the way I was - frustrated, confused, and unsure of how to proceed. So, without further ado, here are my tried and true, top tips for surviving - and thriving in - a long-distance relationship:

 

  1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY

            In any relationship, communication is important. But when you’re unable to see your partner frequently and you’re separated by land (and, in some cases, ocean), communication becomes even more of an essentiality. It is very important that you and your long distance significant other (S.O.) sit down and talk about your expectations for the relationship, especially when facing periods of change. I’ve had to follow my own advice recently since my boyfriend and I have each started college this year. Before school began, we sat down together - well, sort of - on a WhatsApp call and talked about our hopes and feelings surrounding the school year. We compared our schedules, discussed how frequently we’d be able to chat, and, as depressing as it sounds, talked about what would happen if we met other people on campus and how we would handle a breakup. Having those plans in place takes a weight off of your shoulders because you know that you and your partner are on the same page. So, if you’re going through some sort of transition, you’re feeling frustrated by something your S.O. is doing, etc., make sure you have an open, honest, compassionate conversation about it. 

 

  1. TRUST IS KEY TOO

You simply cannot be in a healthy long-distance relationship if you do not trust your partner. Think about it: you’re only able to be in the same place or in contact with each other 10% of the time, leaving the remaining 90% of the time for your S.O. to do goodness knows what. Resist the temptation to scroll through your partner’s social media accounts or to grill him, her, or them about what they were doing at 11:43 P.M. last night. If you’re seeing repeating signs that indicate your S.O. might be cheating on you, refer to tip number one and talk to them. Being jealous in a relationship is never fun - so make sure you’ve built a strong foundation of trust!

 

  1. GO OUT ON DATES

            Just because you and your S.O. are in two different places doesn’t mean that you can’t go out on dates and have fun! Besides having long video chats (and I recommend switching back and forth between audio and video calls - not only does this mix things up, but sometimes it’s really nice to simply hear someone’s voice and other times it’s really nice to see their face) there are plenty of things you can do to engage with your special someone. My boyfriend and I love watching movies together (we count down from three and press play at the same time which is an activity in and of itself), eating meals together (which is often a challenge considering the five hour time difference, but we make it work), and collaborating on projects together (we recently collaborated on a video essay about why videogames are underappreciated in society - yes, the geeks found each other). Other things you might consider are cooking together, playing online board games or video games, going for a walk and giving each other tours of your neighborhoods, or simply asking each other questions - you can find a lot of long lists of questions to ask your S.O. online and it’s a lot of fun to hear your partner’s answers! 

 

  1. GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER’S LIVES

            In a traditional relationship, you’d probably get the chance to meet your S.O.’s parents, friends, and dog. You’d see their house and their neighborhood. You’d know what their daily routine is like. Why should things be any different when you’re long distance? Consider setting a time to meet the people they care about via video chat and ask them for a tour of their home if they’re comfortable giving one – and then you can do the same for them. Doing so might just make someone far away from you feel a little bit closer. 

 

  1. HOW TO HANDLE LDR DEPRESSION

            Here’s the honest truth: as I’ve already described, you’re likely going to have moments when you miss your S.O. so much it hurts. Especially toward the beginning of my relationship with my boyfriend, I found myself struggling to cope with his absence. I’ve found, though, that there are a few ways that I can make myself feel better. First, talking to other people really helps, particularly if they’re also in an LDR. Lucky for me, one of my best friends in high school was seeing a long-distance boyfriend (she lived a state apart from him and I live an ocean apart from my boyfriend, but I’m not jealous or anything), and she was a huge source of support for me. It was cathartic to be able to talk to her about how I was feeling and find validation in that she felt quite similarly. My family was also remarkably sympathetic and always available to give me a hug. If you don’t know anyone else in an LDR and aren’t close with your family, you can always turn to YouTube - there are so many videos about people in long-distance relationships, and listening to their stories may just give you the solidarity you crave. Sometimes, what I needed, though, was not to dwell on my sadness but to focus on something else. Distracting yourself by working on a project, watching a movie, or reading a good book are all useful ways to feel a little bit better. At night, I’ve found it’s also useful to recite song lyrics in your head so you can’t let thoughts of your partner keep you from getting the sleep you need. Finally, I’d recommend you try reframing your sadness. Instead of thinking about how your partner is so far away, think about how there’s this person who loves and cares about you even though you’re miles apart. Another way to reframe is to think about the benefits - yes, I said benefits - of being apart. Since you and your partner aren’t always together, that means you have plenty of time to focus on your own goals and aspirations without any distractions. Appreciate that and take advantage of the opportunities you have to love and celebrate yourself! Oh, and chocolate always solves everything. 

 

            I hope that these tips will be helpful to any of you out there finding yourselves dating long-distance. Instead of backing away from the challenge, enjoy and celebrate all of the wonderful opportunities being in an LDR has to offer; after all, just because you and your partner are far apart in body doesn’t mean that you have to be far apart in spirit.