My initial thoughts on long distance relationships are as such: it’s tough, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s the worst. It is excruciating to feel so incomplete all the time. Like suddenly, you’ve lost a part of your leg and now you have this unforgiving limp. But if I’m being completely honest, I think every relationship needs to experience long distance at least once.
For me, the experience was an interesting one.
After just three weeks of dating, my boyfriend and I launched ourselves into a long distance relationship from California to New York.
That’s just three-hours of time difference, 2,900 miles apart, and six hours of flying. Then a couple months later I moved to England, and we took on international long distance from New York. That’s five hours difference (not to mention a total time flip), 3,300 miles apart, and a minimum of 15 total travel hours one-way.
For that year, we battled the heightened time difference, maneuvered our way through Wi-Fi complications, and worked through miscommunications. I won’t lie, it was a pretty draining year. But even after the trials and tribulations, I still believe long distance was the best thing that could have happened to us. We learned crucial relationship lessons that would have taken twice as long to learn had we been in the same place.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
First, learning the art of communication became not important, but absolutely crucial. We had only lived in the same city – the same state, for that matter – three weeks before we did long distance. So with a three-week foundation, the entirety of our relationship was built on phone calls, texts, and sporadic visits. We actually had to talk to each other (what a concept), get to know one another – every day!
But the most important communication lesson we learned was how to argue productively. Think about this: if you contact solely through text, especially when just getting to know each other, there are bound to be miscommunications. In the beginning, we got into plenty of arguments over how a text “sounded”. And with long distance, the only way to fix a fight (or any fight for that matter) is to talk it through. There’s no body language to lean on – no face recognition, no touching and certainly no make up sex. It forced us to calmly use our words and concentrate on what the other person had to say.
“I exist in two places, here and where you are.” – Margaret Atwood
On that note of communication, it takes a lot of effort to consistently maintain communication with another person – whether that be via texting, calling, or sending an owl with a handwritten letter. So whether you’re ready or not, long distance will expose your true feelings. No one will waste their time on someone they don’t care about. And you want someone who will go to the ends of the earth for you! So if one of you is seriously lacking in effort to preserve your connection, then it may not be worth it.
“True love doesn’t mean being inseparable; it means being separated and nothing changes.” – Wayne Dyer
On the other hand, a very important lesson long distance teaches is how to live independently from each other, to maintain self-value. For my specific relationship, this was not as much of a factor because we never lived near each other in the first place. But in any relationship, it is necessary to learn how to be away from your love, no matter in what degree. We have to remember to value who we are individually – being yourself is what made him fall in love with you in the first place!
“The scary thing about long distance is you don’t know whether they’ll miss you or forget you.” – Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
Long distance also forces you to trust. Of course, doubts will inevitably creep into your mind every once in a while. But if you don’t make an effort to blindly trust your love, ugly fights will happen.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” – William Shakespeare
Long distance helped me understand the true depth of our relationship by testing how far I was willing to go just to be with him. My boyfriend couldn’t travel due to work. So I flew back and forth from Newcastle to Newark I don’t know how many times. It was not the simplest of trips, since I had to take three modes of transportation just to get to or from Newcastle Airport. And overall, six transportation shifts to get from home to my boyfriend’s apartment or vice versa. But I minded none of it because all that mattered to me was the desirous thought of soon feeling his lips on mine again.
“Distance is not for the fearful, it’s for the bold. It’s for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love.” – Meghan Daum
In addition to that, because we were so willing to make sacrifices for each other, we learned possibly the greatest love lesson of all: what it means to be self-less. Even though we hit tremendous bumps, put up with untimely phone calls and obscenely emotional FaceTime conversations in public places, all with an unstable wonder, we kept together. Because the only thing worse than enduring long distance, would have been letting go of each other.
So, Long Distance, you were a terrible pain. But I have to thank you for instilling in my relationship, the key components that make any long-lasting partnership: communication, commitment, self-value, trust, depth, and selfless-ness.