A lot of people rag on long distance relationships. It’s natural really. Many of them fail and so many people end up bitter about them. It’s not surprising either. It has “disaster” written all over it: the long weeks and even months apart; the lonely nights crawling into your empty bed, wondering why you’re sleeping alone for the 63rd night in a row (is it too much to ask for just a cuddle?); the “No, thank you, I’m seeing someone” you utter when you dismiss the gorgeous guy or girl at the bar who’s been eyeing you forever and you kept looking back because it felt nice to be noticed for the first time in weeks.
And those things are all valid. Long distance relationships are exhausting, lonely, and difficult. Sometimes it can feel like it’s not worthwhile. You begin to wonder why in the world you’re doing this at all. It’s either, “What is the point of sending another picture to you if you can’t just see how great I look?” or it’s “What is the point of looking great at all if you’re not here with me?” Either way, it can be immensely confusing.
These moments are tough. The hopelessness, the futility, the overwhelming despair of “Christ, when will this just be over with?” can really take its toll. People respond differently. Some get distracted and eventually drift away. Others alienate themselves from their surroundings and forfeit their external lives to love their significant other through the tunnel of Skype. Some throw their hands in the air and give up entirely at the first hint of temptation.
But long distance relationships can be worthwhile, and they can be absolutely beautiful. If the love is right, then it’s worth every bit of stress, effort, and “can you Skype for ten minutes between basketball practice and dinner with your friends?” If you can hold onto the light at the end of the tunnel, and you know that it’s worthwhile, then hold on for dear life, because it can be the best relationship you’ve ever had.
You learn about yourself, your surroundings, and your friends in a whole new way.
You’re not allowed to stay at home with your boyfriend/girlfriend every night, watching Netflix and eating Chinese takeout. Nope. You’ve gotta get out there, because otherwise you will be staying in alone.
Your knowledge about yourself – your likes, your dislikes, your habits, your patterns, your strengths and weaknesses – become more clear when you’re forced to not only live by yourself, but also not spend all your energy prowling around looking for love. You’ve got the love thing going on; it’s time to figure out what else the world has to offer.
You’ll learn to appreciate your universe as it exists to you. Get to know your friends in a whole new way and your platonic relationships become stronger, healthier, and more open.
You learn about your partner in a whole new way.
Two things in relationships make things more clear than almost anything else: emergencies and time apart.
When you no longer do “activity” dates – going to amusement parks, getting drinks with your friends, taking day trips to the beach – you’re forced to do something that not all couples do regularly. You actually have to talk.
After all, most of your dates are now Skype dates and communal-Netflix dates. You will actually hear how your partner expresses him or herself, what he or she really thinks about life, what his/her favourite conversations are – which says a lot about who s/he is as a person. You’ll learn more than you ever imagined, because when you can no longer do things together, you learn to be together.
It’s a beautiful gift.
You get to take a trip back in time.
It’s time to finally get old-fashioned and learn to woo your darling. Letters? No longer just an inconvenience – they’re a way to revive romance. Surprise gifts? Just keeping that spark alive.
You learn how to experience loneliness productively.
Everyone hates being lonely. It’s the worst. It’s boring to just sit around and miss someone. There is, however, a bright side: it encourages you to get your ass up and do something.
When you can’t go out dating, then you can finally learn how to actually sow that button back on your coat – yes, the one that’s been missing for two months. You can pick up new hobbies. You can finally read those books you’ve had stacked on your night stand for ages. Learn to make holiday-themed sugar cookies or write that “Peeta Forever” manifesto you’ve been vaguely planning or take that kick-boxing class or photograph that stream near your apartment or finally vacuum under your couch. You’ll have so many more opportunities for all the things you would do “if you just had the time.”
The pressure to look “up to scratch” is gloriously lowered.
Wanna skip the gym? No problem. Can’t stop eyeing that extra slice of cake? No harm done. Want to go another day without washing your hair? Who cares?
Don’t worry about it. You’ve got six weeks until you have to worry about any of that stuff. You’re allowed a little guilt-free indulgence.
You learn to stop being short-sighted and begin thinking long-term.
You can’t get away with “maybe it’ll only last a few months” in a long distance relationship. There’s too much at stake – trust, communication, effort – to gamble small.
It’s no longer about making plans for the upcoming weekend; it’s about making plans for the upcoming months. Dates become events. It’s not about instant gratification, because that’s virtually non-existent.
It becomes about love, trust, and understanding. Every long distance relationship involves a certain level of commitment, of “we’ll be here when the times comes,” so your wayward habits shift to incorporate a longer timeline. It’s waiting for the life to come, which can only be done with those long-sighted lenses.
You learn how to really communicate.
If you fight, you can no longer just buy a bottle of wine, throw on some Ed Sheeran, and cuddle until nobody’s mad anymore without really addressing the issue.
Passive aggression won’t work. Mind games won’t work. Being in an long distance relationship will force you to stop your tantrums and grow up. You’ll learn to confront your emotions, voice your opinion responsibly, and talk it out. You’ll learn to listen and speak in equal measure (because they’re both a lot harder than you thought).
Your relationship will be stronger than you ever imagined.
If you can make it through time apart, you can make it through almost anything. You’ll have already experienced so many of the doubts, fears, struggles, and obstacles that many couples don’t face until much later, so when you finally come back together, it’s with a new-found confidence that the relationship is elastic, flexible, and – most of all – worthwhile. It might take some time to adjust to a normal relationship, but once you do, you’ll be unstoppable, because you’ll know that you’re dynamite.