My boyfriend and I met in sixth form and have been together now for almost six years. Considering that’s a quarter of my entire life, I’d say we are probably doing something right to have stuck together for all this time, but that doesn’t mean we always get it right or that it hasn’t been a challenge.
Of those six years, we’ve spent three academic years and four summers residing over a hundred miles apart, and for two of those summers, with the Atlantic Ocean between us. In a way, I consider myself incredibly fortunate that I have a man who is self-employed, and has for the most part, been able to rearrange his free time to match the very little that I have found myself with over the last few years.
There seem to be two schools of thought on long distance relationships: some people say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, while others argue for the “out of sight, out of mind” perspective. I’ve also come to realise that the people who say these things have probably never committed to making things work when you can’t see your significant other on a regular basis. In my opinion, being in a long distance relationship is simply a challenge to be accepted.
Jack and I both know couples that thrive on living independent lives. Jack’s parents have spent a significant part of their adult lives living apart during the week and together at the weekend because of his Dad’s work schedule, and it clearly works for them. I think because we knew this, and had survived two summers apart already, it didn’t occur to us that we wouldn’t try to make a go of things when I went away to University. I think that people often feel as if they must choose between their career/experiences and their relationship. Don’t misinterpret me and think I’m saying it is easy to have both, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or worth it.
Of course, every relationship is different – that’s what makes them interesting – but I’d like to share with you some of the most important things I’ve learned from being in a long distance relationship. No relationship is perfect, but I’ve learned that there are some aspects of making things work that are more important than others. AKA: don’t sweat the small stuff.
Here are my top five most important things to embrace if you’ve decided to try out a long distance relationship, whether you met at school and are just headed off to Uni, or you met there and have had to move apart following graduation. The goodbyes do get easier and long distance eventually becomes your new normal, but it can come with a host of it’s own challenges.
OK, cards on the table: Jack is a terrible communicator. He doesn’t do it on purpose, but I always tell him that he tends to walk around like an ostrich; with his head buried somewhere in the proverbial sand. When you’re miles apart and haven’t seen each other in three weeks, at least one of you is going to appreciate a long phone call. How are you? How’s work? Have you had anything funny happen in the last couple of days? Modern technology is great and there is a lot to be said for the wonders of texting and Snapchat, but reading their messages and seeing their filtered face doesn’t compare to hearing their voice in real time.
Chances are, both of you are living fairly busy lives, so set aside the time to chat, even if it’s just to talk about how terribly you burnt last night’s dinner. These are the kind of mundane conversations you’d be having if you saw each other every day, so keep them up. Solid relationships are built on chatting about the ironing!
I guess this kind of ties in with communication. It’s important to be open with each other about the important things, as well as what is happening on a daily basis. While I was at University I was incredibly stressed at times, and found that I would get pretty shirty with Jack about tiny little things simply because he was the easiest person to target. As much as I’d tell him after that it happened because I was so wound up about work, things always panned out better when he was aware of the potential stresses before things began to pile up.
Similarly, our young lives are filled with opportunity, and the responsibility to make decisions. I implore you to be honest with your SO on your thoughts and feelings about the doors that are being opened for you. Sometimes it’ll feel like there are no doors – be honest about that feeling too. These are your decisions to make, but how can you be supported if you don’t explain what’s going on?
It’s inevitable that in every relationship there will come a time where you’ll be required to compromise. It might be on when you’ll next be, or it might be on what you might spend your day doing because your financial situations are different. Whatever it is, be prepared that you won’t be getting your way every single time. As only half of the relationship, it’s important to accept that the other person gets an equal say, and sometimes things won’t work out the way you wanted or planned.
Of course this isn’t something that is specific to long distance relationships, however I spent far too much time at the beginning of our time apart whining about not getting my way, and it was time that could have been better spent. Realistically, a lot of the things you’ll be compromising on won’t be that big of a deal, so take my advice and don’t blow them out of proportion. You’ll regret the argument about it more than the slightly less than ideal decision you made.
- Quality Time
The best thing about spending most of your time away from your SO is that the time you spend together has the potential to be far more special than couples that spend every waking minute in each other’s company.
Ironically, this is something Jack and me used to argue about more than anything else. As much as I was always happy to see him, it was important to me that the time we spent together was time sensibly spent, as each time he visited me for the weekend or I came home, it required a lot of forward planning.
It’s really important to make the most of your time together. If, when you do get to see each other, your encounters leave something to be desired, this is exactly the image of your relationship that you’ll be left with when they leave. If you want to go and hang upside down from a tree, go to the theatre, to the pub, or to buy some new treats, let them know, and make sure you’re both happy with your plans for the day. If you just want to hang out at home, that’s awesome too, but again make sure it’s something you’re both up for.
- Kiss and Make Up
You will argue and it will be awful. You will cry and your SO probably will too. We used to argue most when we were actually together (often because we hadn’t planned the weekend and everything that had been bugging me all bubbled up at once – see point 1), but I have other friends who argued most with their boyfriends on the phone.
Arguments are sort of to be expected when you’re closely linked to another person, but it’s silly to let one (or several) arguments put you off if most of the time you get on like a house on fire. What are you fighting about? Is it really that important? Sometimes it’s better to just let it go. More important than what you’re annoyed about, is how you deal with it after. If one of you hangs up on the other, CALL THEM BACK. If you storm out of the room, take a deep breath and go back in. Give them a big hug because every person in a long distance relationship knows that most of the time you’re simply arguing about things out of your control. Arguments seem to get blown out of proportion when you don’t see each other frequently, and oftentimes it seems that couples break up over something relatively insignificant because of this.
Accept it might happen, say you’re sorry, communicate, make a compromise and move on so you can make the most of your time together. Going long distance is hard work, especially when you’re young, but for the couples that work at it and succeed, it can be a wonderfully empowering experience to have shared. Nobody will understand how you’re feeling as well as your other half. If you’re currently struggling, please don’t lose hope, it’ll be worth it.