On the first day of school this semester, my boyfriend dropped me off on campus just before my first class. A few days later, he boarded a flight headed for London from Houston, Texas, and he won’t return to the States until April. That morning on campus was the last time I saw him in person.
I won’t sugarcoat it: Being in a long distance relationship sucks, especially when your partner is on the literal other side of the planet. But, curiously, being in a LDR can actually do a lot of good for a committed couple. It’s like giving your relationship a giant vitamin—it makes the partnership healthier by bringing back the excitement of seeing and being with each other, by building trust, and by allowing each person to have room to grow. That doesn’t mean you won’t miss your person every day, though, or that it will never hurt. The struggles of being in a LDR are totally natural, but the struggles are real.
The bad parts
- The time difference: When he’s going to bed, I’m just getting home from work. When he’s awake, I’m fast asleep. For the large part of the day, we have a limited window of time to talk.
- Seeing couples everywhere: Ever see something for the first time and then you can’t stop noticing it? Or when something is on your mind, do you start seeing it literally everywhere? Seeing couples in public holding hands and kissing can make people uncomfortable simply because they don’t like PDA, but it becomes even more uncomfortable and noticeable when you’re in a LDR. I’ve become that weird lady in movies that says “get a room!” to innocent couples, except I just say it in my head—I’m not that
- Missing my partner: This one goes without saying. For the first three weeks or so, I’d get a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I thought too long and hard about the vast space between us. With time, things have gotten easier to manage, and I only let myself wallow when I really need to. Wallowing the right way helps—I go to the gym, journal, watch a good movie, or do something that brings me joy whenever I feel down. It really makes a difference to invest time in the things and hobbies that make you feel like you, even outside of a relationship context.
How we make it work
- Weekly webcam dates: Face-to-face time is so important, even if the other person is pixilated and glitches sometimes. It’s the second best thing to having a real-life conversation. We always have so many things to tell each other that we can’t get across through texting or quick phone calls. When we save a couple hours during the week for our virtual “date,” it allows us to focus that time solely on each other with no distractions.
- Texting every day, no matter what: I’ve talked to him every day since the day I met him. Even if we’re busy and can only say good morning or goodnight, a quick message each day keeps that conversation going.
- Snapchat: Aside from just being a silly and fun way to stay in touch (voice-changing filters make me laugh like nothing else), Snapchat also lets me see what he’s seeing almost in real-time. I get to see landmarks, sunsets, works of art, and whatever else through his perspective. Even though it’s just a fleeting image on a four-inch screen, it makes me feel like he’s not so far away.
- Snail mail: Yes, letters sent from other countries can take weeks to get to one’s mailbox, but it’s so fun having something to look forward to. Seeing an envelope that I’d been expecting finally in my mailbox gives me butterflies. It’s old-fashioned romance, and I am all about it.
- Supportive friends: Friends that are patient and understanding and who will be your shoulder to lean on are invaluable. I’ve come to really appreciate the genuine connections I have with my girlfriends. Girls’ nights (wine, board games, Netflix!) are giving me life right now.
How it has positively impacted our relationship
- We appreciate the little things: You really don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. I miss all the dumb little things like holding hands and sitting side-by-side in the Taco Cabana drive-thru and play-fighting over who gets more of the blanket. I don’t think we’ll ever take our time together for granted ever again.
- Nothing has changed: We’re still our silly selves. We still tease each other. He still makes me laugh and drives me crazy from across the ocean. And I still trust him completely. Just because you can only reach a person by phone or computer doesn’t mean the relationship dynamic has to completely change.
- We’re independent: We’re learning how to live our lives separately but together. We’re supporting each other as we create our own paths, like two individual vines growing up the same lattice. Plus, we’re both getting quality me-time, which is seriously underrated.
Making it work, in his words
“I don’t have to hear you snore. And while we’re apart, we’re both able to do our own things and take care of whatever we need to.” Think: spending quality time with family, working, completing grad school applications, etc. “And then when we’re back together, we can focus much more on each other. We’ll really look forward to seeing each other. It’s like when you save all your marshmallows for the last spoonful of Lucky Charms. Does that make sense?”
Yes, it does, and I can’t wait until that day.