What I’ve learnt from distance

(For the sake of convenience, I’ll be referring to long distance relationship as LDR.)

LDR isn’t the most dreadful term in a romantic couple’s lexicon without good reason. Most couples either end things before getting into a long distance relationship, or break up after they graduate into a long distance, once they realise that it isn’t worth it for them.

A lot of people I know make ‘jokes’ like ‘LDR is the end of a relationship‘, ‘The only way to be happy in an LDR is to have a side chick on one side and a side dude on the other‘, ‘LDR is the same as the beginning of the end‘, and so on. As far as jokes go, they’re not funny in the least, but people still laugh awkwardly when someone says that. And I get to hear these jokes as an automatic, or sometimes slightly delayed, response to people finding out I’m in an LDR with my partner.

I’ve been in an LDR for two years now. Me and my partner have learnt how to manage our lives, and our highly inconvenient timezones. It has its perks, but for the most part, it does involve a lot of work.

Am I an expert at long distance relationships? No, since I’m still learning. Like any other relationship, there is a lot of learning to be gained during an LDR, about yourself, the other person as well as the relationships.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt in these two years about this type of relationship with you here. If your relationship looks like it’s heading towards an LDR, you can look this up, and see if it’s something you want to invest in. If you’ve just started off in an LDR, you can go through this and realise that your struggles are not just your own, and there are a whole bunch of us struggling right along with you. And, if you’re already in one, you can go ahead and have your ‘Aha!’ moments, or just nod along as you go through this.

So here are some of my tips/experiences with LDRs, and what you can take away from them.

1. Have an end goal.

You can’t start an LDR without having a decisive end goal. Usually the end goal is when both partners end up in the same place, which might involve one/both partners moving to a common place or area. Make sure that you have a rough date of when you want to make this happen – it could be anywhere between a few months to a couple of years in the future. Having a rough estimate of when you want to close the distance, and a general plan towards that end, will ensure that you have something to look forward to.

Of course, things won’t go as planned, and circumstances will change, but having a rough idea of how you want things to go will ensure that both of you are on the same page about when to bridge the gap. There isn’t anything more painful that being on two separate frequencies about when you want to come together.

Keep checking in on each other once in a while, to make sure everyone in on the same page, and make changes to the plans and the end date, if necessary. Knowing that you’re both working together towards a common end goal will really help your relationship, and bring you closer.

2. Get busy.

Whether it’s academia or profession or hobbies, make sure you keep yourself busy. You’re going to miss your partner a lot, and it’s no joke – you’re going to miss them when you go past your favourite restaurant or spot, you’re going to miss them when you listen to ‘your’ song with them. Even hanging out with other couples is going to hurt, simply because you’ll wish it was you with your partner.

In such times, keeping yourself occupied with work or study or hobbies really helps. Ensuring that you have an active life outside your relationship that keeps you engaged will really make a difference. Keeping yourself engaged will keep you distracted from the pain that is going to be a part of your life for a while. Which brings me to my next point.

3. It hurts. But it gets better.

It’s going to hit like a sack of bricks right in the stomach. When I hugged my partner goodbye at the airport for the first time, I was surprised I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry while watching him walk into the airport. I turned around, and started walking away. And it hit me like a punch in my solar plexus.

It’s going to hurt, and that’s just an understatement. Everyone experiences it differently. My partner and I experienced it differently. However you experience emotional pain, one thing won’t change – time will numb the pain.

It’ll take a while. I personally took a long time. It will take a while, but you’ll learn. You’ll learn to deal with it, you’ll come to terms with it. Take your own time. Don’t rush yourself to feel a certain way within a certain time. Thoroughly feel the sorrow, so that when it passes, you’ll be a stronger person for facing it.

4. Strike a balance in communication.

This really varies between people. Some people talk to each other on a daily basis, whereas others don’t really have that much to say. Take the time, do some experimenting, and realise where your and your partner’s comfort level stands when it comes to communication.

Are you able to video call daily? That’s great! Go for it! You aren’t? That’s alright. Can you voice call? Can you text? See what you can do. See how much of it you can do. See what fits into both your schedules, what works and what doesn’t work for you. It’ll take some time to figure it out, but with some patience and understanding, it will happen.

Don’t fall into the trap of over-communicating. That’s where the balance needs to come in. Sharing every little detail with your partner is nice, but you may not have enough time, either to talk, or to listen. Share what’s important, and make sure you’re listening as much as you’re talking.

Try other ways of communication as well – writing letters, writing emails, sharing notes on different apps, sharing memes on Instagram and Reddit (my personal favourite). Communication needn’t be just calls and texts. They can be any way to show the other person that you care about them, and that they matter.

And realise that communication is the most important foundation for your LDR. If the lines of communication are open, going smoothly in both directions, and healthy, you’ve won half the battle.

5. Trust is everything.

You can’t be in a relationship with someone who you don’t trust. And when you’re trying to nurture a relationship with someone you can’t see or meet often, you have to trust that they value the relationship as much as you do.

You will feel the occasional twinge when you hear about a new attractive friend who they’re spending more and more time with. Don’t fall into the trap of holding onto them tighter – wanting hourly updates to knowing every word in the conversations they’re having. You might want to. But the best policy, I’ve seen, is to let them be, and trust them to see future friendships for what they are and maintain boundaries.

If you feel you can’t deal with the anxiety or stress that comes along with such situations, I’d recommend reconsidering a long distance relationship, simply because there will be too many instances of this. If you’re able to control your anxiety and stress, or distract yourself from it, you’ll be able to thrive in your relationship. If every person in your partner’s life will seem like a potential partner, then you’re in for a bad trip.

Finally, the most important thing is 6. Learn from your experience.

Take the time to learn about yourself from this experience. Without having your partner around to meet with you physically, you will invariably be left to your own devices in quite a few ways. Find out who you are. Make those romantic dinners for yourself. Take yourself out for the movies. Make time for your hobbies. Spend time with your friends and family. Learn about your strengths and weaknesses through this period. Most importantly, learn to love yourself and show that love towards yourself constantly.

In some ways, you will become extremely close to your partner. You’ll learn about their thought patterns, their routine, their life through their eyes. You will relive moments of their life through them. Learn about your partner, about how they view themselves and the world around them. If you stick it out through the tough phases, the distance will bring you closer than you can imagine.

I have become incredibly independant as a result of my LDR, because it gave me enough time to think and grow as a person. From someone who used to think that they were co-dependant, I’ve slowly become someone who doesn’t need others so much.

Distance can either break your relationship, or be a phase in your relationship. It’s up to you and your partner, who you are as people, and what you want from your individual lives and collective future.

I hope these points helped you in some way – maybe to gather your thoughts, or to make decisions, or in any other way. What are the other things you think are essential for an LDR? Comment below and let me know your experiences!

And, as always, thank you for coming onto this cloud! I’ll see you soon!

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