Long-Distance Lessons: What I’ve Learnt So Far
We can all agree that nothing replaces physical interaction. We didn’t need a pandemic to prove it, but here we are. 2020 has brought a double whammy to long-distance relationships: distance plus enforced separation.
To all the long-distance lovers, I feel your pain. Most of my relationship of several years has been long-distance. We’ve lived 4,500 miles apart, we’ve lived under the same roof. Between us we’ve lived in 10 different houses, separately and together. We were separated for four months over lockdown. I’m no relationship expert, but here’s what I’ve learnt.
Finding out what works for each other when it comes to verbal communication is key. This doesn’t mean you have to communicate in the same way, but it does mean you need to be adaptable. It’s tough: it’s taken me years to understand why the person closest to me doesn’t express themselves *exactly like I do* but be open to learning why that is and nurture each other to communicate in a way that works for you both.
Being apart for long periods of time sucks. Acknowledge it. It’s fine to miss someone so much it hurts, and it’s fine to feel miserable about it. Being honest with each other can be hard, but being honest with yourself can sometimes be harder. Let yourself feel bad and talk about it: you’ll feel better for it afterwards.
Spoiler alert: it’s not all romantic phone calls and telling each other you miss each other. Someone can be just as annoying a million miles away as they are in person. You’ll still disagree, you’ll still argue. Accept it. And hey, if you’re miles away and can’t see the wet towels they’ve left all over the bathroom floor which would make you angrier, maybe that’s a good thing. The temptation not to ruin a phone call by bringing something up, and then not ruin seeing each other by bringing something up, is a fast track to a blazing row. The more you chat about things, the less uncomfortable it becomes.
2020 has been the ultimate plan-crusher, but the smaller the plan, the harder is it to crush. Failsafe plans that have so far avoided a crushing: buying the same pizza and eating it on FaceTime together. Putting the same film on and chatting while it plays. A phone call. It doesn’t matter what you do, but be there. All those little things make a big difference when you feel like you’re worlds apart.
When you’re dragged kicking and screaming in different directions it’s important to remember why. There’s often a reason, and it’s often a good one. Understanding each other’s aspirations and respecting each other’s individuality is important. I hate to say it, but bar rare examples, a long-distance relationship won’t be the worst thing life throws at you. Be flexible. You learn a lot about yourself in a long-distance relationship, so make the most of that. You have more time for friends, family, hobbies, perfecting how to become a professional third wheeler – and you can dedicate more time to your relationship.
At some point, someone will have to sacrifice something. It could be as minor as a night speaking to friends. It could be as major as a career-defining job. Talk about it. Support each other and nudge each other forward, don’t hold each other back. It’s not easy, but if you want the best for someone it’s what you have to do and there needs to be balance. There have been times when someone’s need clearly takes priority, like a hospital stay or a parent dying unexpectedly. But outside of those times the playing field needs to be equal. Your hopes and needs are equally as valid and you both need to respect that.
Like in my relationship, you can find yourselves on two different paths that frequently pull you in two different directions. We’re on completely different trajectories in fields that couldn’t be more different, but we truly only want the best for one another. Whether we’re together or apart, whenever that’s for now or forever. Knowing that and respecting each other’s independence brings us closer together, wherever we are.