Often when we hear the phrase “long distance relationship”, we think of a romantic relationship. Our minds go to countless hours on the phone, face-timing until one person falls asleep, and epic airport reuniting scenes. Although these are what being in a long-distance relationship can sometimes include, they are only a small part of what dealing with your partner being away entails.

Before this summer, I had never been long distance with anyone before. The idea in it of itself was terrifying and something I definitely struggled to come to terms with. The first few days he was gone, I cried just thinking about the fact that I wouldn’t see him for almost three months. He is my best friend - someone who, when school was in session, I saw almost every single day. Now he is thousands of miles away, in a time zone that is 8 hours ahead of me. I cried a lot the first few days as reality sank in; it felt like I was never going to figure out how to deal with it. But then I did.

It’s impossible to describe how I got to this conclusion in a matter of a couple of days, but it came to me in what felt like an epiphany. I came to terms with the fact that I was going to be okay on my own and that everything was going to be just fine. I also came to terms with something a little bit more deeper.

I realized that my previous struggle to deal with the distance in my relationship stemmed from my insecurity of not knowing who I was when I wasn't with him. That scary reality is one that I think hits us all when we understand that one of the reasons why long distance relationships are so hard is because when you are in a romantic relationship, especially in the honeymoon stage, your relationship defines a large part of who you are.

We don’t intend it to, but it does. So when that person leaves, it is like our world is turned upside down, and we no longer know how to function as just us.

I think that is one of the main things that I have learned from my partner being away: I learned how to be independent again. I learned that I don’t need anyone else to make me happy, I can make myself happy. I learned that spending time learning about myself and improving myself is equally as, if not more, important than learning about my partner and working on our relationship.

As I write this today, there are 41 days, 5 hours, 11 minutes and 37 seconds until he comes home (yes, I am that corny girl that has a countdown timer on her phone). Every day, as I see the days on the timer go down, I get more and more excited about his return.

I write this to emphasize the fact that although being apart has made me realize so many different things on who I am as an individual, it has also made me realize how in love I am with my boyfriend, and how no matter if we are five minutes apart from each other on the quad, or thousands of miles away from each other this summer, that fact will never change.