What I Have Learned From My 3-Year, Long-Distance Relationship

What I Have Learned From My 3-Year, Long-Distance Relationship

It can work, if you are willing to work it.
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Going away to college can be an exciting experience. It can also bring about feelings of uncertainty and fear for people who may be in relationships coming out of high school who are then either going to separate colleges, or one person is staying home while the other leaves. I am in this relationship right now and have been for the past three years.

At first, my fiancé was the one to leave for college while I was still in high school. The next year, I graduated and he came back home but I went away. Long-distance relationships can be tricky but they do work if you are willing to work with them. Here are some tips I have found that help.

1. Trust

This is one of the most important, yet sometimes most challenging components of a long-distance, or really any relationship. If there is no trust, there is nothing. When you cannot see the other person every day, or a few times a week, you have to trust them. Trust also goes both ways. If one person trusts the other but this trust is not reciprocated, this can put a strain on the relationship. This level of trust is not built in a day, it takes time, so give it a moment and try to trust the other person.

2. Communication

I do not think I can say this enough. Talk to your partner. Talk to them. Seriously. In a long-distance relationship, this can be make-or-break. Your partner does not see you enough to know when something is wrong or if you are upset. They may not be able to tell if things are bothering you or know what is happening in your life because they are not there. So just talk to them. When my fiancé left for college I wrote him letters. I mostly did it because I like writing and I think pen pals and letter-writing are a dying art and I really love them but I also did it because if something happened during the course of my day that I would usually tell him about or he would usually be there for, I wanted him to know about. I wrote one every day with something important from that day, or just how I was feeling, or even just telling him that I missed him. Sometimes I would send a week's worth of letters to him, sometimes I would save them until he came back home and then I would give them to him to read, but either way I knew that he would still be a part of my day even if we did not get the chance to talk on the phone or text each other. Communication is so important. Talk to your partner. If you both have busy schedules and you know you will not be able to talk throughout the day, schedule a time when you know you can talk. Maybe once a week on a Sunday at six you facetime or something. Just talk to them.

3. Quality Time

I think one of the worst things in a long-distance relationship is not being able to see the other person for so long and then when you finally are able to see them, they are too busy doing other things to spend time with you. When you are with each other, be with each other. Give each other your undivided attention. This will make you both feel important, respected, loved, and wanted.

4. Know your limits

If something is not working, speak up. Long-distance is not for everyone, and leading someone on is not fun for anyone involved. It is better to be with someone who makes you happy and feel loved than being with someone because you feel like you have to be. If the long-distance is not working, let it go.

5. Warning signs

I have not experienced this personally but I have seen others around me who have so I thought it would be important. Sometimes when people get into long-distance relationships, or it can be really any relationship, it can become toxic. If you notice that your partner is trying to control your behavior, by telling you where you can and cannot go, who you can and cannot hang out with, what you can and cannot do and when, then these are some basic warning signs of a toxic relationship. They can stem from insecurities and lack of trust, especially in a long-distance relationship. If you are in a toxic or abusive relationship, seek help right away and try to remove yourself from this relationship.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Dear Fellow Millennials, Commitment Is Not As Scary As You Think It Is

Come on in, the water's fine.
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2906.

It’s the number of miles separating me from my girlfriend the night I asked her to marry me.

She was 20 and I was 23. She was away at art school in San Francisco, and I was back on the East Coast, having assumed a sabbatical of sorts from school and working at a local bank. It had been two months since we’d begun our relationship, and at this present moment, a few things were clear.

We’d both sworn off the pursuit of a relationship after rough and in one case devastating breakups, so neither of us saw the other coming.

I remember knowing she was the one about 30 seconds into our first conversation, give or take. Proposition of marriage was never a question of if for me, but rather one of when.

I didn’t then, nor had I ever, seen the point of being in a relationship without the intention of marriage. If I wanted to play games, that’s what good friends and go-karts are for. Dating always seemed, at least at the outset, like a perpetual assessment of interest hopefully over good food. So, when the question of marriage sat on my lips, it sat there with me nervous about her response, but confident knowing that my assessment was long over. It had only been two months, but I knew well sooner than then that I wanted her forever. And I wanted to devote myself to her forever, provided she’d have me.

Well, first things first…SHE SAID YES…well, okay, not right away. She said yes after having run up and down the street screaming for ten minutes with me still on the phone, an impressive feat in hindsight considering her asthma. That was almost seven years ago, and we’ve been married for nearly five of them.

I often look back on that time fondly. I mean, yes, it was hard. Long distance relationships are incredibly hard, but it paid dividends for us in that the lack of physical interaction forced us to communicate more. All the difficulties we suffered on the front end have meant even more on this end of the pendulum swing. For though sorrows mounted, we remained committed to each other.

Ooooh. Commitment.

It’s become something of a dirty word these days, hasn’t it? And it makes sense. You see it all over our culture. Look at the way music is consumed these days, with iTunes and streaming platforms allowing people to make mobile playlists as opposed to the 90’s, during which buying one song often meant COMMITTING to a whole album. And when your favorite song is track six of ten, there is at least a 90% chance you will be at least a little bit disappointed with your purchase.

I wonder if this isn’t how my generation views dating. Good or bad, we’ve all got traits like albums have tracks. And supposing you really like a person based on one or a few other traits they have, you know that person could have tons and tons of bad ones, kind of like filler songs surrounding the one you bought the album for. Either way, it’s a toss-up in a world that craves certainty and painlessness. So why risk getting cut deep in real relationship when you can stay surface and swipe right? This sort of thinking capitalizes on the same advantages that an introvert has by hanging out in the shallow end at a pool party. You only ever go as deep as is “safe”, yet no one can ever accuse you of not swimming.

I cannot say relationship is painless without lying to you. But what is true is that real love isn’t painless either. I stake my entire being and purpose on the actions of One who hung on a wooden Cross by way of nails as atonement for my “filler songs”. It was a shocking act that ultimately served as evidence that I am loved. Yet, as much as those who also believe celebrate this death, we rarely acknowledge how gruesome it was. The death of Jesus was a messy, messy affair that ultimately yielded beautiful results. But to get to the beautiful, He had to first be willing to embrace the mess.

We all have baggage. Heck, if you’re anything like me, you probably feel like you’re LaGuardia on Thanksgiving weekend on the inside all the time. My wife and I have seen some really good things and some not so good things in each other. Yet, my due north is this: Without her, I cannot be me. She makes the bad days bearable and the good days so much better. I can’t imagine what my 20’s would have been like had she not been my companion through it all.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’ve been cut deep by a person, or people. Maybe you’re just terrified altogether. Again, I can’t promise you it’ll be without pain. But I can tell you that commitment is always worth it.

Cover Image Credit: Ryan Franco

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How To Make A Long-Distance Relationship Really Work

It's not just a myth for the movies!
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Newsflash: distance doesn’t have to ruin your relationship.

It’s hard to imagine when you’ve never had to spend more than a day or two without seeing your partner. If a few days of separation makes you miserable, it’s even worse to think about the weeks or possibly months, that you’ll have to spend apart. Distance isn’t the ultimate relationship killer, however, and no, successful long-distance relationships aren’t myths. Here is a handy go-to guide in having your relationship survive the dreadful time apart:

First, you should really consider the relationship you’re in: is it situational? In a situational relationship, your partner is only in your future because you haven’t experienced an environment away from them. A lot of high-school romances, unfortunately, are situational. Since you have them in classes every day, or you drive them to school in the mornings, or you spend every lunch together, it’s hard not to imagine them with you. The reason so many relationships end once college begins is that suddenly, you realize that you loved them because they were there. It wasn’t because they shared the same future goals as you, or because you would genuinely do anything for them, but because you were in each other’s circles all the time. It was a convenient relationship that made you happy while you were in high school, but now you’ve seen a bigger world, and suddenly their presence isn’t necessary. If you can sit down now, and consider the grounds in which your relationship was formed, congrats. Most people can’t, and won’t realize that they’re only dating someone because their options in their setting are limited. If you fear your relationship may be situational, then it may be time to have a talk with your partner.

If not, the first step in a long-distance relationship (and any relationship, really) is constant communication. I’m not advising you to phone your partner at every given free moment. You should, however, text them throughout the day, and throughout the weeks you’re apart. Schedule time for phone calls and FaceTimes that fit with both of your plans. Set time aside to just talk to your partner. Even if you just send them a few memes throughout the day that remind you of them, or if you call every night to say goodnight before you sleep- it’s important to reach out on a daily or regular basis. If you only send them your SnapChat streaks and call once a week, that’s not going to cut it. The communication, really, is half the battle. If you can find a steady schedule to keep yourselves connected, you’re doing a great job already.

Next, you should work on scheduling times to see each other. This one could be tricky, especially if the distance is a 6+ hour drive. Develop a balance so the two of you both make the effort for visitation. Plan dates that work within your schedules and actually commit to them. If neither of you can travel to see each other until winter break, that’s a-okay: as long as you both agree to that plan. Do not force your partner to drive to see you all the time, but refuse to take the bus to go visit them, too.

Sidenote: surprise visits can actually not be so great and romantic as you think, especially if one or both of you have roommates. Your partner will need to give their roommate the heads-up before you spend a few nights, so you do actually need to plan the visits accordingly.

Send each other things. Sincerely, sending little care packages or handwritten letters or little presents just for fun can add the romantic quality to your relationship that’s usually completed by dates. This one you don’t have to plan out; it’s actually cuter sometimes to send your partner a gift in the mail and have them be surprised by it. Of course, you don’t have to send them things all the time (since, you know, postage costs money) but being thoughtful every now and then is a cute way to show your partner you still care, especially if you can’t see them too often. And obviously, don’t forget each other’s birthdays or Valentine’s Day, if you won’t be together in person!

Don't give up. There’s a big difference in saying “This isn’t making me happy anymore” and “If we never see each other, what’s the point?” If you fall into the first realization, it’s possible that the relationship just isn’t working out. But if you believe in the second, you may not be able to have a long-distance relationship; most of your relationships are probably situational. That’s okay! Fortunately for you, you’ll always be able to find romance, wherever you go.

If you want to keep a long-distance relationship, because it makes you really happy, but the thought of not seeing your person makes you hopeless- keep going! Keep a physical calendar and mark down the days until you’re reunited. A few weeks apart is nothing in comparison to the months you’ll have together over the summer, and the years you’ll have together if you plan on staying together after college. The time will move much quicker than you think, I promise.


There are ways to make it work, especially if you’re willing to put in the effort. Again, all relationships require work to make them last, so as long as you understand that it’s not going to be like the movies, and it will require a give-and-take, your relationship can survive anything- even distance.

Cover Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvortygirl/6788198070

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