I meant to publish this post yesterday, but I spent the entire day thinking it was Thursday—whoops! Time isn’t real here in 2020 and I’m losing my mind.
Anyways, I’m kicking off the weekend with a topic that’s near and dear to my heart—long distance.
For some reason or another, long distance relationships have always been a big part of my life. Growing up, my dad lived in a different state for most of my life and I only ever talked to him on the phone or through text. As a teenager, my first real boyfriend lived 45 minutes away from me, which, to a teenager who can’t drive yet, is a pretty long distance to go. Even now, as I settle in Maryland, I’m faced with long distance friendships.
But nothing compares to a real long distance relationship with your significant other. I’m not talking the 45 minute drive from Rhode Island to Massachusetts my ex-boyfriend had to make to come see me—no, I’m talking hours and hours of distance, seeing each other once every few months type of distance.
This was my reality for nearly 5 years. Ricky lived in Maryland, I lived in Rhode Island, and we’d see each other for a week or so once every three months if we were lucky—and once every six months if we weren’t. Most of our relationship started out on FaceTime, through text messages and social media. It was hard. Neither of us went into this thinking it would get so serious—neither of us could’ve guessed that five years later we’d be getting married—but that’s the course our paths took.
Long distance is hard. A lot goes into it to make the relationship work, let alone to make it fulfilling. But it is possible! Here are the most important tips for a long distance relationship:
1. Communication is key
This is the number one thing in any relationship, but especially in long distance. You have to keep in touch, whether that be by FaceTime, phone calls, texting, Snapchat, or your favorite social media—if you’re not talking every day, are you really in a relationship? Keeping a conversation going is important—and not just small talk, like “how are you,” “what did you do today,” etc. You should be able to have deeper conversations mixed in with the lighter ones, memes thrown in, whatever feels right to you. If your communication is strong, it’ll feel like there’s no distance between you at all most times.
For Ricky and I, our conversation never really ended. We’d talk constantly throughout the day, whenever we had a free minute. Even if we were busy, we’d take the time to let the other know we’d be busy for a while and we’d get back to them when we could. There were never times when we were left guessing about the other’s commitment and interest, but we were able to give each other the space to live our own lives… more on that later.
2. If there’s no trust, there’s no relationship
This is right up there with communication. When you’re in a long distance relationship, more trust is needed. You’re not with your significant other all the time. You might not even be in the same time zone. Even if your communication is strong, you might not know everything your partner does throughout the day. You can’t control them, though—that’s not healthy in any relationship. You have to be able to trust them fully, to believe that they’re being honest with you. And if you can’t, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate.
The one time I ever found myself feeling insecure, jealous, and worried that he would find someone else was when he first moved into college. We wouldn’t be able to talk on the phone every night like we used to, he was surrounded by brand new, interesting people, and I was convinced he’d meet a girl that had more to offer than I did. But instead of letting those feelings fester, I told him what was upsetting me—because communication is key—and we were able to discuss my fears and his response. I knew then that I could trust him fully, that he wouldn’t lie to me.
3. Get creative!
It’s still possible to do date nights and sweet gestures even with miles and miles of distance between you! Setting up FaceTime or Zoom dates, sending gifts or letters in the mail, even finding games to play through text—it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture of affection, it just has to be something you both enjoy that shows you’re both putting in the effort.
Ricky and I have had movie dates over the phone a few times, and we FaceTimed nearly every night for a little while. I would make handmade gifts and scrapbooks for him every year for every event—Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, just because—and he would surprise me with photobooks of us, gift cards to buy e-books or a venmo for new shoes when mine broke in a rainstorm. In the beginning, we’d send each other letters and cards and I’ve saved every one of them. It’s truly the thought that counts, and the effort put in behind the idea. Find what works for you, and get creative!
4. Always try to have something to look forward to
The months when we weren’t sure when we’d see each other again were always the hardest. We’d try to plan visits and trip well in advance so we’d always have something to look forward to, but sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, you just can’t plan that far ahead. When that’s the case, try and find something else to look forward to. A scheduled FaceTime date. A movie you’ll watch together. A restaurant you’ll go to together next time you see each other. Anything that makes waiting just a little less gruesome.
5. Understand you’re still living your own lives
This goes back to the first point of communication. No matter how often you talk, no matter how many virtual dates you set up, it’s important to remember that you’re still your own person. It’s okay to spend the night out with friends instead of on FaceTime. It’s okay for them to spend the night out with friends instead of on FaceTime. Long distance in this day and age is so much easier because we all have a phone in our pockets at all times—but that doesn’t mean we have to be glued to it. This goes back to trust, too; you and your partner should trust each other enough to understand you each have unique lives to live. Living your own life doesn’t mean you’re excluding them from yours, though. If the relationship is truly meant to be, you should be able to live your own lives respectively and still come together in the end.
In the beginning, long distance was the only relationship form that would’ve worked for me. Not even taking into account the actual physical distance, I was just so busy. I worked multiple jobs, went to school full time, and had my own social and family obligations. I also liked to, you know, eat, shower and sleep every once in a while. There’s no way I could’ve included an in-person relationship at this point, no matter how understanding he was. But as time went on and I got less busy, we still made it a point to live our own lives. Even though we’d gotten into the habit of talking every night before bed, it wasn’t unusual for one of us to forgo the phone call to go out with friends. At the end of the night, if it wasn’t too late, we’d try to call the other when we got home, but sometimes whoever stayed home would be asleep already. That’s okay! Because we had that established trust and communication, and we knew that in the morning we’d get to hear all about their night out. Even though I would miss him, it would make me feel good when he went out with his friends. It’s important to keep up relationships with friends outside of your relationship; your partner shouldn’t be your only person. The friendships that came along before your relationship should never suffer for a significant other—it’s okay to put your phone down, tell your partner you’re out with friends, and enjoy the moment with them!