Let’s be real. Long-distance relationships suck, but not necessarily for the reasons people think. Before I was in a long-distance relationship, all I had ever heard was that they were complicated and dramatic, definitely something that I wasn’t into, but when my now husband moved back to Wisconsin a few months into dating, and I stayed in Virginia to finish school we didn’t have much choice. I never had second thoughts about doing long-distance, it was only for a year, but I did wonder if we were going to fall into the same drama filled, complex games that I had seen my friends play. Long story short, we didn’t, and while it definitely sucked being 1100 miles apart and only seeing each other 4 times in that year, it was just as simple as I knew it could be.
Here’s how we did it:
Trust: Trust was the number one thing that made long-distance as simple as possible. Trust is a choice and sometimes a difficult one, but it makes it much easier on you. Feelings are generally something that can’t be controlled, but you can control how you react to those feelings. If you start to feel mistrust in your partner, evaluating the reasons why will help to decide whether you’re reacting irrationally to a feeling or if there really is something to be concerned about.
I know that when Ryan would go out, my imagination would sometimes run a little wild. I assume that when he goes out, he’s surrounded by scantily-clad, attractive women hitting on him. He’s assured me that that does not actually happen. When I would feel that way, I just reminded myself that I was choosing to trust him. He had never given me any reason not to trust him, so that feeling was irrational and it was up to me to decide how I was going to react to it, and that was with trust.
Clear, realistic expectations: We talked a lot about what we expected from each other while we were long-distance. We obviously wanted to talk as much as possible and made an effort to call or Skype at least once a day, but we discussed that it wouldn’t always be possible. We still wanted to go out with friends and have our own lives, knowing that eventually we would get to see each other every day, but there was no sense in shutting ourselves away from everything. I was finishing school, and he was working, and we had to respect that we were still our own people.
The difference between what we did and what I saw friends do is that we communicated these expectations to each other. There were no secret expectations. I didn’t tell him that it was ok not to call sometimes and then get mad when he didn’t.
An end point:
While this isn’t possible for everyone, we knew that our stint as a long-distance couple would be one year. We had a date that I graduated from school and he would come back to Virginia, load my stuff in the trailer, and move me up to Wisconsin. This made everything so much easier. We were able to have a countdown and make plans.
Sometimes long-distance relationships are indefinite, but my suggestion would be to figure out a way to make an end date. Whether it’s one year or five, I don’t know if it matters, but being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel made the loneliness and missing each other a little less intense.
Making the most of the time apart:
Things are definitely better when we’re together, but I made a conscious effort to see the year apart as an opportunity to be wholly independent for the last time. Don’t get me wrong, I still see myself as an independent person, but when you’re living with your significant other, they know what you’re doing and where you are, where you’re going, and who you’re going with. So, I made sure that I really enjoyed the fact that I could watch bad tv and eat gross amounts of takeout and not have to share. I got to live with my best friend for another year, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have traded that year despite how badly we wanted to start our life together.
So the simple truth is long-distance sucks. Sometimes it’s lonely and feels like it will never end. But it doesn’t have to be filled with fights and trust issues and drama. It can be a time to continue to get to know each other and build excitement about the time that you’ll finally be able to wake up to each other every morning.