28.7.14

The Ins- and Outs- of a Successful Long Distance Relationship



So, if I haven't made it clear on here yet, I'm in a long-distance relationship. Very long distance. I live in Washington State, and he lives in Washington DC. Approximately 3,000 miles apart.
In fact, we've been long-distance for just over a year. A year of too few trips, too many Skype calls, and too many lonely days binge eating chocolate while watching The X-Files.
Ignore that last one.
I dropped Phil at the airport last week, so I've spent the last several days moping around my house [read, ignoring my mounting pile of laundry and baking allllll the time. Queen of comfort food over here] and just making myself miserable out of loneliness.
Is this the best solution to my problem? No.
In fact, I know better. I'm basically a giant masochistic lonely heart who likes to ignore good advice.
But I won't let that happen to you. Listen to me: you can survive - and thrive - in a long-distance relationship.
When I tell people that, yes, I have a boyfriend, and no, he doesn't live here, in fact he lives 3,000 miles away, the response 95% of the time is "wow, isn't that hard?"
Yes, it is hard. But is it worth it? Of course.
I think the strongest testament you can give to the importance and health of a relationship is maintaining it long distance. If you can make it a few months, a year, several years, in a relationship filled with trust, commitment, and communication, you've demonstrated that the relationship is definitely worthwhile.
Also: lots of travelers are in long distance relationships.
There are several reasons for this, but often they include:
A) You met your significant other while traveling abroad (as was my case)
B) Travel is a priority for you, so you often leave your significant other for international adventures.
C) You discover your love of travel after entering into a serious relationship, and decide to move internationally to follow said love.

Regardless of the reason, the outcome is often the same. You are apart from your loved-one, you're sad and lonely, and you daydream about seeing them. All. The. Time.
Well hold on darling, because I can help. I've learned the ins-and-outs of this game, and I feel like I'm pretty good at it now.

FIRST UP: Reasons Why Long Distance Is Better Than Close Quarters
Yes, you heard me right. There are ways in which being in a long distance relationship is better than living near-to or with your significant other.

Your communication skills rock. A few recent studies have shown that people in long-distance relationships are better at communicating their emotions, share more intimate interactions, and communicate more overall with their partners than those in live-near/in relationships. That's because one of the only things you get when in a long-distance relationship, is communication. Whether it's Skype, email, or hand-written love notes, it's likely that you're better at talking to your partner long-distance than when you live near them. As a result, post-long-distance you'll be better at communicating in person, too.

Your affection is grounded in the other person's personality. Have you ever seen a couple (or even just 'close' friends) that only seem to like each other because of the stuff they do together? People are quick to assume that because someone is adventurous or fun to kiss, that they're in love. When you're long distance, you don't get those things. You don't get to hold hands, to go on dates, or to do 'normal' couple things. As a result, you are left only with what the other person has to offer emotionally and mentally. That means that you like them for who they are, not what they do (how cliche, haha). So I might have fun going on dates, but I also know that this person emotionally balances me too.

You value your time together more. Do you still get butterflies seeing your significant other, after a year or more of being together? I do. (If Phil's reading this right now, he's rolling his eyes, haha). Thing is, when you don't get to see someone every day, the time you do have is 537292x more special, and you look forward to it all the time. Little things are more meaningful, and you treasure even trips to the grocery store. Nothing seems boring, because you get to be with that other person. This carries on even after you've moved near/in with that person, because you remember what it was like to only see them every three months. This is just like how every time I eat a cupcake, I treasure it because I know that I went a whole year without cupcakes in Egypt, and it was torture. (I did just equate a serious relationship to eating a cupcake).

You get to know each other better/faster. When all you can do is talk, you end up getting a good grasp of what the other person is truly like, where their interests lie, and all sorts of little things you might not pick up on if you were watching a movie together or out with friends. That's not to say that you can't understand someone as well if you live near them, but you tend to understand them better, faster, when you're long distance. This is probably a result of being good communicators, as aforementioned.

Now, with all that said, being long distance isn't all bread and roses. (Is that even an idiom? did I make that up? I can't remember. I'm losing my mind. haha). It's really hard, and some days it really sucks. After doing it for a year though, I've figured out some ways to make it better.


SECOND DOWN: Ways to Make Long Distance Fun and Successful
Do these things in a regular or long distance relationship, and I guarantee it'll flourish.

Don't limit what you do because your partner isn't around.  This one can be hard to do. For me, the season of 'couple-y things' is fall/winter. Everyone is out walking around in the snow or the leaves, looking at holiday decorations, cooking and baking together, coming home to cuddle up next to a fire. Yeah, rough if you're not with your significant other. However, you know what will make you feel like a giant mouldering pumpkin? Not doing things you love just because your significant other isn't around to experience them with you. You'll never be happy if you rely on your partner for doing fun, exciting things. The solution? Do them by yourself (without moping) or plan get-together's with friends. Plan lots of day-trips and outings that you can enjoy on your own, without constantly reminding yourself of how alone you are. Look at your trips as mini-vacations, not as sad events lacking a certain someone.

Don't rely on your partner to be happy. This branches off the aforementioned tip. What happens if you can only be happy when your significant other is around? You're gonna be depressed a lot of time, because chances are you'll only see your partner every few months. So here it is: the most obvious, yet the hardest to achieve, tip: be happy, by yourself, even when you're lonely. Spend time every day doing something you enjoy independently. Whether it be reading, painting, running, riding horses, or archery, just make sure it's something you can enjoy doing by yourself. Also, don't get held up on the fact that your partner isn't around. A healthy relationship will always have a bit of isolation, you just get a bigger dose (does that make you healthier? haha, possibly faulty logic).

Don't ruminate on your loneliness. You're miserable and alone. You want your partner. Trust me, I understand. I've been there [a lot]. Again, playing off the previous tip, thinking about how sad and lonely you feel all the time, definitely isn't going to make you feel happier. It's only going to make you feel worse, and get you nowhere. Plus, your partner won't feel any happier when they ask how you're doing, and your response always is "I'm sad and I miss you". Be proactive, and stop thinking about how lonely you are. By simply turning off that thought, you should notice a dramatic increase in your mood. Every time you feel loneliness coming to swallow you up, go do something you love (see above tip).

Send each other meaningful gifts. Have you ever taken the Love Language test? Basically, there are 5 possible love languages that every person can have, and we each tend to be dominant in one or two of them. My love language - for both giving and receiving - is gifts. A good gift is special to me, because it means the person was truly thinking of me and went out of their way to show it. Now, don't get me confused: good gifts do not need to be expensive, and they don't need to be useful, they just need to be thoughtful. When I was visiting Phil a few months back, I forgot a pair of jeans in my rush to pack and get to the airport. He mailed them back to me (because I own like...2 pairs of jeans. And I hate laundry. haha), and inside the package, he lined the box with notes listing the reasons he loves me (don't kill me for making this public, Phil). This was one of my favorite gifts I got from him, but it wasn't a box of chocolates or a bouquet of roses. Do things like this for your significant other; send gifts regularly that are meaningful and personalized.

Plan exciting events together. Maybe I just love to daydream, but Phil and I have spent a good portion of time planning real and hypothetical trips and adventures together. If you can't be with that person right now, the next best step is to plan what you'll do when you do get to be together. Then again, we may just be crazy people who get on a high by frequenting SkyScanner and TripAdvisor. But still - it's fun and entertaining to dream and plan about trips you can take when you finally are reunited. We are currently planning a 2-week backpacking trip through Eastern Europe for this upcoming Christmas. The act of planning brings us closer, and is a fun way to spend out time apart even when we can't chat about it.

Compliment often. You know what's the best (regardless of where your partner is)? Waking up to a lovely message full of compliments, or getting off work to find a hand-written note full of praise of your love sitting on your doorstep. Perfection. Swoon-worthy. While I think that compliments should be shared between couples in any relationship frequently, I think it is especially important in long-distance relationships. Why? Because you can't tell by the way they look at you, or the way they graze the back of your hand, or the million other cheesy (but adorable) ways your partner can show that they find you beautiful and talented in real life, over the phone or Skype. You have to show your love and affection and admiration for that person by telling them. So, do it! Tell your significant other as often as you can how you feel about them, and what makes them special.


What are your tips for a successful long distance relationship?
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8 comments:

  1. These are great tips. You really summed up all the points :)

    STYLE VANITY

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    1. Thank you! I appreciate the feedback :)

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  2. Thank you, Taylor! This really helps. I'm in Lebanon in a LDR to Argentina (!) and every bit of good advice helps (as long as I can heed it). I'd add maybe one small but very important tip: don't neglect your spiritual life, I.E. your relationship with God. If you're well with Him, you can be well in any situation. Even being away from your loved one. I have experienced both (being close and far from God) and I can tell you there's a huge difference.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that! It truly makes my day :) I'm impressed by your determination - go you! Lebanon to Argentina is a long ways to go. And I wholeheartedly agree; Phil and I have made an effort to work on our relationship with God as much as we work on our relationship with each other. Putting Him first is what makes us succeed :) Thanks for the great advice.

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  3. Super tips, some I already live by. I'm in a LDR as well. Not as far though "just" an hour plane ride away (or five hours by train). From Denmark to Sweden. We've been together for nearly two years and I can totally relate to above written :)

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    1. That's still far enough! I'm always impressed by people who can make it such long periods of time in LDRs - you're awesome! It's a lot of hard work that most people don't realize.

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