Sometime ago (it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when), I fell in love with a boy. But calling him a boy doesn’t do him enough justice. He’s not like the boys of the past who were selfish and broke my heart. He’s a man who is passionate, mature, and dedicated and makes me laugh on my worst days.
Brandon also lives a cool, casual 5000 km away from me. I am in Alberta, and he is in Nova Scotia. We met while he lived in my city, and it was about ten days before he moved back to his home province that I first said the words: there’s something here. It took awhile before we started dating, but for a long time, he was my long distance best friend. We Skyped every so often and talked on the phone at least once a week. Each of our conversations lasted multiple hours. We texted all day every day, everything from random parts of our day to serious discussions about religion and politics.
We went through a lot to get to where we are, but we’ve been doing this long distance thing for awhile now, and we show no signs of stopping.
Anyway, the reason I write all this is because I’ve had a few people ask me about long distance relationships. Now I am by no means an expert nor have I been doing this for an exceptionally long time like some people, but I think we do fairly well so I’d like to share my thoughts. I’m not someone who thinks that long distance relationships are somehow automatically “stronger” or “better” than close distance relationships, but they do have their unique challenges (and in some ways, their benefits!) I hope the following points are helpful to someone who is currently in a long distance relationship or may be considering one.
- If you’re going to be long distance, you have to be committed. Whereas now modern dating can often be summed up with the word “casual,” there is no casual in long distance dating. Or at least there shouldn’t be. If you are not 100% committed, don’t bother. It’s HARD. The thing that gets me through is that dating long distance is infinitely better than not being with him at all. I also know that 5000 km away, there is a man who is working equally as hard to make this relationship work and who dreams about our future as much as I do. It makes all the difference knowing your partner is equally committed as you. I can’t imagine doing this with someone I was unsure about.
- Communication will make or break you. Communication is important in any relationship, but even more so in a long distance relationship. You don’t get the comfort of seeing your partner face to face. This also means you don’t get to be passive aggressive to get your point across (which used to be my method of communication). Brandon and I are lucky that we had a very open, communication-friendly friendship before we started dating, so we find it pretty easy to talk about things that come up. But sometimes communication failures arise. You can’t exactly kiss and make up, so you have to communicate about how the communication failed, all through some sort of technology. Brandon doesn’t really make me angry (because he’s honestly so great), but the one time I’ve really, truly been mad at him, I said “I don’t want to talk to you right now,” but the thought of hanging up on him and trying to sleep was just too much, so we had to talk about it right then. NEVER. HANG. UP. ON. YOUR. PARTNER. Just don’t. Trust each other to talk through the issues and soon. Letting things fester and boil when you’re in any kind of a relationship is never a good tactic. When communication is all you’ve got and you’re missing all physical contact, you have to bring up issues as they come up, instead of a month down the line. I’m glad that Brandon and I are able to say “This is how I’m feeling” and deal with it immediately rather than trying to guess why the communication is faltering or what someone is thinking.
- Trust really goes hand-in-hand with being committed. If you cannot trust someone, it’s going to be exponentially more difficult. You cannot do this without trust. Plain and simple. This was something I thought about a lot before I ever told Brandon about my feelings. I’ve struggled to trust people before. I’ve struggled to trust people who I saw multiple times a week. When I say struggle to trust, I mean near panic attacks every time they went out and did anything. Looking back, I think this was more about the kind of person I was trying to trust because I have had very few issues with trust in our relationship. There are still those thoughts sometimes, but they are never as anxiety-producing because I remember who I’m with and how much he cares about me. Trust is essential. People ask me sometimes if I worry about Brandon being out with friends and hanging out with girls, and I always say my biggest fear is that he’ll trip and fall into a bonfire or something. Not that he’s overwhelmingly clumsy, but the fears about him meeting someone else or doing something sketchy are so far down the list. Part of this comes from our strong communication (see previous point). I have told him before when certain people or situations make me uncomfortable, and he’s done all he can to make that better, even if that means not seeing that person anymore (which, in some cases, is absolutely necessary). The reverse is true as well: He tells me when some things make him uncomfortable, and we work together to find ways to alleviate that. Talking about situations that make you uncomfortable does not show a lack of trust; rather, it shows that you trust your partner enough with those issues and trust them to work with you to find a solution.
- Priorities change. They have to. On average, a flight to Nova Scotia is going to cost me at least $600. At peak times (summer and holidays), that could sky rocket to well over $1000. This means that at all times, I am putting aside what money I can for whatever trip I’m taking next. So my financial priorities have changed. I’ve had to start saying no to things because if I spend $40 going out with friends, that’s $40 I could have put toward a ticket. Now I don’t sacrifice ALL my social life, but I am more intentional. I also sacrifice time with my friends in order to have a Skype call or a phone call. Being in a long distance relationship affords a lot of independence, but there are still going to be days when my friends want to do something on a day I’ve planned a “date” with Brandon. I treat those dates as dates, and I don’t like to break those dates. So sometimes people don’t understand why I’m missing out on things to talk on the phone or sit on Skype, but it’s important that Brandon and I get our time as well.
- One of the silver linings of a long distance relationship is independence. We’ve all had it happen where someone gets in a relationship and immediately become a “we.” They do everything together, go everywhere together, and talk in “we”s. Now, that’s fine, and I’m not passing judgment, but I used to be that kind of person. I’ve learned about independence while in a relationship by dating someone who’s across the country. I have lots of time to see friends or dedicate to my hobbies and to my career. Brandon also gets the same independence. It’s not that we don’t want to see each other or spend time together, but we’re growing our relationship while also doing things independently. There will come a day a few years down the line where Brandon and I have plenty of time to be that “we” unit and do everything together, so we appreciate the independence. Now, the flip side of that is that there isn’t the same support, or at least not in the same way. If I have a bad day, I can’t go to Brandon for a hug. He’s so supportive, but it’s hard for both of us when he can’t be there for me in that way. Or when he’s stressed and I can’t show up on his doorstep with snacks. It goes both ways: we hurt because we can’t be supported and we hurt because we can’t do the supporting.
- You’re going to have really hard, crappy days. It’s just going to happen. Brandon and I joke that probably 9 times out of 10, I end up crying on Skype. The first time we Skyped as a couple, I cried for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours, straight. Sometimes I just miss him so much and am so desperate to see him that it’s like a punch in the gut. It can be hard dealing with that kind of emotion. Some mornings I wake up and I just think, “I cannot be apart from him one more day.” But then I make it one more day and then one more after that, and then some day down the line I get to see him again. We’re really open about the days that are hard. Sometimes, just out of the blue, he’ll tell me “I really miss you today” and that’s how we know it’s a tough day. It’s not really worth it to pretend it’s easier than it is. We just acknowledge it, talk about it, and then daydream together about when we’ll see each other next.
- Have fun! You can’t pick up your partner and go to a movie or to a cool new restaurant if they are far away, so find fun things you CAN do. Brandon and I do movie nights (there are browser extensions you can download that synchronizes your Netflix so you’re actually watching the movie at the same time). We even do cooking nights where we cook the same meal over Skype and then eat it together. We also love finding get to know you questions and just talking about silly and serious things. We tag each other in funny things on Instagram. We have so many inside jokes that make no sense to anyone but make us laugh. I once made him a certificate for rarely making me angry and posted it on his Facebook wall. Sometimes I wonder what people think about the things I post on his wall, but if it makes him laugh, then I’m happy. It can be really easy to get loaded down by how hard a long distance relationship can be or missing your partner, so it’s important to find fun things to do together as well. We also spend a lot of time making plans for when we are together and seeing as much of the other person’s life as we can in a short span of time.
- Realistically, you won’t get to be together for every single special occasion, whether it’s Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, or weddings. These are all events where you might look around and really wish your partner was with you. It’s okay to take a moment and be a little sad they’re not with you, but it’s also important not to mope and to enjoy these moments! I couldn’t be with Brandon on his birthday, and I also couldn’t afford to ship his present. But I made sure to send him a card to arrive on his birthday so that he had something from me on the day. We also Skyped that day (obviously). It’s about being a little flexible with our expectations. He’ll get his present 2 months late, but I’ll take him for dinner. Realistically, we will probably never be together on our anniversary, just because of our schedules and where it falls. So we have to be willing to wait a few months for birthday presents or celebrate things early when we can. A note about holidays: this can be hard for families especially. Understand that your parents may not be happy about you spending a holiday across the country with your partner. Appreciate their feelings, but also be willing to stand your ground. Hopefully they will be supportive and understand that this is important to you.
I wanted to end on a nice even ten, but Brandon says not using a round number is more natural (Man, he’s so smart). These are a few thoughts I had as I’ve read other people’s journeys and worked through this with Brandon. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. We talk a lot about how our relationship is stronger and has progressed differently than if we were still living in the same city. All relationships, especially long distance, are going to be different and have their own factors, but man, they can also be a lot of fun.