No one wants to be in a long-distance relationship. It’s a challenge many would much rather end a relationship over rather than choose to take on. And while the most solid relationships can fall victim to the woes of distance, that doesn’t mean long-distance relationships can’t be happy, healthy and fruitful.
I reached out to several people who are in or have been in long-distance relationships. Some decided to marry, others didn’t make it at all, and some are still with their partners. In asking each person to discuss how being apart from their significant other affected their relationship, I realized this topic was not something that people were easily willing or able to talk about. Whether dirty or not, some would rather not air their laundry. But from those who did share, they offered insight into how they chose to navigate what can be a tremendously difficult situation.
Marcedes and her ex-boyfriend were together for seven years. They met their first year of college and took on the long-distance challenge a few times. The couple would sometimes go up to eight months without seeing each other. Marcedes considered their biggest obstacle to be the one most would assume, saying it was hard “not having the daily companionship or ability to easily see one another.” She noted another struggle for the couple was maintaining trust while far apart.
“We were so used to being with one another constantly that when we weren’t, we would want to know what the other person was doing at all times,” she said.
The distance, in some cases, can amplify insecurities, especially if infidelity has taken place. Insecurity coupled with a lack of trust can cause issues within any relationship, but in a long-distance relationship, it can be devastating.
The best way to deal with that is to keep communication going. Successful communication could look like a non-stop text thread. It could be utilizing apps like Snapchat to send videos and pictures to keep things fun, flirty, and intimate. It could even be having Netflix and Chill dates via Skype. And though we scoff at the old-school practice of writing letters, there’s something raw about words written on paper.
We’re no longer limited to just phone calls. Some argue this makes people lazy, but in a long-distance relationship, technology really is a tool. No, FaceTime isn’t face to face and Google Duo can’t replace a cuddle, but those resources can help ease the pain of being far apart. There’s nothing like laying eyes on the person you love and seeing them in real time. There are also gadgets like the Bond Touch, a set of bracelets that allow you to feel when your partner is thinking about you with the tap of a finger. The simplest things can make a difference.
Kellen and Andrea endured the distance and the test of time without such gadgets. They met in high school back in 2009 and started dating shortly after. The two then went on to separate by going to universities in different states, but they remained together in a long-distance relationship for a little more than five years.
They are now both living in Dallas and have been together for a total of nearly 10 years. None of it was easy.
“We were young,” Andrea said. “It’s very difficult to be your best self in a relationship when you barely know yourself.”
Both Kellen and Andrea stressed the importance of cultivating and maintaining a solid friendship with your partner in a relationship separated by distance, and making them a part of your everyday life in some way. While good communication is a must, vulnerability is also required. There’s also a certain level of honesty that must be shared: honesty with yourself and your partner.
Although many would consider their relationship a success, Kellen and Andrea wouldn’t recommend taking the long-distance path to others unless completely committed to the journey. Considering a relationship a journey means understanding it involves progression. The people I spoke with emphasized the need to visit their significant other as often as possible, if not frequently, giving one another things to look forward to and a leg for the relationship to stand on.
“I made sure that going to see her in person was a top priority and necessity…not a luxury,” Kellen said. “It can’t be an indefinite long-distance relationship.”
Those trips provided hope, and being hopeful is also necessary in a long-distance relationship. Hope can seemingly fill up space when loneliness begins to echo. It can make the most damned relationship continue on, and it can also help a person stay committed and fully present when hundreds of miles away. But in the end, a long-distance relationship is not for the faint of heart, and in the end, you have to be honest with yourself about whether or not you can really do it. As Marcedes puts it, “You have to figure out what’s best for you.”
Last names were omitted by request.