Surviving a Long Distance Relationship
So, you're in a long distance relationship, but it doesn't have to feel like a life sentence. As someone who has survived it, I feel it's about time that I give some of my own advice to anyone who may be experiencing the struggles of long distance life, or who may be entering it soon.
Firstly, a quick summary of my own experience long distance. I met Nick in the summer of 2015 while studying abroad in Dublin. We had our first date three weeks before I was due to go back to America. We remained 'friends' during that September and October. He visited me in October and we've been together ever since. This meant that the first year of our relationship was a long distance one. Trust me, I know it sounds crazy that we took the risk and dealt with the long distance, but it was worth it.
There were quite a few things that helped us get through, and some things that didn't.
Things that HELPED:
1. I wrote him letters....Having a routine of writing letters helped in a lot of ways. Not only did taking the time to sit down and write one feel like I was putting effort into something, it was also much needed time to myself to relax and not worry about other stressors were going on. I was in my last year of my undergrad, working two jobs on top of being a student. For me, I noticed that the stress resulting from those types of stressors can easily make it harder to put the effort into the relationship. Taking the time to write a letter was a physical way of me putting in effort and granted me some time to just be calm and connect. It also was my way of showing that I cared.
On Nick's end of things, he was always excited to the get the letters. If he'd had a long day, having a surprise letter waiting for him at home was nice to come home to and made things easier for him too.
2. We set boundaries and rules. For example, I explained to Nick that I didn't need to talk/text to him all day, but it was important to me that we always at least texted each other good night.
For some, that might mean clarifying your relationship status and what you both agree is okay to do and not okay to do. In a long distance relationship it is vital that you both understand and establish expectations of each other prior to it becoming a long distance relationship. It may seem cringey or clingy at the time, but it's important because it allows you to foster trust for each other and explain what the other person can do to help you get through it.
3. Football There were times when Nick and I would both watch the same American Football game and also talk on the phone, or text about the game. That way we were still doing something together, even though we were technically apart. Find something you and your partner can do together while apart and do that activity often. It doesn't have to be football, but it has to be something.
4. VISIT each other If you have the means to visit each other, absolutely do so. It's so important to be able to connect in person every once in while. We were fortunate enough that I already knew what Dublin and Irish life was like, so at least we could relate about things we had in common there. It might be so challenging be in a long distance relationship with someone who lives in a place that you have no relationship with or understanding of. For people from different countries, I imagine it would be very important for each person so see the life of the other in their own culture.
When Nick visited New Hampshire for the first time, that was a huge step in our relationship, whether we realised at the time or not. When you see each other in person, and have all the feels, it completely validates what you're going through.
Also, just a hug goes a long way for making you forget how annoying the long distance is. We are all only human after all, we need that human contact with the person we love.
5. Don't put all of your eggs in one basket... I mean this in two different ways. Firstly, don't put all of your energy into your relationship and leave behind other important things such as your friends and family. It may feel like you have to spend more time on Skype and say no to going out or skipping family events, but actually you should do just the opposite. This is because long distance relationships are usually hard and you should nurture the other support systems in your life so that you can lean on them when things get tough. Don't leave the friends and family behind with your efforts, because who will you vent to? Who will hug you tight when you need a good cry? Sometimes that distance is TOO hard and your relationship doesn't work out. If that happens, you're going to want your friends and family to still be there if it does.
Secondly, if you have an end goal of eventually closing the distance, then don't put all your stock into one way of doing that unless it's a guaranteed thing. For example, we knew that we would be closing the distance when I moved back to Ireland the following year for school. However, that was not a guarantee. There was always the chance that I wouldn't get into a programme, or that I wouldn't be able to get enough scholarships etc. etc. so we always discussed back up plans. I looked at working holiday visas, and Nick was always thinking about his options for coming to America. We always talked about these back up plans in case my Masters degree didn't work out.
6. Have an end goal This is probably said all over the internet about long distance relationships, but it's because it's so true. You have to have an end game. It gives you something to look forward to, something you can actively work toward and something your support system can encourage you about. An end goal is what helped us stay resilient through the tough times. Knowing that it wasn't forever kept you moving forward rather than feeling like it was all pointless. Think of it as getting your positive ending when the movie is over. It's an optimistic ending, and later on you'll look back happily at how that ending came to be.
Things that did NOT help:
1. Caring too much about what other people think I'm notoriously bad for this and it sure didn't make our long distance relationship any easier. I remember some people who were very skeptical of why or how ridiculous a long distance relationship is. I cared way too much in the beginning about what those people thought of my own decisions, and it often made me wonder why I was doing the long distance thing. It would always mess with my head. That's why it is so important to always be able to talk to your partner frequently enough and having open communication lines. Whenever I would be feeling down about the distance, it wouldn't take very long for a Skype session with Nick to make me feel better again. I eventually learned to not care about what other people thought or wondered and just focused on the positives.
2. Shitty internet!!
It's so random, but so true!! If your internet is crappy before you start the whole long distance thing, get that squared away ASAP. When you don't get to see your partner in person, and then your Skype sessions get interrupted by frozen screens and dodgy audio, it can feel like you will lose your brain in the moment of it. Naturally you would get frustrated when your only means of communication fails on you in an already challenging situation.
3. Not Communicating Enough When Things Get Hard
Regardless of whether you are in an LDR or a regular relationship, you're going to argue and have disagreements every once in a while. When this happens, it is so important to communicate about what's going on as soon as you can! Your relationship is already being tested by the distance. Don't make it any harder for yourselves by giving your partner the silent treatment or avoiding a Skype session because you're mad about something.
So, that ends my note on surviving a long distance relationship. If I can do it, so can you! It can be the hardest thing in your world at the time, but once you survive, you'll look back and realise how much the experience may have strengthened your relationship, made you better communicators and gave you a greater appreciation for your partner.
If anyone has any more questions about the LDR life, feel free to contact me via the 'contact mckenzie' tab.