I think I have a problem. In fact, I think we all have a problem. It’s a feeling that despite being ever more connected through the many forms of technology we have at our fingertips, we are more alone than ever. Never is this more apparent than when trying to conduct a long distance relationship – for any of you idiots that are brave enough to have attempted one, or are currently in one, I take my metaphorical hat off to you. It is a particular kind of self inflicted agony, kind of like repeatedly banging your head against a brick wall and then wondering why you always have a headache. I’m in one right now, and my head hurts.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my partner more than I thought it was possible to love anyone. He’s a magnificent person, and the only reason I’m putting myself through this ridiculous torture is because I truly believe that being with him at the other end will be worth it. But for now, he’s busy being him in the land of maple leafs and hockey (Canada) and I’m busy trying to get a visa from Australia. All up, we’ve been through over a year of long distance so far (with one break up in the middle) and finally, the end is officially in sight. Somehow, through trial and error, agonizing heartache and dizzying joy and only 2 weeks together in over a year, we managed to make it out the other end more in love than ever. And I think I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.
Make rules and stick to them.
The first time around, my partner and I thought that we would kind of just wing it. We promised that we would try and talk as much as we could, that we would say I love you every day, that we would be thinking of each other every second and that we would never forget what it felt like to be in each other’s arms. Yeah right. Turns out that ‘trying to talk as much as you can’ isn’t something that works in the long run. Inevitably, one or both of you get busy, things come up, Skype dates get missed and resentment builds. It happens slowly, but it’s what will corrode your relationship if you’re not careful about it. So the second time around, we made rules. We sat down and stipulated clear, measurable and attainable goals that we would adhere to. Not as romantic, but far more practical. Agree on a time every week that you will both hold sacred to talk, put it in the calendar, and stick to it. It will take the enormous pressure off when/if you will be able to talk every day, and anything in between will become a bonus. Whatever your rules may be – make them clear, make them specific, and then see it through.
Have an end point.
There are all sorts of things that destroy long distance relationships – having been through one and having actually made it out the other end together; I still don’t believe they work. Or to be more specific, I don’t believe they work for very long. They are awful, soul crushing experiences that have very few redeeming features except that they end. And if you don’t have a specific end point in sight, I’d say you’ve got a better chance of winning the lottery than making it work. Sorry. An end point is what keeps you going when you’re staring at your stubbornly silent phone at 2am in the morning and wishing that you had something, anything, that could let you know what your loved one is doing or thinking or feeling in that moment. Just so you could feel like they still exist, in the real world and not just on a computer screen that freezes every time you start talking about something important (fuck you, Skype).
Speaking of Skype, I think we should all take a moment to quietly admit that as great as it is in theory, trying to keep a physical relationship alive via Skype sucks. There are definitely those of you out there who get off on it (again, metaphorical hats off), but personally I find the whole thing an awkward attempt to replicate something that’s just never going to be as good as real life. Add to that the fact that your moans of ecstasy are likely to be cut off without warning by a crappy connection, or frozen on video at extremely unflattering angles (Nobody’s orgasm face is sexy on Skype. Nobody.) and you’ve got yourself a recipe for an utterly unsatisfying tryst. So I say if it doesn’t work for you, don’t push it. By all means, send sexy pictures, illicit texts or naughty little reminders of how great things are when you two are together, but accept that it’s not going to be the same. You’re going to feel like just friends sometimes, and that’s ok. Have faith that when you do finally get to see each other, it will all be worth it.
There is nothing, nothing, worse than sitting alone at home with nothing to do but ruminate on how awful you feel and how shitty long distance relationships are. Trust me. That’s when you start going over every little doubt or grievance or argument in your head and believe me, that road leads nowhere good. I don’t care if you have to take up pole dancing, spend money you don’t have on clothes you don’t need, or become the world’s worst amateur painter, just keep yourself busy. For those of you who tend to overthink things, like I do, even just getting out of the house and going for a walk or a drive can be enough to stop you from spiraling into an abyss of your own neuroses. The busier you are, the less likely you are to dwell on the past or worry about the future, and that’s always a good thing.
Take the pressure off.
Once you’ve accepted that your relationship is going to be really hard for a little while, then my best advice to you is just to sit back, relax and take a deep breath. Forget about what the texts (or lack thereof) today or yesterday or tomorrow might mean (Read: ‘I’m swamped at work today’ might actually mean ‘I’m swamped at work today’ and not ‘You’re not important enough to warrant my attention right now and therefore I probably don’t love you’). Accept that it’s going to suck, and that it’s going to hurt sometimes, and that when you hear your partners voice over the other end of the line you will feel like your heart is going to explode from wanting to be there with them so badly. Cry, get drunk, call your best friend – do whatever you have to do to feel better. Don’t pick fights, nag, whine or otherwise act like a crazy person towards your partner. This will achieve nothing. Remind yourself why you love them, why it will be worth it, and remember what it will feel like when you can feel them next to you and you know that nothing in the world will ever be as wonderful, and keep going. One day at a time.