As of this month, I have officially been in a long-distance relationship for 2 years. I have spent, over the past 2 years, the past 730 days, about 1/8th of this time with my boyfriend. The other 7/8ths of the time I’ve fought loneliness, I’ve woken up in other men’s beds, I’ve discovered yoga and other new interests, I’ve pursued personal goals, I’ve made new friendships while reinforcing old ones, and I’ve learned to live an entire life outside of him, parallel to him, with him.
I can’t claim to have mastered the secret to living in a long-distance relationship, because there is no secret. It’s just work. As a student you study to learn, as an employee you train to advance, and as a significant other in a long-distance relationship you communicate, you focus, you persevere to stay in love. Hint: it’s easier when you’re already in love.
For those in or considering getting into a long-distance relationship, some advice:
A common fear when it comes to long-distance relationships is the fear of growing apart – of acquiring a whole new set of life experiences that exclude your significant other. This fear is real. People adapt. They move on. The passing of time ensures this inevitability. The trick is to communicate as much as possible, whether for seconds or hours at a time – via text, via IM, via phone calls, via Skype, via any of the numerous communication mediums that exist today – and to talk about everything, from events as significant as a promotion or raise at work, to the mundane, like deciding between apple varieties at the grocery store or seeing a new hairdresser.
Distance inherently excludes you from each other’s lives. Communication bridges the gap.
You deserve a life. Your significant other does too. You both deserve friends and work happy hours and raucous nights out and spontaneous daytime excursions and fun and laughter and more. People tend to do funny things when they’re lonely – they get jealous of experiences that don’t involve them, and resentful of memories that don’t include them. Don’t be that person. Go out and make your own memories. They’ll become great conversation fodder when you’re digging for new things to talk about.
On that note, sometimes, when you’re in a long-distance relationship, you’re lonely and you probably haven’t had sex in a while and a cute stranger will brush past and make eye contact with you at a bar and you’ll interpret that as an invitation to make out and, basically, sometimes shit happens. Not for everyone, but consider a safety clause (and communicate the conditions of which VERY explicitly). Sometimes, and no couple is exempt from this, long-distance or not, you’re attracted to other people. It happens. There are millions of beautiful, interesting people in the world, and sometimes, by chance, one of these people will be in a room with you while your significant other is not.
Being attracted to another person doesn’t make you a bad person.
However, acting on this attraction, without the express, explicit approval of your significant other, can make you an asshole. If you think you can handle it, talk about this type of situation in advance and lay out specific ground rules. For example, third-party guests must be objectively uglier. Or they must be a visiting student from a foreign country with a Visa that’s about to expire. Or they must have a uncommon physical quirk, like a lisp or a missing hand.
Finally, be honest, be in love.
Being in love makes being in a long-distance relationship easy. If your love is effortless, if it branches and grows like ivy across a brownstone, reaching and settling into every nook and crevice, being in a long-distance relationship will be a breeze.
So be honest with yourself and your significant other. Be in love. And if you’re not in love, then end it. This is how you survive a long-distance relationship.