Long distance relationships are hard, painful, and certainly trying on any couple – this is hardly big news and seems almost too clichéd to write. Oftentimes couples cannot handle the difficulties such a situation presents. Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, periods of long distance have been the best thing to happen to my relationship. Any two people willing to place their faith and trust in both their relationship and each other can also reap the benefits of hearts made fonder by distance.
I have been with my girlfriend for just under three years. Out of these three years, we have spent about one collective year apart. We have both spent time abroad while the other remained at home, either because of school, work, or some other obligation. During this time spent apart, our relationship strengthened exponentially more than it ever could have had we been physically together.
I fell in love with my girlfriend very quickly. She is easy to love – she is a free and adventurous spirit with a wonderful ability to love more broadly than any small suburban town could ever allow. I knew all of this when I met her. I knew all of this when I told her “I love you” for the first time. I know all of this now and it would be a sin more unforgiveable than despair to try and cage that beautiful openness that defines her. I fell in love with a curious explorer, not a homebody. By some miracle, this free and borderless bird found the wide and gracious space in her heart to love me back with equal force.
Right now, she is volunteering in Sri Lanka. There, she is restoring murals in Buddhist temples and volunteering in a disabled orphanage. If I may digress somewhat, she is quite the rock star. It takes a great deal of courage to do what she is doing so far from the comforts of home. We talk as often as possible and I miss her a great deal. It is in our periods of absence, though, that we truly realize just how strong our union is.
I have learned that to love is to support. This is not always an easy realization. It seems almost counter intuitive that the best thing for a relationship is sometimes letting the other person go free. It is hard to harbor resentment against someone when you are constantly wishing you were together. It is especially hard to resent someone who truly supports you and your endeavors. Though we both would rather the other stay with us instead of leave, we always say “have a great trip, see you when you get home” as they go, never forgetting to repeat again, “I love you” for the millionth time.
A common insecurity that is sure to scare most couples is loyalty. “Will my partner cheat on me while away? If so, I would never know.” These anxieties are understandable. We are all human and certainly find other people attractive. This can be threatening to our fragile human egos. Despite all the romantic idealisms that I am the most handsome man she’s ever met, I know that my girlfriend sees other good looking guys and recognizes them as such. However, I have always trusted my girlfriend or myself while we have been apart. Distance allows you to discover true loyalty while forgoing the convenience of close proximity. If you spend months away from someone and are willing to endure that yearning for the reward of coming home to your significant other, then you have found the one and those anxieties are unwarranted.
Of course, this would be an incomplete discussion without talking about sex. Sex is obviously one of the most important parts of a relationship and is absolutely the most powerful way to express physically your love for your partner. Yes, being apart means no physical display of intimacy. However, this self-denial has brought out an even healthier and exciting sex life than my girlfriend and I would have ever dreamed of in close proximity. The constant desire spawns fantastic and unique sexual fantasies, which are shared in equally fantastic and unique ways. Of course, if your faith in your partner is strong enough to let them travel the world alone, it is also going to be strong enough to trust your weird kinks with the other.
Long distance relationships are imperfect, as is any relationship, and are not always ideal. If you are lucky enough to find someone you are willing to spend your life with then you must share your lives with each other. That means remaining true to yourself and to the other. Never compromise your dreams for anyone who does not back them and never hold someone you love back from their dreams either. The rich rewards are worth the wait. People often travel to “find themselves” but rarely are relationships put under the same duress. If you are of the disposition to travel but fear the strain it may put on you and your partner, I urge you to take the risk. It may be the best thing you ever do.