I've gotten used to the surprised expression whenever I tell someone that me and my boyfriend have been together for over five years. I know that for two 22 year olds this is quite an impressive feat, especially considering that over 3 years of that relationship has been spent (mostly) apart at different universities. After the initial shock, there usually follows a chorus of questions about how we've coped with the distance, sometimes I'm told I should be young and single, and often people are impressed. This weekend Elliot returned home from his 12 week ski season, so to round off yet another stint of long distance I thought I'd share 5 things that I have discovered about how to make the most of it.
1. Always give it a go. I won't sugarcoat it, long distance is hard, and it definitely won't work for everyone. One thing I've observed through uni is that relationships in general are so different. The dynamic is just never the same for two couples, especially with long distance; some thrive off of having a weekend together every fortnight and then getting on with their own lives for two more weeks. Some end up crawling across the country every other day because they can't stand it. There's no telling until you give it a go, but I would say that it's always worth a shot! For me, I was just hoping we would get through Freshers Week let alone 3 whole years of university, but clearly it worked for us, we put a lot of effort into making it work, and it was so worth it. "Long distance" is not a death sentence!
2. Don't base your relationship on a never-ending text conversation. Messaging on Tinder might be a great way to start a relationship (I wouldn't know myself...) but texting can also be its undoing. If you're texting every morning, afternoon, evening, and night then it gets pretty old pretty quickly. You're eating leftover spag bol for tea? How interesting. When you do communicate - I say when because I am a firm believer in having some time alone so you have more to talk about later - then mix it up. Schedule a weekly FaceTime so you can see their face, write emails so that you give a comprehensive account of your day, or if you're feeling extra romantic maybe even write a letter!
3. Be positive. It's very easy to be bogged down with dates, lengths of time, and all of the negatives of long distance - 10 weeks to go, 5 weeks to go, 3 days to go and the like. You can also feel like you're being left behind if it's your boyfriend/girlfriend who is off doing the travelling. But try and be positive about what it means for you, and also what it will mean for your relationship. They don't say absence makes the heart grow fonder for no reason! I could spend days writing down every little thing that I have learnt about myself in the past five years, about my emotions, about what matters to me, about my independence. I know that Elliot and I have become much better friends, and have built a much stronger relationship because we've both learnt to see the positive side of long distance, and really we just get on with it.
4. Little things mean a lot. Does that make anyone else think of the AXA insurance adverts? ANYWAY, my point is that long distance is very much an up and down, take it a day at a time kind of scenario. Little things can make this so much easier, or so much harder. We girls are jealous beings, so don't cry when you see your boyfriend in photos with other females - they're probably very lovely people. At the same time, you boys might need to do the littlest things that perk up her day. This is unfair of me, because some boys can be very romantic - sometimes too much - but in my relationship I'm definitely the over-thinker and the person who sends a card just because it's a Tuesday... But this makes me feel good too, so send a card when he/she hands their dissertation in, send a little emergency parcel when work is too stressful, text "Have a lovely day!" in the morning. Don't sweat the little things, but also do the little things that can make a big difference!
5. Embrace your independence. Being independent and being alone are two very different things. You're not independent if you're communicating every minute of the god damned day, if you're spending your evenings crying, if you're only living for the day when the two of you are reunited. You can often feel alone when your partner is elsewhere, and the best way to cope with that is to embrace it and channel it into living your own independent life (note: independent, not single). Distract yourself with the resources that you have around you: be it friends, the gym, a blog (as I did), or any number of hobbies. I'm proud to say that Elliot and I had our own lives and our own university experiences over the past 3 years, which has undoubtedly made us more interesting as individuals - and so more interesting as a couple!
It's a big hurdle to overcome, and the closer you get to it the more daunting it looks. But I'm living, breathing proof that no only can long distance be tolerable, but it can be (somewhat) enjoyable!
Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What has helped you cope with the distance?
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