Albert left for London on Friday night, and arrived there early Sunday morning (for him) and late Saturday night (for me). The sheer distance and time it takes to get there surprises a lot of people. It involves at least two flights, one that’s usually eleven hours long, and another that’s at least six (depending on the direction you’re traveling in, and layovers, etc.).
What surprises people even more is that we are even in a relationship in the first place. The comment I get the most is, “That’s a very long distance relationship!! How do you guys do it?!”
The simplest answer is this: I want him. When you find someone worth waiting seven months for to be able to spend two weeks with, then you willingly sludge your way through the endless days. I know it’s not ideal. And saying goodbye and knowing you have yet another long stretch ahead before you can spend two more precious weeks together — it never, ever gets easier, no matter how many times you have to do it.
Albert and I have been dating for about two and a half years now, and the time we’ve spent together COMBINED is about 4 months. It’s never been longer than three weeks consecutively.
So, how do we do it?
All relationships require effort and nurturing. When that relationship becomes (or in our case, always has been) long distance, it’s the little things that start to matter the most. Here are six things that Albert and I do to make it work.
1. Trust each other.
This one goes without saying. If we didn’t trust each other, there would be absolutely no point in sustaining this relationship. I can’t imagine how exhausting it would be if I constantly doubted him or his intentions. When he says he won’t be available to chat because he’s going out with his friends to a birthday party or whatever, I know that’s exactly what he’ll be doing, and the thought that he could be lying to me never crosses my mind.
2. Make time for each other.
We are all busy with our lives. School, work, hobbies, friends, family. More often than not, something will fall by the wayside. For me, it’s general cleanliness (I know, it’s gross, but I don’t always find the time nor the energy to shower daily, and sometimes I will go days on end without washing my hair and it gets really gnarly and I feel like shit about myself).
However, I never put my relationship with Albert on the back burner. We try to have a quick FaceTime chat every weeknight if I’m home (week morning for him, while he’s eating breakfast and getting ready for work), and we send each other text messages via WhatsApp every day. This is the biggest and most important way that we sustain our relationship. Just a few minutes out of our day to chat means so much to me. We take pictures of funny or weird things that we see in our daily lives so we can share it with each other and have a laugh. It helps me feel closer to him when I see a picture of something completely mundane, like a nice yogurt he’s picked up from the supermarket or how crowded the Underground station is during rush hour.
3. Keep busy.
This might seem to counteract my previous point, but the key here is balance. I love Albert to bits, but my life doesn’t revolve around him. I go out with my friends and pursue hobbies that don’t involve him, and he does the same. It gives us something to talk about, and keeps us from constantly moping around because we’re not together. We can’t (and really shouldn’t) share every single moment of our lives, so we should fill it with other things that we enjoy.
4. Schedule dates.
It gets much easier to deal with the distance when I know when I’m going to see him next, especially if we’ve booked the tickets. It gives us something to look forward to, and we can start counting down the days. In the interim, whenever I have a day off, we schedule Skype dates so we can hang out for a few hours.
5. Never walk away angry.
I’ll admit, I’m not the best at this one. Occasionally we have little scuffles, and there have been times where we’ve said good night and things were not quite right between us. I have to remind myself that Albert is not a mind reader, and if something is upsetting me, I need to come out and say it. Sometimes, it’s simply a misunderstanding. It’s hard to know why someone is upset even if you are right there; it’s nearly impossible when that person is thousands of miles away. Effective communication is everything.
6. Show your love.
This is another thing that people take for granted sometimes. I know he loves me, and he knows I love him. We don’t need to tell each other constantly. However, that old adage, that action speaks louder than words? It’s true. Show, don’t just tell.
I listen when he talks about his day. I remember little details about his life and habits simply because the minutiae is precisely what I can’t always experience. I show a genuine interest in his hobbies and learn why he likes them, not because I’m interested in it for myself, but because it’s what makes him uniquely him. These are the things that take the place of a soft touch or a quick kiss when we’re not together.
None of these things I’ve mentioned are exclusive to long distance relationships. In fact, I believe that these are important components of any healthy relationship. All relationships take work, and when your partner is physically absent, you have to work a little harder to maintain it.
Nothing about a long distance relationship is easy. Sometimes I feel like all that’s keeping me going is sheer force of will and determination. But I also know that I’m really lucky: I’ve found someone who I’m willing to wait for, and who’s willing to wait for me, because there is no one else I’d rather be with. He’s the love of my life, and although we have to put up with being halfway around the world from each other for now, I know that it will be completely worth it in the end.
And when we’re finally together, we become those shiny happy people that you see in the stock photography for the picture frames they sell at Walmart:
This is life at the top of the world!
Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What did you do to make it work?