Long-distance relationships have always been looked at as an anomaly. If you’re in one, you know what I’m talking about. It’s as if you’ve just described seeing a green martian stumbling out of a flying saucer. The reaction from everyone is the same. Sheer and utter confusion.
In my personal experience, telling others that I’m in a long-distance relationship has often been met with quizzical faces and a parade of intrusive questions that you wouldn’t get if you were in a “normal” face-to-face relationship. Questions such as, “but why?!”, “Couldn’t you find someone nice here in your own town?”, “How can you love someone when you haven’t even seen them?”, “Aren’t you afraid of being cheated on?”, “Are you sure it’s not a scam?”
..And my personal favourite – “Yeah but your relationship isn’t really real then, is it?”.
Love is a crazy thing. It makes you feel crazy things. It makes you do crazy things. It is something that we all strive for, something we have all felt in varying degrees at one time or another, yet it still remains elusive. And in trying to pinpoint what the true meaning of love is, we have somehow come to the conclusion that love is something tangible, something you can see, something you can touch and parade around with, something you can monitor at all times, hump at a moments notice, and have helped pay the bills with.
LDRs are foreign. They’re based on the idea that love, true love, can be sustained miles apart. A love that is sustained by love alone. A love, that can be felt and not seen. And to many, this is as about as real as a green martian descending from its ship in the middle of suburbia.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
My long-distance relationship began in 2015. Prior to that, I had no experience in being in one. I was 24 years old. And since then, my notion of love has changed and evolved from being an amateur on the subject to someone who actually might really understand the true meaning of it.
This is not to say I’m an expert on the topic. Who is? Love comes in many forms, in many shapes, in many messy yet beautiful expressions. Love has helped to transcribe many poems and literature that lament the beauty and the pain and the struggle of its experience. Love makes the world go ‘round. Love is all around. Love is life. Love hurts. Love is a drug. Love can move mountains. To love is to suffer.
For as long as humans have inhabited the earth, love has been at the core of existence. Yet even to this day, we still have a very limited understanding of it.
My now husband was like an apparition back in those early days of dating. A sore spot in conversation because to everyone bar me – he wasn’t REAL. At the beginning of our relationship, which began through old-fashioned pen and paper (yes, none of this texting or emailing or DM’ing!) family, friends, and acquaintances were apprehensive. It’s not until you’re in one of these anomalies (LDR) that you begin to notice the varying degrees of what people perceive love as being.
In fact, it’s not until you’re in a long-distance relationship that you begin to notice how biased people can be toward the subject. Well-meaning friends will tell you it won’t work, based on their own experiences of being cheated on (even though they lived in the same house).
Strangers scanning your groceries at the supermarket will give a concerned smile when you tell them that the hot dinner date you’re preparing for will be enjoyed over facetime. Friends, who you thought had your back, will turn into enemies after they consistently try to bring your relationship and happiness down.
The stakes are high in a LDR. It’s not just you and your partner. It’s you and your partner battling sceptical, fearful, and even envious people who Just. Don’t. Get. it.
Why the hate?
People will always be cynical of what they do not know. This brings me to the topic of love. I truly believe that those who have felt – I mean really felt – the power of true love, know the authenticity of a long-distance relationship.
Being at arm’s length of someone gives us comfort. For many, love cannot be experienced to its fullest without physical touch and companionship. To some, there’s this idea that love is like a badge that is only earned when you have reached that milestone of owning a home together; complete with a white picket fence and the 2.5 children. Or reaching 10 years together without fighting. Or backpacking the world together and coming back both you and the relationship still intact.
But there’s something we forget when it comes to matters of the heart. To love is not to see, it’s not going on romantic dates and it’s not embarking on marathon romp sessions. Love expands across walls, across borders, across oceans. It is not limited to your physical here and now.
When someone you love passes over, does that love instantly diminish because that person’s physical form is no longer there?
Love is an energy, a forcefield. And as long as you keep feeding into that love and cultivating it, it will never be lost no matter how big the distance.
Making LDRs work
Covid has introduced an interesting dynamic to the modern relationship dynamic. While there are some of us who have been in long-distance relationships prior to the pandemic, there are now a growing number of couples who have been forced into them. And this, understandably, has been met with a lot of fear and apprehension.
Couples will often come to me and ask, “How do you do it? What’s the secret to making it work?”
Many times I can’t conjure up a suitable answer, but when I do it normally follows the lines of something like “you just got to have faith”. Which is then met with a reaction akin to a pin-drop. Faith? Is that all? Do I have to be religious to make love last?! No. What I mean to say is that sustaining love, whether at a distance or in proximity, requires faith in yourself, faith in your partner, and faith in your relationship.
“Love is two whole people coming together. But you’ve got to be one of them”
Inspirational speaker and author on the Law of Attraction, Esther Hicks, sums it up perfectly. In order for any relationship to work – especially long-distance relationships – you have got to be happy with where you are now. And to not choose to be unhappy (yes, I said choose because being happy or unhappy is a choice!) or to be fearful or to be envious of other couples when you can’t be with the person you want to be with right now.
Making an LDR – and any relationship – work is as much about love as it is about choosing to be happy and grateful for what you have in the here and now.
It’s easy to be so far ahead in the future that you forget about appreciating the now while in a LDR. Instead of pining for the day when you’ll finally be together or when you finally get that house or that wedding, appreciate the love you have right here and now.
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Appreciate the now for what it is, for what lessons it is bringing you, for the path that it is leading you towards. When you become happy with who you are and where you are now, the gap between where you are and where you want to be isn’t so great anymore. There is no longer space or distance between you and your partner. So stop focusing so much on where your partner isn’t and instead focus on where they are now (right here, loving you!) and the distance will no longer matter.
Some other practical tips to making a long-distance relationship last:
- Communication is KEY. Even MORE SO in a long-distance relationship. The lack of ‘face-to-face’ time has to be compensated with constant communication whether that’s on the phone, via text, over letters, emails, or even postcards! You have got to be comfortable with talking to your partner about absolutely anything. From your fears to your successes, your goals, your musings, and even down to bowel movements or what foods you ate during the day. Seriously. Leave nothing out.
- Honesty is crucial to maintaining trust and security in a LDR. My husband and I often feel we have it ‘better’ in some ways since the very nature of writing as pen-pals at the start of our relationship meant we had to go deep from the get-go. Everything was out on the table. Past relationships, weird sexual fetishes, habits no one else knows about.
- Be vulnerable Following on from honesty, being vulnerable means not being afraid to fall apart in front of your partner. To express your paranoia that he/she might find someone who is closer to them, to explain why you are feeling hurt or fearful or jealous. Voice your insecurities and then work on them. Vulnerability paves way for so much expansion in a relationship that your love can only get deeper and stronger from it.
- Get creative. In a LDR you have so much room for fun and creativity. Have Skype dates, watch a movie at the same time, fall asleep together on the phone (I suggest using WhatsApp or Messenger to prevent costly international phone bills!), record yourself cooking their favourite meal, send dirty texts, have phone sex (remember that?!), send care packages, play online games, make something for each other, write letters and cards — the limit is your imagination!
- Pick up the phone and actually have a real conversation! I have always been a texter. I have always been the person who screens calls or lets them go to voicemail because I’m just not that good at talking on the phone. But since being in a LDR I have learnt to cherish phone calls and the ability to hear the other person’s voice and laugh, to really listen to what they have to say. It’s not uncommon for me and my husband to be on the phone for up to 4 hours or longer when time allows! Even moments of silence are golden, simply knowing that they’re on the other end.
- Take advantage of technology. We live in such a great time for LDR’s! From the internet to instant messaging to social media – unlike days of old, you can sustain a relationship from a distance fairly easily with the help of modern technology. Download that video call software, get on social media and interact with your partner any chance you get, discover those new remote-controlled sex toys (Google it!) and have some fun with your partner!
- Make plans for the future. While many of us don’t know the next time we’ll see our partners (thanks, lockdown!) it’s important to at least have a plan for the future. When circumstances, time, and money allow, will you and your partner close the gap by moving in together? Will you move to their country or they to yours? Is marriage on the cards? Do you plan on having a family together? These questions should be discussed with your partner early on in the relationship, and both of you should have some sort of action plan that ultimately leads to your temporary or permanent unification.
- Regularly check in with your partner every couple of months, or when the distance feels greater than normal, and see where they’re at. Discuss your satisfaction with the relationship, things you wish were to improve, or what gripes you may have. Checking in with your partner ensures you’re both on the same page and are equally moving forward together.
- Trust and believe that you are right where you need to be. You and your partner were put in this position for a reason. Trust in the universe at large and trust in your partner that they have your best interests at heart.
- Be all-in. LDR’s aren’t simply about trying and seeing – they require complete dedication and sacrifice. Understand that while you’re in one, you will have to make certain sacrifices. You will see other couples going on cute dates and wish it could be you. There will be times where all you want is a cuddle yet all you have is your pillow. In the end, your love for your partner is what matters most. It is this love that will carry you through even the toughest of days.
In a LDR there is a separation, a physical separation that can manifest into an emotional separation if you don’t continue to work at it. Maintaining an LDR is the same as maintaining an in-person relationship. The same rules and concepts apply to those living oceans away as it does to those living together under the same roof. When it comes down to it,
The art of love is largely the art of persistence.
– Albert Ellis
Keep being persistent in love, and you will find it.