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What I Learned From Bridging The Gap In My Long Distance Relationship
No one is actually looking for a long distance relationship.
Oftentimes the distance is a last resort, and anything but intentional.
No one wants to be hours away from a loved one. If you’ve experienced a long distance relationship the endless struggle of seeing each other, making the late night phone calls, and keeping the fire alive is all too real.
You dream of the day when you can finally live with or near the person you love.
The conversation you have with your partner often concerns the many dates, activities, and places you want to experience together.
But what does it actually look like when that dream becomes a reality?
For the first six months of my current relationship, I had been living between two to six hours away from serious boyfriend, Marshall.
We had known of each other for several years, but never kindled a friendship (or relationship for that matter) until last December. Both of us were already sold on continuing a serious relationship; however, neither of us had attempted a serious long distance relationship beforehand.
Just like any other long distance relationship plays out, we struggled, grew, and learned to love in our own particular way. It was difficult, but we were committed from the get go to make things work out. The tables completely changed when both of us made serious career changes and moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
In response to the transition in my relationship, here are a few quips, challenges, and bits of wisdom I’ve gathered after transitioning to a townhouse 15 minutes away from my boyfriend.
Even if you haven’t experienced a long-distance relationship, these values are still applicable!
1. Be Patient
I use to drive up to six hours to spend a few treasured days with Marshall. Now, I’m able to make a fifteen-minute drive and show up for dinner.
Here’s what I’ve discovered about distance: it’s irrelevant. If you’re driving fifteen, sixty, or eighty minutes to see the person you love, the wait will always end up being a test of patience.
When I first moved down to Nashville, I wanted to jump the gun. Every minute of every day could provide a possibility of seeing Marshall! This was neither appropriate nor considerate of me.
When someone is already driving a long distance, it’s easy and justifiable to free up a weekend to go on dates. It may seem like a simple thing to digest, but when you’ve been away from someone for so long, time becomes invaluable.
Learn to respect each other’s time. Your partner is worth the wait. You are worth the wait (and your partner thinks so too!).
2. Learn To Trust
Once more, this seems like an easy, basic foundation of a relationship. But people end long distance relationships all the time because of trust issues, and the inability to have serious face-to-face conversations on a weekly basis.
That was not the case for me. Living far away from Marshall built my trust, and allowed me to become much more comfortable with our relationship. That being said, we were able to become long distance best friends before seriously dating on a weekly basis.
Now, I struggle much more with trust. When someone lives fifteen minutes away from you, it becomes a challenge to justify being busy or preoccupied. It’s strange to digest the fact that even though you may live close, it doesn’t mean you are required to see each other every day.
That’s why it’s even more vital to learn to trust and accept your partner for who they are.
3. Put In The Work
A relationship molds, changes, and adapts with each season. At times, you will have to chase your partner. Other times, you will have to let your partner chase you.
Don’t ever let go of the cute “good morning” and the “good night” texts. Neither Marshall nor I is a huge fan of texting, but we have learned to adapt regular signs of affection, such as a simple “good morning” or “good night”. It’s pleasant to know that you’re the first and last thing on your partner’s mind.
Encourage, compliment, and flirt every day, even if you don’t feel the need to. Brush up on your wit and flirting skills—have fun with it!
It doesn’t matter how far away you live, the work should be done in the same capacity and with the same effort. If you find your effort to be lacking in charisma or enthusiasm, you may not be in the right season for a serious relationship!
4. Find a Way To Communicate Effectively
As I’ve mentioned before, Marshall and I aren’t huge fans of texting. I will always suggest using texting as a last resort. However, being in a long-distance relationship doesn’t provide many options aside from texting, calling, or video chatting.
I can’t say it enough: I don’t recommend using texting as your main form of communication. Texting eliminates all the nonverbal and typical verbal (tone of voice, etc.) communication in a conversation. This can be lethal for serious conversations, and even lead to further arguments and hurt feelings.
But if texting works for you, then do that. The most important thing is to find a way to communicate that works for both of you and pursue it.
P.S. – letters, flowers, and romantic gestures never get old. I still send letters to Marshall, even though he lives down the street.
5. Pick Your Battles Wisely
Is it going to help or hinder your relationship? Pick your battles wisely.
One of my favorite quotes is the capstone of Leo Tolstoy’s classic, Anna Karenina:
“When one loves anyone, one loves the whole person just as they are and not as one would like them to be.”
Before gearing up for an argument, I always come back to Tolstoy’s words. Oftentimes my expectations exceeds reality, and oversized expectations should never rule any relationship.
I fell in love with Marshall for who he is, perfections, faults, flaws, quips, and all. In return, Marshall fell in love with me for the same reasons.
6. Never Hesitate To Be Honest
Marshall and I are both very straightforward people, so honesty comes second nature to use. However, I know that is not always the case in relationships.
I’ve seen friends and family suffer tremendously from the smallest dose of lies and deceit.
As John M. Grohol, Psy. D. puts it: “Pretending everything alright isn’t alright.”
You should feel comfortable enough with your partner or potential partner to come forward with the most transparent, vulnerable version of yourself.
Always, always, always be honest.
It may terrify you at times, but honesty is always worth the anxiety, pain, and rifts that dishonesty builds.
7. Laugh Together
Find a way to laugh together forces you to focus on the things that sparked your relationship in the first place.
International speaker and writer Pragito Dove at the Huffington Post puts it plainly: “Laughter is sexy and good for relationships.”
Whenever I search for a reason to laugh, I always end up retelling (Marshall can attest to this) one or several of my “first dates” with Marshall.
Before Marshall and I dated we actually lived in the same apartment complex. On one particular night, I was suffering from insomnia and unrest due to a pending exam the next morning.
Our text conversations were steady and cordial, but he made no clear invitation for me to head upstairs and hang out with him.
Now, as I retell the story, Marshall always adds that he was too shy to invite me upstairs, so he strategically put on my favorite movie so I would invite myself. As fate would have it, I took the bait.
In the early hours of the morning, I headed upstairs with butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know what to anticipate, or even if it was “a date”.
As I was invited in, I shuffled over to the couch before I was stopped in my tracks.
He pulled out a dining room chair for me to sit on.
Yes, you’re reading that correctly: a stiff, padded chair from his kitchen table.
And let me tell you, I sat on that chair for six hours (in his defense, it’s now charming to realize how shy he was around me). Neither of us watched the movie, but instead, we talked until the night turned into morning.
I walked into my final exam, straight from his apartment, the next morning.
That same day I tricked him into our first official date; however, I won’t keep you by revealing my clever scheming.
My point being, it’s easy to make what was first the awkward beginning of your relationship into a comical, lighthearted reflection. Not only can laughter provide healing and growth to your relationship, but it’s scientifically proven to provide physical healing.
Did you both wake up late for work because you stayed up together catching up?
Laugh it off.
Catch a silly cold from being too many kisses?
Stay in together and watch movies.
Laughter is proven medicine.
A word of encouragement from someone who has just “bridged the gap”: long distance is worth the wait.
Are you in the beginning, middle, or end of a long distance relationship? Be strong and take heart. If you’re in a committed relationship and serious about your partner, the time spent apart will seem minimal in the long run.
Moreover, if you’re in it for the long run, quarrels and arguments will definitely come, but you will be grounded in the reassurance of love and respect.
It takes time to grow together but you’ll find that distance, no matter how painful, truly makes the heart grow fonder.