The age-old proverb says: absence makes the heart grow fonder.
The sentiment is lovely. The comfort it brings is reassuring. But the truth is sometimes, absence makes the heart forget.
I am not saying long-distance relationships don’t work – because they can. But people underestimate how difficult they can be, no matter how strong the love is. When geography literally pulls two people apart, the strain can become unbearable.
Really, “surviving” long-distance isn’t enough. No one lives merely to survive. Relationships are no different. The way go beyond is to do more: Keep living and learn to make it enjoyable. So, from a person who’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly, here is how to keep living in a long-distance relationship.
It’s a tale as old as time. “Communication is key in a healthy relationship.” Good communication is difficult when there are miles between both parties, however, and it takes a different level of effort and is a lot easier said than done.
When you’re physically together, little anecdotes about your day, funny inside jokes and random sidenotes flow naturally in conversation. Those seemingly meaningless moments add up and bring two people closer. Oftentimes we lose those moments in long-distance relationships.
It’s easy to feel like conversation has to be meaningful since you’re pulling someone away from their lives just to check a text message. Really, though, the fun, casual conversations keep us feeling natural and normal. The friendship has to be fueled too, and this is a huge factor in doing so.
That being said, you can’t overlook the not-so-fun moments. Long-distance can be grueling, and sometimes, it’s easy to bury any negative feelings or experiences to avoid causing any more stress. Relationships are intended to thrive in the good and the bad. Being apart shouldn’t change that.
If your boss gave you hell at work all day, call your significant other and vent about it. If you’re feeling down or insecure, tell them you need a little pep talk. Your partner should still be your person. Don’t bottle up the bad stuff to keep things happy. You’ll pull further away, and you’ll both end up hurt.
Reassuring your partner is worlds different when you’re not together. No longer can the touch of a hand, a kiss on the forehead or a look across the room saying “I love you,” comfort you. If your communication doesn’t adjust, insecurity and doubts will trickle in.
You have to make up for that loss with words. Tell her when you find yourself missing the way she laughs, or wishing she was lying next to you. Call him just to say how much you love him, because you haven’t said that in a while.
Words unspoken truly go unheard when there are miles between you. So speak up, and don’t be afraid to get a little mushy.
Lastly: it’s 2020. There’s no need to rely on email or landlines to keep in touch, so get with the program. FaceTime is the closest you’ll get to being face-to-face. Use it as often as you can.
Mornings and nights are easy times to do this — it begins and ends your days with the butterflies that come with seeing your partner’s face. I can’t stress enough how much closer you’ll feel if you take advantage of video calls. They erase some distance for a little while.
When you can’t do this, a phone call is the next best thing. Hearing your partner’s voice is much better than reading a message on a screen. Texting is easiest, but it should only be when most convenient. At least throw some emojis and GIFs in there [or a flirty flick].
This part is tricky. With busy lives in different cities and interactions limited by circumstance, we can get stuck in a routine without romance. So how do you keep the flame alive?
Regardless of location, gestures go a long way. Send flowers. Seriously, this is such a simple way to make your loved one, especially women, feel special.
If your girlfriend says she doesn’t need flowers, I promise, she wants them. The action takes nothing but a few clicks and a charge on your credit card, and you will genuinely make her day.
You know he’s had a long day at work? Uber Eats his Chipotle order to his door. You recognize he needs a little pick-me-up, and you want to make him feel better even from far away. Add a sweet note to your order, “no need to cook, no need to go out, enjoy this because you deserve it.” This will do a lot more than just feed him.
Care packages call for a little more effort but can also mean the world to your partner. They don’t have to be expensive, either. Throw together a box of snacks you two always eat, photos of you together and cheap trinkets that remind you of funny, inside jokes.
Good relationships feel like home. Surprise them with a little reminder of the home you’ve made together.
This sounds weird, but make one weekly FaceTime a date-night thing. Plan to make the same meal together over FaceTime, laughing along as you mess up the recipes. You can dress up, sit down at a table and set up the camera as if you’re eating together. It isn’t the same, but it’s special nonetheless. It breaks the routine and keeps you laughing together if anything.
And of course, even if you only ever do it once, surprise them at their door. It will be a moment that neither of you forget, and your partner will forever remember that they meant that much to you. So book that flight, request off that weekend and make the effort.
Honesty is THE Best Policy
I can’t sugar-coat this part: long-distance can end in cheating. Not every relationship withstands temptation, and when presented with an easier option, some people can’t always refuse. Insecurities can rise. We are human, after all.
If you are losing your drive to work at your current relationship and feeling drawn to other people, you need to tell the person you are dating. Cheating is so much more detrimental in the long run to both yourself and your partner. You will hurt your partner terribly and carry that guilt with you into your future relationships. Talk to your significant other about your temptations, and decide whether you want to continue working at the relationship, or if you’re better off single.
Honesty can be hurtful though. We are flawed as humans. Sometimes we make mistakes or do things we know we shouldn’t. It’s hard to give the person we love information we know will hurt them. However, it is extremely important to be open, honest and transparent with your partner regardless of the consequences.
Lying in your long-distance relationships have a tendency to spiral into insecure, toxic and ultimately failing ones. So, even if they would never find out otherwise, tell your partner when you have a gut feeling they’d want to know something. Because once that trust is broken, it’s incredibly difficult to repair.
Where there is honesty, there should be trust. When you’re living apart from each other, it’s easy to get into your head and make up scenarios about your partner being unfaithful. You have to have faith in the person you’re dating, though. You’re both choosing each other, despite the difficulty that comes with distance. There is a reason he or she is choosing you.
You should feel confident that your partner would come to you if anything you fear was to happen. If you don’t, you should be honest with them about that. Either way, you need to resist the temptation to be suspicious, accusatory and paranoid. That behavior is just as toxic as cheating. It will only drive your partner further away from you, and you’ll end up speaking the bad into existence.
Know When to Call it Quits
Unfortunately, like I said before, long-distance relationships don’t always work out. And this is about living, not surviving.
If the relationship is consistently causing you unhappiness, despite all efforts to fix it, you need to know when to leave. Long-distance is typically not forever. This expiration date has the potential to excuse things and keep you hanging on.
It’s only for a few more months, when we come together again, things will be better.
Are the “things” you are referring to the distance, longing and missing you feel? Or are they toxic behaviors that merit ending a relationship? If it’s the latter, it is important to face the facts.
Problems don’t just disappear once distance is removed. They can be ignored for a while, buried beneath the happiness of being together again. Whatever the red flags are though, they will flare up again with time.
I wish you all well in this time of confusion, as COVID-19 regulations grow stricter, long-distance can mean two houses or two states apart. It’s a difficult path to go down, and it isn’t for everyone.
Keep an open mind, have grace for yourself and your partner, and believe that what is meant to be – will be.