Today at 9 in the morning, I had to drop my girlfriend off at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Over a month ago, she was dropping me off at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. In another month, she’ll be picking me up from that same airport. We’re quickly becoming experts at long-distance relationships and you know what, it doesn’t get any easier. I’ll be honest, long-distance sucks. Sure, it’s easier than ever to communicate with your significant other with tools like Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger, but no amount of morning snapchats or late night video calls make the distance suck less. That all being said, if you and your partner’s lives are on paths that require long-distance, it’s worth going through, I’m just warning that it’s incredibly difficult. There are some ways to ease the suck though, let’s take a look.
Communication as Always, is Key
Before even beginning the long-distance aspect of a relationship, a crucial step is laying down all the ground rules that both partners expect from one another. Things that may seem small, like expected frequency of communication or dedicated chat sessions can turn into huge ordeals later on. Something to recognize is that distance makes any fights or arguments that pop up way harder to solve, as all a partner has to do is turn off their device or refuse to answer a call and suddenly you’ve lost all contact with them. Sure, fights or arguments are bound to happen, but most can be prevented or eased purely by taking the time to set up expected rules. Combining open and constant communication with scheduled Skype dates works for my girlfriend and I, while daily Snapchats and gift boxes are all friends of mine need. The trick isn’t to do what you’ve seen other long-distance couples do, but instead figuring out what exactly both of you require, preferably before the distance even begins.
Goodbye, for Now
Another thing that’s important to establish is the duration for the long-distance. I know couples that have survived all four years of college apart, purely because they knew they had summers together, as well as knowing that once the four years were up they could then spend the rest of their time together. There’s a fine balance in relationships of doing what’s best for the individual while still also feeding the relationship positively. For example going through four years of college benefits both the individual and the relationship by promising employment and self-improvement in the ever-crucial step of higher education these days. It also has a very clear and defined end point that results in a positive gain. On the other hand, choosing between a job that constantly travels and one that homesteads is a sacrifice that purely benefits the individual more than the relationship, especially if the travelling is indefinite and/or random. Having a partner bail to another country to find themselves, or trying out a new job in a foreign nation by themselves is a universal deal breaker, and although every couple pretends like they’ll be the one that survives it, few ever do. If you are in this situation, adding in guaranteed visiting points that are committed to and frequent could help ease things, but you’re still playing with a bad hand. To sum up, the distance always needs to be finite and understood by both parties, and there needs to be visitation or else the distance drives a destructive wedge between any feelings that might’ve existed.
You Do You
Lastly, it’s important that both parties are able to recognize that long-distance is necessary for their situation. Being apart from one another for long periods of time comes with a whole slew of risks that a lot of young relationships can’t handle. With the digital era, there’s a constant threat of cheating or ghosting, and these are anxieties that can only be relieved through good communication and built up trust earned by taking the leap of faith. You do have to ask your partner if they think they’re capable of being in their new environment and still maintain the same emotional mindset that led the two of you to date in the first place. You need to ask yourself how jealous of a person you are, fear of missing out is that thing among friends, and its amplified a million times with a significant other. When they go see a new film or have a late night out with new friends, it’s impossible not to feel slightly replaced, and the opposite feeling is also possible. A partner might feel limited and guilty constantly if they’ve adapted super well and want to live it up, while the other partner is struggling or constantly feels alone. You need to ask yourself if the guilt and anxiety are worth inflicting upon your partner, and again it’s something that can only be solved with good communication and some solid soul searching.
It’s Not All Doom and Gloom
In summary, long-distance sucks. A lot of things can go wrong, as I’ve highlighted. I recognize that I mainly presented the issues, and not really their solution, and I know that I’ve prescribed communication as the solve all drug that can keep a relationship afloat. The reason is that every relationship is unique and personal, and that’s what makes them so cool. There are practically no similarities in what I get emotionally from my girlfriend and what my buddies might get from their partners. The only shared thing that we can all do is learn to respect, talk to, and genuinely listen to the other person, and learn that every trip or fumble only helps both people grow and develop. I value my long-distance (despite the suck) because my girlfriend and I genuinely listen to everything the other person has to say, and when she came to visit I realized that this trait carried over into in-person communication. I felt that we elevated our conversational ability, learning both how to share with one another what was truly important, but also being more comfortable with our differing conversation styles. I can’t provide any more advice past that, other than to remind everyone one last time that respect makes or breaks a relationship. Saying goodbye never gets easier, and I can’t really decide whether prolonged cry sessions or ripping the band-aid send-offs are the better option. Only seeing your partner through the screen never gets easier, and you’ll be surprised by how happy a date on a calendar can make you when it means that you get to visit the other person. I’m super grateful I got to see my girlfriend at the halfway point of our summer distance, which also luckily coincided with her birthday and our anniversary. Yes, I cried like a baby at the gate when I dropped her off. Yes, I spammed her text messages while she was flying so she would get all of them the second she landed. Yes, I was bummed the entire car ride back. Yes, I’m still bummed now I have to wait a month and a half to see her. Do we have a choice? No. Do I regret being in a relationship with her in the first place? No. Is it all worth it at the end of the day, because of the mutual feelings and respect we’ve earned for one another? Absolutely.