I always promised myself (and everyone in earshot) that I wouldn't do the long distance thing.
So when I decided to wander about the world semi-indefinitely three months ago, my girlfriend and I went on some sort of murky hiatus, which essentially acknowledged that "whatever happens will happen", and that we'd "just have to wait and see" what we did, and how we felt when I got back. No expectations, we said. No rules.
It was hard.
So hard, in fact, that half way through the trip, from halfway across the globe, I found myself saying something that I never thought I'd say: that I wanted to go long distance. Set expectations. Follow rules.
Which was harder.
And yet now, after all the extra difficulty, I've never felt so sure of what or who I want.
I think it's the best possible thing I could have done.
Here's why it's tough:
You'll do something to hurt each other (and yourselves.)
From something small to not picking up a call, to something big like winding up naked with someone else, you'll be forced to live a life that doesn't include your partner. That's not fun to be on the other end of.
Any healthy relationship relies not just on physical, but emotional intimacy: there's so much more that can be said in a touch or a look than can be said verbally. Plus, who can stay sane without sex? Which leads to...
Which is rubbish, even with FaceTime or Skype. I don't know about you, but it always leaves me feeling a bit awkward and mostly empty.
Is almost impossible. And unmet expectations leads to a perceived imbalance, which leads to insecurity, which is, in my opinion, the most toxic thing that can happen to a relationship.
Here's why it's worth it
You get space to look at yourself.
I always think that you're no good at loving someone else until you have yourself figured out. Without a pretty firm grasp of who you are when you're alone, you wind up molding yourself off what you think your partner wants out of you, which is never a good look.
You get some perspective.
It's easy to confuse affection with convenience, or even FOMO. A bit of distance allows you too see if the grass is actually greener. If you're lucky, it shows you that it isn't.
It teaches you tolerance.
Distance forces you to have an open mind, to confront those insecurities, and deal with jealousy. Which is difficult, but possibly the most important thing you can do-both for yourself and your partner.
You don't know what you got till it's gone.
There's nothing more amazing than missing someone. If you're really lucky, you realise how lucky you are. And I think that feeling is worth almost anything you have to go through to feel it.
Here I am again, long-distance relationshiping for the first time since I was 18 and the boy was from Italy. This time is different: it's for a shortish time, and it's only Auckland/Wellington. Still, 640km counts, right? Or maybe I should totally check my long distance privilege? Whatever - it totally counts. Here's a list:
PRO: The bed is mine and the nighttime is quiet. No more thrashing, snoring or sleep talking (him). Except, CON: I wake up surrounded by books, magazines, electronic devices - of the apple kind; don't be rude - jumpers, and other things that should be tidied away but have instead become my surrogate spoon/s.
Also, CON #2: when there's no one to tell me off for reading and working too late, a six-year-old takes over my brain. I refuse to turn out the light: Look! No rules! I can read, and write until 3am, and make myself so tired the next day it's like I'm walking through treacle! Self-sabotage has free reign, in other words.
PRO #2: Extra romantic conversations and texts. No more daily minutiae to dull the swoons. Except, CON #3: they're still 640km away.
PRO #3: He can't steal and/or mix up my freshly laundered black socks from down there. Actually quite a big Pro.
CON #4: We tried a "couples" app and it was pretty lame. Except for the bit (PRO #5) where you both touch the screen at the same time in the same spot and it lights up. I'm still quite impressed by that.
Then there's the "having time to miss each other and remember what you have" stuff. That's pretty obvious: Distance = perspective = omg this person is so right for me I think I'm going to be sick. (PRO#6)
There are surely more, but wordcount says no. So here are three tips, just quickly:
1. At first, you'll both be all like, 'We'll talk every day at 9pm on the dot!'. Don't bother; life doesn't work like that. Things come up. Just talk when you can, and don't put pressure on yourself to talk X many times, for X long, every X days.
2. There needs to be an endpoint or plan in sight, even a vague one. Really. It won't work otherwise. Talk about the future, make plans, and send each other excessive google images of places more exotic than New Zealand.
3. Take on so much work and keep so busy you can hardly remember your own name, let alone theirs.
All said and done, LDRs really don't have a whole lot of Pros. It's like trying to find a silver lining in dentist visits, or tax time. (Comfortable reclining chair! Nifty calculator!) Relationships are about the shared rituals and routines that meld your lives together and give your "us-ness" its "us-ness". They're also about your atoms and their atoms in roughly the same space. No Skyping can replace that, and trying to replicate the real deal is ultimately just frustrating.
So: Grit your teeth, do the thing where you touch the screen until it lights up, and bare it until you don't have to anymore.
Debate on this article is now closed.