I have now surpassed the one and a half year mark with my boyfriend, this might not seem a lot for some but for me it’s a big deal. I’m an insecure, overthinking, self-deprecating mess so pre-boyf it was easier for me to ghost, ignore, outright avoid any boy that wanted anything more than something casual, but this time I felt something different and let my barriers down slowly. It might be that we just clicked and accepted and enjoyed each other’s quirks that we work so well but I think the fact that for the first 6 months of our official relationship we were a long distance couple may have helped our longevity.
A little bit of background – I met my boyfriend in the summer of 2015, the summer just before I was due to start my final year at university. I liked him but I was guarded. We spent a lot of time together but a voice in my head told me not to get too close – I was going back to uni soon and didn’t want the separation pain to consume me. We bonded over similar music tastes, shared views and Alan Partridge (ah-ha!) I was probably too abrasive and sarcastic but somehow I didn’t manage to put him off, he thought I was mysterious but I was just guarded by insecurities and overthinking. I saw him the night before I went back to uni in Nottingham, were we said we’d miss our time together but left things casual with a ‘maybe see you when I’m back in December’. I wasn’t optimistic but it transpired we spoke to each other via Whatsapp every day, and he was the one I called when I was drunk, it felt natural but he was 91 miles away so what was the point really. I had chances with other guys but I didn’t take any of them; I didn’t want to. Speaking everyday meant we got closer & closer, I shared a lot with him, we had in-jokes and weird sayings and he made me smile. He invited me to a wedding and my heart got giddy but my head demanded I stay cool. We saw each other twice during my first term back and the second time when we hugged goodbye in the train station I thought ‘fuck, I’ve caught feelings’. It was at this point I told my mum about the secret man in my life (naturally with mother’s intuition she’d suspected all along) and began to excitedly count down the days till I was back home for Christmas.
That December we spent a lot of time together, he met my family and I’ve never allowed anyone that far into my life before. I could feel my feelings blossoming and I was conflicted, I wasn’t the type to let someone in and I wasn’t the kind to let my mind wander with a future for me and another but. He officially ‘asked me out’ on the 22nd December, something along the lines of ‘shall we give this a go’ and I said ‘ok’ (oh the romance). I listened to my heart and ignored my head but truthfully I was apprehensive, I was going back to Nottingham in a matter of weeks which would put this brand new relationship to the test. I’d seen relationships fail when distance was added and I didn’t want us to go the same way. My last two weeks at home were a bit of a whirlwind, those three little words were exchanged, I met his parents and we spent New Year together… and then it was time for me to go back to the Midlands. It felt low travelling back for a number of reasons; I wouldn’t see the boyfriend for a few weeks, it was the day Bowie died and I knew I had to start buckling down to complete my dissertation.
A new relationship and final year of uni was a struggle. I got waves of depression after I had to say goodbye after short visits…I won’t lie – I pined. I struggled without cuddles and contact especially after stressful days. I found it difficult not knowing what he was doing and who he was with and that played on my mind but I got through it because it was all in my head. It was frustrating when he went out and I was stuck in the library but communication was the key to keeping me sane. I woke up to a message every day and went to bed with a goodnight one. We spoke daily as often as we could about anything and everything. We saw each other once a month, alternating between him coming to Nottingham and me going back home for reading weeks and Easter, and every goodbye hurt more than the last. The beginning of our relationship certainly wasn’t perfect but it worked. When we discovered issues we did our best to resolve them. It required a lot of patience, we were still getting to know each other and then we were suddenly in different cities, so yes this was hard and it took a little more investment but it strengthened us for the better. I knew that at the end of my degree I would be able to return home a more enriched individual with new skills under my belt to the man I love (lols). I was proud of myself for not giving up and being able to make another person proud of me. In this case absence did make the heart grow stronger and when we were finally reunited properly I knew we had a future. If we survived long distance then we can survive anything together. Long distance isn’t easy and it doesn’t always work. It requires extra effort, trust and patience, so here are my own personal tips on how to survive a long distance relationship.
Communication is key. I can’t stress this enough but your partner needs to know what’s happening, especially in a long distance relationship. If you’re not happy with something then tell them. If you’re going out somewhere then tell them so they don’t sit by their phone concerned by the lack of response. Let them know when something’s gone well and when something hasn’t. Say good morning and good night without thinking. Even if they’re far away give them compliments. Try to update your partner on your life and what’s happening, however dull some of the things may seem. With long-distance, talking is all you have so learn to open up and talk about what you’re feeling – good or bad, because tiny obstacles can feel like mountains when you’re apart. Tell them you miss them but don’t make them feel guilty for not being around.
Don’t force communication though, if it becomes a burden then that’s not going to help the relationship. Don’t bombard your partner with messages when they’re busy and don’t become possessive. Seeing less of each other does not mean you have to be more intense with texts or calls. Talk when you want to and don’t force it. Get creative with how you communicate so it doesn’t become boring, send each other pictures, videos, music they might like, audio clips (the boyfriend used to record audio of him playing guitar when I was feeling down), and even dog memes. By putting in this kind of effort, your partner will feel loved and attended to, just don’t overdo it or concerns will arise.
Don’t resent their freedom. Sometimes your partner is busy and can’t respond immediately, and this goes for all kinds of relationships not just long distance. As long as you have forewarning why they might not respond don’t begrudge them for meeting up with friends and undertaking their hobbies because if you don’t spent time apart (whether IRL or virtually) then you’re going to get bored of each other. So spend time apart doing your own thing and relish it.
Don’t be the green-eyed monster. Long distance relationships mean your partner is going to have to go to events and meet friends without you. This is hard, especially in new relationships because you can’t show your new boyfriend/girlfriend off to the world because they are miles away. So you’re going to have to attend things solo, which means you or your partner may experience ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out). This feeling can’t be helped but it is best not to focus on it. Don’t become jealous or bitter because your partner is doing things without you; they’d rather you were there too.
Make plans. Making plans together gives you both something to look forward to. Whether you’re making major plans for the future or minor ones like day trips or where you’re gonna eat for the next visit, plans together are exciting and mean you have a shared focus.
Have hope. A long-distance relationship is only ever going to work if you share the vision of a future together. Our distance was only temporary and as long as it felt, the time apart was relatively short. I knew the separation wouldn’t last forever which gave us an end goal. Circumstances are different in all relationships and sometimes long-distance can’t be avoided but the relationship will only survive the time apart if you both plan to be together in the future.
Long distance sucks but you can learn to live with it. Learn to live without each other and appreciate how great life feels with them in it. Learn that you don’t need each other. You want each other. That makes it real.
Until next time,