Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
At least that’s what they say. I will admit that I’m a bit on the fence about buying into this phrase. As common as it is to repeat in a variety of contexts, I feel like it doesn’t even begin to chip away at the complexities of a serious, long-distance relationship. Space and distance have the ability to transform the way that we navigate any serious relationship. No, I’m not saying that everyone should text their significant other a “See you in a couple of months”, when you live five houses down from each other. When it comes to relationships that involve two people living apart from each other, where their only means of seeing each other is through a video-chatting platform, it’s easy to downplay the possibility of it lasting.
“You don’t see each other for months at a time? That couldn’t possibly work.”
“Don’t you think that after awhile that he/she will cheat on you? I mean, their ex lives in the same city, and you’re halfway across the world.”
“I don’t know how you do it. I think I would get bored pretty quickly.”
“I need attention and intimacy. Texting and video-chatting can’t do that for me.”
I’ve been thinking about these sentiments for the past few months, and I think I finally have a solid response. Long distance relationships are not inherently lacking, rather the distance could be viewed as an opportunity to rework the lens with which you view your relationship. As weird as this may sound: being apart may actually pull you and your partner closer together. When you really think about it, having to have significant physical distance from your love, forces you both to decide whether or not you are willing to be dedicated to making this relationship work. I am in no way glorifying long-distance relationships, because they are very hard, but the distance alone doesn’t have to be an immediate grounds for exclusion.
To be clear, the below are just my thoughts based on my own experience. My current partner and I began our relationship in early 2014, just a couple of months before I had to leave for a number of prearranged responsibilities. I worked in Vermont for three months, as far away up the northern seaboard that I could bear to be, even for the summertime, then flew off to the United Kingdom to pursue my Master’s degree. Needless to say, there were many days where my heart felt as if constricted my a few squeezes from a strong hand, my chest tightening randomly on random occasions, and a strain of loneliness that appeared while walking through Tesco without a shopping partner. I would not dare deny that there are certain kinds of intimacy that cannot be replicated virtually. However, I genuinely believe that a long-distance relationship is not a disaster waiting to happen like many of us have been led to believe, and there must be lessons to garner from this kind of situation. Here are three benefits, in my opinion, of being in a serious long distance relationship, for a significant amount of time:
- You learn ways to communicate with each other more efficiently.
How many of us have witnessed couples in relationships, who are around each other all day, yet their communication skills, especially with each other, leave a lot to be desired?
When it comes to communication in a long distance, point blank, you have no choice. You can’t just schedule a last minute date night to catch up after a busy week, so you find comfort in seeing their face on screens, sending each other silly emoticons and interesting articles from across the internet. If it is that your relationship had a significant physical presence before the distance, then it’s likely that you feel like you were thrown into a whole new world, with no idea how to get around.
- You have discussions about the nitty-gritty of the relationship more often.
Uncomfortable truths and revelations are par for the course when it is easy to misconstrue a series of missed calls and messages during the usual chat time. Without the influence of infiltrating each other’s space, there is no way to get around it than talking it out.
- You will likely be more conscious of the trajectory of the relationship (why you are together, where you are going together, and how you plan to get there)
While catfishing is now a ‘thing’, not many of us have the time or energy to play games with another adult. It’s much more likely that we lay all of our cards on the table from the jump, sharing expectations so that everyone is on the same page.
My partner and I are preparing to celebrate four years as a couple in a month. When tallied, about 75% of our relationship was spent apart from each other, connecting via messaging and video-calling apps to keep the link alive. We have finally been working within a system where we have been able to spend the better part of this past year together, meeting each other on mutual territory, and traveling to follow each other to different parts of the world. We’ve finally found our groove, and enjoy a relationship where, despite the distance, a sturdy foundation was built for a strong future as partners.
Thank you for taking the time to read the words that have been spilling from my heart onto the screen in front of you.
We get vulnerable around these parts, and it’s no easy task finding the strength it takes to reveal your truths (whether through writing or just reading a piece).