Considering a long distance relationship is something that is difficult and different for every couple. Hopefully, by reading about some of the questions and decisions you’ll have to make, it will give you an idea if this type of relationship is for you.
You know that feeling when everything in the world has lined up perfectly, and you don’t think you could be any happier in that moment? That feeling when the person standing right in front of you makes you feel beautiful, so beautiful that you actually forget about every single flaw you’ve picked apart before. That feeling when life seems to be in slow motion, and you’re in some alternate universe when your responsibilities don’t seem so daunting and overwhelming. You have hope.
Who would want to let go of that feeling? Who in their right mind would let that person get away when all they did was make you feel at home?
Unfortunately, life is not in slow motion. Responsibilities simply don’t just go away. You’re a young woman who has dreams you need to attend to, a life of your own that needs to be worked on. Sometimes that means having to move away from your fling, your lover or your long time relationship. And it hurts.
You’ll scream into your pillow at night because how can something so good, someone seemingly so right for you be so far away. How can the stars stop aligning like they once did as you spent your time together? How can you be stripped away from someone you care so deeply about?
Maybe this resonates with you, perhaps you’re even considering ending it because doing the “long distance” thing seems much more painful than you can dare to bare. You’ll become jealous of your college hallmates as they get to spend night after night with their SOs while the closest you get to your partner is FaceTime.
Long distance tends to teach people a lot about themselves. The time and energy going into a relationship may hinder at first because physical interactions and quality time seem to diminish to phone calls and Skype sessions. Both partners need to readjust and consider their options through intense and honest conversations. Before you say your goodbyes and proclaim that you’re in a long-distance relationship, there are factors and questions you must address both personally and as a team.
Do you see a future with your partner?
This is a tough one to just blurt out to a partner. The future is scary on its own, and factoring in another human makes this even more complicated. It requires a lot of introspection about what you think of this person. Essentially, you’d want someone that you’re willing to wait for, and that is willing to wait for you. When you picture your future with someone, it should make you happy because you want to hear about what’s been happening while you’ve been away and vice versa. You should want your partner to succeed even if that means being away for a while. That level of support is the difference between short-term relationships and long-term. Putting aside your personal attachment in order for the both of you to grow and come back to each other is what is going to make the future better. If you can see that with your partner, then maybe long distance is the right choice.
That other person has dreams and goals as well. What is important to consider is how to envision this person in your life in the long run. The person you’re with should help make you better because you’re great on your own. If you don’t believe their presence will amplify who you are already, then long distance may not be for you.
Do you believe you can commit to this person without physically being able to be with them?
This question may seem difficult to answer because you may not know the answer if you’ve never tried this type of relationship before. This may seem like something you need to test the waters for before you fully declare that it’s something you’re capable of. However, you know yourself, and you probably know your partner as well. If you or your partner have a history of cheating even before going the distance, try to think of reasons why this would or would not happen again.
Micki Wagner, a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia, can attest to this type of dilemma. "I just recently went through a breakup with a guy who couldn't do long distance. A big reason why distance is hard for him is because he and his ex were long distance, and she cheated on him. So that made it difficult for him to be fully trusting, even though I'm not her and I wouldn't have done the same."
There are going to be new people and new places with long distance, and while these conversations may not be the most comfortable, it’s going to be a hell of a lot more uncomfortable knowing someone has been unfaithful. Be clear on what you want and what you expect. You may even discover this is/isn’t something you can truly handle.
Do you trust this person?
While the above question handles the topic of committing to one person, this is more about truly trusting the actions of your partner. When work runs late and someone misses a phone call, how are you going to react? Are you comfortable with your partner going out on the weekends and drinking? Are you uncomfortable when your partner does not check in regularly? These questions may seem to have simple answers, but you’d be surprised at how many people stare at their phones waiting for the same explanations. Of course one should be faithful if that was the agreement, but can you handle the instances where life gets in the way or will you simply jump to conclusions because it’s all too much?
Molly Crum, a recent graduate from James Madison University says, "My boyfriend and I did long distance every summer break of college. At first, it was really hard, but I tried to focus on who I did have around me and how I could spend our time apart to make it go faster. I spent a lot of time with my family and high school friends I hadn't seen all school year. I took on a full-time job and redecorated my whole bedroom because having fun goals or projects to work on distracted me from missing him and gave me something exciting to tell my boyfriend about later!"
For someone who needs constant attention and reassurance, it may seem impossible to be in a long distance relationship, but we’re here to tell you it’s not. If anything, being apart from someone who seems like your whole world might actually show you that they’re not. You are. You are your whole world. You may even be able to reconnect with old friends and hobbies.
Nobody is perfect and there are going to be times we assume the worst because we’re human. Being curious about what’s been going on is different than accusing your partner of cheating every single night. Both people are accountable in relationships. That means both should be acting trustworthily and being respectful of a partner they’ve committed to. If your partner has made comments about their insecurities in the relationship, you should be able to thwart their concerns and reassure them that this is what you want and remind them of why this arrangement is worth it. Trust works both ways.
Is this person your friend?
This may be one of the most important aspects of long distance relationships. Couples who choose to do long distance are usually successful when the relationship is built on strong friendship foundations. Meaning, you should like your partner for more than the physical reasons. These types of relationships tend to highlight the other beautiful aspects of why people choose to be together.
For example, you may be with your partner because they’re easy to talk to and they just “get you.” Long phone calls and FaceTimes will allow you to still feel close to your partner. Another example is the movies you both like that you can watch over Skype through screen sharing (my personal favorite way to stay connected). There is obviously a lot more to relationships than hooking up. Being actual friends with your partner allows long distance to work more smoothly because you have already established a liking for each other outside of the sexual attraction. If communication is lacking in your relationship, meaning, you don’t actually like talking to your partner, long distance may not be for you.
How long will you be apart?
The logistical workings of long distance seem to be many people’s first reaction to the thought of this type of relationship. How often will the couple see other? Who is going to visit who? What is the maximum amount of time you can go without seeing each other? These are questions that you may not have the answer to right away, but know that these will come up because being physically together is what made you believe this relationship was worth it.
Now we do caution those who are thinking about long distance. Love is not always enough. It is common to think that love conquers all, and if you love each other, everything will work out. Honestly, that’s just not the case. Things get lost in translation, and sometimes you’ll feel like you need more. More love. More support. More encouragement. And you’d give anything to just have them there, because texting only goes so far and doesn’t compare to kissing and holding. It’s okay if you feel like you’re not getting enough even if you know you love each other.
Dania De La Hoya, a sophomore from Illinois State University, says, “My long distance relationship ended a couple months ago, I think because of this very reason. Not everyone can do long distance. It's hard not seeing your SO on a regular basis and in my case, my ex-needed more than long distance could give him — more seeing each other, more physical affection, so we just grew apart. I think it helps if there's a specific end in sight because long distance can't go on forever. If you know it's just temporary, you have that to hold onto.”
Dania brings up a great point that an end goal is important to these types of relationships. There needs to be a conversation about the conclusion to a long distance relationship, which can seem almost impossible in college. People are just barely becoming adults and joining the workforce in this age, and assuming that you’ll both graduate and get jobs near each other is pretty optimistic. Honestly, this conversation may be best for those who are nearing a chapter in their lives (graduation) because if you want the long distance to end, you must be willing to compromise to begin growing a future with another person, which isn’t applicable for many young adults.
It may seem as though this article was written with a broken heart and a pessimistic view of these types of relationships, but it should be noted that I’m currently in a promising and very rewarding long distance relationship. However, I’ve witnessed time and time again couples who do not seem to have these type of honest conversations, who end up hurting more than loving each other. Save yourself and your SO the trouble and talk to them.
The rewards of a long distance relationship are almost exactly the same as any other relationship: love, understanding, support, comfort. It can be hard missing a significant other, but amazing when you get to hold them after a long time, and to a lot of people, that’s worth it.
The rewards may just come in different forms.
Long distance may mean you or your partner is going off to a new school or a new job. It means change and excitement, and that’s bound to cause some stress, but if you’re able to overcome the initial disruption, and maintain that level of trust, there’s a great chance you’ll learn to like — maybe even love — your new arrangement. That newness may spark some interesting conversations with your loved one during your daily phone calls. You’ll always have something or someone to look forward to.
If you’ve come to the conclusion of this article and you’ve realized that long distance is not for you, you should remember that this does not make you a bad person. This does not make you better or worse at relationships. It just may mean you have different needs with your current circumstance, and that’s okay. It may mean that the person you’re with is not willing to commit, and maybe not the person for you, and that’s okay. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all couple who can handle any change or disruption that comes their way. Relationships are complicated and messy, and whether or not you choose to be long distance is just another difficult decision ahead in your beautiful life.