Survival Guide: Long Distance Relationships
To be a couple or to be single…. that is the question.
“When I am away from you, it feels like the infinite distances in space are between us. You are the one person I want to be with. Your happiness is my happiness; your sadness is my sadness. My heart will always be where you are, no matter the time, no matter the distance.” – My boyfriend
To be a couple or to be single…that is the question. Before coming to Ecuador, I had completely rejected the idea of being seriously involved with someone. I’d spent most of my life thus far failing at having a love life. So the thought of falling in love before moving overseas for nearly a year seemed foolish. But because the universe seems to enjoy a good laugh, I ended up dating someone only a few months before I would leave for Ecuador. I was completely honest when we first started dating that our relationship had a set end date. But as we spent more time together, I knew that something about him was unique. There was never a need to play games or pretend to be someone I was not. He made me happier than I could ever imagine. So when our end date approached, we had a very honest talk about our future. And we decided that even though it would be difficult and had the potential to fall apart, we were going to give long distance a shot.
Now it’s been five months. Five months worth of letters, love poems, skype dates, video messages, and whole lot of patience. Long distance isn’t easy. It can be endlessly frustrating and has the potential of putting a gray cloud over your time abroad. But it also has the potential to mature your relationship, and make you realize how much you love your partner. Hopefully this blog can help anyone currently in a long distance relationship, or in the process of deciding whether to commit to one. So here are some tips on how to survive a long distance relationship.
1) Communication is key
I found it essential to have honest discussion about expectations before I left. It helped there be little room for miscommunication along the way. As hard as it is to be honest, if you are not sure if you want to be in a long distance relationship then you need to tell your partner that. It will spare you a lot of heartbreak and hurt feelings in the future. Long distance is a big commitment, so you need to be all in. Also while abroad, communicate with your partner at all times. If something is bothering you, don’t hold it in. Talk about it so you can get the issue straightened out. Even though it was a small thing, I had a bad dream one night about my boyfriend losing interest in us. It bothered me enough that I admitted it to him, and he then told me he had similar dreams of me meeting someone new in Ecuador. Even though being vulnerable is hard, it’s also very important. Sharing those fears and reassuring each other helped us feel more connected and secure as a couple.
Trust is the long distance deal breaker. As hard as it might be, there is no room for jealousy. Constantly wondering whether your partner is with someone else will drive you up the wall and end up breaking your relationship. Can I be 100% positive that my boyfriend isn’t with someone else? No, but I do trust him with my whole heart. And I love him too much to get involved with someone else or to hurt him in anyway. This mutual trust has saved us from unnecessary headache and fighting.
Long distance relationships can feel like a balancing act. On one hand it is important to be committed, but on the other hand it is important to give yourself time to explore and meet new friends. I struggled with this in the beginning months of being apart. I spent far too much time being physically in Ecuador, but mentally in Hawai’i. It felt as though my heart had been left with my boyfriend 5,000 miles away and I wasn’t fully enjoying my experience moving abroad. I’m naturally a very independent person, so I felt like I was holding myself back (and this was my fault and not his). Luckily I was able to slowly find a balance. My boyfriend and I have a set time to skype once or twice a week. This consistency helped me keep my head in Ecuador most of the time (even though my mind wanders to him everyday). But when we skype, I’m completely committed to spending time with him.
4) Creativity to keep the romance alive
If there is ever a time to embrace your romantic side, it is now. Romantic gestures will help keep the romance alive throughout a long time of separation. It might sound very ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but sending love letters and love poems is a wonderful way to keep the love strong. Something about receiving a hand written letter or poem far surpasses an email or facebook message. If there’s a big time difference that hinders communication send little video messages so your partner can see your face and hear your voice. You can get really creative and silly in these videos. Also send postcards or little souvenirs so your partner feels like they are traveling along side of you. (Other unique, thoughtful gift ideas: a playlist or CD of songs that remind you of that person, a deck of cards each which you write a reason why you love your partner, pressed leaves or flowers from your travels made into bookmarks.)
5) Love and Patience
Ultimately a long distance relationship is based on promise and love. I think it’s very important to determine whether or not you truly love the other person before committing. Long distance does require some sacrifice. And it will test your relationship in ways a “normal” relationship wouldn’t. You won’t have your partner beside you when you have food poisoning and are throwing up all night. Or when you are going through a difficult time in which everything seems to be spiraling out of control. But you will learn the art of patience and that love defies distance. You’ll learn that you can pursue your dreams without giving up on love. And finally you’ll learn that love is never convenient, but it can be beautiful and it will wait for you if you are willing to give it a chance.