How Being Apart Can Strengthen Your Connection To A Loved One.
It’s the falling asleep to their voice over a blurry Facetime chat in the early hours of the morning.
It’s the eternity you spend scouring the Internet, just to find plane tickets on sale.
It’s staring blankly out of the conference room window between meetings in a foreign city (on too little coffee) replaying conversations you had with them in your head.
It’s the couples you see strolling down the street, hand-in-hand, laughing, glowing in the comfort of one another’s company.
It’s knowing there’s six more weeks, six more months or maybe even a whole year before you will feel their touch again.
Before you feel the warmth of their embrace.
Before the picture un-freezes on Skype and you can see them in real life…
Only couples who have been in long-distance relationships (or LDRs), and who have truly ‘gone the distance’ will understand these things.
Maybe you’ve already been together for a while and one of you has had to move away for some time. Perhaps you met in person (or online) and developed such a strong connection that you’ve kept in touch despite living in different states or countries.
No matter how your long-distance relationship started, it has the potential to be an exciting, eye-opening and uplifting experience. At the same time, it can also be a little challenging - requiring true honesty, dedication, and trust to get through.
Nevertheless, going "long-distance’’ is becoming a much more common feature within our modern relationship landscape. Powered by technology, our more global, nomadic lifestyles and our ambitions to build lives full of color, travel, and adventure. That being said, much is still misunderstood about what it means for people to be in a relationship when they’re physically apart.
There’s the painful stigma, for instance, that accompanies the decision to be in a long-distance relationship. If being away from your special someone wasn’t hard enough, you often have to contend with the well-meaning, yet misguided comments from concerned friends and family members:
‘If they really loved you, they wouldn’t have moved away’, or ‘all long-distance relationships are doomed to fail - they just don’t work!’
When you truly love someone and know that you want to commit to that person regardless of where you both are geographically, these comments can hurt.
Undoubtedly, long-distance relationships take a lot of hard work, commitment, and dedication. They’re also not necessarily right for every couple. But they certainly aren’t as doomed as some might make them out to be.
In fact, in cases where time apart is the right choice, being long-distance can actually make your relationship stronger. Here’s how.
Cultivating Separate Identities
The idea that we have to give up our own identity, life, and space in order to maintain a romantic relationship is starting to ring a little archaic.
But, for a long time, it has been a subtle undercurrent within our relationship culture: If you want to be with someone, truly be with them, there are friends to be sacrificed, time with family, or opportunities within the arenas of school and work. Career defining internships, life-changing study abroad trips, and long overdue visits back home have all been cast aside ‘for the good of the relationship.’ This idea is fueled by the fear that we will somehow cause the other person to break up with us because we are being ‘selfish.’
Instead of viewing our relationship and separate commitments as two mutually exclusive things, we should learn to embrace having both.
This is one way long-distance relationships can ultimately make you stronger. They motivate you to develop or maintain a deep connection with your partner and, at the same time, grow as your own, distinct individual by cultivating new friendships, engaging in new interests and hobbies, and having some much-needed alone time in a different place.
The Gift Of True Communication
For all the late-night Skypes and texts bandied back and forth all day, long-distance relationships really motivate us to up our communication game. And that could be worth its weight in gold in the long-term.
LDRs make us understand the true value of strong, healthy communication and what it can do for our relationships. You learn to be patient and understanding with the other person. To work through conflicts in a measured and constructive way. To support and uplift one another using the power of words. This can sometimes add context and depth to a connection with a loved one in a way that more physical expressions of affection can’t.
LDRs also provide little opportunity for filling time together with the arbitrary; mindlessly long Netflix binges, cinema nights in the dark, or (the staple of our generation) the mute restaurant date. In these situations, we can spend hours silently in our own little silos. Scrolling through our phones instead of engaging in any real conversation despite sitting (and being) right next to each other.
The constraint of only having a couple of precious hours to spend with each other in an LDR forces you to be more engaged. Ultimately, that makes the time you do spend together much more valuable.
In Pursuit Of Our Dreams
We often make the choice to go long-distance in honor of some kind of higher pursuit or purpose. And, we do this in service of each other’s individual, personal dreams.
By giving our other half our blessing to, say, pursue work or study abroad, we’re doing more to protect and honor our shared love than if we were to deny them those opportunities.
Sometimes you grow together, other times, you need the space to flourish on your own. As long as the other person involved can still offer support and fidelity, you should feel you have the freedom to pursue your goals and dreams no matter where they take you.
Trust And Honesty
In an age where everything seems so changeable, trust and honesty are the holy grail.
Like the ephemeral messages and swipeable images that come and go on our phone screens, our attention waxes and wanes as one new fixation after another parade through our life. Commitment becomes more challenging against a social backdrop of nothing ever being fresh enough. This is a hard space not only for LDRs but for any kind of human-to-human connection to thrive in.
Staying committed over long-distance and developing genuine trust, honesty and connection in the process is no small feat. Even better, this can provide a solid foundation for the future of your relationship.
Labor Of Love
Long-distance relationships are a labor of love. An amalgamation of sleepless nights, lonely nights and weekends, and fleeting, virtual conversations. All in the name of finally being reunited one day soon.
At times, the battle is real and steeply uphill. But the reward could be priceless: a relationship that has truly been tested and that has come out stronger for the long run. You learn to build trust, honesty, and meaningful communication with someone you love, all while achieving your own personal growth.