I am yet to meet someone who intentionally went out there seeking to be in a long-distance relationship. It’s just one of those things that happen… I found myself in a similar situation a few years back.
Winding up in a long-distance relationship makes most regular dating challenges pale by comparison. Dating miles apart often felt like a bizarre cross between a fairy-tale and complete and utter delusion.
It began by chance, of course. We met when he had come to my hometown, for one of his family functions. I attended this function and that began our friendship. Fast forward to the following year, he returned. We hadn’t communicated since the function and so we said hi with zero expectations.
By the end of that month he was around, we’d mutually fallen for one another. Now, I know telling someone you see yourself falling in love with them in less than a month might seem a bit rushed, but allow me to add a disclaimer: we were spending each day together. Protective barriers were knocked down with the knowledge that our time was limited. We opened up faster, showed our emotions more honestly, and easily covered months-worth of getting to know one another in mere weeks.
There’s the fairytale part. By the time he was leaving, we were officially boyfriend and girlfriend, even though we didn’t know how this would all work out. There was vague mention of a visit to each other, and immediately he left, he called saying, “I miss you already.”
And so the cue to the beginning of my journey into long, long distance…
You have to make time for one another
Just like every new relationship, we would talk on phone practically the whole day – knowing how each of us was doing, and what our plans for the day were. Our routine included morning, midday and night time phone calls, with text messages at any time of the day. Whoever woke up first would wake up the other with a phone call, and whoever got to bed first would call the other. Having your phone on silent or sleeping before the other called would mean missing such windows.
Given this obstacle, I came to value my time with him so much more than I had in previous relationships, and it taught me to be incredibly present.
Try to find creative ways to communicate
When your phone is your absolute ONLY means of connection, you learn to get creative. Instagram became a lifesaver as sharing pictures not only led to some epic streaks but kept us feeling included in one another’s daily lives. I had a visual of his world and he mine. It eliminated some of the frustrating mystery.
Beyond that, we got imaginative. We mailed each other notes. In some ways, this demand for creativity pushed me to connect with a romantic side of myself that I didn’t previously know existed. I loved exploring the facet of my personality and becoming more creative and openly expressive.
Be prepared for jealous feelings and outside judgment
Saying, “I wish you were here,” and exchanging flirty messages can only go so far. As much as I appreciated hearing that he’d love to be holding me, in reality, he couldn’t. With the total lack of a physical relationship in the meantime, there was inevitable jealousy on both parts. Frustrations were real wueh!
At this point, it was important to familiarize each other with our social circles, since we couldn’t actually meet. It’s nice to share stories about an outing and feel like you actually know the people they’re talking about.
Also, it can be tiring to explain your situation to friends or coworkers and receive negative responses. Hearing, “mtawachana tu,” while fielding a lot of questions about your unique relationship can be incredibly disheartening.
Be intentional with who you discuss your relationship with, and always reassure each other how you’re feeling.
You need to have honest communication
This is an absolute must. The most important lesson I learned about communication is not to wait. There’s never going to be a perfect time to talk, and this is where we made some mistakes. While we spoke about the future, it was generally vague. He’d mention working towards getting a house, I’d mention looking for work there, yet none of our plans were ever solidified.
Life changes too much to not say what you’re feeling in the moment.
Always trust your instincts
Most of the time, we know when something doesn’t feel right, yet we choose to hide from our intuition. Or at least, that’s what I did. While I understood our situation was confusing and difficult, I wish I’d demanded full honesty sooner. I failed to demand an explanation that would have saved me a lot of anxiety and hurt in the long run. I learned the hard way that avoiding painful conversations won’t make them hurt any less.
Our visit came a few months later and I’ll never forget how happy I was. I thought of all the days leading to this moment – days of making me laugh each night before bed, sharing all the big and small moments of our days, and daydreaming about simply being together.
I was surprised to find that seeing someone after a long time doesn’t immediately result in the run-and-jump-into his arms kinda Hollywood reunion. Instead, I found myself in a bit of a state of shock. The truth is, I had so much built-up emotion, that I could barely speak!
Over the few days, we were able to explore the romantic relationship we’d dreamed of through the months – picking up from where we left. In the end, while he admitted he was still in love with me, he couldn’t continue long-distance.
Saying goodbye to someone you’re still in love with is confusing. But without these circumstances, I would never have had a chance to learn so much about myself and discover wonderful new facets of love and relationships.
In as much as we have maintained our friendship over the years, long-distance is not a route I would want to take – again.
Have you ever been in an LDR? How was it for you? Do share below.