On Long Distance Relationships

Long distance relationships are a fact of life these days.  We can blame globalization, we can blame the economy, we can blame ourselves for being so darn fidgety.  But it seems that most of my friends have gone through a period of long distance love at some point in their lives.  People's experiences with long distance are as varied as people's relationships are.  I'm coming to the end of my third period of long distance with Nathan, here's how my experiences with have changed over the course of our relationship and some of the struggles I'm dealing with in it right now.

Being in a long distance relationship is something I've had quite a bit of experience with over my years with Nathan.  Our first bout started just two weeks into dating.  We met in New York, two weeks before he was set to move back to LA.  At the time we didn't think we would stick it out, but we were falling in love and even seven months apart couldn't put a damper on it.  It was hard, but the beginning of a relationship is so vibrant and passionate the distance hardly seemed to matter.  We talked every day, texted constantly, sent each other funny pictures, and flew across the country to see each other.

Our second bout was about a year later, when he started a master's program in San Francisco and I entered a teaching credential program in LA.  This one lasted about 9 months and was by far the easiest.  We were both working so hard in school we wouldn't have had much time for each other anyway.  The distance was close enough that we could visit each other one weekend each month, and we made sure to get enough work done that we could take the whole weekend off to enjoy our time together.  Our studies also overlapped so we had a lot to talk about when we did visit.  Some of my favorite memories are of sitting at his kitchen table, covered in stacks of notes and books, studying with him.

We are now in our third long distance period.  This one was my choice, and it has also been the hardest on me.  I have been traveling and having all fun adventures, while he has been working hard and taking on extra classes to save money for the move.  We text every day and have been setting aside time for a weekly video date, but even when we do talk it's hard to connect.  I feel like I'm gloating when I tell him about all of the fun I'm having or whining when I complain about a bad day.  He's not much of a talker in the first place, and he lives by the adage "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."  Pretty much all he does is prep for classes and grade papers, which doesn't leave many nice things to talk about.

After six years of commitment and three years of cohabitation, we have formed our own language in our relationship.  Nathan rarely vocalizes his feeling for me, but he showers me with kisses, loving touches, affectionate glances, and little presents.  I feel so loved when I am with him.  But that doesn’t really translate over phone lines and video screens.  It's hard to sleep alone after three years of falling asleep with someone you love.  I am constantly seeing things Nathan would laugh at, or thinking of little inside jokes we have, and I have no one to share them with.   And it's really, really, hard.  

But one thing I have learned in our time together is that everything comes in waves.  Even when we were living together there were periods where I was so in love I could hardly see straight, and periods where I couldn't stand him and was sure the whole thing was a big mistake.  Three weeks ago I was sure it was over, and today I am so excited for him to join me in Portland and to make a new home with him.  One of the things I love most about Nathan is his self-reflection.  We are both working on ourselves and our relationship constantly by looking at ourselves to adjust unreasonable expectations of each other, set boundaries, and stand our ground on the things that are important to us.

I am so ready for this bout of long distance to be over and done.  I hope it will be the last one we ever do.  But I also know that I would never want to hold him back from an opportunity that was important to him, and that means we might have to do this again some day.  So I will remember that everything comes in waves, and as long as we remember that we love each other and keep putting love into our relationship, we can handle it.  

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship?  I have some friends who would rather break it off completely, and others who feel it almost brings them closer together.  What are your experiences?


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  2. Congratulations on being together again in Portland! Zac and I did long distance for 2 years about 9 months after we started dating. We knew we'd found something we wanted to hold onto, so when I moved for a 2 year job assignment in Texas (I owed the Coast Guard 2 more years of service, so not going wasn't an option)... we said hello to a long distance relationship. We took turns visiting each other every month, so we always had something to look forward to. I'm happy I had the experience of living in Texas, but it's so nice being together, in-person, and sharing life together in the same place!

    1. You were in the Coast Guard?! That's amazing, I never would have guessed, but you are such a graceful and classy lady it does make sense. Long distance can be great in some situations. It makes the time you have together really special, and it makes you really grateful when it is over and you get to share a life together.