The “Long Distance Relationship”. Something that strikes the hearts of many people who are currently in or are going into a relationship. Most people associate it with feelings of negativity – of regret, guilt, anxiety and most of all, fear. The fear of the unknown always compels us to think very rationally to the point of irrationality – “What will happen?”, “When will I see him/her again?”, “Will the feelings fade?”, “He/She wakes up when I go to sleep.”, “Can we survive it?”. To be honest, I did have such thoughts but in retrospect, I now know that going into a LDR is not what it seems.
Long-distance relationships are typically thought of as difficult at best. Many people consider them completely not worth doing at all, no matter what the circumstances. But I put forth a different perspective: The very things about loving someone from a distance that can seem so painful and negative are really, in fact, a tremendous source of strength that can not only make the relationship more solid and the love more intense, but could end up challenging both people involved to become better, more grateful, and more patient in general. So here’s my story and the lessons I learnt.
I started 2013 with a heavy heart as I set foot in Sweden, 9620.94km away from home. Our fledgling two-month relationship was about to withstand the test of a six month LDR. Now don’t get me wrong, the adventure of exchange, of experiencing new things, of going out of my comfort zone and pushing my boundaries were definitely appealing. However, being a sentimental person, my thoughts often wandered back home. And it wasn’t easy to leave behind the things I hold dear for six months. There was always a constant struggle to look ahead and at the same time know that what’s behind you isn’t going to catch up for now. The feeling of being independent there but still feeling very much dependent on the things I left behind was always nagging at me. Being there for someone without actually being there was challenging indeed.
Lesson 1: We do our best for the ones we love
Being away from someone would naturally mean missing out on important moments in their lives. Moments, you wish you could be there to support, to congratulate, to comfort. The best we can do is to be there in thought and spirit. We do our best that distance accords us. Important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions are not spared. But the important thing is that we try our best given the circumstances. No one gives up. Because we know how important it is. We do whatever we can to give our best.
We can’t be together because we’re in different places. And we strive for connection, any we can get. Skype, phone calls, emails, texts, sending gifts. We have to try to touch with our hearts and minds since our bodies cannot. It’s the worst. But it’s also a new, brilliant way of reaching each other. We get to share so much, because we’re getting to share so little in the way “normal” couples do. We take what we can get. You find ways to make someone feel special, regardless of miles.
Lesson 2: Communication
Communication is all you have. No hugs, no kisses, no embraces. Just the sights and sounds. You have to talk. A lot. Take the gestures a so-called normal relationship entails: touching their hand, wiping their tears away, fingers through their hair. All of that is replaced with communication. Talk about the mundane, talk about the news, talk about how the day went, what you ate, what you saw, heard, talk about your future, talk about what you’re going to do when you next meet or things you have done – the long walks, the movies, the coffees, the dumb pictures you took; basically talk about anything and everything. Run a gamut of emotion in whatever manner you need. Because seeing that smile, hearing that laugh, knowing that they’re doing okay, is what gets you through the day.
And thank God for Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, Telegram, Snapchat and various other tools and gadgets at our disposal for communication to happen at the ease of a button.
Lesson 3: How three worded phrases can mean so much
We don’t realise how much cliched or mundane phrases like “I miss you” can mean until we’re so far away from each other. Because this time, we don’t take them for granted. Because this time, saying the words wouldn’t necessarily equate to getting to see them in fifteen minutes. It doesn’t equate to ‘see you soon’ because ‘soon’ here can mean months or even years. There’s a whole new depth to “I love you” too, a depth that you’ll never know until you’re placed in a situation where you really mean it, when you know that saying those words translate to a yearning to do more. You go on with your adventure and somehow it’s filled with many ‘wish you were here moments’.
Lesson 4: The value of time
Long distance relationships make you treasure the time you have together. We always take time for granted. Always thinking that there’s always time to do this or do that. “I’ll get that later” or “I’m busy now, there’ll be time later”. When you’re in a LDR, time is always very precious. Time differences could mean that you wake up when they sleep or vice versa. And so we squeeze whatever time we have in our busy schedules for each other. And such times are – priceless. We make sure that every second counts and we talk and talk until either falls asleep or has to go.
Every conversation is a new episode, sort of like a television show. A show that we’re always looking forward to daily, because it’s so precious.
It could be a sad show, or a happy one, or just plain ol’ retarded.
It doesn’t matter, we just want to watch that show because it’s that special to us.
You make the most of your time together. Whereas other couples are prone to finding themselves in ruts where they waste whole nights doing nothing important on their laptops, or watching stupid TV, or whatever, people in long-distance relationships know that, sooner or later, they will be apart again. They will be wishing they could be together again. This ever-present knowledge that you don’t have indefinite time together is a truly effective deterrent against wasting time on banal activities. When your time together is short, you try to make it count more. In the end, compared with near-distance couples who can become complacent, long-distance couples might actually end up with more quality experiences together.
Lesson 5: Dispelling myths
“Out of sight, out of mind”. I can safely say that it’s not true. Because that didn’t happen.
In fact, you appreciate each other more. It’s very simple: When you have to be without each other more, you take each other for granted less. That’s not to say that long-distance don’t fall prey to many of the same pitfalls that near-distance couples do, but there’s no denying that when you can’t physically be near the person you love for long stretches of time, you are way more likely to remember to be thankful for them when you can.
And it also helps that we put up little reminders too 🙂
Lesson 6: You build your own world together
In most relationships, things are always skewed in favor of one of your worlds – one person usually ends up spending more time with the other person’s friends, or they take up hobbies that the other person likes, or spends more nights at their place. It just happens. But when you live far apart, you create your own little world, just for the two of you: phone calls, texts, emails, Skype dates – because neither of you can live fully in the other’s world, you create a space for your love that is more equal and balanced and unique than most other couples get to experience.
You also learn how to be alone. How to be strong, how to trust, how to have faith and how to persevere. You learn how the world can be a very big place and you’re just one of the many finding your place in it. But you also learn how small the world can be, after you build your own world together.
Lesson 7: You learn more about love and each other
You doubt each other’s love less. It’s never easier to stay in it. It’s never more convenient. So you know, almost without a doubt, that if the other person is still doing it, is still putting in all the effort necessary to make a long-distance relationship work, that they are still crazy about you. Very few people would be willing do go through all the work that a LDR requires unless they still consider the other person totally worth it.
You get to know someone so much faster while long distance. You ask more specific questions on the phone or text because you’re deliberately trying to learn about them through limited means. You learn what a ‘real’ relationship is. That it’s not about texts or lack of them, missed phone calls, or late night FaceTiming, but it’s the bond you feel when you’re not talking. The knowledge that as you’re going about your day, someone across the globe is missing you just as much as you miss them.
Being in a relationship is about a decision. A commitment. A promise. All towards that one person. It’s about fixing things when they are broken and not simply throwing them away. It is about working on it, hand in hand, day in and day out to make sure it works. It’s about being there for the good, the bad and even the ugly. There is no more ‘you’ or ‘me’ but only ‘us’. It is about my promise, my commitment, my decision to be the best that I can be and not just stop there but to continue improving and improving not just for me, not just for her, but for us, for our future. Because she deserves it, because we deserve it. Because being in a relationship is about making a choice. And I realised that if someone makes the choice to be with you, a concious, well thought-out choice to be with you, that means something. And I honor that choice, because conversely, I would expect that person to honor my choice in choosing her, in choosing us as well. And I’m not going to take her choice in me nor her for granted.
Lesson 8: Homecoming
Homecoming. The moment that was etched behind our minds when we left, the moment we yearned when we were going through it, and the moment that means so much when we’re finally there. I was happy. Happy to be reunited with the people I love – my family, friends and girlfriend. Those of us who have had the chance to experience a long distance relationship can attest to this. For all the times that you couldn’t be with the one you love, for all the times that you couldn’t see them in person, to hold them close, to kiss them, to whisper in their ear that “hey, it’s going to be alright”, or to simply feel their warmth and presence, it all culminates into that one moment. Homecoming. When the feeling of pure joy begins the moment you touch down and it slowly builds up as you walk down the airport hallway, past the luggage collection, past the security counters. And finally it explodes and fills up every fibre of your being when you embrace the one(s) you’ve missed so much. And for that brief fleeting moment, everything seems alright again. And you never want to let go. That moment you whisper “baby, I’m finally home.”, is simply golden.
It really puts into perspective how much someone means to you and how much we as human beings often take it for granted all too easily. And now as I begin to go into another LDR, I’m no longer afraid. Because this time I know, no matter how far or how long, love always wins. The distance doesn’t matter. It doesn’t erase you from my life. It doesn’t weaken your presence. It only makes you more important, more lovely, and more worth fighting for.
Live more, Love more, Laugh more
(Repost from 14 May, 2014)
ps – It’s great to be back on OD and being able to reclaim my old diary. Had moved on to WordPress when OD was dead but I guess I can post on more platforms now! Leave a comment below if you’d like more posts! Cheers.