Being in a long distance relationship is not about getting to enjoy your independence, spending idyllic evenings with a book, and having a perfectly planned Skype routine.
It’s about waiting until 2AM until your partner gets home after their work day so you can get on a short call to wish them good night because you’re dealing with a huge time difference. It’s also about disappointment when you wake up in the middle of the night and roll to the cold side of the bed only to realize that there is no one there. It’s about feeling a lump in your throat which could explode into tears at any moment because you were not able to get on a call over the past few weeks. It’s about avoiding hanging out with your friends who keep complaining that they don’t spend enough time with their live-in partners.
How often do you say “I wish my babe was here to see this”? How often do you feel just how much you miss then, that the pain manifests physically? Do you sometimes tear up (or manage to stop yourself on the verge of crying) when your friends ask you if you believe things are going to work out? (Or, even worse: “So, is long distance relationship a real relationship?”).
How often do you ask yourself: How long can we go on like this?
The truth is … it all depends on you.
My boyfriend and I managed to close the distance after 1.5 years. However, I have friends who decided to end their relationships after few months because they found the communication online unbearable. Also, I have read about people who were in a long distance relationship, got married, and continue living apart–it’s been nine years and they are still going strong (read the whole article for inspiration here).
A recent study announced that the average shelf life of a long distance relationship is 4.5 months (not very motivating). But how can you trust raw statistics when you are desperately trying to figure out your own relationship? How many sleepless nights will you be able to handle without getting into a risk of falling out of love?
I can clearly remember 6 stages we both went through during the time we lived countries apart and when we entered the last one, I knew: it was time to move in (or move on). Here are all of them:
Eagerness and Denial
We consciously avoided talking about the issues that we were about to face as a long distance couple. It was an overly positive stage. We made a decision to make it happen, but we also had a secret fear that this challenge might not work out. On top of that, we were scared to share it and therefore demotivate each other. This led us to encouraging each other (and ourselves) by acting as we were in a perfect situation. Looking back, I feel this “fake” happy environment we created was quite funny, but we desperately wanted to believe the success of what we were doing ourselves.
The phase we lived apart was accompanied by occasional anxiety/jealousy/fear (my anxiety issues didn’t benefit this situation either). I used to get jealous about anything he did. I didn’t even care if it was a Sunday football match with his dudes or going to a night club. All of it made me equally upset.
To make it more difficult, I started asking myself if the decision we made was right. Our online love affair became an emotional roller-coaster. This was accompanied by few months of negotiations until we both understood what each of us needed to be capable of to maintain a happy state of mind.
This brought us to the adaptation phase.
We figured out a communication pattern that worked for us and created our small rituals: wild, tipsy, and horny (online) dates on Fridays or Skype pillow talk traditions on Sundays, trying to share small, casual stories (which seem to be unimportant, but can increase the level of closeness to a great extent).
For example, if you had an uplifting talk with a cleaner in your apartment building and think that it’s not worth wasting your babe’s time – stop right there.
Learn to share small details from your everyday life as you would if you lived together. This will make your relationship as casual and close as the “real” one would be. Communication and endless support taught us how to deal with stress, bad days, missing each other, and constant feeling of needing more of him in my life.
I learnt to believe that it’s completely normal to feel the void. I enjoyed my everyday life (remembering that time, I think having my intense experiences in India made my LDR struggle easier). We learnt to ignore the fact that we were meeting six times a year and became rather automatic about sending a “good morning, have a great day” message. I even adapted to a fact that I was only sure about my partner’s “presence” in my life when the word “Typing…” used to appear on my Whatsapp screen. It sucked, but we somehow believed (or learnt to believe) that it was bearable.
Stress (first stage of long distance phase of your relationship going to an end)
I was the first one to hit this stage. When I was considering leaving India, I received a job offer from Dubai and my boyfriend had a genuine belief that this would be a great move in terms of my career. He was right… But I was at a point when I couldn’t care less about my career. I knew if I decide to take up the offer in Dubai, it would end our relationship. Even though I truly think that our story is special (I bet everyone does) and my man makes me feel like the happiest girl in the world, I would give the same answer today.
I couldn’t be patient about it. I knew that I deserve to enjoy my life (including the relationship part of it). I was not able to act happy anymore. Because I wasn’t.
Everyone’s patience runs out at some point. For me, this was the time of last straw.
I started feeling more stress than happiness about our relationship because it was stuck in the same phase for almost 2 years. That’s the reason why I believe you should at least start planning on closing the distance as soon as the situation allows you. Even if you have doubts about the plans coming true, it will lead to materializing sooner or later. Also, it will give you extra confidence about your relationship.
Maybe some couples manage to make it work and grow together over distance, but it didn’t work for us. We knew that we wanted to be together, but we never discovered a way to actually develop our relationship while living in different countries. That big love became almost unavailable for us to enjoy and we couldn’t bear it hanging in the air anymore.
Moving in/moving on
That’s where the decision time comes in, and whatever you decide will depend on your feelings. You are forced to evaluate the importance of your career and the comfort of living in a place you are familiar with against the love for your partner and the challenges you will face when one of you moves. You can read about closing the distance here.
I never had fears, questions, or doubts if I was doing a right thing by leaving India and buying a one way ticket to China. I was okay to leave my life behind for sake of being with my man.
There is another possibility: you might find too many questions and doubts when your relationship hits this stage, which results in prioritizing your current lives and neither side willing to take a step towards closing the distance. I have seen friends going through this.
The good news is you won’t spend much time doubting. You will either want to be with them, or you will get scared about it.
I’d love you to share your story: are you in a long distance relationship?
Did you go through these stages too?
How did you managed to cope with the last one?