How is it the end of August?! Though a lot has happened this summer, I still can’t believe the end is already here. I’m gearing up for my final year of undergrad, which is a little crazy (and scary), but mostly exciting. If all goes according to plan (a word I’m using very loosely here), I will get to finally, actually be in the same physical place as my boyfriend after graduation!
Four years ago, JT and I had just begun dating, and he had already chosen a college a few hundred miles away from home. A year later, when it was my turn to go off to college, I chose a school out-of-state that didn’t exactly put me any closer to him. Now, it has been a long four years of being in a long distance relationship, or ldr. We do our best to meet in the middle by coming home about once a month or making trips to visit each other at school, talking on/with our phones every day, and, of course, seeing each other during school breaks. I would never call the situation easy, but we’ve found ways to make it work pretty well for us.
We’ve found the single most important factor in any ldr, or relationship in general, is to COMMUNICATE (cliche, but so true). We all have devices in our hands 24/7 designed just for this, so it’s not really a stretch to use it to stay in touch with our significant other. The initial months of being in two different places taught JT and I how often we really need to check in and what we should be checking in about. Another cliche that rings true: it really is the little things. We’ve learned that just making a point of letting the other know that we’re busy studying or spending time with friends is necessary to avoid miscommunication and causing the other to worry about why we aren’t responding. Other little things that are worth mentioning can include: when we’re having a rough day, when something really good happens, when one of us has an idea for something fun we want to do the next time we’re together, and, one of the most important, when we’re missing the other.
Something that I don’t think is stressed enough in conversations about ldrs is to PLAN. JT and I talk about how many weeks we’re okay without seeing the other, and then do our best to plan trips to see each other at the agreed-upon point in time. It doesn’t always work out perfectly; you can’t prepare for every last-minute exam or other wrench sometimes thrown into travel plans, but you can regroup and reschedule, so that’s what we do. It’s really important to us that we do see each other on a regular basis so we feel some semblance of a normal relationship (normal meaning without five hundred miles between us on a daily basis).
We’ve also learned that having a game plan not only for travel logistics, but for how to handle specific parts of our relationship is really key. However, relationships, like most of life, involve planning as you go. Over time and through different experiences, we’ve learned to discuss our expectations so that we don’t accidentally do something that will hurt the other. This can be tricky; we have to be realistic and understanding. We can’t limit each other’s friends or studying or other activities. If something makes one of us uncomfortable, it’s definitely worth discussing. But the flip-side of that coin is realizing that you truly can’t control the person you’re in a relationship with. That’s something that I struggled with at first because heading into an ldr is exactly like heading into the unknown, which my planning-self finds very scary. That’s when I had to realize that planning doesn’t make up for good, old-fashioned trust; we have to rely on both, and, what’s more, we’re lucky we can.
We’re lucky, even when we miss each other a lot and don’t feel like it, because we have figured out how to let each other live our lives in a way that makes us individually happy and fulfilled. In other words, we’re allowing each other to be a little selfish because we’re young and we don’t want to hold each other back. It’s hard not to be a part of his daily life, but he’s made incredible friendships and worked his ass off to reach his personal goals, and he’s supported me in doing the same.
Because of that, I appreciate him and this journey. It would be easier in a lot of ways if we had decided not to even try this. It can be emotionally taxing to constantly miss the person I love, but he makes it worth it because I can focus on who I want to be so that I’m the best version of myself as we move forward into the next chapter of our lives together. It’s beyond humbling that I know he feels the same; we’ve truly built a strong relationship around showing up and supporting each other regardless of the circumstances.
As we say goodbye to this summer, we’re saying goodbye to each other, but only temporarily. Here’s to one more school year of long distance! And good luck to any couples just starting to figure this distance stuff out; you’ll learn a lot about relationships and yourself and hopefully, you’ll end up at this point. (If not, I still think you’ll be better for trying.)