It’s been 3 years since I left Mr. P to work in another country. We’ve been in a long distance relationship (LDR) for sometime now. It’s not easy. We’re together but not really together. It’s strange, almost bizarre.
We almost broke up after more than a year of LDR. Distance has a way of testing your character and commitment. It wasn’t a problem of third party. But for a short period of time, I was very frustrated with Mr. P. I felt he was lax with our relationship. Not that he changed as a person. Mr. P shows his love through service but it’s hard to see that when there’s miles between us. He can’t make me coffee or pancakes anymore. He can’t hold my hand or wrap his arms around me anymore. He can’t be with me to see places and shop for things anymore. Distance puts limits to how you can express your love.
I learned that to make a long distance relationship work, you have to constantly fight off 2 things. These are estrangement and growing apart. When these two things creep into your relationship, it will destroy what you have with your partner. These can lead to unfaithfulness, lack of enthusiasm and even lack of direction in your relationship. The best way to beat these two is to be in constant open communication with your partner.
If you’re struggling in your LDR right now, try these things:
1. Talk, talk, talk.
Talk to each other as much as you can, as often as you can. I’m not saying spend your weekends on Skype. But as much as possible, do not miss a day without talking to each other. It doesn’t matter if you have something to say or not. Maybe your partner has something to say. You can just ask how each other’s day went. Or ask what your partner will do the following day. You’d be surprised how these small everyday talk makes a difference in your relationship.
Mr. P used to work night shifts so we only get to talk on weekends. At first we didn’t notice the estrangement. Then almost suddenly, we realized we got used to not talking we had nothing to talk about even when we can talk. It didn’t help that Mr. P wasn’t a talker. It was almost awkward talking to him. When we recognize our problem, we decided to talk as often. He’d call me briefly late at night, barely 5 minutes while I’m half awake. Yet, it helped ease the estrangement.
2. Share the little things.
I like sharing pictures of the nice things I see. Everyday, I try to find something lovely and send it to Mr. P. He’s not that kind of person. He wouldn’t think of taking picture of the sky or his food or of people. Earlier in our LDR, I would ask him to send me pictures of something that made him smile or made him emotional. He almost always forgot or that he didn’t find take anything. I kept on urging him until I had enough. I told him he’s selfish and that he’s lazy. He has a camera phone, it’s not difficult to take a picture and send it to me. He told me I’m being silly. So I stopped sending him pictures and stopped sharing the little things that made me happy. Then, he got it!
You see, it’s the little everyday things that make our lives. It’s those little things that reveal what we value, what we feel and what we aspire. People want to be in relationship so they can share their lives with someone. Distance makes sharing lives harder. You have to find ways how you can share your life with the other person who’s in a different world. It’s a challenge but we have modern technology to help us.
3. Go on virtual dates.
Virtual dates sounded silly at first but it helped us to have shared experiences even if it’s only online. Some days, Mr. P and I would agree to drink Starbucks together or have ice cream together. Some days, it’s Italian or Mc Donalds or pancakes. We’d ask how each other’s food are and share how our food tasted. Sometimes, we’d be watching the same video or the same movie. We’re physically apart but we’re seeing and doing the same thing. It’s not the same as a real date but at least we get to do the same thing.
Virtual dates also help you celebrate things together. Date virtually on Valentines, on Christmas, on your anniversary or on any event that’s worth celebrating. Celebrating each other is an important part of a relationship. Don’t let distance robs you of that.
4. Plan of a future life together.
As the saying goes, ”Distance makes the heart grows fonder.” But let me add to it with ”Only when the heart sees a future with its lover.” It’s true that distance can test how real and true your love is. But I don’t think LDR’s are bound to last. Couples in LDR should at least make definite plans on when they can be together again. An LDR without future and definite plans is just silly and useless. I’m sorry but that’s the truth. It’s like having money overseas which you can’t use. Or like building a house which you don’t know when will be finished. (I’m not sure if my analogies are nice but I hope you get the point.) Unless you’re okay with vague relationships, set a time limit on your LDR status. Discuss your future plans with your partner so you can find the most suitable setup. Your future plans will also help each other keep going.
After a year of being apart, I wasn’t sure anymore of where my relationship with Mr. P is going. He seemed to be happy just the way we were before. He’s not sharing his plans to me so I thought he’s just waiting for our relationship to naturally end. Just before I decided to end our relationship, he shared his plans of marrying me and being together somewhere. His plans changed my mind. Suddenly, I have something to look forward to. My relationship wasn’t as vague or as directionless as I thought.
A relationship is already challenging. A long distance one is doubly challenging. It’s challenging but it’s not impossible for your relationship to survive. Distance can make you grow apart. It will test you and bend you. But if you get past the trying times, distance can also make your relationship stronger and bring you closer.
PS: Remember this: