Since we began dating six years ago, my boyfriend has lived in Northern and Southern California, Mississippi, two different cities in Texas, and The United Arab Emirates. He's moved more times during the course of our relationship than most people do in an entire lifetime. During this same period, I moved away for college, received my degree, and landed my postgrad dream job. We've missed countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions due to our separation — in six years, we have only spent one Valentine's Day together! However, we are more happy now than we've ever been. When people find out about the course that our lives have taken and the length of time that we've spent apart, most of them have the same question: "How did you manage to stay together through that?" The answer to this question is, quite simply, that long distance has been good for us.
Sure, it's not always been easy. We suffered through two months of exclusively snail mail communication. When he was in the Middle East and I was in California, the only time we could attempt to communicate was at midnight my time; even then we'd only be able to talk on the rare occasion that his Internet was working. When he was in a serious traffic accident a state away, I cried helplessly next to the phone while waiting for news about his injuries, knowing that I couldn't be there in an instant like most girlfriends. Obviously, long-distance love is no picnic and isn't for everybody. However, as my boyfriend and I discovered, the lessons learned during these periods of separation can be the best possible thing for a long-term relationship. Here are some of the incredibly great things that resulted from our experience:
- Room For Friendship: Not having your significant other around means plenty of time to spend with friends. Many of my favorite memories from my long-distance years revolve around my time spent with close friends, from Galentine's Day parties to high-school-style sleepovers. Your partner will also be able to focus on his friends, allowing you each to grow individually in your own social circles. It's important to maintain separate identities rather than morphing into one unit with only mutual friends!
- Trust Building: Jealousy is draining, and this only amplifies when you're in a long-distance relationship. When you're living apart, it quickly becomes clear that you can either exhaust yourself by constantly worrying about your significant other's fidelity, or you can choose to trust them. If they're not trustworthy, is it worth wasting your time and energy on them? My boyfriend and I don't feel the need to check up on one another anymore, because we trust that we'll each make smart decisions.
- Appreciation of the Little Things: Couples that spend every day together often complain of boredom with their routine. In a long-distance relationship, there is no routine! Little things, like relaxing together and watching a few episodes of a Netflix show, become extremely precious. We learned to treasure everything from holding hands to grocery shopping during our occasional visits.
- Knocking Out Neediness: When you're apart from your partner, you can't rely on them for everything. Distance helps each party in a relationship become independent rather than growing overly dependent on one another. Independence is a great quality to have in a relationship, and time apart helps build that.
- Choosing Battles Wisely: Fighting becomes an entirely different animal when you're in a long-distance relationship. While you can easily make up and move past a petty argument in person, blowing up over something tiny while you're apart can seriously damage a relationship. This type of relationship helps you to evaluate what's important to discuss and what won't matter next week. Once you're conscious of this, you'll see a drastic reduction in the number of "nothing" fights you engage in with your partner. I certainly stopped picking fights about silly things like text message length!
- Communication Overhaul: This lesson goes hand in hand with choosing your battles. Communication is key to any successful relationship, but its importance increases 100 times over when dating long distance. You can't give your boyfriend the silent treatment when you're separated by hundreds of miles — you need to learn to talk it out or else you'll break up.
- Cost Cuts: It's amazing how expensive dating can be! Expenses reduce drastically once you're not frequenting restaurants and movie theaters as a couple, which means saving for things like plane tickets and couples vacations.
- Thoughtful Creativity: When you're far apart, you can't surprise your significant other with candlelit dinners on a random weeknight. However, you can learn to express your love for them in other ways! Once, when my boyfriend was sick, I sent him a few cans of chicken noodle soup and a box of green tea via Amazon Prime, along with a note that said, "Sorry I can't be there to make this in person!" He loved it.
- Focus on the Long Term: One of the biggest motivators in a long-distance relationship is the end goal. It's easier to get serious with your partner when you're putting out the effort to make things work from afar! After all, if you handle this, you can handle everything.