Last December, my boyfriend of six months left the country for a year-long stint in the U.S. Just past the halfway mark, here’s what I’ve learned.
1. Long distance relationships are not doomed to failure
When I told my friends that I was going to “keep trying” with a guy who was scheduled to leave the country for an extended period of time, some were happy for me, but a lot of people also expressed that widely-held judgment – “I don’t believe in long distance”.
I could definitely relate. After all, not too long ago, I was probably in that camp (I say probably because I hadn’t really given much thought to actually being in a long distance relationship). Yeah, it was scary, the idea of not being able to physically spend time with the person you’d decided to “be” with. But the alternative – letting go – was worse.
So, I found myself in an inter-Continental romance. The good news is, it’s not the end of the world. Seven months on (and five more to go), my relationship has not gotten duller, nor has it entropied. In fact, it feels like it’s gotten deeper and richer, just in a different way than it would have had we stayed in the same country.
2. Yes, all the things they say about communication are true.
Some studies even theorise that long-distance dating actually improves communication between two people. Not knowing how things would have turned out if we weren’t forced to be apart, I can’t wholly vouch for that, but I can say that having phone calls and text messages as our sole means of connecting with each other means that, yes, communication has become deeply vital to your relationship.
Thankfully, we live in a digital age. FaceTime (or Skype or Viber or whichever app you prefer) can foster the feeling of closeness, which is great for when there are 15990 km separating the two of you. Whenever I stop to think about it, it just feels kind of strange that whenever we “hang out”, I’m actually in my room, by myself, talking to an onscreen image on my phone. It’s not as good as the real thing (I don’t get butterflies thinking about my upcoming FaceTime session, for sure), but, hey, we all make do with what we’ve got.
3. Survival is possible, even with trust issues.
Trust is vital to any relationship, and as conventional wisdom goes, even more so to a long-distance one. Well, yes, to an extent. You obviously need to trust that the other person is telling you the truth (but that has to be the case even if you were in the same country because checking their phones constantly is no way to live). But that also doesn’t mean natural skeptics (like moi) aren’t able to sustain a long distance relationship.
Before my boyfriend and I were even officially a thing, we established that “no security is better than false security”. So before he left, we didn’t make any of the usual promises to each other – that one would wait for the other, that we’d always feel the same way, or that nothing would change… The only things we could say when we bade each other goodbye were what we each felt to be true at that particular moment – that neither of us wanted to end our relationship; that we were at the very least willing to try, despite having zero experience with long-distance between the both of us.
That mindset has carried on to this day. Sure, we talk about the future, but at the same time, we’re both realists. Things not working out is always a possibility, and while that could be interpreted as a lack of stability – or a lack of trust – I kind of see it as the truth. The present is assured – the future is not. If you’re okay with that, you’re prepared to handle whatever comes your way. I kind of see that as a rule in life, not just relationships.
4. Road bumps are INEVITABLE.
At some point, someone is going to cross the line. Or someone is going to wonder if the relationship is even worth it. It’s not going to be rainbows and butterflies all the way. And yes, whatever speed bump you hit is most definitely a test. But instead of looking at it as a sign of trouble, I’ve realised that this event is almost a necessary part of the process. A patch of trouble was important to shake myself out of the trap of complacency I’d almost fallen into. It helped me clarify where both of us were in the relationship, and clichéd as it sounds, we were better for it, in the end.
5. Missing someone is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Experts be damned. According to one article: “When you’re only seeing someone once a month, it makes sense to put in a little extra effort. After all, a lot of LDR couples don’t always know when or how often they’ll be seeing each other. LDR couples are forced to flirt and court one another on an ongoing basis.”
Well, yes, maybe that’s true. But in my experience it’s also a major overstatement of the actual truth. Which is that it sucks when one person wants to spill all the juicy details of a major happening at work and the other is still groggy from waking up. Or, you know, sure you’re feeling flirty. But so what if your text isn’t going to be seen for another six hours? (Time difference = major banter killer.)
Even Anais Nin and Henry James – co-authors of one of the most passionate correspondences in the history of the written word and experts at long-distance courting – seemed to know that when it comes down to it, nothing beats the actual presence of the person you long for. A million written avowals of love don’t even come close.
Image: TPG/Click Photos
Text: Kit Chua