By Becky Yep – Philadelphia, PA
Four years ago, my boyfriend and I met in our college dining hall through mutual friends, and immediately bonded over our shared hatred of Tom Brady. It was a match made in hog heaven, where the hog was a pigskin and the pearly gates were the doors of our university cafeteria.
We spent the next few years discovering what we had in common (other than hating on the Patriots). We were both born-and-bred Marylanders majoring in mechanical engineering, with interests in a lot of the same movies, music, sports and to-be-expected nerd-type activities (read: binge watching superhero movies and playing board games).
We even shared an almost identical class schedule (actually, he pointed this out – I didn’t realize this since he was very shy, but he had already recognized me because, apparently, I was very loud and had a tendency to ask a lot of questions in class). Thus began our relationship: two Brady-hating enginerds who spent much of their time together watching “X-Men” marathons or on homework dates. Romeo and Juliet had nothing on us.
As college came to a close, I began to get nervous about what would happen to us after graduation. I was used to seeing my boyfriend every day in class and on campus. Even over holiday breaks I was pretty spoiled; since we both lived in the state, we were a mere 30 to 40 minute drive away. But as I accepted a job out-of-state in a major city, and he an offer in Maryland, I became anxious about how we were going to manage The Distance.
Fast-forward to now, a full year-and-a-half after graduation, I am proud to say we are still together and our relationship is strong as ever. Friends sometimes ask how we do it. That’s what I’m here to share:
Cliché? Yes. But that doesn’t make this piece of advice any less true. Communicating with your long distance partner is so, so important. I’m talking about anything and everything, from the smallest type of communication (texting to laugh about a weird coworker, calling to bitch after a bad day, sharing funny cat videos) to the largest (commiserating about how much it sucks to be apart, making concrete plans to see each other, having The Talk about Your Future). With so many means of communication, connecting with one another should be a completely achievable priority, not a burdensome one.
The biggest thing for us is making sure he and I are on the same page, whether it be what weekend we see each other next, or which of us is planning to make The Move to be with the other. Here’s a caveat: *access* to communication tools is easy, but actually communicating what you’re feeling can be hard. Not talking face-to-face and not physically being with him can be almost unbearable – so that very topic is something I talk to him about! It means having those hard conversations about being apart, and really keeping your heart open to the other person, despite the distance between you.
Make friends with their friends
We’ve all had that one friend who disappeared off the face of the earth after they began dating someone. I didn’t want us to be like that – after all, what was the point of moving into a big city and away from my hometown if I didn’t allow myself to grow? While our relationship remains a priority, the rest of our social life shouldn’t suffer at its expense. Outside friendships are invaluable. If nothing else, it eases the pain of missing your partner. This also means that whenever my boyfriend and I are visiting each other in our respective new cities, one of us doesn’t necessarily have to *choose* between our partner and our friends. Being able to hang out as a couple in a group opens up a whole new realm of possibilities to explore. Plus, it’s a good excuse to see each other – what better reason than to show off the city to someone new, whom you both like?
Put things in perspective
I often feel guilty about complaining about my situation. After all, we live on the same coast, in neighboring states! We aren’t a military couple, we don’t have to deal with different countries or time zones; for us, a visit means hopping in the car for a few hours, not boarding a plane. While this fact doesn’t diminish the absence I feel when we are apart, putting our relationship in perspective does help me appreciate what I have. I have friends who are dating people halfway around the globe. I have friends planning weddings on their own, taking input from their partner virtually. I know it can be tough at times, but other people have it hard too, and you know what? Nearly all of them make it through. Sometimes I have to take a step back and realize how lucky I am. I have faith that if it’s meant to be, it will work out in the end.
Do what works for you
My last piece of advice: don’t take advice too seriously! These aren’t step-by-step instructions out of a relationship survival guide. These are just four things that have worked for me. You and your long distance partner are unique, and need to find your own happy. Do you like to call every night? Go for it. Skype in for Sunday night football? Good idea. Hop on a plane and see each other for holidays? Whatever works! Just know that like any relationship, near or far, there is no exact science to making it work. There’s going to be a lot of trial and error, and figuring things out as you go.
My hope for you is the same as what I hope for myself: you learn to value this part of the relationship, that you stick it out if it’s something worth fighting for and that one day you can look back and say, “We made it.”