Being long-distance sucks. We’ve been together for over 16 years, and for most of it we have been lucky to spend at least part of each day together. With some recent life changes, we’ve been doing the past month apart, and it’s not a lot of fun. When you don’t get to see the person you love more than anyone for several days in a row, it’s like a part of you is missing. That’s who you share a bed with. Cook with. Hike with. Crash on the couch and watch Netflix with. Whisper secrets with. Who you feel a sense of belonging and acceptance with.
The longer you’re together, the more your emotions and quirks and goals become intricately interwoven. Your bodies are used to each other. You know a lot about how they think and the way the two of you like to spend free time together. When you’re with someone long enough, you even start to look like one another—which is bit strange and romantic at the same time. Being long-distance yanks and pulls at those threads. Your hand waits to hold theirs, but there’s only a phantom feeling of interlocking fingers. Perhaps one day humans will be able to reach through a FaceTime to touch and kiss. Or travel anywhere in just a matter of minutes—making long-distance relationships a thing of the past.
In the meantime, there are some things that make long-distance manageable and tolerable (in-between the times you break down in tears). It’s not surprising that communication is the key. But people don’t always know what good communication looks like or how much harder you have to work at it when you can’t look your significant other in the eye and give them a hug when all else fails.
Having regular times for FaceTime or Skype can make a huge difference. At least you can see each other’s faces that way. You can also show off where you’re at or what you’re up to—the living room in your shared home, grabbing a drink at a spot you usually go to together or roaming the streets downtown. Each of your daily routines, while you’re apart, will be somewhat mysterious or unknown. But you can be intentional about sharing how your day went and show some of the things you did. That definitely keeps you closer to each other.
Those are the kinds of things you can do through the wonderful possibilities of the Internet. Messages or gifts through the mail can be fun and appreciated, too. Something as simple as a card with a handwritten note has been a welcome surprise when we send them to each other. You can go all out and send a cool local treat (candy, jam, or wine, maybe?), a new item for their wardrobe, a journal, or whatever else would be most meaningful between the two of you.
Through it all, it’s important to be extra patient with each other. You might go most of a day without talking or texting at all. When you reconvene over the phone, there’s a lot to catch up on. You can end up trying to talk about everything at once and not have a real back-and-forth conversation. Or you might step on their toes by overzealously telling them what to do when they have things perfectly under control. When you have a true, loving relationship, the two of you are interdependent—not dependent. You’re better together (that’s why you’re in a relationship!). But neither of you is completely paralyzed without the other. They can make it without you. When they want your thoughts about what to do or they need encouragement to make it through a tough situation, they’ll probably make it clear to you. Give them space to talk about what they want to talk about. Listen a lot and take things in. Then sometime later you can say a little about what you think about it—and what you’ve been up to yourself.
There’s no science to long-distance. It takes practice and trying things out and patience. Some couples are great at it and others have a really hard time.
When you can figure out how the two of you are going to talk and send things back-and-forth in a uniquely you kind of way, it all goes a lot smoother. You can keep living life together from miles away—however partial that may be compared to what you would do if you were both in the same place. Long-distance can suck a little less.