Let’s put the (metaphorical) children to bed and gather ‘round the grown folks table to talk about something serious: long distance relationships.
People are constantly on social media griping about how long distance relationships are impossible, and I just roll my eyes with ALL shade intended. Yes, they can be difficult at times, but, shit, SO ARE WE; if you find someone worth the difficulty, then it’s only right that you’d be willing to make it work. Let me backtrack:
I’ve been around this block before.
Over 2 years ago, I moved from east to west coast for grad school, and eventually, dubbed myself the ‘long distance lover’—I refused to date in Los Angeles (and after a firm “DON’T” straight from Issa Rae’s lips to our USC auditorium ears, when being asked about dating in LA, I guess I was onto something).
I was only interested in men 3,000 miles away from me, and decided that I was gonna live with it. I had convinced myself that dating in L.A. was an unnecessary distraction from my purpose. All things considered, I think long distance dating did me well. I wouldn’t do anything differently.
I’m not suggesting that everyone jump into LDRs, but I am pleading with you to not write it off completely. It IS possible, and it IS exciting. If you ever decide to go the distance (pun intended), here’s what you should keep in mind:
KNOW WHAT TYPE OF PERSON YOU ARE DATING
I had to start here because this affects everything. This works most efficiently when you were previously familiar with your partner before the LDR, but learning your partner & their ‘quirks’ as early as possible can save you a lot of time.
Are you dealing with someone who values quality time over gifts? Needs constant attention? Are they a morning or night person? Will they ignore you for an entire week if they’re upset? These are examples of things you NEED to know in any relationship, but especially long distance ones. Learn who you are dating so that you know how to meet their needs, or even if you want to meet them at all…
BE CLEAR WITH YOUR INTENTIONS
Please PLEASE be honest with what you/what to expect from the relationship. Are you guys exclusive? Do you plan to visit? (more on this one below) Do you see yourself with this person long-term? Are you even ready for ANYTHING long term right now? If any of these answers are “no”, then you may want to reconsider the LDR.
The way I see it: LDRs move twice as slow as regular relationships, so you’d be wasting twice as much time if one of you isn’t clear on your true intentions.
ACTIVELY PLAN TO SEE EACH OTHER
Hate to state the obvious, but you need plan to see each other if your relationship is going to work. I’ve had this go 2 ways:
-Right after a visit, I casually mentioned planning my next one to a [former] bae, and he damn near had a panic attack. How the fu-…what if we were in the same city and I wanted to see him?!?!? Mental note: clearly this man is full of sh*t…
-During my last year of school, my [current] man and I did not go more than 6 weeks without seeing each other (holidays, birthdays, & special occasions made it easier). I visited him sometimes, but he mostly came to me, and we made it work seamlessly.
My point is that if someone really wants you, they’ll be diligent in spending time with you, no matter how far you are.
CHECK YOUR OWN INSECURITIES
Whew… this one HERE. It may be the most important takeaway from this post. I’ll share another story:
I always planned to live in Los Angeles at some point. When I began the process to actually get there, an ex (a repeat offender, no less) had resurfaced in my life, and told me that he’d be “ready for me” if I wasn’t moving away…
This suggested 2 things:
1. He was insecure
2. He didn’t trust me (or himself)
Either way, I knew he wasn’t the one. I’ve learned that most negative responses to LDRs are just a reflection of the security/faith people have in themselves. You must fully trust yourself and your partner for a successful relationship. After all, LDRs only heighten existing issues/insecurities, they don’t create them.
TAP INTO MORE AREAS OF INTIMACY
One of the unique things about LDRs is that they remove the “rose-colored glasses” of lust, meaning sex can’t be the only thing that’s good on the menu. Removing [constant] physical contact from the equation forces you to delve deeper into other areas of intimacy, such as emotional or intellectual (active visits can also improve experiential intimacy).
In order for the relationship to thrive, despite low physical intimacy, you have to be willing to be vulnerable; get comfortable with sharing your thoughts, feelings, “favorites”, and interests. This will really get to the root of who a person is, without being blinded by the bullshit. *Oh, look, another story…*
Relocating helped me realize that my relationship, at that time, was not as strong as I believed it to be. When I lived back at home, there was no shortage of physical intimacy—kissing-rubbing-touching 90s R&B kinda physical. But when the lusty smoke cleared, I wasn’t happy with who we were or how we were together; we were not compatible, and our communication was HORRIBLE (more on this below).
My physical absence made me realize that we didn’t take the time to really learn each other, and our relationship crumbled, as a result. I didn’t even feel comfortable being vulnerable with him, and we weren’t equipped to truly support each other emotionally or intellectually, so it had to end.
EVALUATE COMMUNICATION IN THE RELATIONSHIP
You never know how well you truly communicate with someone until it’s all you have left, and I learned this the hard way (per usual).
Like I said before, LDRs will open-palm smack you with whatever issues you already have, and ours hit hard. And FAST. I knew that my ex and I didn’t agree on much (which was fine), but I quickly saw that we did not communicate well, even on the most instinctive things; he would turn every disagreement into a personal (and VERY emotional) attack on him, and it became unbearable to even express myself.
One of the things that drew me to my current boyfriend, in fact, was his ability to communicate well. I was confident that our relationship would survive the distance because we had no problems with expressing ourselves freely, RECEIVING THE MESSAGE, and talking through everything. When you have a partner who realizes that listening is just as important as talking in communication, your relationship can go very far.
HAVE AN END GOAL
I make all of this sound SO cute, right? But the truth is, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that a relationship will work if a couple is permanently long distance. Ask yourselves: What’s the future look like? How long do you plan to be apart?
I eventually reunited with my boyfriend back on the east coast after I completed my degree; since we began our relationship with this in mind, our LDR became a lot less daunting. It was easier to be apart when we knew it was only temporary.
Create a timeline that leads to a common end goal with your partner—what is going to/needs to happen during your time apart? Together? This is a good way to work together with a “reward” in the end, despite being in different places.
So, did I convince you? Are you ready to hop/skip/jump across these time zones to get to your soulmate? Whatever your answer is, I just want everyone to understand the mental and emotional fortitude it takes for a successful relationship, ESPECIALLY a long distance one. If you and your partner consider all the points above, you will know if you’re equipped. It takes a special type of couple to successfully tame the LDR beast; only the strong will survive.
Written by: B. Sierra