“Distance means so little when someone means so much.” ~Unknown
People tend to think long-distance relationships are one of the hardest possible ways of loving someone. I live in one: As a young European, I am deeply in love with my African boyfriend who pursues his career in Asia.
I met my love about two years ago. After dating for a few months and sharing a wonderful time in an Asian country, we split up, as he had many doubts about things that seemed to separate us. At this point in time, our differences seemed to be too wide to merge them into a happy, long-lasting life together.
This period was very painful for both of us. After one year—when I had already returned to my home country—he approached me again, explaining how wrong he was, and asking for a second chance.
I didn’t know what this implied, but my heart was saying wholeheartedly yes as I was confident the differences weren’t stronger than our love. My heart felt embedded in his, and I still loved him deeply.
So we started fresh again—this time with an extreme distance between us.
The first months felt easy, as the bliss of being back together melted the distance away. Even though different time zones and tight budgets influenced our ways of communication, it only mattered that we had found our way back to each other.
We missed each other dearly; but there was a certain peace with the reality. I could feel him being on the other side, thinking of me and being in love with me. This was all I could ask for.
However, I knew this serenity would come and go; frustration could kick in eventually and challenge us. Around one year and two visits later, the downsides of the distance did indeed knock me off. I missed my boyfriend during days and nights, and fear crept in.
What if this would lead us only to a big disappointment?
My mind dug through tons of questions and my world felt not as open and wide anymore. We knew we would need to deal with lots of issues if we wanted to be together—ambitious career paths and different work/life-balances, immigration papers, money, languages, intercultural differences, a worried family on my side.
It‘s not easy to keep up with the constant uncertainty of the future, and I often feel tired of external factors that hinder us.
But it has also dawned on me that I can’t make myself the victim of circumstances. We need to keep putting our heads up high and take the distance as our current external state that shapes us but will change eventually.
I don’t deny we live on two different continents, and can‘t have breakfasts in bed or spontaneous weekend trips to the sea. But I always wished for a wonderful man with a beautiful character who loves me for who I am. Now I got my wish—just totally out of my comfort zone.
I’ve learned some lessons along the way—and they may help even if you’re not in a long-distance relationship:
It‘s important that you speak, listen, write, fight, and laugh with your partner about everything that’s meaningful to you. I use different channels for communication, and surprise my honey from time to time with a postcard, a colorful photo, or an unexpected call.
We don‘t hear from each other every day; sometimes we can‘t Skype for days due to clashing schedules or bad Internet connections. This is annoying but okay.
We remember to respect the other person‘s schedule and space; we don‘t expect the other one to be available all the time. I think it’s important to keep it light to a certain degree so that there’s no need of constant (virtual) presence that would be draining at some point.
Also, I feel much better after sharing my struggles with my boyfriend; it’s a way of being honest and authentic. Make yourself a team in this. If you take on challenges together, it’s easier to handle the physical distance, and you get closer and surely learn a lot about each other.
Even if you aren’t miles apart, you want to find the right balance of interaction, and spice up communication with surprises here and there. You want to handle challenges as a team and become closer through them.
2. Challenge your doubts.
I can‘t make the distance define my feelings for him. It is what it is, and we can only do our best today in loving each other, and work toward a life together with patience and faith.
Distance doesn‘t kill love; doubts do. Therefore I give my best in choosing love over doubt.
Sometimes I’m not strong enough and let fear creep in. Then I share my frustration with him, talk to a close friend, or do something uplifting just for myself.
Then the feeling of love comes back on its own and laughs gently on my worried mind.
Every relationship faces challenges, and doubts may plague us sometimes. It’s our mind that causes doubts, so we’re the ones who can choose to take on a different perspective.
I’m not suggesting oppressing worries (that may be reasonable in unhealthy relationships), but I’d like to encourage you to choose a positive outlook when it’s healthy, instead of blocking yourself with limiting thoughts or labels.
3. Become clear about who you are and what you want.
If you love whole-heartedly it’s easy to put the other one on a pedestal and treat him/her like a superhero.
In a long-distance relationship it may even take more time to realize the other one is just as human as you.
Keep learning from each other, and don’t be afraid of discovering the flaws or challenges the other one may have. Try to first see what it is in you that makes you irritated, and exchange thoughts about it calmly and respectfully.
Always keep curious and ask lots of questions. Be willing to open up just as much.
Also, talk about where you want to head together and how you want to live. It’s important to create a vision together to know you’re on the same page.
As long as you respect and love your partner, you will always find a way to deal mindfully with conflict and disagreement.
4. Spend quality time together.
You don‘t need to talk every day. Just make sure the time with each other is well spent. Laugh a lot.
Try to treat the distance as a friend, not an enemy. Be creative, play with the technical possibilities—celebrate occasionally with a dinner on Skype, watch a movie via shared screen, or dance to some good music. Your joy about sharing those day-to-day things may be very high, as you do not take them for granted.
Visit each other as often as you can, and spend time just the way you want. Save up money for visits, split costs, and plan activities you want to do together. This is crucial for you as a couple, and it refuels the batteries.
Even if you see your loved one often, you still need to consciously choose to spend quality time together.
I’ve learned that physical distance does not equal emotional distance, and there is so much to explore. It’s really what you make out of it.
The point is to not deny the hard parts, but also to not feel paralyzed by them.
These are just a few ways to find strength and happiness in a committed long-distance relationship. What’s your biggest love challenge, and how do you overcome it?