Why Your 20s Are Actually The Best Time To Be In A Long-Distance Relationship

by Linda Tell

When unfamiliar people learn about my boyfriend, they usually respond with shock, confusion and a laundry list of questions. No, I’m not dating an ex-con and no, he’s not related to me.

I’m simply in a long-distance relationship.

By long distance, I mean really, really long distance -- like, across the Atlantic Ocean, nonstop flight from JFK to London Heathrow long distance.

Although the situation is clearly neither the norm nor the ideal, I’m still amazed by the utter disbelief I encounter when I share the details of my romantic life.

Many people fail to understand why I’m wasting my glory years -- my 20s -- with a guy whom I barely see.

They can’t seem to fathom a relationship based on verbal communication rather than physical stimulation. They doubt the future of our relationship and our ability to stay faithful to one another.

Yes, I’ll admit, it’s really hard to date somebody almost exclusively over Skype.

I often experience deep sadness when we’re apart and wish that our relationship could just be normal. Even when we’re together, there’s always generally a small twinge of melancholy present, as I know that the moment is fleeting.

Most of the time, I feel stuck in a rut; my life is like the ever-so-classic cliché of “can’t live with him, can’t live without him.”

But really, as difficult as it may be, I regret nothing. In fact, with every passing day, even the really hard ones, I realize more and more that I couldn’t have made a better decision if I tried. I have come to appreciate my long-distance relationship and the opportunities with which it affords me.

I’ve learned that if you’re going to be in a long-distance relationship, there’s no better time to do it than when you’re in your 20s.

Perhaps, I should explain:

As a 20-something, I’m considerably new to the real world. Up until this point in my life, I have had parents, teachers and various advisors to help guide me through tough choices.

In fact, my whole life has been an intricate game of Simon Says; I’m told what to do and then, I listen. It was a comfortable existence, but now it’s time to move on.

I’m prepared to begin to take hold of my future, but first, I must focus. I must get to know who I am, what I want and how to achieve my goals.

The next couple of years will be a crucial time for me to really become myself. I don’t mean just professionally, but emotionally and socially, too.

I love my long-distance relationship because it provides me the space to work on myself. Oftentimes, couples leave college and try to continue dating, which I think is often a mistake.

Of course, there are plenty of relationships that work out and go on to become happy marriages. In other cases, however, both people end up suffering. If you never learn how to be on your own, you’ll continue to be dependent on others.

I don’t have somebody to hug me when I’m having a bad day. My boyfriend can’t meet with me during my lunch break when I don’t want to eat alone.

I’m also facing all of the hardships that young adults face all by myself. I’m learning how to survive, take care of myself and to be independent, which is vital, in my opinion.

Yet, although I might be on my own, I’m never actually alone. Sure, my boyfriend can’t physically comfort me or take me out on dates, but he’s never more than a quick text message away.

While I value my time alone, I’ve never been more grateful for my boyfriend’s virtual presence; he’s my safety net and my outlet after a trying day.

Your 20s are a time of self-discovery, not continued dependence. However, having somebody there for you, even just occasionally, makes everything easier. A long-distance relationship provides just that: a chance to be on your own without ever having to feel alone.

One of the most common questions people ask me about my relationship is about my prospects for the future. They ask about where we’ll end up; they want to know our plan.

My answer is that I don’t yet know. However, there is one thing I do know: I couldn’t have asked for a better person to stand by my side as I go through the motions of young adulthood… even if he is 3,000 miles away.

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