After three years of being so beyond single, I met someone perfect for me.
He's witty, respectful, caring and shares my love of romantic comedies and fruity drinks.
The only problem? He lives in another state.
Relationships aren't easy. Long-distance relationships definitely aren't easy. Whether it's a two-hour drive or states away, LDRs take effort and dedication, and they are not for the faint of heart. But seriously, why is long-distance so hard?
I've read so many articles about long-distance relationships, and I notice a running theme among many of them: They sugarcoat it. Yes, you can send your beau sweet letters in the mail and be whisked away for a long weekend full of “feels” and romance. Listen up: long distance is hard. In the beginning, it can be easily romantic, mysterious even, but when long distance gets hard, it can test your strength as well as your trust within your relationship.
However, based on my experience, there a few real things you need to know about an LDR:
1. Long-Distance Relationships Don’t Have Much Face-To-Face Communication.
Neither I, nor my boyfriend, are phone talkers. We hate it, actually.
Unfortunately, having real conversations are a huge part of your relationship when you're far away. While most of our conversing involves text (or in his case, memes), we try to call each other every once in a while, even if it's for a minute or two.
And I'm not just talking means of communication. I'm also talking about how you communicate.
There are so many ways for things to get misconstrued when you don't have the luxury of being face-to-face. Long-distance relationships are hard if you and your partner have different expectations when it comes to communication. It's important to say how you feel when you feel it, or it could build up and come out later down the road unexpectedly.
It’s important to remember in a long-distance relationship that “communicating” doesn’t just mean telling your partner you’re going to a concert with your friends or sharing that you need to go to the doctor. Acknowledging that romantic, deep, meaningful conversation is just as important as everyday talks is one way to make long-distance relationships a bit emotionally easier. “It’s easy to get caught up with daily updates when you’re living at a distance, so it can be helpful to carve out time for meaningful, deep conversations. Talk about your big dreams, philosophies, fondest memories, greatest fears and other intimate topics,” Jess O’Reilly, sexologist, PhD and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast tells Elite Daily. “These types of questions can help to move you away from the mundane and allow you to learn from and about one another.”
2. It Can Be Hard To Maintain Your Individuality In A Long-Distance Relationship.
Don't be so consumed with your relationship with your girlfriend that you forget about the other relationships in your life. Most importantly, focus on the one with yourself.
Stay busy, keep doing what you love and make time for your friendships. It's not a good look to be too obsessed with someone and put all your eggs in one basket, and the same goes for them. Plus, it gives you something to talk about when you come together. After all, those things are most likely what attracted them to you in the first place.
Sometimes in a long-distance relationship, it’s easy to put your partner’s needs over your own. O’Reilly says contrary to popular belief, long-distance relationships can actually give you the individual time and space you need to grow and evolve into the best version of yourself you can be. “There is no statistically significant difference in relationship longevity between those living in the same city and those in long-distance relationships. Relationship satisfaction rates are also similar and intimacy, trust, and commitment outcomes are the same regardless of whether you live in the same city or many miles away. Rest assured that distance has the potential to not only make the heart grow fonder, but also enhance your overall connection,” O’Reilly says.
3. There’s A Lot Of Pressure Toward Keeping Your In-Person Time Together “Exciting.”
Putting too much pressure on your time spent together can create a lot of unnecessary expectations and anxiety. Go to the grocery store, sit on the couch and watch a show, or at least do something you'd probably do if you lived in the same city.
It's easy to want to fit as much as possible into one weekend together, but it might leave you feeling a little exhausted at the end of it all. This is your time to enjoy each other's company, so don't worry about the rest.
“If you keep things as normal as possible when you see each other, it will help you to remain realistic about the relationship, ready for when you can be together full-time. If everything is always high-energy and exciting, it might be confusing for you as you will associate your partner with this high level of excitement rather than viewing them as safe,” Ray Sadoun, a mental health specialist with a focus in relationships shares with Elite Daily.
4. Being In A Long-Distance Relationship May Cause You To Miss Out On The Little Things.
What is their favorite candy? What kind of body wash does he use? Is there a certain movie or book she’s been talking about?
It might sound creepy, but keeping these things in the back of your mind might come in handy.
If he's having a bad week, you can send him a little care package. Or, you can surprise him when he arrives at your place. Sometimes the small details can make the biggest impact.
While counting down the days until your next meetup, O’Reilly emphasizes the importance of finding the joy and fun in your long-distance relationship. “Leave love notes hidden in one another’s drawers when you leave. Send texts teasing and building anticipation for when you’re back together. Use voice memos. The sound of a lover’s voice can be soothing and attenuate some of the stress you might associate with missing each other,” O’Reilly says. Plan ahead of time and find ways to make your presence known with your partner when you can’t be there in-person.
5. People Will Judge Your Long-Distance Relationship.
Yeah, it's hard. I get it. Please keep reminding me how much it sucks, though.
Can you sense the angst? It's not difficult to figure out quickly the distance majorly sucks. But please, stranger, keep reminding me of it.
Trust me, it's so easy to complain about anything and everything when you're apart from the one person you want to be with the most. I try to only allow myself a certain amount of time in the day to be a Debbie Downer, and for that time, I let all of my pent-up emotions out.
After that, time to put on my big girl britches and deal with it. Allot yourself time to vent to friends or cry it out, but don't engulf yourself in it, or you'll just bring everyone else down around you.
O’Reilly tells long-distance couples to not let other people dictate what works for you. “There is no single way to make relationships work despite the fact that popular portrayals paint romance as one-size-fits-all. It’s not. Some people prefer to have more independence and many happy couples who live together maintain a good degree of physical, practical, emotional and social separation. You don’t have to conform to anyone else’s standard or expectation,” O’Reilly tells Elite Daily.
6. You Have To Over-Communicate Your Needs And Expectations.
Please, just don't. She can't read your mind, and you can't read hers. Solidify plans, speak your mind and make sure you're on the same page.
If you think you’re overcommunicating with your partner, you’re probably communicating the perfect amount. O’Reilly encourages setting aside a specific time each week to check in with your partner on an emotional level. “The relationship check-in is a useful tool for folks in all types of relationships, so carve time out to take a pulse on how you’re feeling,” O’Reilly says. She also suggests the use of a few simple prompts to initiate that conversation with your partner.
- How are you feeling in our relationship this week?
- What are we doing well in our relationship?
- Is there anything worrying or stressing you that I can work on?
While asking these questions with your partner, make sure you receive that same safe space you are giving them to share your individual thoughts and concerns within the relationship.
7. Your Long-Distance Relationship Can Feel Intense.
Being apart can make your actual time together seem a lot more intense and fast-paced, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If you were in the same city, you'd have a better chance to move slower because you see each other more often and have the ability to take a night for yourself.
When you're in a long-distance relationship, your time together is precious, so it forces you to be more open about your feelings and take things to the next level.
And that's OK, as long as you're both on the same page.
Sex and relationship coach, Catherine Drysdale, encourages long-distance couples to set their own pace for how fast your relationship will progress. “The only pace that matters in your relationship is the one that you and your partner set. It's okay to make things official, committed, or even take it to the next level as long as you both are on the same page. Everyone operates at different speeds,” Drysdale tells Elite Daily. Try not to worry about other people’s opinions about you and your relationship. The only opinions that matter are yours and your partner’s, because ultimately, you two are the only people who have the power or authority to change or evolve your relationship.
8. Trips To See Each Other Don’t Feel Like Daily Life.
Every time I go visit my boyfriend, I love seeing his city. Although it's old to him, it's brand new to me, and it is fun to explore. It gives him a chance to play tour guide and find things he hasn't done either.
Drysdale believes in open conversation when visiting your partner. “Going to visit your partner gets to be a vacation and also an opportunity to get to know your partner even more,” Drysdale tells Elite Daily. “Ask about their habits and routines. Have them show you their favorite spots, this can help to establish more intimacy and comfortability even when you're exploring a place that's new to you.” Get to know your partner in and out of their normal routine. Yes vacations are fun, especially with your SO, but understanding how your life could look together on a normal everyday basis is healthy, as well.
Before your next trip to visit your partner, research something new and fun to do. Maybe it'll be a first for them, too. Along with doing a new and exciting activity, run to the grocery store, take a walk in the park, make dinner with each other, do the laundry together. Acknowledging those boring everyday activities is just as important as recognizing the new ones when it comes to viewing you and your partner’s potential future together.
9. Your Routines Might Clash.
I go to bed at 9 p.m. every night. My boyfriend is a night owl. I keep my apartment a little too clean. My boyfriend uses his floor as his laundry basket. We're figuring out how to make that work when we spend more time together, and it's perfectly normal to not be completely in sync when it comes to that stuff.
Respecting your partner’s routines and receiving that same respect back is crucial for a long-distance relationship. Are long distance relationships hard if you’re not willing to be flexible? Yes. That’s why communicating through your personal routines is key. Drysdale believes in the importance of sitting down with your partner and establishing a joint routine that can work for the both of you, while still staying true to the original personal routines you have already established as individuals.
“We often forget that others live their lives in a different way than we do — especially when it comes to partners,” Drysdale tells Elite Daily. “Remember the convos you would have with new roommates about their living styles and routines? It's important to have those same conversations with your partner too. Know that when you're visiting you're still a guest in their space, so while they want you to be comfortable it's not your opportunity to reorganize their pantry or redecorate their living room.”
Don't try to change your partner’s routine. It won't work, and it won't do you any favors. Instead, be flexible and try to find ways to weave their habits into your day-to-day life.
(Note to self: Stop picking up every single sock. They're OK on the floor.)
10. Long-Distance Relationships Aren’t For Everyone.
I believe the perfect recipe for an LDR is this: mutual respect, an end-goal in mind, dedication to putting in the travel time, and being on the same page when it comes to your individual expectations.
Before jumping into a long-distance relationship, it’s important to look within yourself and decide if you are personally ready for this type of commitment. It takes a certain kind of person to work through the separation, the lack of communication, the loneliness, and the uncertainty within a long-distance relationship.
Drysdale emphasizes the importance of self-reflection before committing to a partnership this intense. “If you're someone who has an anxious attachment style and needs constant communication and validation, or someone who has physical touch as a primary love language an LDR might not be for you — and that's totally OK,” Drysdale tells Elite Daily. “For a LDR to work, it requires a foundation of mutual trust, clear communication, and consistent planning for travel to see each other, ideally with an end date in mind if you do decide to move further in your relationship.”
Yes, it's a tough relationship to be in, but every time you're reunited, you're reminded that it's all worth it.
Jess O’Reilly, sexologist, PhD
Ray Sadoun, a mental health specialist with a focus in relationships
Catherine Drysdale, sex and relationships expert
A version of this article originally appeared on the author's personal blog.