There are a lot of articles and blogs with advice on long distance relationships but everyone’s personal experience is different and I haven’t found many that are particularly relatable to where I’m at. It has only been two months that we have been apart which most people might think is not really that long, but it has been a strange time of huge adjustment with many ups and downs.
I had no idea what to expect before embarking in a long distance relationship so spent days and days (at work) reading heaps of advice articles and blogs about other peoples experiences. I wanted to ensure I got things right as a lot was on the line, however I ended up pretty overloaded with information as I couldn’t comprehend a lot of what I read as he had only just left. Most of the writers were people who had lived in one for a few years or more, they had managed to remain together and were now living in the same place, therefore having a perspective of wisdom.
Meanwhile I was right at the start and I struggled to find much information covering the completely weird and disturbing up down adjustment phase I was going through. This is my attempt to bridge that gap.
My boyfriend left after we had been together for about six months, he had applied for an overseas role in his job a couple of weeks after we initially met, he wasn’t convinced anything would come of it so we carried on seeing each other. However within four months he suddenly was offered the position for one year. I didn’t want to hold him back from this great opportunity as he had wanted to work overseas ever since starting there. We weren’t prepared to stop seeing each other so agreed to see how things played out over the next two months before he left.
As his departure got closer, we grew closer and did not want to part ways so decided to stay together and have holidays together throughout the year. After he finally left the country and I didn’t know exactly when I would see him again things got pretty fucking weird. I had no idea what to expect and was quite shocked how I reacted at the time, so for anyone else going through such a shitty time, hopefully this provides some useful insight.
Firstly you might eagerly anticipate the day you have to say goodbye. It sounds completely awful and I was quite shocked that’s how I was thinking, but I mainly wanted to get his departure over with as I knew it was going to be incredibly sad, and I could then start figuring out how to carry on. Having the departure looming in the background was quite a downer as I kept thinking of everything we did as the ‘last time we will go here’ and ‘last time we will do this’. I was panicking about of all the things I felt I should be doing to make the most of our remaining time, instead of being in the moment. This anticipation to get it over with ended in regret as he disappeared through the departure gates, it all happened really fast and I wished we had a few more minutes to talk it through as there was still so much I hadn’t figured out. I am normally a pretty relaxed person on the exterior so this panic really caught me off guard and I was at a loss of what to do in the moment.
The days/weeks that follow the departure are spent adjusting and you may feel your mind is like a see-saw between being ok and being a complete wreck. It comes as a shock as you suddenly have way more time to yourself, now you have to think of other things to do when you would ordinarily be with them, and you miss them like crazy. I have a few friends, a close family and a huge pile of books I need to read, so I decided to focus on that and maybe I would have some interesting knowledge to share, but it was at least two weeks before I could even focus on anything like that. When I wake up in the morning it is the first thing on my mind and on some days finding motivation to face the day can be hard, I will mope around and sit at work not wanting to do anything or talk to anyone. But those days are balanced with days when you feel better about things, knowing that they are out there waiting for you, and you spend time reminiscing on shared experiences. On those days I feel inspired and independent like I can handle anything and take comfort in the fact this can only make us stronger. Then the day after I might be miserable again, I am in two minds about absolutely everything.
It does get easier over time when the initial shock wears off, you just have to also allow yourself the time to feel like crap and work through it at your own pace. I started writing in a journal all the thoughts going through my mind whenever I was feeling up or down and that was a good way to gain perspective, getting the thoughts out of my head and onto paper always helps me think clearer, and reading back I am often reminded of how ridiculous I can be, god forbid my boyfriend ever reads any of it.
Suddenly being apart puts the relationship into perspective and you realise how much you care about them pretty quickly. I had a feeling this would definitely be a large test to see how strong we really are, and we would realise the value we add to each others lives. Only being in contact via messenger and Skype enabled me to work out rather quickly whether continuing things really was going to be worthwhile. We had only been together six months which didn’t feel like very long in the scheme of things, so I did a lot of thinking and over-analysing from the day he left. Within four weeks of him being gone however I felt 100% sure where my feelings were at and suddenly needed to express it to him, which was really great. I may not have done this so soon/ at all were he still around the corner (although I had wanted to) and it definitely enabled us to keep moving in a positive direction.
Depending on how secure or insecure you are feeling in the moment, you can start to take messages the wrong way. The same goes with messaging anyone really, but when the recipient is someone you are emotionally invested in across the oceans, it becomes more important to say the right things. You don’t have the freedom to talk verbally and you realise how much you took that for granted. We never had a disagreement about anything while he was here, hanging out was always easy and we always connected best through face to face conversations. Suddenly though I started to feel frustrated when I wouldn’t get the response I expected and then hated myself for even having expectations, he is not a mind reader. You really miss verbal tone or any sort of eye contact via messenger so I try to remember things aren’t always as they seem and often there is a fairly good chance I am over-reacting. He will send me another message a few minutes later which I will feel better about, then I realise how much time and energy I wasted being annoyed for no good reason. This is a much lesser occurrence now but in the beginning I was so overcome by missing him that I felt a little nuts and insecure most of the time.
You may become ridiculously jealous over small things. I thought I left jealousy behind after High School but hearing about him making new friends and trying new things brought that hideous feeling back. Knowing they are out there having new experiences without you can lead to feeling like you aren’t part of their current life, and maybe they don’t really need you. In the back of my mind I knew it was good for him to be out there making the most of his time and I felt bad for being negative because I wasn’t in that same place yet.
The only possible way to counteract this is to do your own things and move forward in a similar manner, but only when you feel ready and up to it. Not as a sort of competition to see who can do more first and but to distract yourself, connect with others and show them you also have a life that doesn’t involve sitting around brooding (even if you do). It is also good to remember they may feel similarly shit about you going out with friends and carrying on without them, so keep that in the back of your mind. As much as you wish things were otherwise you cannot be there and you can’t change that, so it is better to accept they have to branch out and find ways to occupy themselves, and so do you, also it gives you more to talk about over Skype.
You will start to panic about being left behind. They have moved away and ultimately are living a new life, leaving you feeling like part of their old life or their past. They most likely do not see you that way at all, especially considering they are doing long distance with you, but there is nothing to stop you thinking like that in the moment. It sucks, a lot, and your mind can run away with hideous thoughts that they might meet someone else, or change entirely and suddenly you won’t have any common ground anymore. As horrendous as thinking like this seems, within a couple of months I had a sudden epiphany that he probably worries about the exact same things when it comes to me, maybe he wonders if I will be moving on with my life and forgetting him, after all I am the one who stayed behind in a familiar city with all my support network around. It is good to remember that you are both in the exact same situation and most likely are thinking similarly. The only person who knows what you are going through is them, so you may find common ground talking about your worries and it will bring about deeper understanding and make you feel closer.
Bringing up struggles over messenger or phone/Skype calls can be difficult. It is for me anyway, you want to remain happy and positive because that’s how they make you feel when you talk and see their face, but suddenly when the conversation ends all the difficulties come back and you are reminded you are yet again alone with the thoughts, and yet again you avoided talking about them. I haven’t been able to overcome this one yet, we only talk on skype once a week due to the fact I don’t have wifi at home (bad planning on my part). This means that when we do get our couple of hours, I want to keep it cheery and not give him reasons to doubt the relationship or worry about me. I am constantly working myself out and if I admit to struggling with things a day later I may feel better and have worried him for no reason. However keeping things to yourself isn’t the best idea in these type of relationships and who knows, he might be feeling the same way so opening up the conversation around the more tricky subjects may be very beneficial.
From all the advice blogs a few things have stuck in my mind, mainly to remain positive about the relationship, for if you view it negatively you can subconsciously bring it down without trying. It is positive to have found someone like them in your life, and after all a year does go by pretty fast. If you think of the relationship as a complete downer which is doomed then you might make that a reality.
Another important thing is to mainly keep talking, even if you don’t have a lot to say, just come out with random crap to message about, keep getting to know each other and remain in the loop about your lives. I don’t always feel comfortable expressing my feelings so have written a few letters and sent them via email instead when I feel like I have a lot to say but we haven’t talked on Skype for a while (or that I will forget it when we do).
Visits are a major must do, giving yourself something to work towards definitely brings you back up when things seem too hard. I put off booking a trip for a while until I had a clear set of dates in mind, but honestly the moment I booked the flights I felt instantly better about everything. Then you can start counting down, knowing as each day passes that you are one day closer to being reunited gives you both something to look forward to and make plans for.
I’ve read in a lot of blogs that your communication skills will become very strong having survived the distance and if you can handle this you can handle anything. That is a nice thought and something I try to remain focussed on. Even though I miss him like mad it is not forever and I look forward to taking way more holidays this year.