Full disclosure: I’ve been in three long-distance relationships. It’s not like I specifically seek out LDRs; I’ve had as many serious relationships with guys who lived just 30 minutes away from me. But one thing’s for sure: LDRs come with a unique set of problems that are not for the faint of heart.
Below, what I learned from my long-distance relationships which, if anything, were eye-opening experiences.
1. I learned to trust my own judgment about the relationship.
Well-meaning friends and family will wonder what you’re doing hanging on to a guy you only see four times a year, and the moment something goes wrong, they’ll jump at the chance to offer “helpful” advice like, you know, maybe date someone who lives in the same city as you? When they do, take what they say with a grain of salt. You know your relationship better than they do.
2. I learned that it’s easy to idealize—and be disappointed when your fantasies don’t play out.
Since interaction is terribly limited in an LDR—particularly for couples who met with several zip codes already between them—it may take a while before you discover that your man is not exactly the Prince Charming you’ve dreamed up in your head. And once you do find out that he has a nasty temper or a predilection for porn, the discovery can be a shock.
3. I learned not to seek his company all the time.
You could spend your free hours lying in bed missing your guy, but that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? No matter how much you adore your long-distance beau, you have your own life to live, and so does he. So get up, take up a new hobby, hang out with your friends, catch up on Scandal, whatever, as long as it keeps you from moping helplessly while waiting for him to call.
4. I learned that I can never have too many photos of him.
You’ll be snapping away like mad when you’re together, and sending selfie after selfie when you’re apart, and each photo will always be a precious, precious thing. When you find yourself missing your boyf, you can just scroll through that album, maybe read screenshots of his sweet messages, and daydream about the day you won’t have to settle for digital love anymore.
5. I learned to make technology work for the relationship.
This is particularly true when it comes to sex—or what passes for sex when there’s a continent wedged between you two. Any previous aversion you may have had to stripping in front of a webcam will disappear out of sheer necessity, because the thirst is VERY REAL.
6. I learned how excruciating the longing for physical affection can be.
No words can describe the pain of seeing non-LDR couples PDAing all around you, knowing that if you and your guy were just together right now, you’d be all up in his personal space, onlookers be damned.
7. I learned that what you say can easily be misinterpreted.
When you’re texting or instant messaging more than actually talking, you leave a lot more room for misunderstanding. I’ve gone through anxious episodes over messages that just said “Okay”—or worse, “Seen”—that looked sinister in black and white, but was really just my S.O. being busy with his own shiz.
8. I learned what trust truly entails.
I’ve had bouts of jealousy over random people posting on my guy’s Facebook Timeline, and vice versa. Most of the time, it’s not worth getting upset about, so I’ve learned to silence those creeping suspicions and just give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m not being naïve; I know what it’s like to be cheated on by a long-distance boyf. But until I see concrete proof, or until he tells me himself that he’s been banging the Timeline-poster, I will try my best to shut those doubts up.
9. I learned that when things go wrong, it’s all too easy to question the entire relationship.
You can fight with an S.O. who lives a cab ride away and patch things up the next day when he shows up at your doorstep with a puppy dog look on his face. An LDR is much more fragile; the same conflict can seem impossible to overcome and make you wail inside, “Is all this even worth it?!” *tears*
10. I learned that if you've been in an LDR long enough, change is bound to happen.
I noticed it with a boyfriend eight months into our LDR: He had begun smoking again, had lost weight, had become more gung-ho about his career. A few months later, he broke things off with me. If you can weather the changes in both his life and yours without wavering in your commitment, you’re golden.
11. I learned that breaking up isn't any less painful because you're far apart.
I thought that getting over an ex who lived in another country would be easier because there’d be no danger of ever running into him at a restaurant or the supermarket post-split. But here’s something I couldn’t get over quite so easily: the sheer effort I put into keeping things going even though the situation was less than ideal. I felt like I had wasted so much of my life making something work when it was only bound to end. And that hurt.
12. I learned that you have to make the toughest choices if you want to be together for good.
Each relationship has its challenges, but not all of them ask of you to quit your job, leave your loved ones, and basically pack up your entire life to follow a guy across the seas. But once in a lifetime, you meet someone who’s worth all these sacrifices, and if you’re sure you’ve found that person, by all means, GO FOR IT.