Relationships don’t look like they used to (and that's a good thing). But what does it honestly take to make a modern romance work? As part of Committed, we're exploring partnerships ranging from a textbook marriage between high-school sweethearts to a gay couple creating a life together in the conservative deep South.
My boyfriend and I live exactly 307 miles away from each other. At a time in my life when nearly all of my friends are planning weddings, honeymoons, and baby showers, I’m over here booking trains, planes, and bus tickets just to spend a few days with my out-of-state bae.
I absolutely dread telling anyone that I’m in a long-distance relationship because most people don't understand, resulting in some blood-boiling responses. Here are the most common reactions I get when I let someone in on the fact that my partner and I don’t live anywhere near each other...and how I would reply to them if I hadn't been raised with as many manners. Sorry, Mom.
1. Wow, that must be really hard.
Uh, yes, Captain Obvious. You know what else is hard? Short-distance relationships, marriage, familial relationships, friendships, professional relationships—all relationships are difficult in some ways and easy in others. My long-distance relationship is not some rare and unique flower just because my boyfriend and I live in different states. In fact, sometimes that makes it easier (no fighting over who ate the rest of the pulled pork leftovers).
Relationships are hard. Period. I’ve experienced a range of them, from long distance to live-in, so I know that there are pros and cons to every situation. You always manage to find a way to make the relationships that are most important to you work. Distance can be difficult, yes, but it isn’t necessarily harder than a relationship with someone who lives down the street from you. It’s just difficult in its own way.
2. But at least you get unlimited “me time!”
I don’t really understand WTF people are talking about when they reference this "me time" concept. Is this when I’m supposedly relaxing in a warm bubble bath, sipping champagne, and being serenaded by Mariah Carey? Because that… doesn’t sound half bad, actually.
The truth is, I lead a very busy and fulfilling life. But when I do get a minute alone, it doesn't usually feel that luxurious, as I'd love to spend that time with my boyfriend. While I'm very comfortable being alone, I think “me time” is a thing created by couples who've spent so much time together that their identities start to morph into one. Being with someone you love shouldn't feel like a constant sacrifice and being apart from them shouldn't feel like a glorious vacation. When you’re in a relationship (near or far), you should always take some time to be alone. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship you have in life, and it’s key to sustaining a meaningful relationship with your partner for the long haul.
3. And you get to spend a ton of time with your friends.
My boyfriend isn’t around all the time, but that doesn’t mean I have to fill that space with a bunch of people. I spend about as much time with my friends now as I did before this relationship. Similarly, if you begin a new relationship, you never want to be that person that suddenly ghosts on all your friends.
If your partner is your best friend, that’s awesome. But that’s also a lot of pressure for someone, and no one person is going to be able to give you every single thing you need in a relationship. My boyfriend and I connect on many different levels, but I still reserve some topics of conversation for the other relationships in my life, like when I call my mom just to vent about whatever seemingly world-ending problem I'm having, or when my intelligent and ambitious female friends and I discuss our careers. That's why we have mothers and girl gangs. My boyfriend is my partner; he doesn’t also have to be my mom and all of my friends too.
4. You two must be really good at communicating.
Um, OK. I’ll give you that a LDR will force you to be skilled at using words to articulate feelings and navigate disagreements rather than, say, physical touch. But it can also be a challenge when you can’t read someone’s facial expressions or body language. You need to get really really good at communicating whether you live 10,000 miles away or 10 feet apart from each other; communication is arguably the cornerstone of every good relationship, and it’s something that requires continuous work and attention. It's not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing.
5. So what will you two do?
Oh, I don't know, probably just live apart forever. Shrug. I mean, what? If we had that figured out, do you really think we'd be living 307 miles away from each other? I read once that a long-distance relationship is just a promise of a relationship that could be. And honestly, I agree. We've made a commitment to each other to make the most of our current situations while actively trying to figure out a solution to be together and align our individual goals. This may not work for everyone, and it’s actually pretty stressful… so people asking me what we plan to do makes me want to actually explode.
It's no different than asking a dating couple when they're getting married or a married couple when they're having kids. Frankly, it's kind of a rude question—and nobody else’s business.
6. Well, absence makes the heart grow fonder!
Sigh. If long distance has taught me anything about relationships, it’s that we should all be good enough human beings to appreciate and cherish our loved ones whether they’re near or far. It should not take absence, "taking a break," breaking up, going on a business trip, or worse, death, for any of us to appreciate what we have. The grass really isn’t greener on the other side; I’ve been on both sides of the grass, and I can tell you that it’s the same damn grass. What you do with the grass is what really counts. Adore the grass you have. Take the time to care for it and nurture it so it grows into the most brilliant, most beautiful green grass you’ve ever seen, whether that's in your own backyard or 307 miles away.