With two long distance relationships behind me and nine stories from my close friends about their own experiences, I can safely say that doing the distance is pretty common today. It’s not a deal-breaker, but a chance to stay together and figure things out while work, study, or travel drive people apart. Even if a relationship isn’t a romantic one, you still may find yourself separated from your loved ones — either family or friends.
Same goes for lovers. Circumstances and living situations change. Ambitions take over. Sometimes a relationship can start online, as the Internet becomes a meeting place for two people on the opposite sides of the world. Whatever it is that’s keeping you and your partner far away from each other, I hope you manage to make it work.
I thought I’d share my story in hopes that it might help someone else in a long distance relationship. While your own experience could be completely different, perhaps mine will help you avoid mistakes and inspire you to fight for your other half.
How I got there
He was visiting a friend in my Russian hometown when we matched on Tinder. A witty bio and a bunch of photos from his travels made me swipe right. I thought I’d talk to him for a couple of weeks at best, as I did with any other foreigner I matched with in the area, and then forget all about him. An American in town for a week headed to finish his MA in China? No, thanks.
We didn’t meet up then, despite his multiple attempts to take me out. I saw no point in a meeting, so we stuck to texting. Somehow we never stopped. A few texts a day grew into lengthy conversations on WhatsApp, into random video chats, and finally into five hour long FaceTiming, be it audio or video. Without my noticing, the man became my best friend.
We started considering an actual meeting even before we realized we were in love. By then he’d finished his degree in China and moved back to the States, so I got the tickets to see him there. We made it official soon after the purchase and basically became attached to our phones, each becoming the center of the other’s world.
I met his family in the States, and he met mine when he came to visit me in Russia. The outpour of love and acceptance was incredible on both sides. The whole thing was surreal but felt so right it seemed ridiculous we hadn’t met earlier. We could’ve figured out a way to avoid the distance if it wasn’t for the plans he’d made before he knew me. He was set to leave for Armenia to become a Peace Corps volunteer there. It was a two-year assignment, and I wasn’t going to stand in the way of his dreams.
“Long distance isn’t forever — there’s a time stamp. In two years we’ll be together,” he used to say. We knew it would be hard. Just not how hard. Both certain we’d make it work, we dove right in.
Time difference is tough even if you and your partner live in the same country, just a couple of hours apart. Different continents is a whole other story. You wake up earlier to hear their voice before they drift off to sleep, sneak out of the office for a quick call during the day, struggle to stay awake for a short chat when they get off work. The relationship may seem artificial at times, made up of fragmented conversations and rare meetings. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
The trick here is to find a routine that works for you both, but doesn’t make it feel like an obligation — rather a desire to hear and see each other as often as possible. We did just that, and sprinkled our routine with some fun stuff we’d do if there was no distance at all. We read the same books and discussed them fervently, played Candy Crush together, indulged in online chess. God, I miss crushing him in chess.
Movie dates were probably my favorite escape from our tough reality. We’d both dress up, pick a movie, and hit Play at the same time. The best part was that we’d set up video calls so we could watch each other’s reactions, laugh at the jokes on screen together, and make the distance disappear at least for a while.
Believe it or not, long distance doesn’t cancel out sex. Do whatever works for you — audio, video, texts, pictures, erotic short stories. Get into your own unique groove with your partner, use your imagination, spice things up. Anything works, as long as you’re comfortable with it. And it’s more fun than you might think.
In the course of our relationship, we went through several time zones — became friends while he was in China, and dated during his time in the States and Armenia. Funny enough, our conversations grew shorter and less frequent as soon as he got to the same time zone as me. He was busy trying to establish himself in a new environment, trying to adjust to the tough volunteer existence. I felt like he was pulling away from me, while in fact he was being torn between his commitment to me and to his job. I tried to be supportive, but he often failed to see that, which led to my emotional exhaustion.
Unfortunately, it was too late when I realized what the problem had been all along. His focus shifted from us to his new job and responsibilities. But as nothing had changed in my own routine, my focus remained the same.
‘Unfair’ was a word that popped in my mind a lot. Unfair that my love and support were taken for granted. Unfair that I understood and encouraged his need to socialize with his friends, but he didn’t understand that I was supposed to come first. Unfair that I was willing to give up my big city life and move to the middle of nowhere to cut the distance short, but he wasn’t willing to accept or even digest the idea of that change.
Yes, it was unfair, but it was also natural for him to want to fit in with his new friends and his new job. And since multitasking wasn’t one of his strengths, I was doomed to be left on the side.
Communication and trust
When you’re doing the distance, communication is all you have. I’d never been able to talk about my feelings openly without sulking first. He changed that. He’d pull words of frustration out of me slowly but steadily, and even if it annoyed me, I’d always feel relieved afterward.
Poor communication leads to doubts, resentment, broken trust, jealousy. How do you trust someone when they’re miles away? You talk. You listen. You believe. And if you find yourself choked with jealousy and see no way of fixing it, you should probably get out of the relationship. Those toxic levels might never drop.
Whatever bothers or concerns you, try to talk it out with your partner. Don’t be afraid to discuss the future like I was at the end. I was terrified to hear something that would upset me. Terrified that the future we’d envisioned together was no longer the future he could see for us. But honestly, uncertainty was worse than his answers would’ve been. The future had become a blur for both of us, and we fell apart.
Truth is — doubts or no doubts — your person won’t walk away. Or if they do, they’ll find their way back to you, fight for you until they win your heart and your trust back. So if they’re not the right person, you have to find the strength to let them go — do it without any drama, without accusations you’ll later regret. Just hope that they’re happy, healthy, and safe. That’s all you need to know about an ex.
Long distance relationships are messy and hard. Think twice before you jump into one, because love isn’t always enough when you’re miles apart. It wasn’t for us. But know this — if you can get through the challenge of the distance, you can probably get through anything else. And if you can’t, at least you’ll know you tried. I myself don’t regret a thing and would do it all again in a heartbeat with just a few tweaks.
Author: Lada Redley
Lada Redley draws inspiration from her travels, experiences, and the people in her life. She writes both prose and poetry, and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster, London. You can follow Lada’s adventures on Instagram: @ladaredley.