I had reached my breaking point. After three years I was done, there was no way I could continue. After graduation we would finally be free, we would finally be together. We’d be able to see each other more than once a month, we’d be starting our new lives together. I swore to myself that there would be no more long distance relationship, ever again. We’d be together. Forever. So I thought. Those thoughts echoed through my mind as I wiped away the tears that streamed down my face. How could this be happening? I had talked him out of it before, why couldn’t I now? His mind was made up, there was no turning back, even if he wanted to. He had decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. I knew what this meant, more distance.
“Will you stay with me?” he asked with concern written all over his face.
“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully as tears rolled down my face. How could I go on? I was spent. There was nothing left in my tank, I couldn’t possibly endure more long distance relationship. We had been together three years, was this really how it ended?
In the end, as it always does, loves wins out over common sense. It rules over the fears that plague you, it soothes the weariness of your soul, and so I stayed. I stayed behind. This was his choice, for him. I had my own plans, my own life to live and if he wanted to leave it that was fine. I would build my own life here for him to come back to. So I did. Two more years passed, until finally we got married. Yet together is a fleeting thing, and I was left behind again for a few months until we were able to move to his duty station. A thousand miles from home, we moved our few possessions, and our cats to finally begin our life together. 5 years of distance, no more. Until the deployment of course, and the training that went along with it. Add another year apart. Trainings, exercises and travel for work, they don’t end either. They all add up, bringing our current total to around the 7 year mark. Seven years of distance, half of our relationship.
No one goes through such difficult times without learning a thing or two. Long distance relationships are a difficult beast. They are always changing, always difficult, and never getting any easier. Yet we persist, we continue on in the face of adversity and through the pain, and the tears for the moments that make it worth while. As much time as we’ve spent apart I’m not an expert. I still get it wrong, but I have learned much along the way. Here are 10 things I’ve learned over our 7+ years of a long distance relationship.
Distance Makes Mountains Out of Molehills
Distance magnifies all the things that would otherwise not cause conflict and twists them into the worst things in the world. What would be resolved quickly and without pain, or not even be a cause of a conflict at all when together can cause massive blowouts lasting days. Recognize this, and learn to overlook it. Know that it’s not the thing causing this fight, it’s the distance, inserting itself into everything. It twists your perception and your words. Remember this, remind yourself of it before reacting.
Complete Trust Is Not Negotiable
You both will spend lots of time apart. You will live your life, you will go out, have fun, and be out of communication. You must have absolute trust in each other. There is no room to be worried that they will cheat or betray you. If you don’t have trust the worry will consume you. You’ll be sucked into the realm of jealousy and it will consume you. Trust in each other.
Communication is Key
Communication is important in any relationship, but especially in a long distance one. It helps build closeness, and maintains and builds trust. Tell your significant other what you are doing, about your plans, your triumphs, failures, and feelings. Bring up issues, yes it may be a difficult conversation and there may be pain, but ignoring problems only lets the breed and fester resentment. Talk about them, overcome them.
You Are Stronger Than You Know
I thought I couldn’t keep doing this years ago, well before we even got married. Yet I found the strength to keep going. I’ve done the same thing again and again. You may feel like you can’t possibly go on, but you will. You will find the strength within yourself and with the love you have with your significant other to keep going. Why? Because the struggle with them is better than not having them in your life. One day, you will look back and marvel at all you’ve accomplished and the hardships you’ve overcome.
You Will Break Down, And That’s Okay
Some days you will just fall apart and break down. That’s okay! We all do, and it’s natural. Allow yourself this time to come to terms with your feelings and frustrations, it will pass. When it does you’ll pick yourself back up and get back to it.
Friends Won’t Always Understand (But the Good Ones Will Still Care)
If your friends haven’t been in a LDR they probably won’t get it. You’ll hear lots of “my SO is gone for the weekend, it’s so terrible!” and you’ll just roll your eyes. Yes, it must be terrible for you. They’ll try to sympathies with you, but it won’t be the same. Give them credit for trying, they mean well. They don’t mean to hurt you. That being said, sometimes you just need to talk with and commiserate with others going through what you are going through. That’s okay too! It’s nice to be able to talk about the struggles you have on a daily basis with others who get it. It doesn’t mean that you and your friends will go separate ways, but you just might be opening up your circle of friends to welcome in new ones.
Live Your Life
Do not wait for them. They are living their life. You live yours! Do the things you want to do, accomplish your goals! Don’t wait, you can still share your accomplishments with your SO even if they aren’t with you right now. Don’t give up the life you want to live, live it! That means, go out with your friends, finish or go back to school, go on that weekend getaway, pick up your new hobby. Don’t wait, live your life now.
Communicate in a Way That Works For You
My husband and I don’t Facetime, mostly because we don’t have Apple things, but we don’t Skype either. Well we do, sometimes but it’s rare. Mostly we talk over messenger. Why? Frankly it’s what we are used to. When we first got together AIM was just becoming the big thing, everyone was on it all the time. We put up away messages when out to class or off doing other things. Messengers are what we know and are familiar with. We have our routines, our special format of saying goodnight. So find what works for you be that video chat, MMORPGS, email, letters or the phone. Or hey, just do it all!
Love Can Conquer All, If You Work For It
Love isn’t like romance movies or novels or fairy tales. You have to work for it. It’s hard. You have to put yourself out there, you have to be willing to trust and forgive. You have to be able to accept when you are wrong and yes, do things you don’t want to do for the greater good of the relationship and balance this all while living your own life and retaining that. It’s hard work, and there will be fights. Everyone fights, that doesn’t mean you are doomed. It’s how you respond to these fights and disagreements that matters. It matters that you decide to keep fighting for each other, if you are willing to do that you can overcome anything life throws at you.