GOING THE DISTANCE: WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE RELATIONSHIPS WORK
Relationships are complicated. So needless to say, when you throw in distance, technology, and social media into the mix, they get even messier.
Maintaining open communication, physical connection, and emotional intimacy can be difficult for couples who live in the same place- for long distance couples, it can be even trickier.
As technology has changed how we meet, communicate and date- long distance relationships have become a norm in our culture. Yet, there really hasn't been much discussion about how to navigate these types of relationships and the struggles that come up for couples who are trying to "go the distance."
Living in such a fast-paced, individualistic and tech-based society has many perks, but it also comes with challenges and at times feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
For people who have developed deep bonds with partners who do not live in proximity to them, it can feel amazing to have a strong feeling of connection, while also having the freedom and space to live their own lives on a day-to-day basis.
As they say, "distance makes the heart grow fonder." It can be exciting and easier to keep the passion alive when you only see your beloved a few times a month or on special occasions.
However, is this real intimacy? Is this way of life and love truly manageable to maintain in the long run?
Eventually, the question of "what's next?!" is bound to come up. Both people are faced with difficult and life-changing decisions that may require huge sacrifices in other areas of their lives such as, family, career, friendships, and lifestyle to make the relationship work.
This difficult realization often gets procrastinated and pushed away due to the discomfort and fear that it brings up for both people in the relationship. It's easy to get caught up in the romance and whirlwind of feelings that come from a love that is at a distance until it reaches a point where it is no longer sustainable.
This is when things get rough and when most relationships fall apart. When things get difficult and both people are challenged to look at what they value more: independence and freedom or the relationship and trying to build a life with the person that you have loved from afar.
Unfortunately, we have been socialized to believe that relationships and people are disposable and can easily be replaced at the "swipe" of a finger.
We fear the discomfort of compromises, losses, and challenges... So we take the easy way out.
But is it really worth it? Clearly, this relationship or this person mattered enough to try to make it work, despite all of the obstacles and barriers that came with a long distance relationship at the beginning.
This is why it's so important for couples who are trying to navigate a long distance relationship to have open, honest and reality-based conversations from the very beginning.
If you commit to trying to make it work, you need to acknowledge the fact that it might not be all sunshine and roses and that one or both of you will most likely need to make some huge sacrifices in the future.
If your both not willing to do that from the get-go, you are at risk of wasting a lot of precious time, energy, money and emotional investment- on the wrong person.
Here are some tips to manage the complexities that come with being in a long-distance relationship:
1. Be Honest With Yourself and Each Other: It's really easy to avoid facing the truth. Especially when you love someone or are caught up in strong feelings. Love is a powerful thing. But, if you are at a point in your life when your career, friends and family are you priorities and re-locating is not something that you are open too, it's important to be upfront about that from the beginning. Some one will have to compromise in the long-run and if it's not going to be you, the other person has the right to know.
2. Set A Timeline: This is a BIG one. Couples often enter into long-distance relationships with the expectation that "one day" they will find a way to make it work. Well let me tell you this right now: That ain't going to work. One day turns into next week, next month and then next year... And all the sudden you realize that the day may never come. It is important that the couple sets a plan of when, where and who is going to be making the move. Setting boundaries and creating a timeframe makes it easier on both partners and the relationship.
3. Understand That Things May Change: When you are in a long distance relationship, it is easy to glorify it and the person that you are with. That is why it is so important to know that things may change pretty drastically once you are in the same city. The person you fell in love with- might really not be that person at all, once they are part of your day-to-day life. Going into this next step it's important to know that both of you will be getting to know each other in a different and much more realistic and vulnerable way. It's easy to be caught up in the passion when your lover is at a distance and there may be a lot that you don't notice or choose to ignore, that will come up later in the relationship.
4. Create Space: When someone makes the move for a relationship, that is a big sacrifice and comes with an expectation of a commitment from the other person. It is unrealistic to think that you can keep on living how you were before your partner became a daily part of your life. Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and even physically for them to be integrated in your day-to-day routine. This may mean letting go of some of your "me" time and realizing that you also will have to make some big sacrifices in your lifestyle.
5. Communicate: People are wired for connection, love and belonging. It can feel lonely at times when your loved one is far away from you. It's important to communicate with each other, be vulnerable and share openly with your partner about how you are feeling. If you are missing them- tell them. If you want to hug them-send them a sweet text. If you are horny- do what you guys gotta do.... It's important to feel safe sharing your feelings and communicating at a deeper level, especially in long distance relationships. Communication is basically the foundation that will show you if this is worth fighting for.
6. Plan Trips: Schedule in small trips whenever you can. It's important to be reminded of why you both are choosing to fight for each other despite the distance and the challenges that come with it. Small, fun, romantic trips together can serve as reminders of the connection that you two share- especially if things are feeling kind of rough.
7. Love Each Other: It all comes down to love. If both of you know that you love each other enough to fight for this relationship, no matter what sacrifices or challenges come your way, it's worth the struggles that come with long distance. If there is any part of you that questions if this is the right person or is curious about other people who are in closer proximity to you, it might be time to re-evaluate if this is really the right thing for you. Love is not easy- but when you find your person... I believe it's worth fighting for.
Good luck going the distance!