Being accepted to College six months ago was like being given the opportunity of a lifetime. Only weeks after this incredible news, he entered my life. I was working as a barista at a café in Colorado and he was a coffee lover. We admired each other for months and I started to wonder if something more could bloom between us, if we ever had the chance to plant the seeds. I was moving countries shortly, and I didn’t plan on seriously dating before my departure. I was sure that pursuing it wouldn’t make any sense.
Fully aware of my future endeavors abroad, he still asked me out on a date. I—certain of my unwillingness to be tied down before my departure—still accepted. Similarly to my acceptance letter from College, I felt that a date with him was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. After all, it could just be a fun summer fling. You know, Grease style.
I had no idea it’d be the first of many incredible dates spanning a summer of love that took us all across America, even including stops to meet each other’s families along the way. After being nearly inseparable for three full months, I was completely set on trying my hand at a long-distance relationship once again. Yes, I said again.
“After my first long-distance relationship, I was a blatant non-believer.”
After my first long-distance relationship, I was a blatant non-believer. Everyone has their own uniquely formed opinions on long-distance relationships — in the modern day, there’s no shortage of avenues down which someone can find themselves in one. While many cynics I know immediately bat away the concept of a successful long-distance relationship, listening to anecdote after anecdote—as well as my own experiences—have left me with the conclusion that about half are successful, half unsuccessful.
My last relationship was seven years long. I met him in high school and I’d taken a gap year, spending almost all of my free time with him. Yet I longed to begin College, and I had to make a difficult choice.
Moving only two hours away from him, we figured that long distance couldn’t be too hard. I wasn’t certain how the distance would affect our bond, but I hoped if we shared the burden of traveling back and forth, we could keep the fire alive. After all, it was five years into the future and we weren’t sick of each other. That’s a very telling aspect, looking back. We weren’t sick of each other. There’s no passion in that statement, it’s a lukewarm acknowledgement. Our fire had been dying and would only dim further as the school year began.
“Looking at my two long-distance relationships, one so far incredibly successful, and the other an admittedly sad failure, the difference is most apparent in texting.”
My first tip for succeeding in your own prospective long-distance romance: text. Looking at my two long-distance relationships, one so far incredibly successful, and the other an admittedly sad failure, the difference is most apparent in texting. In my first, I would text him to make sure he was still alive. This wasn’t odd, mind you, as he had described himself for our first few years as not the texting type — and I had adjusted accordingly. While you don’t need a texting type for a long-distance relationship to be successful, there should be enough enthusiasm to keep in touch regularly. While we were used to a lack of communication, a stronger effort to text or call would’ve likely hugely benefited us.
Currently, no app on my phone is used more than WhatsApp. I send morning voice messages, pictures of my morning walk, articles I like, anything that strikes me. Five hours after I begin, my boyfriend will respond with his replies and his own voice memos, pictures, articles. I go to sleep during his afternoon, and I wake up to messages he sends after I’ve gone to bed. While this could be considered overkill for long-term couples, or those who aren’t glued to their phones, it’s the easiest way for us to quickly share pieces of each of our lives. Texting is also a great gauge of personal enthusiasm — if it feels like a daily necessity to you and not like a chore.
My second piece of advice: call. Not only is hearing their voice totally different from reading a message, but with quicker response time, there is a deeper level of intimacy. Even better than simply calling is FaceTiming, for the highly necessary visual aspect. Seeing their face reminds you exactly why you’re doing all this in the first place.
My ex and I never called each other, with texting every now and then seeming to be sufficient. There was no longing to see the other person, no inherent desire to hear their voice. With my current boyfriend, I get face or voice withdrawals if we don’t make time to call within a matter of days. Scheduling time for these even once a week is imperative, considering how easy it is to get wrapped up in classwork, clubs and extracurriculars.
“My third and most indispensable tip: plan. This is the beating heart of the long-distance relationship, the reason it’s all happening.”
My third and most indispensable tip: plan. This is the beating heart of the long-distance relationship, the reason it’s all happening. The frequency of visitation doesn’t always have to be a tell-all. Sometimes you live 100 miles away, other times 4,000. It was easier to see my ex-boyfriend at the time when the distance was only a two-hour drive. We saw each other once every two weeks at least, sometimes more. Yet, the shorter distance didn’t help. Our fights became more and more frequent. Our lives grew further and further apart, especially with the pandemic unfolding. We stood confused across the widening gap, almost unable to recognize each other by the time I graduated. When I had to move again, we knew it couldn’t work.
Next month, my boyfriend and I will be planning two weeks in December all to ourselves, spanning across Christmas and New Year, a continental European vacation in a world of our own. Three months couldn’t be farther away, but it’s the light that guides us across our individual days. Our time together will be short, but we plan to make the most of it.
The most important tip of them all, and an umbrella statement for all three, is: communicate. I don’t mean this specifically in the previously discussed ways — as many have heard before, open and honest communication is indispensable. Underneath the necessity for communication is effort: effort representative of raw inner desire. With my first relationship, I didn’t feel like I was choosing to be with him. It felt obligatory after being with him for such a long time. That’s quite different from my current relationship, in which it feels I’m choosing him daily over singlehood, over being with anyone else. I could leave anytime, but would absolutely hate to do so.
I’ve learned that you have very limited control over who you fall in love with, and when. But what always remains in our control is the maintenance of our love. As author Ursula K. Le Guin posited in The Lathe of Heaven, “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” No matter how far apart you are from your partner, good relationships require a genuine effort from both parties. If you both put that effort in, the distance doesn’t have to feel very far at all.