Long distance relationships
Marriage

Long Distance Relationships Can Work: Here’s How

Last Friday night, my husband and I had a bit of a wild adventure. His mother had asked us if we needed her to watch our son for us so she could get some snuggle time in with him. We responded with a very emphatic “YES OH GOD YES TAKE HIM.” I also recently received a promotion at work, so we were going to shit crazy on our child-free date night.

Long distance relationships
My husband and I pretending that we have a social life

And we totally did. We stayed out until 10PM, y’all. Then came home and ate bourbon roasted pecans before passing out on the couch with the movie “Rampage” on in the background. We didn’t even bother to brush our teeth and we were STILL COMPLETELY DRESSED when we fell asleep.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That sounds pretty fucking lame. Hell, we are pretty lame. We ain’t ashamed. My husband and I started a bit unconventionally as a long-distance relationship, and I don’t know about him, but I know that beginning in that way changed my whole outlook towards relationships. Lying in bed at 9PM just talking about life tops the list of things that we love to do together because I still remember the months when we didn’t have that opportunity.

My husband and I first entered into our relationship not really knowing if it would work out. I had already been in one long distance relationship that had bombed spectacularly, and I swore to never enter into another one.

But then came my cute snack of my husband. We met while I was still living in Texas and I had an immediate attraction to him. He claims to have felt the same way about me, but just never made the moves on me ‘cause he’s a damn slacker. Then I moved out to California and it wasn’t until a trip home several months later that we reconnected again.

I don’t think either one of us thought that this was going to be any more than a “thing”. Having it turn into something real would make life very complicated for both of us. But, lo and behold, it did become more than just one of those things. We were 1,700 miles apart and made a long-distance relationship work for eight months before I moved back to Texas. It wasn’t easy. There were plenty of times during those eight months where I felt that it would have been easier to just be single. Luckily, we were able to find out what worked and didn’t work through trial and error.

Get on the same level regarding communication expectations

What’s one of the biggest clichéd advice couples receive? “Communication is key.” It’s like, awesome, I know communication is important, but how the hell do we get to that great communication? And what do we do if my partner and my communication styles don’t match up?

Josh was one of those guys who didn’t see the point of sending a text or making a call if he really didn’t have anything to say. So, if he had a funny story from work, he would call or text and then we would talk. But if he was just having an average day without much going on, I wouldn’t hear from him.

On the other hand, I wanted to get texts and calls from him to show that he was thinking about me, even without something specific happening to prompt them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either of our communication styles. They just didn’t match up and that was the problem.

However, what I did do wrong was require Josh to know how I wanted him to communicate without communicating the desired communication expectations to him (someone get me a damn thesaurus, please). For example, my ex-boyfriend had made me accustomed to receiving frequent “good morning” texts and that was something I expected of Josh as well. I would get irritated when I wouldn’t get one and after finally communicating the reason behind that irritation to Josh, I realized how silly I was being.

At some point, you are going to have to have an open conversation about communication with your significant other. Don’t make the same mistake I did and assume that your partner is an ass for not communicating the way you want them to, even if you have never expressed that to them. And try to avoid labeling one style as better or worse than the other.

Odds are, you both probably suck at communicating anyway since most people do.

Being cheesy as hell is totally acceptable in long distance relationships

Due to being raised on novels such as Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and Little House on the Prairie, the idea of receiving mail was always an incredibly romantic notion to me. Josh and I were struggling to make the long-distance thing work with our work schedules and the time difference between Texas and California. The one good thing about being so far apart is that we actually had an excuse to write letters and send each other things in the mail. Letters, postcards, care packages – it didn’t really matter what it was.

Long distance relationship

If you want that cheesy shit, don’t be afraid to ask for it. You do what you can to make the days when you are apart a little easier. And, if you’re asked for that cheesy shit, don’t be afraid to give it. Just the thought of knowing Josh took the time to walk off to the mailbox rather than just shoot a text made a world of difference to me.

Have a life outside of your relationship

As I mentioned earlier, my very first boyfriend was also a long-distance relationship. The similarities between the beginnings of that relationship and my relationship with my husband are similarly eerie: both men were named Josh, both were men that I had met while living in the same city but we didn’t start dating until after I moved, and I became friends with both of them first through the same mutual friend.

(Even just typing that all out, I am getting a little creeped out.)

Josh 1 and I only dated for a few months before our relationship took a nosedive. The distance wasn’t the only issue. We had almost nothing in common, he was several years older than me, and he was actually in love with someone else, which quite understandably put a damper in our relationship.

When we were still dating, though, I made the mistake of devoting all my free time to maintaining a relationship with him. This relationship happened during my first semester of college in a new city. Instead of joining clubs or accepting invites to go out, I was making trips back home to see Josh 1 almost every other weekend. I wasn’t forming the community in my new city like I should have been so I didn’t have outlets for when I would get frustrated with our relationship besides sitting in my dorm and sulking. By the time the relationship finally ended, I had missed out on crucial opportunities to make new friends at college and I ended up going into a pretty deep depression.

**Side note: Even though I do think long distance relationships can work, I still don’t encourage being in one when starting college, for the above reasons.

Luckily, by the time Josh 2 and I started dating, I already had an established life in California. I had my own group of friends, groups and clubs I belonged to, and lots of things to do that didn’t involve Josh 2. I cannot emphasize how huge all that was. It helped knowing that I wasn’t wasting my life away waiting for Josh 2 to call me. And, frankly, knowing that I had a community of people surrounding me that I could lean on if the relationship didn’t work out also helped me to enter into the relationship and not feel that I was making a giant mistake.

Respect your partner’s life outside of the relationship

This applies to all relationships, not just the long-distance ones. What’s the point of trying to have a social life that doesn’t involve your partner if said partner is blowing up your phone during your karaoke night? I’ve had boyfriends in the past pull that shit on me which made it quickly obvious that things were not going to work out.

There are many reasons I fell in love with my husband and one of them was the fact that he frequently encouraged me to get involved in activities and see people without him. One of my closest friends in California was a guy – we would go out to bars, get drinks/dinner, and go on trips, sometimes with our group of friends, sometimes just the two of us. Josh never showed the slightest sign of jealousy because he knew he had no reason to do so.

I wish I could say that I was perfect in that area. One of the biggest fights Josh and I had when dating long distance was over winter 2015 when I took a two-week trip to New Zealand and Australia with a friend. Getting to spend two weeks traveling the Land of the Hobbits in New Zealand was amazing. Australia – not so much. We wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef, so we spent the majority of our Australian trip in Cairns. It was hot and ridiculously humid at that time of the year and we weren’t even able to see much of the reef because our planned boat trip was beset by storms, making it unsafe to snorkel and the waters too dark to see anything.

Long distance relationships
But I did get to snuggle with the cutest koala bear

On top of that, cell phone reception sucked so Josh and I had a really hard time getting ahold of one another. We had planned to call the other on New Year’s Eve during each of our midnights. When I tried to call him, we only got a few minutes into the Skype session when I got kicked off the connection. Josh was celebrating that NYE at the home of one of his friends, so he was there when he called me around his midnight. The phone reception was slightly better, but still very laggy, which made it hard to understand one another.

Since our phone conversation wasn’t really working out, he was ready to get back to the party and try again at another time. I was irritated about the other issues I had on the trip coupled with my frustration at the communication issues we were having. I chose to see it as an insult that he wanted to return to the party rather than listen to me say, “Can you repeat that?” over and over again. I ended up behaving somewhat passive aggressively towards him until I started shooting off phone messages to him that definitely tipped towards the more aggressive side of the scale. It wasn’t until we talked it all out that I realized that I had partially redirected all my frustrations towards him on top of letting my insecurity assume some sort of negative intent from him.

Try to reciprocate efforts, but avoid keeping score

During my time in California, I was lucky to have a job with a decent amount of vacation time and the flexibility to actually use that vacation without guilt. Josh was not so lucky. His dad had also died a few months into us dating and Josh had a lot going on at home. So I found myself frequently making the flights back to Texas to visit him.

I’ve seen several articles that discuss long distance relationships where the author recommends that both partners make an equal effort to visit the other. That’s all fine and dandy if your situation allows for it. But, sometimes, circumstances may not be the best for both of you. I knew Josh loved me even if he wasn’t able to take the time off or pay for the flight to visit California as often as I could visit Texas. That could have started to affect the way I saw him or our relationship, but I chose not to let myself do that.

I think some people saw a lack of empowerment in my decision to move back to Texas for my relationship. To me, though, it had nothing to as to whether I (the woman) should be the one to move back home to be with her man.

Josh and I both knew that we did not want to be long distance forever. I had a job waiting for me in Texas; Josh would have had to find an interview for a job in California while living in Texas. I had friends and family in Texas already, where Josh would have been completely starting over in his social circle. Sacramento wasn’t horribly expensive to live in, at least not when compared to other parts of California, but still didn’t hold a candle to Texas’ affordability. All in all, there was no question that me being the one to move made the most sense.

It can be easy to get caught up in associating equality with fairness. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship it is; there will be times when you put more into the relationship and there will be times when your partner does. There’s no quicker way to make a relationship fall apart than to start keeping score on who does what for whom and because that person didn’t do this, then I’m not going to do that.

Have a plan or a timeline

No one wants to be in a long distance relationship forever. And I don’t actually believe that one can last indefinitely (although I’d be happy to be proven wrong on this subject!). Once Josh and I agreed that I would be moving back to Texas so we could move into together, everything became so much easier. We now had an end in sight, a game plan. The indefinite nature of it all in the beginning affected me more than I had realized. The thought of missing someone for months at a time for the rest of one’s life is just fucking depressing.

And, to be clear, I’m not saying that you need to enter Month 2 of your long distance relationship by sending your significant other photos of engagement rings or a lovely 3 bedroom, 2 bath house that you found in the same city. It’s okay to not know what the plan is at first. But there’s a “defining the relationship” talk and there’s a “where are we going” talk. Every relationship that goes on for a while has these two conversations, but it’s doubly important in long distance relationships.

Just talk about sex, baby

Let’s be completely honest: one of the shittiest aspects to long distance relationships is the lack of opportunity to get your groove on with one another. I’m telling you now that you’re just going to have to get creative. Phone sex, Skype sex, photos, dirty text messages, toys – there are a lot of different things that you can do/use.

Long distance relationships

My advice? Do all of it.

Because I’m a lady (well, at least on public forums), I won’t go into details of all the stuff that Josh and I did. But I will say that it worked to help make the time between us seeing each other in person pass by more quickly. It’s never going to be as good as the real thing, but we were able to get pretty damn close.

 

Above all, don’t set yourself up for failure from the beginning! If you go into the relationship expecting failure, then how are you really going to get anything else out of it?

If you’ve been in a long-distance relationship before and have other tips, let me know in the comments!

Long distance relationships

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4 Comments

  • Lauren Floyd

    My husband and I were long distance the first year of our relationship, so I definitely know the struggle. Communication was really key for us, and it helped that we are both honest to a fault. We didn’t have that added layer of mistrust a lot of long distance couples struggle with.

    • jachukwu

      That’s also how my husband and I are. We are very honest people so jealousy was never an issue for us and that’s not the case for a lot of LDR.

  • Andrea

    I love your writing style! It’s so real and honest. I have never been in a long distance relationship, nor have I had the desire to. But I am happy that you and your husband got creative and made it work. Love is awesome, lol.

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