Jessica Matthews
August 05, 2017 4:42 pm
Sony Pictures

Okay, obviously being in a long-distance relationship is no one’s ideal situation. All the things that you would typically do with the person you love feel painfully out of reach. You can’t go on dates, or grab a drink after a particularly hard day at work; You can’t sleep in together and get brunch on weekends; You can’t make out and have sex. Sure, you visit and you FaceTime and your text thread is long and elaborate enough to be turned into a book, but all told, being far away from your significant other for a significant amount of time can be challenging enough to make even the most committed couples wonder why the hell they are subjecting themselves to something that’s just inherently so damn hard.

Are you bummed out after even reading that? Yeah. Exactly.

That said, being in a long-distance relationship isn’t all bad. Don’t get us wrong — it is mostly very bad. The struggle, as they say, is pointedly, mercilessly real. But the thing about being apart from your person is that it also means you are alone. And when you are alone, no matter the circumstances, you end up learning things about yourself — and there’s nothing lost when you’re going through a period of profound self-discovery. And as any person who’s been there can attest, you sure as hell learn a lot about yourself when your love and the object of your love are in two different places.

Here are some of the big things you learn:

1How to express what you really feel.

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When we are physically together with someone we’re dating, whether we realize it or not, so much of how we communicate is non-verbal. Think about how often you rely on body language and facial expressions and little wordless gestures to truly get across your feelings and thoughts to the person you’re with. Even for people who are super comfortable using their words to make themselves understood, non-verbal communication adds so much depth and nuance to exchanges; it can feel impossible to bridge the gap left in their absence.

When you’re in a long-distance relationship, chances are that most of your communication is happening through text, gchat, email, and phone calls. When you’re talking in such flat mediums, over time you get incredibly good at wielding language to fully express what you want to say, whereas before you might not have had to task words alone with doing such a big job. It’s hard, but honestly, it’s a seriously good skill to have.

2How to get yourself off.

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Hey, facts are facts, and phone sex will only get you so far. If someone else isn’t around to ring your bell, you’re going to be doing a lot more of it yourself. And while odds are you already know exactly what you like (hey, you’re a grown-ass woman, and this is not your first orgasmic rodeo), a long-distance relationship will give you more than enough opportunity to perfect your technique.

3How you like to spend your time.

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Whether we’re single and dating or part of a couple, for most people, the romantic and sexual parts of our lives take up a huge amount of our time. When you aren’t dating (assuming you’re in a monogamous long-distance situation) and your S.O. is in another zip code, you are left with more time to just do you — what you choose to do with all that time might surprise you, and will definitely tell you a lot about who you are all on your own. Bringing that sense of self (and all the interesting stories you acquire from all the activities you’re doing) to a relationship will make you nothing but a more compelling and well-rounded partner.

4How to manage your own feelings.

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Look, being away from someone you love is hella hard. Like, the hardest. And of course, there will be plenty of times when you and your beloved can express those “this sucks and I’m sad and everything is terrible” feelings to one another, and you should! Hey, that kind of emotional support is one of the best things about being in a relationship, and you shouldn’t go without it just because they aren’t physically there.

But at a certain point, there’s only so much the other person can do. You’ve said it all. You both know it’s a shitty thing you’re dealing with, and the last thing you want to do sometimes is spend all of your time complaining about how hard it is. The only thing worse than being in a long-distance relationship is having the entire relationship become about discussing the distance itself and its emotional impacts on you.

There will be times when you want to keep your chats with your S.O. more focused on positive things because that actually helps with the bad feelings. And when you hit that healthy wall, and you still have sadness and frustration to deal with, you learn to deal with it yourself. We don’t need to tell you what a powerful strength that is.

5What thoughts you kinda just want to keep to yourself.

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You might text your partner pics of every cute dog you pass on the street and every cute new bra you buy, but there will inevitably come points where you have some random thought, open your phone to text it to them, pause, and realize that actually no, you don’t feel the need to share with them this time. And that’s okay. Actually, it’s amazing. Having a robust and personal internal life that’s for you and only you is one of the most essential things a person can do — and it’s one of the ways long-distance love can make you more independent.

6What you’re willing to do for someone else.

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You never really realize how much effort your willing to invest in someone else’s happiness until you’re running all over town to find that exact right kind of weird cheese they love to put into a care package, or taking 87 sexy selfies just to get, like, 3 that you think are hot enough. The lengths you’ll go to in order to make sure your far-away boo feels adored will leave you exhausted, but honestly, it’s kind of wonderful to put that kind of energy into something so positive.

7How to prioritize your own needs.

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But also, putting that kind of energy into anything can be draining AF. In any long-distance relationship, there will be days when you kinda…half-ass it. Because you’re human, and maybe you just needed to put your phone away, have three beers with your friends, and barely eek out a “love you, goodnight” text before passing out. Couples who don’t live far apart have days where they prioritize their own needs over the needs of their relationship, and for all the ways your long-distance love is totally different, the need to occasionally be off your game and relax is universal. And it’s actually a little comforting to know that, at least in some ways, you two are just like any other couple.

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