What dating long distance has taught me about relationships
I am currently dating an amazing guy who I met through friends from my school’s rowing team. He’s athletic, funny, and considerate, and I love how I feel when I’m with him. We were friends for a while, then went on our first date at the beginning of the summer. It was initially very casual, but I quickly realized that there was something different about him and about us.
Unfortunately, after only a few months of dating, he went off to college, while I am still a senior in high school — three hours away from his school. After a few tough conversations, we decided to stay together and just see how it went. It’s worked so far, and luckily, I’m able to see him one weekend a month. However, it’s definitely been tough without him, especially during the first few weeks after he left.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Being in a long distance relationship sucks.
We’ve been in an LDR for the last six months, and while it really hurts, I’ve learned a few key things about relationships in general, even those that aren’t long distance. On some level, all relationships are the same, and long distance has only magnified the qualities that all romantic relationships share.
Relationships require sacrifice.
In a long distance relationship, sacrifice is evident in almost every way. Making time to talk, which is especially important with long distance, requires sacrificing studying time or spending time with friends. I know my boyfriend has sports practices and hard classes and a new social life, so it means that much more when he makes time to Skype on top of all of that.
Spending time with your S.O. in any type of relationship will also require sacrifice. You have to find the balance between girl-time with your friends and hanging out with the person you’re dating. You also have to figure out how to focus on school and sports while making sure you don’t neglect your partner. All of that sacrifice demands respect, both for your S.O.’s time and for what he or she gives up to be with you, regardless of the distance you may or may not have between you.
You need to be realistic about relationships.
I may not be with my boyfriend forever, and some would say that if we’re not going to get married, all of the effort we put into our long distance relationship is a total waste of time. I, of course, disagree. For the time being, he makes me happy, and I’m not going to give that up just because he may not be the one making me happy 50 years from now. Any relationship is a risk; just because you get along well now doesn’t mean that your S.O. is your soulmate. People change over time, even if you aren’t long distance.
I’ve had friends tell me that they talked about marriage and “forever” with their boyfriends, and were subsequently confused when they later broke up. My long distance relationship has magnified a person’s ability to change as they age — growth is inevitable when you go off to college, and I’ve watched my boyfriend evolve, which has helped me to realize that a relationship isn’t going to stay the same forever. Always remember that even if you and your boyfriend or girlfriend aren’t “forever,” someone will be. Focus on the present, and how a relationship makes you feel right now.
Communication really is the key to any relationship.
I currently talk to my boyfriend a lot less than I did when we lived nearby and were less busy. Still, we are careful to make sure we talk everyday, even if just for a few minutes, over text or video chat. Especially with long distance, it is easy for a small issue to blow up if it’s not discussed thoroughly enough, since there is generally less talking. I’ve seen how important it is in a relationship to not only talk a little bit everyday, but also make sure you’re talking about the right things. Just sharing your day is nice, but discussing issues and being clear about your feelings is even better, especially if you can avoid later drama. Every type of relationship depends on a strong base of understanding and conversation.
Trust is vital to relationships.
With long distance, I’ve seen just how important trust is to a relationship. I can’t keep tabs on my boyfriend at all times, and honestly, I don’t want to. I’ve learned to trust that he won’t cheat on me, and that’s made the whole thing a lot easier. I’m lucky that he’s a good guy, and that I know he won’t lie to me, because if I thought he would, our relationship wouldn’t work. He also trusts me to be faithful to him, and that level of trust makes what we have feel even more special. Every relationship requires a strong foundation of trust, as loyalty is a vital element for any relationship to be successful.
You need to be thoughtful in a relationship.
As nice as a big romantic gesture feels, I’ve found that little things feel more special. Sure, I love flowers and stuffed animals, but it’s the thoughtful, smaller things my boyfriend does that mean the most to me. He’s written me heartfelt letters and remembered small details I’ve shared with him; it means more to me to know that he feels comfortable enough to open up to me and that he really does (mostly) listen to me than it feels to get a cheesy gift from him. Similarly, he enjoys when I send him care packages that actually involve “care” or something I took time to make him. I’ve sent him items and food I know he misses from home and little gifts with funny notes that represent our inside jokes. While it seems easy in a relationship to buy your guy a tie at the last minute, or even Google what to give him, it always means more to receive something that clearly took time and thought.
Relationships need “me time.”
Being in a long distance relationship gives you a lot of free time. At first, it was hard for me to have so much time to think about how much time I missed my boyfriend, until I started filling all of that time with hobbies and doing activities I like. My LDR has allowed me to have a unique balance between spending time with my boyfriend and having “me time” doing things I enjoy. I am able to spend time with my friends without worrying that I am neglecting him because I know he is having fun with his friends at the same time, 150 miles away.
To distract myself from missing him, I’ve thrown myself into school, sports, and volunteering, which has actually been really positive for me. In some ways, my LDR has sort of been a best of both worlds kind of experience: I get the guy I love and I get my own independence. Thus, I’ve realized how important that individual time is for every relationship. In the excitement of a new relationship, you may not realize how much independence you’re actually giving up; while you may be so into your S.O. that you want to spend every second with him or her, it’s so crucial that you take time for yourself — you’ll find yourself healthier and happier both when you’re by yourself and when you’re with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Cherish every second you spend with your loved one.
I only see my boyfriend once a month. Whether you’re also long distance or you’re lucky enough to see your partner much more frequently, it’s essential that you make the most of the time you spend with him or her. Because I don’t get to spend as much time with my boyfriend as I would like, I know that I take advantage of the time I do get with him, and it should be no different in any other type of relationship. When I’m with him, I actually want to put down my phone and focus on him. Because it’s so tough to see each other, our time together becomes that much more special because we know it’s what we both want to be doing. You’re with your S.O. because you enjoy the company — don’t waste it.
It’s been hard for me to adjust to not seeing my boyfriend everyday, and I’ve cried over how much I miss him way more often than I’d like to admit, but the happiness he brings me definitely outweighs the hurt of not having him at all. The silver lining of our LDR is clearly that the whole experience has made our relationship so much stronger: We’ve built trust, we’re realistic, and we’re better communicators, so I am now almost as in love with our relationship as I am with him. Regardless of the distance, every relationship has the same ability to be that strong — and you don’t have to endure the pain of long distance to realize that.
Jenny Labovitz is a high school senior obsessed with Netflix and sweatpants, and just trying to make it to graduation. Though she loves Gossip Girl and Pinterest, it’s been proven that she has the sense of humor of a teenage boy.