If you were to ask me years ago about what I thought about long distance relationships, I'd probably say something along the lines of whimsy, fantasy – verging on the territory of unrealistic.
People get in them under the belief that love conquers all and that they can go the distance, and it really does seem very Disney, which is perhaps the luster of it all. Most people in long distance relationships don't ask for them, but there's an inherent romanticism affiliated with it, the Dear John letters, the flights back and forth, your city, their city, finding creative ways to be present with them even though their absence is the most ever-present detail about the relationship. Admittedly, I was a little wary about love long distance.
Something that really confuses me about long distance relationships is that people seem to get in them for the sake of being in them without any clear end goal or indication where the relationship will lead.
You're long distance, but how long will you be long distance?
Are you moving for them, or will they move for you?
When will you meet in the middle so that the relationship ceases being one that's only long distance? Long distance can't be forever, right?
My next statement might surprise you:
I'm married because of a long distance relationship.
I've actually been in a couple of LDRs, but my last one, which led to my marriage, was the longest one, at nearly two years. I've heard people who have been in long distance relationships for even longer – four years, five years, seven years, even ten. Even though I've been in a couple, I honestly don't have a clue how those couples were able to do it because I certainly couldn't have. The thing is, you never really plan to do long distance, or at least, I didn't. You truly can't help who you fall in love with and where they are situated in the world.
Mine began back in 2014 on a trip to Nigeria, where I was visiting after being away for two years. I met my now husband during that time. We were very platonic with no intentions of getting into a relationship. That was, until I got back to the UK. We started talking more and more, our feelings grew stronger, and we decided to start a relationship. So, there we were, him based in Nigeria, me based in London, madly in love.
The thing is, ever since moving to the UK, I always knew that it was a temporary situation and that I would eventually move back to Nigeria so that shaped my decision to enter into an LDR with my husband when I did. I knew that at some point we would be together physically and that the distance was a temporary roadblock to that reality.
There were a few key points that helped me during my LDR, and this leads me to my first point:
Having A Clear Goal
This should be a mandatory conversation that takes place even before you start the relationship. Where is this going? Is there a goal? Is one person going to move to be with the other? While I'm not saying that a long distance relationship does not have to end up in marriage, as with every other aspect of your life, if the relationship serves no purpose or has no plan, it's less likely to succeed.
Having this sort of conversation can avoid a lot of confusion and conflict in the future and save a lot of time and future heartbreak. They say love conquers all but let's be real, if the love was that strong, one of you would compromise and agree to move to be with the other. So, if you can't do it or aren't willing to do that as a team, move on. In the meantime, have a clear plan of how often you will make trips to visit each other until you can be together on a more permanent basis.
Trust is probably the most important factor in maintaining any relationship, but especially a long distance one. You're not in the same country and a billion things could run through your mind when you can't get ahold of your partner on the phone or when they go out with their friends. Plus, you'll always have people in your ear who claim to have your best interests at heart, but who are constantly in your ear telling you to be “careful". I actually had friends telling me that I shouldn't get upset if he cheats because he's a man and I'm not there, so it's not easy to refrain, and if so, forgive him. On the flipside of that, I also heard a lot of the phrase, "End it, it's not worth it." Huh?
At the end of the day, you know your partner more than any of them do and you're the one in the relationship, not them, so pay no mind to the naysayers. If you are having any trust issues – which are very likely to happen since you're so far apart – discuss it with your partner, not outsiders. Communication is key in an LDR, which leads me to my next point.
Communication, Communication, Communication!
So many self-help sites and relationship guides will tell you not to overcompensate not seeing each other with phone conversations or messages, but I say why not? I don't mean spending your whole day and night talking to your partner because you wouldn't necessarily do that if you were together physically, but definitely make more of an effort than you would if it wasn't a long distance relationship. This is also a great chance for your friendship to develop without being distracted by the physical.
I laugh whenever I think of how much 02 International and MTN credit we used to burn before we started using FaceTime and Skype to communicate on the regular. It helped us grow as a couple. We learnt so much about each other just through talking and listening to one another extensively. Even when we went for our marriage counselling session, our counsellor was surprised at how much we already knew about each other and how much we had discussed, regarding our future. And finally...
I really used our time apart to develop myself as a person. When else would I get this much time to myself without my partner? Without sounding selfish, I enjoyed my time alone. I developed hobbies into skills, turned dreams into plans and actions, strengthened relationships with friends and family, and fulfilled a little bucket list of mine too. One of the things I crossed off my bucket list was going out to places by myself more often, instead of waiting for others, i.e. going to the cinema alone.
Everyone has their own ways of dealing with long distance relationships and these are the things that helped me get through mine. It wasn't an easy journey at all and there were times where I may have felt alone, but I never felt the need or desire to quit. He was always worth it. The relationship was always worth it. No matter how different our methods of dealing with the distance may be, you and your partner should both work together to develop a clear goal for the relationship so that both parties know where they are heading and what they are doing, particularly if it is going to be a love that stands the test of space and time.
What are some things that have worked for you and your long distance relationships? Share some of your LDR stories with me in the comments below!
Mimi Osakwe is a PR & Communications Professional, art enthusiast, glorified foodie, and a lifestyle & culture blogger at ramblingsofmissmimi.wordpress.com who rambles weekly on all things life, including relationships, career, societal pressures, places to go, and so much more. You can catch her on Instagram at @ramblings_of_msmimi and on Twitter @MimiOsa_Tweets.