We Spoke To Three Couples About What It Takes To Make Long-Distance Relationships Work
"I could never be in a long-distance relationship."
I used to tell myself that because I truly thought it was close to, if not, impossible. Whenever the topic would come up, my rebuttal often included questions like, "How would we stay in touch?", "How would I know if he's being honest?" or "How would we stay connected?"
I guess that's why they tell us "never say never" because all of that changed when I met Eric. I went from thinking a long-distance relationship would never work to actually giving it a try. Even though I was adamantly against it initially, Eric convinced me that for nine months, he would drive nine hours as much as he could to see me. I didn't believe he would, but he did at least once or a few times every single month. Now, 14 years later (and married 12 of those 14), we're still together.
Interestingly enough, our experience and similar stories like this ring true for many other people. Recently, xoNecole spoke with three couples to discuss some of the things that have contributed to their successful long-distance relationships, as well as advice and tips for couples who are currently separated by distance. Moreover, all of them previously closed the distance and/or got married, so thankfully their relationships haven't really been affected considering COVID-19 and quarantine.
These couples are real-life examples of the classic statement, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." Despite the distance and despite the naysayers, these couples have figured out what it takes to make long-distance relationships work.
Manning & Katelyn Bennett
Status: Married nine months (Together for three years)
Length of Long-Distance Relationship: Two years
Distance: 850 miles
How They Met: Facebook
Bradley Bolivar & Brianna Friedman
Status: In a relationship for two years
Length of Long-Distance Relationship: Nine months
Distance: 209 miles
How They Met: College pool party
Thornton & Deandra Paul
Status: Married two years
Length of Long-Distance Relationship: Seven months
Distance: 6,000+ miles
How They Met: Nightclub in Dubai
Although you’ve closed the distance now, approximately how often would you see each other?
Manning and Katelyn Bennet: "We would see each other approximately once every two months. Manning would drive alone on the weekends to surprise me, and both of us took turns flying to see each other."
Brianna and Bradley: "We saw each other every two weeks, sometimes once a month, for a few days at a time. Each time, Bradley braved the roads by himself just to come see me and stay with me."
Thornton and Deandra Paul: "Despite the distance (6,000+ miles) and eight-hour time difference, we spoke every day, and saw each other at least once a month - twice in Dubai, three times in London, three times in Boston, and once in Portugal."
What’s the most exciting, exhilarating, or beneficial thing about being in a long-distance relationship?
Manning and Katelyn Bennett: "The traveling alone was thrilling for us. It gave us something to look forward to when we planned dates to see each other."
Brianna and Bradley: "Most exciting thing was the anticipation of knowing when he'll arrive. I'd cook, clean, and make sure everything was ready for him. The most beneficial is getting to really talk and learn one another to the best extent we could. Our connection grew very strong from not being able to see each other."
Thornton and Deandra Paul: "For us, the most exciting part was the opportunity to travel between countries to see each other. Although it was bittersweet every time we had to say goodbye, we were able to enjoy different cities together and make lots of memories early on."
What would you say has helped the most in terms of staying connected and maintaining the relationship despite the distance?
Manning and Katelyn Bennett: "When we started dating, it was really important for us to surround ourselves with like-minded people. We knew there were people who didn't believe in long-distance relationships and doubted the concept. So, we were mindful and cautious about what we shared about our relationship. Nowadays, it's popular to constantly post and publicize your relationship, but we chose not to do that."
Brianna and Bradley: "We FaceTimed a lot, and if we knew we were going to be busy, then we made sure to check-in throughout the day. When Bradley worked overnight shifts, I would stay up as long as I could just to make sure we had time to talk to each other. We often used our voices and body language as signs of love and affection. It was difficult at times, but when you have the connection and the love, it doesn't feel like you're miles away from each other."
Thornton and Deandra Paul: "When we couldn't see each other, FaceTime was our 'savior'. We made sure we spoke multiple times a day. We never skipped a day. Many times, we woke up only to realize that we fell asleep while we were still on the phone."
Oftentimes, there are misconceptions about long-distance relationships. Considering your success, are there any preconceived notions you’d like to demystify?
Manning and Katelyn Bennett: "People often say, 'long-distance relationships don't work,' but they can work if you work it. We made up for the distance by being creative. Ultimately, it's about effort, communication and trust. Because of the distance, we learned how to really communicate, and we built a solid foundation on trust."
Thornton and Deandra Paul: "For a lot of people, long-distance relationships can be daunting. To be honest, neither of us were too keen on being in a long-distance relationship prior to meeting each other. Before we met, Thorton lived in Boston and would have never considered dating someone in New York. However, we've learned that with the right person, distance is irrelevant. When you really want each other, you'll do what it takes to make it work."
"We've learned that with the right person, distance is irrelevant. When you really want each other, you'll do what it takes to make it work."
What did your plan look like for closing the distance, and what would you recommend for those looking to close the distance?
Manning and Katelyn Bennett: "Honestly, we didn't have the luxury of planning and making sure everything was right. It was out of necessity that we chose to close our distance. We knew we loved each other, so we decided to take action. For those who are planning to close the distance, decide on a place that's mutually beneficial for both of you in terms of growth, comfort, and opportunity."
Brianna and Bradley: "We decided to move in together once Brianna's lease was up, and we don't regret it. We're closer now than ever before, and we learn something new about each other every day. It's important to have a plan in place when it comes to closing the distance whether that means moving in or closer to each other. Even if it takes some time, knowing that you have a goal and something to look forward to really makes the experience much more bearable. We reveled in the idea that one day, we were going to spend forever together…talking, cuddling, dancing, laughing and loving each other face-to-face."
Now that you’ve closed the distance, what’s the most significant advice you have for couples who are currently enduring the distance?
Manning and Katelyn Bennett: "Enjoy the distance from each other and take time to learn more about yourself and appreciate the person you are. Do the self-work and focus on your dreams and goals, so that when you close the distance, you'll be able to build and grow together."
Brianna and Bradley: "Stick it out! If you truly want the same things and share the same vision such as holy matrimony or sharing a life together, then the wait and distance will be worth it."
Thornton and Deandra Paul: "Remember to communicate as much as possible, and try to see each other as much as you can (when travel is permitted)."
Featured image by Shutterstock
Shonda Brown White is a bestselling author, blogger, life coach, and brand strategist. When she's not jumping out of a plane or zip lining, she's living the married life with her husband in Atlanta, GA. Connect with her on social @ShondaBWhite and her empowering real talk on her blog.
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30 Years Later: Here's Why I Think 'Living Single' Had The Healthiest Couples On TV
I don’t know about (some of) y’all but every time that I see a 90s movie or television program turn the Big 30 (or hell, even 20, for that matter), it definitely makes me feel some type of way. Lawd, where does the time go? Truly. And I definitely don’t feel any differently about Living Single — the show that, for starters, we all know Friends should attribute at least 75 percent of its success to since it basically gypped its entire concept from it. (Don’t get me started! Just know that you can read more about that very thing here, here, here, here, and here).
Anyway, there is so much to adore about the sitcom, even as it (rightfully so) plays in heavy rerun rotation to this day. There are the solid friendships between four Black women who remind me, interestingly enough, of the four hilarious seniors fromThe Golden Girls: Khadijah could easily be Dorothy; Synclaire would be Rose; Max would be Sophia, and Regine would be Blanche (wild, right?). There’s the beautiful friendship between their male sidekick neighbors, Kyle and Overton (Black male bonds are also a very precious and necessary thing). There are the relevant storylines, quick wit, and the kind of entertainment that most television shows today can’t even begin to touch (le sigh). Yeah, Living Single deserves all of the flowers to the point where I’m still pissed that it was canceled in the middle of its fifth season (although, thankfully, many questions were actually answered in the last episode).
Yet, even with all of this said, if I had to name my absolute favorite thing about the show, hands down, it’s the fact that when I stop and think of all of the shows that I’ve watched over the years (and it’s been a lot of them), Living Single is one where I think that every main love connection was pretty damn healthy. Not only that, but there is one couple, in particular, who I think a lot of folks could stand to learn how to love well and right from (heads up, it’s probably not the one you think).
So, in honor of the show being 30, humor me as I take just a few minutes to formally and officially shout out a few reasons why, when it comes to displaying Black love and hell, love in general, Living Single set the bar, raised it and then added tax — thirty years ago and present day.
Khadijah and ScooterGiphy
I like getting t-shirts made with pics of some of my favorite Black love couples. For instance, I recently got one done with Jesse and Angie on it (the real ones know who they are); folks always compliment me when I wear it.
There’s one couple, in particular, though, who’s been triggering the mess outta me for the past several months. It’s because, although I crown them as the healthiest fictional couple in television history (Black or otherwise), it’s hard as hell to find any good shots of them. Yep, that would be Khadijah (Queen Latifah) and Scooter (Cress Williams).
They were childhood friends who stayed friends. They always wanted what was best for each other. They didn’t let really good sex (remember their first time when Khadijah said, “We started kissing, and my clothes fell off!”) infect their friendship. Even when they got engaged, they broke it off because they knew that, even though the love was there, they were doing it (at the time) for the wrong reasons. They supported each other’s careers. Scooter was not threatened by Khadijah’s ambition (or other boyfriends; remember when she was about to move in with ole’ boy and Scooter was basically like, “I mean, I did pop in unannounced. My bad.”) Yet, he was also confident enough to tell her about herself sometimes (because if there’s one thing she hated, it was receiving correction and giving apologies).
On the flip side, when Scooter had to travel away for long periods of time, she didn’t put unrealistic restrictions on him. They both just kind of let each other be and allowed their love for one another to exist — even if it had to change different forms in different seasons of their lives. Their love was so full, real, and special that I truly believe that if Fox hadn’t “foxed” the show (SMDH), they would’ve gotten married — and had a really solid and drama-less union. Because the relationship was about freedom, respect, and friendship. And that is healthy as hell, y’all.
Yeah, HANDS DOWN, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to relationships to me. Who gives AF about Rachel and Ross (from Friends)? Khadijah and Scooter have always run crop circles around them in my eyes, chile.
Synclaire and OvertonGiphy
I already know that most of y’all probably think that I should’ve led with Synclaire (Kim Coles) and Overton (John Henton) since they were definitely the most popular couple on the show (again, I had to go with my personal favorite, though) — and with just cause.
All of the “day ones” remember that the first episode of Living Single featured Overton seeing Synclaire for the first time and instantly being drawn to her and her quirkiness (like that big ass troll doll that she rolled up to the brownstone with). He pined away silently for what seemed like forever as he was low-key courting her in the process (like when he faked being an accounting expert just to spend time with her). When they finally did get together, Synclaire and Overton took their time before having sex and yet were super affectionate and doting on one another in the meantime; this serves as a great reminder that intimacy doesn’t have to require copulation. They openly communicated their needs and expectations. They shared a liking for some of the strangest stuff around.
Overton had a way of being protective yet supportive of Synclaire (like when she was naked in that play), while Synclaire had his back when it came to things like resolving matters with his ex (remember when he kissed his ex and realized he was really over her? Classic). Something else that was cool about Synclaire and Overton is you saw dating go to courting, courting go to engagement, and engagement go to a traditional church wedding. They were sweet. They were old-fashioned (without being super critical of the other couples). They were adorable. They had a not-perfect-yet-very-uncomplicated kind of love. And isn’t it grand to be reminded that Black love can be just that way?
Synclaire and Overton are the kind of relationship that a lot of us probably imagine our great-grandparents had back in the day. And if anyone on this list is probably still together with some grandkids who also have troll dolls and tool belts for toys, it would be them. No question.
Maxine and KyleGiphy
These two right here, boy. Definitely, the couple who was the most fun and entertaining to watch consisted of Maxine (Erika Alexander) and Kyle (TC Carson). And can we take a moment to shout out the trendsetting hairstyles Maxine had and how intentional Kyle was about tailoring his outfits? Salute. Anyway, if any two people are an example that constant banter can indeed be foreplay, they would be it.
The clap backs were top-tier (and daily), and yet, there was a brilliance in their timing and delivery that makes them ending up together (eventually) make a ton of sense. Come to think of it, that’s what I liked the most about them — the way they let life mature some things in them both. When they had sex for the first time, they went on a date and realized (I think it was more Max’s fear than anything at the time) that good chemistry and great sex do not automatically make a solid relationship (which is mature as hell).
When they tried having just a sexual relationship (because the sex was so good), they were careful not to let it ruin their, I’m not sure if it was exactly a friendship (LOL), yet they were definitely solid advocates of one another. Even when tinges of jealousy would rear their ugly head (like when Kyle brought a woman, played by Kenya Moore, on a date), they were self-aware enough to reel it in, and when it came time for Kyle to leave for London (check out the backstory on why TC Carson actually left the show early here), even though he wanted Max to come with him, they didn’t “fairy tale” their journey. Kyle went on with his life, and Max went on with hers. Hey, it happens. Even with great sex and chemistry…to some, it happens.
Yet the best part about these two is how the universe has a way of making sure people who are meant to be have ample opportunities to accept that fact. And while it is a little wild to spin the story to where Max goes to a sperm bank and the sperm she gets is Kyle’s — I do adore that she ended up pregnant at a time when both of them appeared to be ready for a baby and a relationship together. Finally, there was full-circle peace — still loads of banter-foreplay but also a ton of peace. Well played.
Regine and Darryl
Okay. If y’all are true fans of the show, then you know that a fun fact is Regine (played by Kim Fields, who also left the show early; read why here) and Kyle dated briefly — which makes them another healthy couple when you stop to think about it because going from dating to a very sweet brother and sister dynamic? That doesn’t happen every day. And while some of you might be surprised that I didn’t go with fine ass Keith (Khalil Kain), Dexter (Don Franklin), who she ended up getting engaged to, or even the Jamaican writer Russell (Shaun Baker), who always got her to shimmy and who she said was a great kisser…I think there is another romantic connection she had who topped them all: Darryl, who was played by the late and great Heavy D — the ONLY celebrity who, to this day, I can personally say that I haven’t heard one negative thing about whether it was during his life or it was after his death.
Clearly, their relationship wasn’t super long-lasting because I couldn’t even find a GIF for it like I did for the others. Doesn’t matter, though. Darryl was a blue-collar brotha with a heart of gold, a strong sense of spirituality, a profound way of looking at life, and a comfortableness in his skin that actually got Regine out of a lot of her superficialness and materialism — and that deserves a lot of props all on its own. And because he taught Regine to look past the surface, even when they did break up, they continued having a deep respect for one another. So much, in fact, that when Regine found out that Darryl’s bride-to-be, Tina (Vivica A. Fox) was screwing around, she made sure to tell him because that’s how much she still cared for him. Beautiful.
Regine and Darryl are reminders that sometimes people come along to “refine our rough edges” so that we’ll be ready for who our “forever” is actually supposed to be. And yes, that deserves its own round of applause.
Can you tell that I watched Living Single more than a lil’ bit? Indeed and with no regrets, especially these days. Because sometimes, as I’m flipping through channels and I can hear my own self say, “TV really does hate my people” (which is another message for another time), it’s nice to see throwbacks that are full of integrity, humor and yes, healthy Black love. And as you can see, one that was in excellence is Living Single, for sure.
So, from the very bottom of my heart and with oodles of appreciation — Happy 30th, Khadijah and Scooter, Synclaire and Overton, Max and Kyle, Regine and Darryl. You will always be necessary…because healthy Black love always is.
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Featured image by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images