Whenever I tell someone I’m in a long distance relationship I get two types of reactions. They will either (1) give me a puppy dog face followed by a, “Aww, how do you make it work?” or (2) a wide-eyed surprised look followed by, “Wow…respect.” My response has been relatively the same for a while now, despite what type of reaction I get. My follow-up is usually along the lines of, “Yup, it takes a lot of time, effort and trust.”
Let me give you some background as to how my long distance relationship with my girlfriend, Lauren, began. My housemate, Colleen, became close to Lauren through a co-ed fraternity. Lauren came over to our house so often that she became a familiar face and that’s how our friendship began. I talked to her more and more, and finally picked up the courage to ask her out on a date. Colleen helped me plan our first date (which was the best first date I’ve ever been on, but that will have to be for another story) and I knew afterwards that Lauren and I could build something together. We dated for a couple of months and eventually I asked her to be my girlfriend.
I knew asking Lauren to be my girlfriend wasn’t going to be the smoothest ride. By the time we became official, she was set to graduate from San Francisco State University in a month. She was moving out of her apartment and preparing to move back home to Southern California. What might have scared some guys away from a relationship only made me want to be there for her even more. There were many unknowns with Lauren’s future, but based on the foundation we had built, I wanted to push through the long distance and make it work. I soon found out that it was much easier said than done. It didn’t take long before we started arguing and questions came up whether or not we could make it work. We both learned from our mistakes and in the process, learned more about each other. My persistent and optimistic attitude also helped through our struggles.
Now that I’ve been in this relationship for a little over a year, I’ve discovered four main foundational points that have made it work and will continue to make it work: time, effort, trust and communication.
1) Time: I was so nonchalant about making time for our relationship when the long distance began, because I was so used to having Lauren physically there all the time. I soon realized that I had to make the time if I wanted it to work. We established that no matter how busy our schedules got, we would make the time to text, call, FaceTime and see each other when possible. You will always make time for what’s important in your life and if your relationship is important, then you’ll make it fit in your busy schedule no matter what.
2) Effort: Effort goes hand in hand with time. If you don’t put in the effort to make the time for the relationship, to see how your partner is doing or to visit each other when possible, then the relationship will slowly fall apart. Effort is a two-way street. Both people in the relationship have to be putting in the effort to keep it going, because carrying the weight of another can be exhausting and is a pathway to arguments and a failed relationship. Don’t count the number of times you’ve called your significant other the past month and compare it to his/her number. Instead, think of other ways you can show your effort, such as sending a letter or spending an extra day when you visit.
3) Trust: We’ve all heard the saying ‘a relationship is built on trust’ and that is ever so true in a long distance relationship. Everyone’s belief about trust is different — some believe it takes time to build, while others give their trust right away. Despite what you might believe, I’ve found that in a long distance relationship there is a certain amount of trust you have to have with one another to make it work. You know that your significant other is going to have nights where he/she wants to go out to the bars, have a bite with a coworker or a catch up with an old friend. Your job is to be there for your significant other and not suffocate him/her with a bunch of questions. Show him/her that he/she has your trust and I almost guarantee it will be reciprocated. At the end of the day, he/she will be telling you all about the night out anyway!
4) Communication: Communication in any relationship is a no-brainer. Now that you and your partner are separated, communication is that much more important. In fact, you and your partner should be communicating even more! The reason I put communication last is because it’s ingrained in the three foundational aspects I’ve already explained. Have you heard of the saying, ‘out of sight, out of mind’? You have to put in the time and effort to communicate with one another to show that you care and it actually feels like you’re in a relationship. Constant communication will also build trust. If you’re comfortable rambling on about the little nuances of your day or listening to your significant other complain about their nine to five job, that itself builds a strong foundation of trust.
This past year has taught me that as long as my girlfriend and I keep these four foundational aspects of our relationship strong, we can make it through any amount of long distance. I hope my advice comes in handy to anyone dealing with the same struggle. We’ll get through it!