OK guys, today we’re getting real and talking about a stage in life that so many college women endure — long distance relationships. Last spring, when I was still in that weird phase of not-quite-dating my boyfriend, I was pretty sure of the idea that I was one of those people who just doesn’t have the personality to handle long distance. I wanted to make it work, but I tend to be a bit high strung, with a plan for everything. When he left the east coast for his home state of California that May, we had only been dating for about two weeks. Let me tell you — it was one of the most anxiety-inducing experiences this Type-A girl has ever endured. I visited him in California shortly after he left. And then that was it. For 90 days.
But then we figured out what it was going to take to survive those three months apart (basically, a whole lot of trust and a huge appreciation for modern communication, but there’s more to it than that). Not only did we survive, we also learned so much about one another and how we function in a relationship, from fights to laughs to everything in between. Still, during the school year we only see each other on the weekends as he goes to school about an hour away from me. It’s been over a year and we’re stronger than ever, even in the middle of another summer on separate coastlines.
1) Know your own strength and be your own sunshine.
I can’t emphasize this enough: you can’t be in a relationship — let alone a long distance relationship — if you don’t know how to be OK by yourself. Be confident in your own skin and do things that make you happy. Build a world that overlaps with theirs, but don’t entwine the two so much that everything crumbles when one of you leaves, even if just for a summer. Although my boyfriend and I had only been dating for a couple weeks when he went home last year, we had been friends for much longer, so we knew we were strong alone and even stronger together.
2) Talk about everything.
Communication is key to making any relationship work, but it’s even more crucial when you’re dating long distance. Staying involved in each other’s day-to-day lives makes it so much easier to feel like you’re still connected, even if you’re far apart. At the same time, this is also a great opportunity to learn how to have a healthy dialogue about anything that’s on your mind. If something is bothering you or you really miss your partner, speak up. If you’re feeling especially appreciative of their place in your life, speak up. It’s important to remind one another how much you value each other and your relationship.
3) Don’t sweat the small stuff.
You will probably fight (it’s natural and healthy), but don’t waste your energy on arguments that wouldn’t be worth a second thought if you were fighting face-to-face. One of the most important lessons my boyfriend and I have learned in the past year is that we each react to frustrating situations very differently, so with that in mind we can choose to avoid fights over small grievances. Instead, we talk about what we could do better.
4) Know your limits.
All that being said, ff something is really not working for you, don’t be afraid to ask for whatever you need. Maybe you’re not talking on the phone enough, or you’re texting too much while you’re at work or you just don’t feel as connected as you want to. It takes trial and error to figure out what it’s going to take for you both to feel like you’re still connected and involved in one another’s lives. But again, staying silent about what’s on your mind will never fix anything.
5) Don’t knock it before you try it.
A couple years ago, I binge-watched all of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix (didn’t love it, but that’s a story for another time). There’s a long running theme in that show: “long distance never works.” I had convinced myself it was true, too. I was so afraid of taking this giant leap, of being so vulnerable, of having to work so hard to be in a healthy, fun, trusting, evolving relationship with someone I care about so much. Turns out, this is the perfect time to do scary things that seem a little impossible. They just might work out.
What’s your best piece of relationship advice?