When we enter the dating game, long distance relationships aren’t the ideal that most of us envision. Yet, there’s a decent amount of evidence that more of us are in an LDR than ever before. The internet’s ability to connect us with people world-wide certainly doesn’t hurt. And trends toward delayed marriage indicate at least some of us value our independence enough to ignore or put off the white picket fence-shaped goal post that society sticks in front of us.
But what is an actual long distance relationship like? I’ve been in one for eight years, so I know a thing or two. But I have also forgotten a lot about what it was like that first year. So I’ve asked a friend of mine who has just entered a new long distance relationship about her experiences. Hopefully comparing and contrasting the two experiences may help you if you’re considering a long distance relationship!
Our Previous Attitudes Towards Long Distance Relationships
Chelsea, The New LDR: “I've done the long distance thing before, and it was pretty annoying and tough. That said, he was a Scorpio, so I take that LDR experience with a pinch of salt! Seriously though, he was a different person, we had a different dynamic... I feel much more prepared and able to handle the distance this time around, despite the terrible first experience.
I don't think I've ever held strong feelings for or against long distance relationships. I’ve been living abroad for several years, and among expats, you realize it's actually quite a common situation for a lot of folks. I've seen a variety of ways it has and hasn't worked for people. I'm a very affectionate and sexual person, so it is obviously preferable to be with someone in person. But, it's way harder to find someone to love than someone to just hook up with, so because I was lucky enough to stumble across the first, I'll make it a priority!”
Amy, The Long-Term LDR: “I wasn’t against long distance relationships before, but I didn’t think I’d ever find myself in one. I had previously only dated people for two to six month before breaking up. (Mostly because I got bored with people fairly quickly.) It didn’t help that I was attending university across the country. Whenever I went home for the summer or back to school in fall, it just seemed more practical to end the relationship, so I was used to keeping it casual and starting fresh frequently.
When this relationship became long distance, it just seemed sort of inevitable we would stay together, like everything just fell into place. We met while living abroad, and he was moving to a third country to study. I was open to moving, but wanted to line up a job or internship first, which took 6 months. Once we were together again in the same city, it worked so well I had no doubt the time apart had been worth it. I lined up a great new career and loved our new city. When a degree and his career required him to split his time between that city and his hometown, it didn’t seem like a huge ask.”
Is Jealousy a Factor or a Fiction in an LDR?
The New LDR: “Well, we’ve started the long distance portion of our relationship during a global pandemic, so the situation is a bit unique! My boyfriend is essentially in lockdown with his 60-something-year-old parents in a city where he knows nobody else. He never leaves the house. I have very little to be jealous of, other than his online gaming buddies!
The thought of him meeting someone else definitely crossed my mind at first. But it faded pretty fast. We’ve done really well so far, so I'm not that preoccupied with that worry anymore. If it came up for me, I would definitely address it with him—we're both big proponents of being honest, and getting stuff off our chests. I don't think he's jealous of me...But he also isn't the type to tell me if he was; he's quite proud. His last girlfriend (also an LDR!) would often try and make him jealous and it's not something he was into, so this is something we don't trifle with.
By comparison, I was much more jealous in my last long distance relationship, and have definitely been a jealous person in the past. My current relationship is actually awesome because it's the first time I've really felt the absence of jealousy. Instead, trust and security are abundant despite the distance. This isn't so much a statement on how perfect we are for one another (although he's great!) but probably more to do with the fact that I have grown up and choose to not stress myself out over things I can't control anymore.”
The Long-Term LDR: “I don’t think I’ve ever been a very jealous person. In fact, I am pretty relaxed about ethical non-monogamy in general—though I think many people underestimate how much extra time and communication that takes!
What jealousy I do experience has always been about someone making time for other people over me. So as long as I still feel like my partner is giving me attention it’s fine. That attention just needs to be a variety. Romantic by ‘just-because’ messages are nice, but I also want the ‘here’s a silly thing I’ve been obsessed with online’ rants, and the gossip from their social life. Things that make me feel I’m still part of their day-to-day.”
Does Distance Make the Heart Grow Fonder?
The New LDR: “The distance has at times deepened my feelings and frustrated me! We've just now officially been LDR longer now than we dated in person, and it weirdly feels more legit now. Maybe because I know it's not purely a sex or convenience thing. I still love him, and have that same emotional response when I get messages from him or from seeing his face over video, which honestly is surprising! I had expected it to drop off, but it still feels very real for me.
It has also been frustrating, though, when I feel like he isn't making enough of an effort. It got quite bad at one point. I had to ask him whether he still wanted to be in this relationship, or if he felt the same way as before. I'd rather know and give someone an exit than keep going with something half-heartedly. He was pretty definitive about where he stands, so it was actually a great opportunity to check-in and affirm each other. And he makes more of an effort now, he's more aware of my feelings and needs. Sometimes a conversation like that just needs to happen, for better or worse.
We stay connected by messaging constantly over WhatsApp. We just share jokes, pictures, or updates on what we're currently doing. We have dates where we watch a movie or TV series together; he'll download something (we're watching Succession right now) and then puts it in our shared Dropbox. Then we get on a video call and try as best we can to sync up our episodes.”
The Long-Term LDR: “In the beginning, I feel like the distance added an element of excitement to the time we did end up spending with each other. And it also added intensity to the heartache felt when we are apart. But over the years, it has evened out. (I’m not sure if that’s because of the age of the relationship or just moving from our early 20s to our early 30s.)
Most of the time we spent with each other while doing long distance has taken place over Christmas, or summer holidays, and involved travel. So the excitement for seeing each other was often wrapped up into the excitement of holiday parties or traveling to new countries.
Several international moves later, the distance between us is now shorter than ever—only a two-hour drive. But because of COVID, we can’t travel back and forth across the border. So we still message each other throughout the day and dedicate an hour on Sunday nights to watching TV together over Skype. But still, the distance is more frustrating right now than it had been when we were a 12-hour flight away from each other.”
Is There an End in Sight?
The New LDR: “There is no end in sight! This feels unsettling sometimes, but living in a COVID time, there's just no way to plan anything for the immediate future. We have a working deadline of Christmas/NYE to figure out our individual and relationship game plan, wherever we are. It's taught me a lot about being OK with uncertainty, not thinking too much about the future, and just staying present as much as possible.
I am honestly open to the possibility that we could never see each other again, just because there are some serious circumstantial challenges we face. I don't count it as a failure if we have to end it, just something that was well and truly out of our hands. Having said that, if we can work it out, if the world gets even 70% back to normal and it makes it easier to get on a plane and go somewhere, then I'm very excited to end the LDR status! I wouldn't say I'm anxious to end it, because that implies it causes me anxiety; in reality, I'm just grateful for what we've had and have. Trying to stay in the moment with this one, living in the future serves no one!”
The Long Term LDR: “I moved back to my hometown in January 2020 because it’s so close to where my boyfriend now works. The plan was to spend part of each month with each other so we could get back in the groove of a non-LDR and seeing how we felt about taking the next, more serious steps. (It would involve a complicated immigration process!) Then COVID-19 hit North America. So everything’s on pause right now. But we’re looking on the bright side. We are in the same time zone, even have more or less the same weather! (It sounds weird but it’s oddly nice to just chat about the weather and have a similar frame of reference.) We’re hoping it becomes easier to see each other in the next three months, but we’re not angry about the border restrictions. We’ve waited this long, what’s a few more months?”
Considering a Long Distance Relationship?
It might not be easy, but that doesn’t mean a long distance relationship isn’t worth it! They have unique challenges, but LDRs are becoming more and more common. You can find stories of long distance relationships like these two to inspire you. And when you can’t see examples that reflect your own style of relationship, set your own!
Plus you can always have your partner one touch away.