Long-distance relationships are a recipe for disaster. Or at least that’s what I always thought. There is a constant fear of cheating, missing important holidays and moments, and just the pain of missing your partner.
But when faced with the decision of whether to do long-distance or let a budding relationship with tons of potential end prematurely, I somehow rationalized having one. What seemed like a painful and doomed experience ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made.
When I met my current partner, he was about to move across the country. We had a completely unexpected and whirlwind weekend that ended with us both feeling like we had met our soulmates.
I have seen countless ‘LDRs’ fail. Every single one of my friends who have been in one has been cheated on. This reality did not set me up with high expectations or even plans that it would work out. When I agreed to it, I fully believed it would end badly. But despite that, I decided to give it a try.
This simple decision changed my life.
For every negative of being in an LDR, there is also a positive. For example, not getting to see your partner every day means that you have more time to focus on yourself. Without the distraction of having my partner physically present, I was able to concentrate more fully on my career and school. I didn’t feel like I needed to battle between scheduling enough time for my partner and also finding the space in my day to complete all of my other tasks. I believe that this took a lot of the pressure off me, and helped me ease into grad school a little more confidently. Plus, when we did get to finally Facetime at the end of each day, it was like a nice reward for accomplishing everything on my to-do list.
My long-distance relationship also taught me how to cherish time more. It is easy to take moments with your partner, even the mundane ones, for granted. Every chance I was able to see him felt more fulfilling and exciting. Little things like watching TV together or going to dinner became fun and made me savor every second with that person. This change carried into my non-relationship life as well. I have become more mindful of how precious each moment in life is. Small things like seeing friends, spending time with family, and doing activities that I find joy in became more meaningful. It also helped me realize how important prioritizing that time is. Ultimately that helped me live a fuller and joy-oriented life.
I learned how to ask for not only what I wanted from my partner, but also what I needed. I learned how to communicate better what I was feeling without having to rely on social cues or body language. It’s impossible to decipher sarcasm or hidden anger over text, so when an issue or concern would arise, it became essential for me to voice what I was feeling. The distance helps remove any immaturity or passivity from your relationship. When you spend the bulk of your time through texts or video chatting, you can’t pick stupid fights or be catty. You need to be open and honest; otherwise, the entire relationship will not work. Now that we are in a regular, no distance relationship, these traits have made our conversations and interactions easier and more mature.
I became my own support system.
I re-trained my brain into taking those moments of doubt or anger and transforming them into moments of growth. Self-care has become a big part of my day-to-day life. I realized that without having my partner physically with me, it is up to me to handle the stress and tension I experience and cope with it in new ways.
Mostly though, my LDR taught me the importance of self-love. Without having your partner there in person, it is easy to fall into a self-deprecating mindset. Nobody is around to make your bad days better or talk you down when you start to feel bad about yourself. You become the sole responsible party for maintaining your happiness and confidence. I took myself out on date nights, and I rediscovered myself and my interests. And most importantly, I taught myself how to give myself the love that my partner couldn’t from afar.
Self-confidence is something that I have always struggled with, and it was easy to use my partner’s faith and support in me as a crutch. But when that other person is not there in the moments of self-hatred or disappointment, you’re forced to look at yourself in a new way. I learned that the only way to feel competent and happy with the person that I am was to do it myself. I forced myself into thinking from an outside perspective. Often I would catch myself in a spiral of being hyper-critical or self-pitying. The distance forced me to hear those cues and put myself in my partner’s shoes. I often would ask myself, “what would they say in a situation like this?” This helped me to see the faulty logic in my thoughts, and recognize that those beliefs are a disservice to my self-love and personal growth.
Although long-distance relationships are not for everyone, they can be very beneficial for self-growth. When you’re forced to view your life and your relationships in a new way, it can transform the deepest and most troublesome parts of yourself.
Ultimately, the saying is true. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, even if that fondness is for yourself.
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