You Never Realize How Hard Long Distance Relationships Are Until You’re In One

I close my eyes and we’re laying in bed: the bed that took us three hours to build that still doesn’t lay flat. Our eyes locked on one another’s smiles as we intertwine our fingers and talk about the life we want to give each other. Everything is slow, and there’s a coolness to the air, and you arch yourself up on one shoulder just like you do right before you kiss me.

I open my eyes and I’m alone in a bed I got for free from the girl who lived in the room before. My eyes locked on the folds of dust coating the crooked blinds covering the window that won’t close. Everything is still, and there’s a heaviness to the air, and I lift myself up on one shoulder to check my phone and see if you’ve called.

You can do this, they said. If anyone can do this, it’s you. 

You’re strong, they said. You’ll be fine.

We finally talk on the phone for the first time all week, but something’s missing. Pleasantries are weighted down by misplaced frustration. I’m hearing your words, but I can’t listen without feeling angry, abandoned like life is moving on without me. 

But I chose this life. I chose to move 1,000 miles away from every single familiar thing I held close. So how could I be sad? How can I feel anything except gratitude?

I don’t think you are truly able to understand how difficult something will be until you’ve lived through it. 

I told myself I wouldn’t cry, told myself I was too strong for that and tears should be kept for something more important. But my first week away from everything, I cracked and fell to the floor and wept, clinching my pillow so my cries wouldn’t alarm the neighbors. 

I’m tired of hearing I’m tough. Tired of hearing he’s brave and we are fearless. Exhausted of feeling like I can’t show weakness, or be scared, or be sad.

I know I’m tough, and I know he’s brave, and I know we’ve weathered storms before… but this feels different. Our lives aren’t connected like they used to be. It’s like I’m dressing a window display and he’s walking past on the street, and he stops to admire what I’ve built, but we don’t talk, and we don’t meet, and we don’t share in the experience.

I write a lot of sad stories and judging from the paragraphs above, you might assume this is just another one. And in a way, it is, but in a larger sense, it’s just the next chapter of our love story. 

I realized recently that I tend not to write about the great moments in my life because I don’t want anyone to think I’m bragging. I’ve been told to be modest, to let my accomplishments speak for themselves and let my happiness be my own. But right now, at this moment, I just want to feel happy and remember all the light that supersedes the darkness. 

I am grateful to have a partner who sees me, really sees me, for all that I am. The good, the bad, the critical, the manic, the jealous, the perfectionist, the eccentric, and the genuine. He’s the only person who’s called me out for getting vindictive when I’m upset. He’s the most fun to grocery shop with, the best duet partner for long road trip playlists, the easiest to spill my guts to when I’ve had a hard day, and the most patient when I can’t find the right words. 

In some ways, we’re operating on different wavelengths right now. I need to accept that. And it’s not going to be this way forever. But for now, there’s a certain amount of empathy and understanding we owe one another if we’re going to make it through this. It’s not about being right; it’s not about who calls first or sends the last text. It’s about being there for one another when we need it most, giving each other time and space to feel whole again before we can expect the same in return. 

I’m finding that I like to end my pieces with a call to action of sorts, whether it’s for myself or for anyone out there reading this who is going through a similar experience. What can we do when distance is between us and our partner… when there’s a noticeable divide and lapse in communication? 

We breathe. We let ourselves feel the anger, the discomfort, pain, and irritation, but we don’t let it consume us. We step back and examine what’s underneath our initial reactions. We remind ourselves this isn’t forever. We reclaim our independence. We applaud ourselves for making it this far. We take the damn credit. We fight for what’s important, not what feels the most satisfying. We learn from our mistakes and continue to push forward. And above all, we lead with kindness in our hearts. When you let care and compassion drive your actions, your ability to connect with others is elevated to an exponentially high degree. 

So, to all my fellow long-distance relationshippers, mix yourself a strong gin and tonic, kick your feet up, don’t keep your emotions inside, and remember this isn’t permanent.

You’re a badass, and you can do this.