You probably chose to read this for one of two reasons:
1. You are interested in being in a long-term relationship or are currently in one.
2. You are intrigued by the title – why would Taylor write an unhelpful guide to anything?
Because I’ve been in a long-term relationship for almost three years, I often get questions from those about to commit to a similar arrangement. The most common question is, “How exactly do you do it?”
If you’re looking for a guide, this post is going to be completely unhelpful because I’m here to tell you that there is no helpful answer to that question.
There’s no formula to make things work. I’m not going to tell you that if you send each other love letters monthly and skype three times a day…or five….or ten… that things are going to be okay. I wish I had better advice for when people ask that question, but that’s just the truth of the matter. Should you Facebook chat or text? Is skype better than talking on the phone? What works for my boyfriend and I isn’t going to be appropriate for another couple, and vice versa.
But I don’t think the mechanics of keeping contact are even the important part. When people ask me that question, I find myself actually answering a different question, the one I think they might secretly want the answer to: “How do I know we’re the right couple to make a long-distance relationship work?”
Now that’s something I can work with.
There are three things that in my opinion can make or break a long-distance relationship, especially if it’s long-term.
I know that no one who is considering a long-distance relationship wants to hear this but long-distance relationships are hard. They’re really, really hard. And they take a ton of work, more work than is needed just to sustain a regular relationship. That being said, it’s important that both individuals involved are completely committed. There is no point putting the work into a relationship when you or the other person aren’t in it for the long run.
Especially if the long-distance thing is going to be long-term, it’s important to consider not only if you’re committed to making it work, but if you’re committed to your future with the other person. Long-distance relationships aren’t meant to be forever. That’s why long-distance marriages aren’t really a thing. The long-distance arrangement is only meant to be temporary until the time where you can resume seeing each other more often.
But do you really want that?
A long-distance relationship isn’t meant to be some sort of “low-maintenance” alternative to a normal relationship, at least not in my estimation.
“Sweet, bro. I can tell people I have a girlfriend without having to spend any time with her!”
If this resembles at all the rationale for your decision to have a long-distance relationship, no. Just no. A long-distance relationship is a real relationship where both people just happen to be living a distance a way from each other. And that’s anything but low-maintenance. Basically, if a long-distance relationship seems in any way an upside to actually having to see the person on a regular basis, you’d be happier seeking other options closer to home.
It’s easy to trust your boyfriend to go out with friends when you’re in the same city. You’ll probably see him later. You’ll know who his friends are and where he went. If he’s acting strangely around you, you’ll notice.
Dating long-distance means you longer know none of these things by default – and you have to be completely okay with that. My boyfriend often goes out with friends, some of which are girls. I don’t always know who they are, where they went, or what the inside joke is that they’re discussing over Facebook. And I am absolutely fine with that. I know he and I are committed and I don’t worry about what he does in his free time or with whom. I care, of course, because I am interested in his life, but I don’t worry.
If you are the least bit jealous or don’t trust your S.O., a long-distance relationship isn’t your thing. You’re going to either drive your significant other crazy with your constant texts of “where are you?? who are you with??” or you yourself are going to end it because you’re sick of never knowing exactly who Katy is and why she’s in one of his Facebook pictures.
(Here’s an example of what it’s like to be a jealous girlfriend/boyfriend)
If your partner is jealous, it’s also a relationship doomed to fail. Conversely, you’ll get sick of being pestered about where you are and what you’re doing. You’ll either be forced to stop doing anything remotely questionable or constantly respond to the barrage of texts asking about your evening plans.
Jealousy isn’t healthy in a relationship anyway, I’d like to note. But it’s especially toxic in a long-distance situation. You have to completely trust the judgment and choices of your significant other, and know that they’ll behave in a way that honors you and the relationship, because it’s impossible to know what they’re doing 24/7 without bugging them to death.
Confidence in the relationship
When you’re apart for weeks or even months, it’s completely okay to miss that other person and to set aside time to call or skype them. It’s okay to seek their approval for things or want to share your important events in life with them. That’s important. That’s what a relationship is.
What a relationship is not is crazily dependent. If your social life revolves around just your significant other, and you have to be told excessively often by he/she that he/she loves you to feel secure in the relationship, your relationship is probably not going to withstand a long-distance arrangement.
While (hopefully!) your love for each other doesn’t change throughout the months, the amount of time and energy you can put into a relationship often ebbs and flows as life takes its course. Some weeks, you might have tons of free time to devote to your relationship. Other weeks, you might have a lot of work or class, and while you’re making an effort, you just don’t have that three hour time slot for a deep conversation about the finer points of the seventh Harry Potter book.
Sometimes your S.O.’s schedule will line up with yours; you will both be super busy or you’ll both have free time. But often times it doesn’t. That means that while you’re sitting around watching Say Yes to the Dress reruns waiting for your partner to call, they might only have enough time to call you and tell you they’re alive before collapsing to sleep or hitting the books.
If you are highly dependent on attention or reassurance from your partner, you probably should reconsider entering a long-distance relationship. Sometimes, my boyfriend and I are able to find time to have three-hour phone conversations (my roommates say I spend all my time on the phone…I wonder why?), but other times one of us only has time for a ten-minute conversation. On the days when it’s him that’s busy, I’m still okay. I love talking to him but I don’t take our quick conversation as a sign that he’s not interested or a sign that we’re on the rocks.
Long-distance relationships are hard, especially when the time apart spans months. If you and your partner are committed, trust each other deeply, and are able to withstand the sometimes difficult mismatch in time, it is more than worth it. In fact, it can actually bring you closer together. And there is nothing more wonderful in all the world than that moment when you’re back together again. Trust me, I would know.