How to Survive a Long-Distance Relationship

Kate Feathers

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2020 has been wild for everyone. I, for one, fell in love during the quarantine. I spent every single day with my boyfriend for half a year, only to leave for my university year abroad and have a long-distance relationship without knowing when we’ll see each other next.

Yeah. Not ideal.

You could definitely say I’ve been having withdrawal symptoms and the like. In the first few days after separating, my body was literally physically uncomfortable because of how sudden and weird it felt not to have my partner by my side 24/7.

It’s been exactly two months since I saw him face-to-face for the last time now, and along the way, I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes it easier to get through the difficulties that arise in long-distance relationships.

Personally, one of the main problems is that the physical distance can make you withdraw emotionally as well. Not only that, but your feelings can be on a rollercoaster more often than not – it’s easier to get angry at your partner, to give them the cold shoulder, to feel lonely late at night or to be jealous of the people they’re spending time with, simply because they’re there and you’re not.

If you’re trying to survive a long-distance relationship right now, don’t fret because I’ve got some tips for you. Granted, there are still some things I battle with – nobody is ever perfect.

These are the things I’ve figured out so far.

When it comes to communication, my partner and I talk super regularly. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for all healthy relationships – it solely depends on what kinds of people you are. For us, these three things help us feel closer and more connected when the feelings of separation grow too heavy.

Watch movies together

When I told my friend I was having a movie night with my long-distance boyfriend, he was confused. “What do you mean? He’s not there!”

Well, thanks to the 21st century, you don’t need to sit next to each other to watch a movie. We always call on Discord, which allows me to put his face on one-fifth of my screen while watching a movie on the rest. Counting down until we both press play at the same time has become a ritual now.

The only fights resulting from this are petty remarks such as, “I’m always the one counting! You count now!”

Honestly, it’s great. We can talk to each other during the movie and laugh at the same scenes together. It’s almost like having a face-to-face movie night. Minus the cuddling. Which is, let’s be real, a huge minus. Better than nothing, though.

Fall asleep with each other

It’s not ideal. But it works. As long as you don’t hate a bit of light shining from the screen and having to charge your laptop overnight, you can comfortably fall asleep together and even wake up together.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first one), but I absolutely love waking up and seeing my boyfriend sleep. It’s cute, it’s a great start of my day and it’s the closest to the real thing I can get.

Plus, hearing him breathe while he’s sleeping often helps me fall asleep late at night. The only con is that your laptop might hate you a little for making it work a night shift.

Stay on-call throughout the day

During quarantine, my boyfriend and I got used to sitting next to each other in silence and working on our own projects. We loved being in each other’s company, even when we didn’t necessarily interact (if you don’t count the occasional cuddle or remarking that “there’s enough room for both of us on the sofa, maybe you could stop putting your feet on me?”).

When we miss each other more intensely, we call on Discord or WhatsApp for a few hours and we do our own thing while chatting here and then. It allows us to feel like we’re a part of each other’s day in a more active way, which often soothes feelings of loneliness.

Apart from engaging in certain activities, your mindset is what’s so very important in long-term relationships. It’s not just about what happens between you and your partner – often, it’s you and only you who needs to sort some inner struggles out. Your partner can’t be there for you every single time you feel lonely because they might simply be too busy living their lives, which means that a lot of the time it’s you, your brain and the ceiling of a silent room.

This is what I consider really important if you want to keep some sort of peace and kind communication within the relationship.

Allow space for freedom

It can get difficult when you have to work around each other’s schedules to be able to call. Remember that you can always find time for what you prioritize. I know that in today’s world, romantic love can be often ridiculed. Everyone loves to say that there are more things to life than a boyfriend or a girlfriend, which is definitely true, but it doesn’t mean your partner isn’t important.

Personally, relationships – and by that, I mean all kinds of relationships – are one of the most essential building blocks for a happy life. There should be a balance between work and love. Try to find one for yourself, and then try to come to terms with the fact that your partner has their own life to live apart from texting you.

I’ve found that being too rigid on certain schedules doesn’t allow much space for freedom, which can lead to too much restriction. As soon as you feel forced to call with your partner rather than doing it because you want to, lots of problems arise. You should always call because it’s what you genuinely wish to do.

If you plan certain days or times, make sure to not be too upset if your partner breaks it once or twice. Life can get in the way, and as long as they still prioritize you when they ought to most of the time, it’s not a big deal.

Too much restriction breeds a desire for more freedom. It’s better to offer some freedom from the get-go, both for yourself and your partner.

Don’t expect them to feel the same way you do

Similarly, realizing that your partner can be too busy to respond via text is vital. There’s no shame in sending your partner dozens of messages because you want to share something with them, but try to be patient and not get too upset when it takes them some time to reply.

You are two different people. The intensity with which you text, think about each other or even miss each other might differ. My boyfriend doesn’t cry that he misses me, which is what I’ve been doing almost every night for the past week (oops).

I don’t blame him for it, though. Feelings are a complex thing, and while his are usually gentle and quiet, mine are a crazy hurricane. I cry with ease that he can’t even imagine. He handles anger much better than I do, something that inspires me a great deal to improve my anger management strategies.

It’s okay to feel differently at different times. It’s okay to be intense, as soon as you don’t automatically expect it back. And it’s okay to feel much quieter emotions, as long as you express your love in other reassuring ways.

Words of affirmation are golden

I know it sounds cringy. When you try it, though, it can actually change the way you love and live.

There are so many traumas or deep-rooted insecurities within us. They’re buried so deep that you don’t usually even realize how they’re affecting your behaviour. In intimate relationships, these kinds of demons emerge to the surface because you’re getting extremely vulnerable with another human being. And they’re difficult to beat. Trust me, I know.

Words of affirmation help me a lot. When I’m feeling lonely because my partner is busy, sometimes I lie in my bed and repeat, “I am loved. I am loved. I am loved.” I do this because at its core, the reason why I’m upset is that I have serious attachment issues that stem from my childhood.

In its very centre, I’m scared of abandonment. I’ve had to dissect many issues to dig deep enough and figure this out, and it’s been totally worth it. I can now use words of affirmation to talk to these main fears. By saying it and forcing yourself to believe it as much as possible, you throw away that toxic narrative that you’ve created throughout your life due to various kinds of suffering.

And you adopt a new one. A narrative you’re in charge of, one that’s good for you and your relationships.

How to figure out what words of affirmation work for you and heal the deepest issues? Usually, they’re the ones that make you cry when you say them out loud. In my case, anyway.

Do give them a try. Even if they make you cringe at first.

Final thoughts

Having a long-distance relationship doesn’t sound too hard until you actually have to go through it. It’s not undoable, though.

If your partner treats you well and makes you feel like the world is a better place when they’re in your life, they’re definitely worth the struggle. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it out if your circumstances don’t permit you to stay together.

One last tip. Food is a great way to cheer someone up. Order them take-out from time to time. It’s a great gesture to show them love and appreciation.

I ordered take-out for my boyfriend before writing this article, and I can tell you he’s certainly having a better day having eaten some good Sweet Potato Katsu Curry.

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I'm a student of Languages & Comparative Literature who writes about relationships, feminism and personal growth. Discover more of my work: https://linktr.ee/clumsylinguist

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