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The Reality Of Long Distance Relationships: What Long Distance Is Really Like

couple hand in hand walk up hill

People think they know what long distance is really like but let me tell you, I am the Sheriff of Long Distance-ville with my partner living 19,000km away. Not to say small distances are less challenging. In fact they might be harder in some ways. Shorter distance gives the temptation to visit every weekend or fortnight. When it takes 3 days to fly over to your partner you don’t have that option so it relieves a bit of pressure.

But, when I say it’s hard that is because the long part is very, very real. You are apart more than together. How can there possibly be an amalgamation of two vastly different lives with so many obstacles?

Caught between two worlds

You might feel that you’re pulled in 2 directions. Mediating a battle between your head and your heart. Being a dutiful relative and friend versus being a sufficiently supportive partner. Each need to be relied upon to move forward. You have two different lives, and more than anything you want them to seamlessly blend into one.

There’s the life you led before you met where your friends and family are in your home country and you’re surrounded by that support network in real life. Then there’s the life you look forward to with your partner in another country or town. It feels like a separate universe, a life that’s not yet been fulfilled that’s waiting for you to take the leap of faith.

plane flying through sky

Regular frustrations

It’s not all romantic love letters and exotic adventures. There is a LOT of admin. Lots of research and planning. Not to mention the dodgy WiFi connections constantly halting your daily chat…

Sometimes, all you want is a nice hug. But in long distance you don’t get that. In fact, you get a lot of planning, decision-making, and coordinating on your table. Fun! Of course this doesn’t detract from the joys of a relationship, and we wouldn’t do it without reason, but it sure is a pain to be facing boring tasks and daily irritations.

Time flies

Wow does time fly in a LDR. Months go by a lot faster than you’d think. You know it’s only temporary but suddenly it’s 3 years later and not much has changed.

We went for 9 months at most apart – and that time was filled with so much. We missed so many important events in each other’s lives. But we were also growing together through the changing needs of support and comfort from afar.

Brown leather watch

Friends and family

There’s going to be a few people that don’t understand your long distance relationship. They might be sceptical, ignorant, or just confused. Either way, it’s not nice to deal with.

Sadly, there will be people that doubt the practicalities of long distance. I’ve had comments like “but it’s not a REAL relationship is it?”. Yeah… Screw those guys. NO ONE can question the validity of your relationship. It’s up to you whether you fight your corner or internally rage about the ignorance.

People will also get SUPER personal in ways they wouldn’t do for “normal” couples. Questions about your plans, futures, visas… Frankly it’s no one’s business. I appreciate the questions are out of concerned curiosity, but holy moly getting an interrogation at every chance is SO tiresome.

I don’t know when we’ll get to live together, and YES I know it’s a very long time to be apart. Let me figure it out in peace!

Missing Out

The reality of long distance relationships means that you’ll sadly be missing out on a few things that should be the biggest advantages of having a partner.

Intimacy

Haven’t we all experienced a truly rubbish day, and all we want is a hug? I’ve had more of those than I can count. When you’re in a long distance relationship, the longing is stronger than ever.

Missing out on the physical touch and affection that is unique to a couple is definitely one of the hardest things to grapple with. It’s such an assumed aspect of a partnership, you’d never think for a moment you’d have to go without.

I’m very appreciative of my stuffed bear, Bertie, kindly gifted from Kaz a few years ago. While Bertie can’t hug back, he acts as a comfort blanket-type source of cosy cuddles. It’s no replacement, but it’s something that fills the gap.

When we are finally together, we embrace tight and close. I noticed we often hold hands or drape an arm much more than other couples. We’re by no means a public display of affections – PDA – couple (ughh) but we are tactile. We’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for, so cling on to each other for dear life!

“Normal” Activities

The limited time together when you’re apart hits hard when you’re just trying to have a “normal” relationship. You miss out on all the bits that come along with being a couple, both good and bad.

Daily life is just as fast-paced. All those chats about your day and rambling verbalisation of your thoughts are amplified x1000. You’re trying to coordinate time to talk through all your commentary on life and share your innermost thoughts, but you only have 30 minutes before you have to rush out to work. Kind of tricky to have a proper heart to heart in that time.

What’s worse, is when you have to make decisions about occasions and events to attend together. Of course you want to be together for your friend’s big party – but do the dates work for you both? Can the one farthest away justify the journey they need to make? Missing out on events is extra painful because then you have to go solo. Going to a party alone isn’t my own idea of fun, and it stings even more when you know who you’d rather have by your side.

There are a whole bunch of other things that long distance couples miss out on that are easily taken for granted. Doing the groceries, choosing fun date activities, meeting each other’s friends and family, and so on.

Taking Things Slow

In a long distance relationship you miss out on the usual “getting to know you” stages like dating, romantic quality time, or fun activities to try together. You just sort of jump right in to the commitment stage and hope to work it out as you go along.

The special memories, milestones, occasions, and achievements are either condensed into a short space of time, or drawn out seemingly endlessly.

“When will we finally meet him?!” Your friends will squeal.

You met her mum after only 3 dates?!” others will exclaim.

You can’t really win, and you have to take it as it comes and roll with it. Do whatever works best for you, love and relationships do not adhere to a strict timeline. Least of all long distance ones!

Communicating

Struggling with bad WiFi is my biggest pet peeve of long distance. It’s probably more of a blocker than the bloomin’ distance itself! Alas, we are indebted to its magical technology which allows us to communicate with (relative) ease.

Over the years we’ve done long distance we’ve become so accustomed to chatting on video chat tools. We know the familiar eye movement of someone reading a text instead of paying attention to the call. And we know that EVERYONE stares at their own face more than the other person.

While we’re apart, we have to get on with our own lives while balancing time for each other. We’re juggling a digital relationship with real life ones. I know I’ve been guilty of sacking off a night at the pub in favour of curling up in bed, video chat on, to talk and laugh and seek out love through a screen. Don’t tell me you’ve not done the same for real-life time with a partner before, we’ve all been there. It just feels less justified when they’re not physically there. 

Long distance communication is one of the fundamental cornerstones of a successful relationship. The reality is that it’s not always so simple. There is a lot of learning and mutual understanding to get through along the way.

Planning ahead

There aren’t many people who could do long distance forever. In fact, I almost question the point of it!

It’s so important when you’re in a LDR to have a goal to work towards. That goal is most likely going to be one or both of you moving. If being together eventually isn’t in your plan, ask yourself if maybe it should be.

Beyond the ultimate goal of eliminating the distance, LDRs often take a LOT of planning! You’ll be organising your next trip, coordinating annual leave restrictions, making sure your occasions and events are up to date. All so you can spend time together and claw back some form of normality.

new zealand and united kingdom passports side by side

Conflict & resentment

The hard times are really hard. Supporting each other through grief, change, turmoil, and the uncertainty of all sorts of life events from afar is extra difficult. But you’ll learn how to be there for each other mentally and spiritually.

Have you ever had an argument over video chat? It’s not pleasant. You don’t have the emphasis and tone of a real life conversation. It’s so much harder to resolve a disagreement when you’re battling with WiFi connections and fuzzy audio.

We’re lucky to be a relatively un-argumentative couple. We don’t bicker that much, and if we do it’s usually because one or both of us are stressed out about something unrelated (usually me).

We’ve learned how to pick our battles. We know when to take a step back and say “I’m not feeling my best – can we talk about it?”. We try to use “I” sentences rather than passing blame in a wave of frustration. It’s not always easy and when you’ve got the aforementioned admin headaches to deal with we’ve definitely snapped at each other unnecessarily. But we’re working on it, like so many couples.

Resentment is a tricky issue to navigate. In a long distance relationship it could be a slippery slope to resent your partner for the distance you face.

“Why did you have to be from another country? Why can’t you move here? I’m giving up so much.”

One of the truest comments on this that I read was from A Girl and a Kiwi. Brooke (A Girl) is from the USA and her partner James (A Kiwi) is from New Zealand – sounds familiar! Brooke said that when you move abroad (or generally make life choices) to be with your partner, you cannot hold resentment for them. Nor can you play the blame game of guilt to “win” in arguments. It’s just not a healthy way to confront the challenges in your relationship.

We all have a choice in life, and we all make compromises. You should not blame your partner for your decision to be with them, nor they with you.

Sharing the load

Sharing is caring. Even more in a long distance relationship! The realities of long distance are that you need to work as a solid team effort to move forward.

Whether it’s planning, admin, financial, social, or whatever else – sharing tasks and experiences as much as you can while far apart will help you feel more connected.

Equally, there has got to be balance between your own lives. Take turns to visit each other, make sure you both get an equal share of time spent with your own friends and families.

purse and notepad on laptop keys

Ongoing struggles

The challenges of long distance don’t stop when you’re together. There are visas, job markets, admin tasks, tax forms, family events, calendar planning, endless flights… They’re all amplified as you, now together, scurry between each of your old lives that were in separate places.

I know I keep banging on about all the boring admin bits, but seriously, it never ends! It’s all-consuming.

My hope is that after a while of putting in all this effort we will be rewarded with some respite in the future. I long for a time we can just be content with our lives together. I have made my peace with the fact we will forever be flitting between countries to see our families and loved ones. But that’s OK, it’s the life we’ve chosen!

They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. I can absolutely vouch for that. 

What they forget to tell you is that fondness grows even deeper when you’re finally together at last.


There’s no right or wrong way to work through a long distance relationship. Every situation is different and that’s awesome because all people are different.

I get so excited to see couples making their long distance relationships work. Sophie Milner is in a similar situation to my own with her partner in Australia while she lives in London. I feel that pain! Of course I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through long distance unnecessarily. But I am so glad to see people giving it a go when they meet the right person.

Good on ya guys and gals!

If you want to share your long distance story, have a moan, or get some insights on what you’re tackling – I’m here for you. Just drop me a message.

 

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