You wanna hear something crazy?! Mr. Actually and I are celebrating 6 years together this week! Actually, what you’re looking at in the above image is actually some of the remnants of our lives when we were still living apart. For the first three years of our relationship, Mr. Actually and I were long-distance, and we used to save little souvenirs from the times we were together… train tickets, cards we sent to each other, tickets to places we went, literally everything! From time to time, I like to take out the box and have a look through it. That’s actually what inspired this post… Long distance relationships are hard, and taught me a lot about myself, about life and about relationships (not just romantic ones). Now that I’m in the UK with Mr. Actually (and very happily married!), I’m basically in a long distance relationship with all my friends and family back home. I thought I’d share with you a few things that I’ve learned over the years.
Each Relationship Makes It’s Own Rules
The second you tell someone you’re in a long distance relationship, they like to either comment that it’s really hard or start giving you a lot of advice. When Mr. Actually and I first started dating, I definitely fell into the trap of thinking there were rules we were supposed to be following. Eventually, we figured out our own rhythm. Communicate in some way, whether Skype, email or text on a near daily basis, and aim to see each other every 3 or 4 months. Did we stick to that 100%? No we didn’t, because life gets in the way, but it was still about doing what was best for us as a couple. It’s the same with my friends. There are some friends back home who I message on a near daily basis (Beth and Ruben, I’m looking at you) but we can also go without talking for weeks. It doesn’t mean the friendship is over, but I know how we function with each other. We do what works for us.
Trust and Communication are Key
From the very beginning of our relationship, Mr. Actually and I were very open with each other, about everything. We’d had conversations about marriage (not ours, just in general) a good 2 years before we actually got married. We were very upfront about what we expected from each other, or if we were angry or upset or happy. Communicating your feelings is so incredibly important in a long distance relationship. It’s such a massive undertaking, a huge investment of time, that the only way to get through it is to be transparent. We told each other when we missed each other, when we were angry or annoyed with each other, when we were happy, sad, frustrated, confused, whatever. We shared it… so we could talk about it, and know exactly where the other one stood. That also meant we had to trust each other fully. It takes a deep amount of trust to open up to someone when you’re in a relationship, but even more so in long distance. If he was going out, I never questioned what would happen, I never doubted our relationship for a second, because that trust was there.
Your Independence is as Important as Your Relationship
I remember in college having a few friends who the second they were in a relationship just fell off the face of the earth. The temptation was definitely there sometimes when I was missing Mr. Actually a bit too much and couldn’t be bothered to go out, but maintaining your independence is so important in any relationship! A few times, after many tearful goodbyes at the airport (and believe me, they were tearful) I would go out and see friends, be social and just be around people who’s company I enjoyed. I needed to keep living my life, going to work, doing fun things with my friends, and not let my relationship become the sole thing of importance in my life. Otherwise, the distance would be so much harder, and what would I have to talk about when I spoke to Mr. Actually? When we did visit each other, we had things to show, people to introduce, and places to explore. The reunions were always amazing, and the goodbyes were downright traumatizing, but I wouldn’t have gotten through it had I not kept up those plans with friends, and kept living my life as it came to me. It didn’t make the distance any easier, but it definitely softened the blow.
Three years in a long distance relationship, three years living together, and we’re happy as clams. I knew from pretty early on that Mr. Actually was the person I wanted to be with for good, but the distance definitely took some navigating. The best part is that these things have even carried on into our relationship now that we’re living together and married. Relationships are hard and they take a lot of work, whether you live 2 miles or 4000 miles apart. The most important thing is that you do what’s right for you!