What a four-year long distance relationship has taught me
PREPARING to leave your significant other as you head overseas for study? Nervous about the prospect of maintaining a long distance relationship? It’s going to be tough, no questions about it – but here’s an upside, you can survive it. Gabriella Ariffin shares some of the lessons she’s learnt over the last four years.
Being in a long distance relationship has taught me much more than I ever thought it would. If I were to sum up the experience in a few words, it’d be frustrating, enlightening, inspiring, emotional and yes, believe it or not, fun.
These were some of the most valuable lessons I learnt over the last four years, and I hope they’ll help you if you’re embarking on a long distance relationship:
Dealing with the ‘radio silence’ between text messages was one of the first things I had to learn. It may feel like being given the cold shoulder, but really, it’s about respecting that we all have things to put our minds and hands to be it study, work or family commitments.
Waiting for WhatsApp replies for hours is no longer frustrating for me. I have learnt to be more patient and understanding, and I’ve acquired the skill of ‘keeping myself busy’ in order to repel loneliness.
There’s no room for mind games or passive-aggressive moves when you’re in a long distance relationship. You can no longer rely on reading each other’s body language, and it can sometimes be days before you hear each other’s voices.
I’ve always found it difficult to express my feelings, but it is critical for the nurturing of a healthy relationship. I’ve learnt to communicate my emotions as honestly and as clearly as possible.
Creativity (and a little bit of effort)
What can couples do together when you’re separated by a million miles? With some creativity – lots, as we discovered.
We basked in each other’s presence by watching a movie “together” albeit over Skype, sent snail mail instead of email, wore matching outfits and organised to get haircuts on the same day. These were just some examples of the many silly things we got up to.
Putting some effort into little things like this made us feel more connected. Beyond physical presence, it’s the shared experience that helps build togetherness.
Having a positive outlook is crucial when it comes to maintaining a long distance relationship. I came to the realisation pretty quickly that negativity and pessimism were not useful whatsoever in my relationship.
Staying hopeful and learning to see the good in the bad makes coping with life in general so much easier. Being forgiving and having a good sense of humour are also really handy when problems or arguments arise.
Appreciating what you have
Part and parcel of keeping a positive outlook is about appreciating what you have, and how much easier it is for this generation to keep a long distance relationship alive.
Don’t just appreciate the times when you are able to meet, but also be thankful that the wifi is working, and that it’s now so much easier and affordable to stay in touch through online chats. Also, rejoice when daylight savings no longer apply and the time difference is just that bit shorter.
Change starts with me
This probably applies not just to long distance relationships, but relationships in general. Instead of focusing on the other person’s mistakes and getting annoyed as a result of it, I’ve learnt to reflect on my own weaknesses and address them – perhaps I should learn to be more tolerant, or find out how to address the problem in another way? Change starts with me.
The journey started when I set foot in Melbourne for the first time in 2011. Four years later, I’m now preparing to return home. The feeling is a mix between excitement and worry, but whatever I might feel right now, and whatever the end result will be of this relationship, there is no denying that this long distance experience has shaped me into who I am today, and I am glad for it.
What about you? What have you learned from your relationship?