I used to be one of those people who scoffed at long distance relationships. I found them overly complicated and impractical. I remember voicing to my friends that I did not understand why anyone would want a boyfriend without the real perks of physically HAVING a boyfriend. Weren't his primary responsibilities to cuddle you and protect you and take you to romantic dinners? How could he do any of these things from miles and miles away?! The whole concept was lost on me, like reading Chaucer or eating at restaurants that do not believe in bread baskets. I felt sure that I was the voice of reason and everyone willing to subject themselves to such torture was masochistic and delusional.
But then last year, I found myself crossing over to the dark side. Lo and behold, I entered into a relationship with someone just as I was embarking on a four-month exchange program at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Suddenly, my unwavering cynicism about long distance relationships transformed into a theatrical optimism. I'm in love, I'm in love! Bring on the distance! Shower me in FaceTimes and Snapchats! I was deliriously unconcerned with all of the hardships I had previously considered and dove headfirst into my first real relationship with an ocean separating me from the one person I wished to be with most.
Sometimes it was easy. We mastered the sixteen-hour time difference and knew each other's schedules by heart. Other times, like when I went on a spring break trip in Thailand and lived in a bungalow for three nights without any way to communicate with the outside world, no electricity, and toilets that ceased to flush, it wasn't quite as easy. I went through periods of deep sadness during which all I wished for was to see his face in real life rather than through a pixelated computer screen. And of course, there was the inevitable, social-media-induced jealousy. Who the F*** was that girl standing next to my boyfriend in the background of that picture behind that stack of red solo cups, kind of smiling? And why was she within a fifty foot radius of him? Yet over time, the little moments of jealousy became less common. Days in Australia slowly turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, and finally, it was time to come home.
Today, after successfully making it through my semester abroad with my relationship still intact, my boyfriend is working in Sweden while I finish out my senior year of college. And so, the realities of a more elongated LDR, filled with unfortunate images of beautiful, tall, Swedish blondes, have begun to set in. At this point, however, I consider myself a veteran and feel it is my duty to impart some wisdom on any other brave souls who find themselves unwittingly subjected to such madness. Here are several guidelines to reference in case you find yourself struggling, as I surely have:
1) Keep Calm and Skype On.
Make Skype your new best friend. Skype in the morning, Skype in the evening, Skype in the afternoon. Have a side of Skype with dinner and sleep with your computer under your pillow in case you receive a Skype call.
2) Live, Laugh, Reassure.
The more reassurance you provide each other, the more confident and happy you'll feel. Sometimes when there are multiple oceans between you and your significant other, a few more "I love you's" make all the difference. Guys -- feel free to throw in a couple extra "you're beautifuls" or "woah, I'm so lucky's," for good measure.
3) Visitation rights.
Make sure to visit each other as much as you can. Try not to go more than a few months without seeing your boyfriend or girlfriend because if you do, you will develop separation anxiety, and you will go crazy... and die.
4) Find support from friends.
Oftentimes your friends will be skeptics like I was. Explain to them that you know what you are doing -- that you love them -- but if they have a problem with your life choices, they can kindly leave.
5) Oh, and lastly, always follow your heart.
Because no matter how seemingly impossible the circumstance, sometimes you just have to, well, let love happen.
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