Why long distance could make your relationship happier and healthier than ever before.
Long distance relationships get a really bad rap. Don’t get me wrong, living 7000 miles apart from your life partner for months at a time is not, understandably, the ideal relationship model. However, as someone who has just recently emerged from a chapter of married life to someone in the opposite hemisphere, I have discovered that there are some positive, indeed nourishing habits we have developed as a result. These have made our marriage better.
You read right. Made it better.
I’m saying that long distance can, in some circumstances, strengthen a couple.
Here’s my 10 reasons why:
1. We let it go
When stupid little tetchy issues arise that ultimately don’t matter, we could either stew on them, in two contrasting time zones, until we literally exhausted ourselves, or choose to let it slide. We got better at picking battles – because who wants to bother arguing with someone you can’t slam a door on? Let. It. Go. Elsa.
2. Our conversation got better
In the daily waltz of “Shall I defrost chicken for dinner?” or “Don’t forget that the dog’s tablet is due today!”, it’s easy to forget to simply chat about the fun stuff. And because we weren’t physically together, we could be genuinely curious about what each other’s fun stuff was. You saw a movie today? Great! You watched a ball game? Awesome. What are you up to this weekend? I literally have no clue! Tell me about it!
3. Date night became sacred
The thing that I personally miss most when loving-through-distance is the simple act of eating together. That may sound odd, because of course sex, hugs, dancing, sleeping close, walking hand in hand and binge watching Netflix together are all very good things. I missed them too. But sitting opposite my partner, enjoying a meal together, is hands down what I craved most. So we decided that once a week, we would eat together on Facetime. Usually breakfast and coffee for me, and dinner and wine for him. I would look forward to it all week. It normalised the ambition of romance across time and space.
4. Our physical time together rocked
Okay…I don’t mean sex. Or, I don’t just mean sex. It took us a couple of trips to find our groove, and honestly, for me to simply relax, but eventually we found that when we did finally see each other again, the quality of time spent together was BLISS. I’m talking honeymoon level fall-in-love-all-over-again-but-better excellence. We only ever saw one another a few days every few months, but rather than cram too much in, or expect too much, we would pull life back to basics. Sitting on the couch with a wine and some popcorn became euphorically soulful. This could speak more to my relationship with popcorn, but hey…
5. Patience. And baskets.
Inevitably Skype calls drop out, schedules clash, one of us would forget the time difference. Or be drunk. The wifi reception didn’t work, and so on….These seemingly innocuous mishaps can make you CRAZY when it’s 2am and you have waited all day to talk about this very important exciting thing, and then for whatever stupid dumb frustrating uncontrollable reason it just doesn’t happen. As in any partnership, your spouse can’t always be there. Or be everything. So pop those eggs in more than one basket. Phone someone else. Take a bath. Get back to that book. It’s all good.
6. We were flexible
This one is mainly for those outside of our marriage. I was constantly being asked by people, usually with a scrunchy up fake sad face, “So…how are you really doing with long distance?”. And when I would answer “fine”, they seemingly did not believe me. Furthermore, they were surprised to learn that my husband and I didn’t speak everyday. Look guys, we just…didn’t. Why? Because truthfully, if I don’t feel the real need to phone and talk to someone about something, I don’t. It may not be for everyone, but I found the pressure of “Make sure you talk every single day!” laced with fear and silliness. Talk or text or Facetime or do whatever works, whenever you feel like it. Like you would if you were together. A bit like sex, when other people weigh in about how much you should or shouldn’t be having, no one feels good.
7. We went deep
When life inevitably threw us lemons, we had to make lemonade at specific times and only ever on video call. And one of us was inevitably (disappointingly) sober. This gives your deep-and-meaningful-big-life-decision conversations focus. We had to nut things out then and there. We had to truly listen to each other. We had to move forward united each time we hung up. It’s the same reason psychologists get kids to colour whilst they talk to them (right? I mean, is that why?!), or that sometimes the best problems are unpacked on long road trips. When you are confined, it forces you to go deeper to get freedom.
8. We surprised each other
One video call, my husband took me on a tour of the winter markets I loved but couldn’t get to. When I met some family for Christmas lunch, we sat him (on my phone) at the table so he could be part of the memory. On my birthday, I ‘unwrapped’ my present via his hands through the phone monitor. We’ve been exploring on walks, sat on our rooftop by candlelight, gazed at the ocean, and even skied down a mountain together. Praise be and almighty thanks to the glorious Facetime gods!!!
9. We didn’t worry about nothing
My husband has always said to me that he refuses to get anxious or make plans for a negative outcome that hasn’t happened yet. He is right. We both knew that being apart for a long time would be challenging at times, but the reasons to do so far outweighed the discomfort. So that’s it. All in, no whinging. No getting insecure for no reason. No guilt tripping. No worrying about the demonised label ‘long distance’ until there is, if ever there is, something to worry about. Alert but not alarmed people!
10. We grew apart, in a good way
Being apart, pursuing different things isn’t necessarily a bad thing. From my point of view, what took me away from my husband was my dream job, a project that I adored and was fulfilled by. For him, having some solo time at this point in his life was probably the best decision for his growth, his happiness, and ultimately our marriage. He learnt to cook, made new friends, traveled, and spent some rare one-on-one time with his siblings and parents. He emerged as a new improved version of my already exceptional partner.
It’s too easy to view long-distance as a big torturous angst filled trial. Yes, there is sacrifice, but there is also a tremendous amount to be individually gained, and that might even make you a better human for your partner.