As you may or may not know, Ryan and I met when we were fourteen and fifteen years old, began officially dating when we were sixteen years old, and embarked on a three and a half year long distance relationship when I left for college at eighteen.
My memory of the night I told him I’d be going to college in California remains fresh. We were sitting side by side at a booth at Mimi’s Café. When I told him I’d sent in my acceptance letter, I began to cry, and he hugged me and assured me we would figure it all out. Our waiter seemed oblivious to the severity of our embraced conversation.
The memory of saying goodbye at the end of the summer remains even fresher. It does not seem five years ago that I left him alone in his driveway, about to venture alone into on the great unknown of college in Los Angeles. And yet, those years, and plenty more hellos and goodbyes, passed, and here we are, together under one roof and bound together in matrimony.
We have gone weeks at a time without being able to see each other. We have spent many Valentine’s Days, Halloweens, and birthdays apart. We have gone out with friends in our own separate cities, agonizingly aware of the missing company of one another. We have spent countless hours on Skype and phone calls. We have had extended conversations over text, and we have had miscommunications over text. We have argued over not getting to talk enough. We have each pondered whether it was all worth it.
And it was. The loneliness, frustration, and miscommunication faded away when we were able to be together again, even if only for a weekend. Our time apart was a challenge, but our time together was precious and easy. It kept us going through the darker times.
We’ve had countless people comment on how amazing it is that we were able to stay together for the three and a half years of our long distance relationship. While I can appreciate what they’re saying, knowing first-hand just how much it sucks not being in the same city as my significant other, I feel that most of these people don’t fully take into consideration how much growing and strengthening our relationship underwent because of the long distance.
Three things you’ll learn (or at least, I did) when my relationship became long distance:
- The first thing you learn when in a long distance relationship is that communication is the most important element in a relationship. Miscommunication can lead to stupid fights, and stupid fights can feel like the end of the world when you’re not able to resolve them in person. Your words mean everything when you can’t physically be there for someone. You must use them wisely.
- The next thing you learn is that quality time becomes your top priority. When you have an opportunity to spend time with your significant other at last, that is all that matters. You’re going to want to soak up every possible hour of every day you have to spend with them, because you know that this is not permanent.
- Another thing that is a really, really big deal is trust. I’ve known many people try a long distance relationship and drive themselves crazy with mistrust. Those horrible thoughts will always fleet through your mind: “He’s not texting me back. What if he’s ignoring me?” or “She went out to a party with her friends last night. What if there was another guy?” You have to learn to push these thoughts from your mind and place all your faith in the person you love.
I could go on, but this post is getting long as it is.
Communication, quality time, and trust. Sounds like good preparation for marriage, no? We will carry these values for the rest of our lives together. Now, we have time and physical touch back on our side, but the lessons from the past years have not faded. I often find myself in deep awe that this life we live now is really real; we share the same bed, the same closet, the same food, the same weekend plans—how incredible is that? And how incredible that it feels so incredible? Sometimes I even feel myself still stuck in the long distance mentality that makes me greedy for time with Ryan. It is as if there will never be enough time together to make up for our lost time. That is something for me to work on, but at the same time, missing my husband by the end of my work day isn’t such a bad thing.
I always tell people to give a long distance relationship a chance. If it’s not going to work out, then it’s not going to work out. But why cut something off for a silly thing like distance, especially in this age of texting and Skype and unlimited minutes, when it could be something really great? I take pride in our accomplishment of staying together through the distance. What started out as a possible reason to break up at the end of high school ended up becoming one of the strongest bonds to unite us in our marriage, and while I would love the opportunity to re-live those years in the same city, I wouldn’t want to give up the stronger people we’ve become, together and individually.