One of my biggest pet peeves is when people who are experiencing good fortune in life claim that they knew exactly how it happened.
You’ve met them. They have the perfect job with the perfect boyfriend and the perfect home. They’ll boastfully tell you how they did it. They’ll tell you how they earned a bachelor’s degree in finance. Then, they completed an internship at Eli and Lilly. Since they were the “best intern,” they were offered a full-time job as an analyst. “All you gotta do,” they say, “is network and get a great internship.”
They have the same attitude about how they got a man. “Wear pink lipstick and red nail polish,” they say. Men love that.”
They have all the answers. Meanwhile, you’re over here networking and applying to thousands of internships and nothing happens. You’re working a minimum wage job with laughable benefits, a degree that you have no clue what to do with, and a boyfriend who hasn’t worked in 4 years.
I’ve been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. I’m not saying Ms Perfect didn’t work hard and is not a good catch. I’m saying that in life, we do the best we can, but we have to remember that there is an element of luck, good favor, or (for my Christian folks) the holy spirit that works on our behalf as well. We do what we can and the universe supports our efforts.
It’s the reason why I cannot appropriately title this post how to survive a relationship. I can’t prescribe recommendations to a situation that I’m not sure how I “made” happen. Of course, my husband and I worked hard to maintain it, but I know so many people who worked hard and their relationships failed. I don’t know why. I can only speak to my own experiences and tell you how I coped with my circumstance.
So this post is my attempt to do just that.
But first, some background info you may find helpful.
Why were we long distance?
We met in Atlanta through a mutual friend. We started dating three months later when he started a graduate program in Columbus, Georgia, which was located two hours away from me. Then, he graduated in 2014 and moved to California for 4 months to receive on-the-job training. In 2015, he was placed in Florida for his new role. Later in 2015, I moved to North Carolina to pursue a graduate degree. I landed a job in North Carolina in 2016. He found a job in North Carolina in 2017 and we were finally under one roof. Here’s a brief illustration for your reference. (It gets a wee bit tricky to follow!)
Basically, jobs and circumstances prevented us from being together in the same city. More on that later.
Long Distance Relationship Is Another Form of Torture
It’s not something I dwelled on during the time that Tony and I were long distance, but being in a long distance relationship (LDR) can get pretty lonely. After coming home from a long day at the office, your significant other is not around to share your day with. Lazy weekends are spent alone. He’s always a phone call away, but phone conversations get tiring afterwhile. If he’s too busy to talk on the phone, you’ll have to wait until he’s able to chat. And forget it if his phone dies or gets disconnected, you’ll have to wait longer. You’ll see happy couples at the mall walking hand in hand and you’ll look annoyingly at your phone, “Why hasn’t he texted me back yet?”
Despite this, I put my game face among others. There were naysayers everywhere. It’s not their fault. Successful LDRs are rare and everyone has a story about how they’ve witnessed or experienced one that failed. When asked how we were doing, I replied with a mere “fine.” There was no need to express my frustration. Sure, I had my few moments of honesty but they were few and far between and only expressed to those who were sincerely rooting for Tony and me to work.
We had clarity on what we were doing and why.
When we started dating in 2013, I was living in Atlanta and Tony was away in graduate school. Initially, we both agreed that we would only be long distance until he completed his one-year program. Then, he’d hopefully find a job in Atlanta, but he knew he had to be open.
Tony is a foreigner, so he didn’t have the luxury of a US citizenship that would make landing a job easier. Being a foreigner meant that there were jobs that weren’t available to him and the ones that were accessible were extremely competitive. With the economic landscape at the time, we knew he didn’t have many job options, especially in Atlanta where the job market was fiercely competitive. He had to take what was given to him.
As much as we wanted to be together, we realized that it was better for us to make money and become financially viable. Money was tight and jobs were scarce in the early days of our relationship, which put a significant strain on us. We made the decision to endure the discomfort of being long distance in order to develop more stability later. It was worth it. I can’t tell you how much our job satisfaction and steady income improved our relationship.
We saw each other as often as possible.
Tony drove to Atlanta every weekend for the first six months of our relationship. Then, he’d come to visit every 2 weeks. When he was in town, we’d spend as much time as we could. We spent so much time together, Mom used to joke, “He’s like your American Express card, you don’t leave home without him.” It was true; our time was few and far between, so I cherished each moment. I tried to keep the arguments to a minimum. When we’d argue, I’d try to resolve them quickly because it didn’t make sense to argue throughout the precious moments we were together.
I kept myself busy when we weren’t in the same city.
Tony used to leave Atlanta on Sunday evenings to return to school. I used to dread Sundays, so I started to create a long list of things to do as soon so I wouldn’t have to sit around and wallow in the sadness of missing my boyfriend. Sometimes, they were as simple as sleep. Other times, my list would include a dinner date with my girlfriends or work on my blog. The goal was that while he was away, I’d be so busy that I wouldn’t have time to think about how much I missed him.
We kept a routine.
Tony was the first person I spoke to each morning and the last person I spoke to each night. Sometimes, the conversations weren’t very interesting and would consist of a simple, “Good morning. Have a nice day.” But for me, it was important that we communicated at least twice per day. We’d often call and exchange text messages throughout the day. He knew my routine, so if I didn’t respond quickly, he’d understand why.
We talked about situations before they became the source of jealousy.
Tony and I were dating for two years when a dude from my past sent me a 3-paragraph e-mail detailing how much he missed me. I immediately forwarded the email to Tony. Tony would tell me about a co-worker who thought he was “cute.” Exchanging stories about such things achieved two tasks that could be difficult in a long distance relationship:
(A) It kept us faithful. It’s hard to cheat when you’ve already told your significant other about a potential mistake.
(B) It kept the lines of communication open. We talked about things that could eventually get in the way of our relationship.
We tried to talk about potential threats before such circumstances got out of control. Ultimately, I relied on the fact that Tony had shown me that he was honest and true to his word. I made a conscious decision not to torture myself with “what-ifs.”
We kept our relationship details private.
Tony and I were dating for 2 years and people still thought the relationship was a joke. “Do you really think that it’s going to work?” I had one woman tell me, LDRs never last. When I was faced with such negativity, I retreated into my own cocoon. Among those who had negative energy, I did not share details about what Tony was doing, his visits or other private details. I was battling my own doubt about maintaining the relationship, so I didn’t need their opinions and theories to cloud my judgment.
It was not easy.
I’m not writing this to say that I had it all figured out. A lot of these tidbits I’m sharing were from an endless cycle of fail, evaluate, do. At many points, we could have ended the long distance, but being apart and working on ourselves, ultimately made our relationship stronger when we finally did come together. There were a lot of other external factors that I believe worked in our favor. First, we were both in our 30’s and were ready to settle down. Second, we were offered jobs in the same city. Two things that were out of our control but very grateful for.
S&T, have you been in a long distance relationship? What tips did you apply? Let’s chat in the comment section below!