Long distance relationships can be an enlightening experience. They are certainly not easy, and no-one chooses to be in a long distance relationship, it is just an unfortunate circumstance. However, through all the difficulties, there is a lot to be learnt. In all honesty I think that being in a LDR with Chelsea (which you can read more about here) has taught me more about myself, life and overcoming obstacles than any other experience I have ever had. I know there is still a lot more to learn, but this list sums up some of the key things that my LDR has taught me (and perhaps you too)!
1. To Communicate Effectively
Nearly all long distance couples talk about the communication problem. Long distance relationships thrive on communication, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. There are times and places for certain means of communication, and certain ways to go about it too. Skype, in particular, is always difficult at first – you need to learn to open up and be yourself on camera. But as you become more comfortable in your LDR, you will begin to find yourself talking with your partner more naturally. Texting throughout the day, and the unnatural setting of the Skype date become second nature, and you learn to do it without even thinking.
2. How to Handle Miscommunication
Of course, one of the problems that comes with communicating over long distances is that there is a lot of room for miscommunication. This is particularly prevalent when texting. It is incredibly hard to gauge the emotion behind a message, and it can often leave you wondering whether a text message was positive or negative. But, again, as you become more comfortable in communicating long distances, you will also learn how to handle miscommunication. And it is surprisingly easy! Just ask. Ask your partner to clarify, and talk it out.
3. Priority Setting
Trying to prioritise your life goals is difficult at the best of times – but often, a long distance relationship will force your hand. If you truly want to be with your partner, you will prioritise it, and you will find a way to make it happen. For me, closing the distance between Chelsea and I is, immediately, a much higher priority than achieving my career goals. So, for now, I will take whatever job makes it easiest to apply for the UK fiancé visa. After that, I can look towards achieving my other goals. But for now, I am following my priorities – and Chelsea is at the top of that list.
4. How to Manage Time
Life inevitably teaches you how to effectively manage your time. But an LDR significantly speeds up that process. Particularly noticeable if there is a time difference between you and your partner, you must learn to not only keep track of your own daily activities, but also your partner’s. There may only be a few hours in the day in which you are both free to talk, so keeping this time set aside, and keeping track of it becomes of great importance. Soon, you will find yourself managing your own schedule in comparison to your partner’s and trying to sync them as much as possible.
5. The Value of Patience
Patience is a virtue. But that doesn’t make it easy. Waiting for your partner to visit, or vice versa, can be a painstakingly slow process. Chelsea and I visit each other roughly every 10-12 weeks, but we know there are couples who must wait even longer between their time together. The wait never gets easier – but it has taught me that good things come to those who wait. The wait itself, and anticipation for your next trip makes the time that you do have together so much more valuable, and special. Time together becomes a cherished memory, as you wait for the next time that you can be so lucky.
6. The Wonder of Travel
Travel is exciting, to me it always has been. The excitement of discovering a new place, understanding a new culture, and immersing yourself in brand new experiences has always driven me to travel more. But none more so than my long distance relationship. Travelling with someone you love makes the experience so much more thrilling. It really is an unforgettable experience. We may live in the UK & USA (two places that may at not seem that dissimilar) but there are still a huge wealth of differences to discover and explore.
7. To Work Hard
Long distance relationships are hard work, and not just in a metaphorical sense. To save enough money to be able to visit your partner is always a challenge, no matter what your situation. Often, the only way to be able to afford the travel is to work extra hard, and then manage your earnings even more carefully. A LDR is a fantastic motivator to give your work your all, to excel and do matter in the hope of a pay raise or a bonus of some kind. My experience has taught me that I could not coast through life and maintain my trips to see Chelsea. Each time I make the nine hour flight, I know it is because I have worked for it, and earnt it.
8. To Be Respectful
Every culture has its differences. There are even a surprising number of differences between the US & the UK (which you can read more about here). The key is to respect these differences, and not simply assume that they are wrong because they are different. It is easy to laugh at something that seems strange to you, but in truth we are all different, and it is important to respect that. Long distance relationships simply accentuate that.
9. How to be Trusting
Trust is one of the most vital aspects of a long distance relationship. If you do not trust your partner, then it is very difficult to maintain your relationship across distances. Admittedly, some people do find it hard to trust because of their previous experiences, but it is important to remember that you should not judge someone on the basis of another’s actions. But also, trust must be earned – it is a two way street. You must give your partner reason to trust you, and trust them in return. It is not always the easiest thing to do, but as your LDR blossoms, it will develop.
10. Financial Responsibility
This is something that will come easier to some than others. But, eventually, if you want to visit your long distance partner, you will need to learn some element of financial responsibility. I think that I was relatively responsible with savings, and budgeting before I met Chelsea. However, being in a LDR adds a whole other layer to that. Trips abroad are not cheap, and neither are other aspects of long distance dating such as visas. Now, more than ever, I am careful with my money, so that I can rest safe in the knowledge that I can visit Chelsea throughout the year.
11. To Appreciate Different Cultures
Similar to respecting cultural, and personal differences, appreciating them involves loving your partner because of them. I know that there are things Chelsea does that I would never dream of (even little things like saying hi to strangers in the street), because of her upbringing and culture. But that does not mean that I don’t love and cherish these differences. It is these differences that make us unique, and make up who we are. It is important never to lose them.
12. The Importance of Touch
Touch is a vital aspect of any relationship. But it is something that you do not really appreciate until it is gone. In a LDR you must go weeks, even months without being able to touch or hold your partner. While Skype and other technologies can make you feel closer when you are apart, nothing comes close to the physicality of being together in person. Sometimes all we need is a hug, and going without can be difficult. But, it makes you appreciate it so much more when you are together again in person.
13. What Intimacy Really Means
Intimacy is quite often confused with other aspects of a relationship. People often ask; how can you be intimate in a LDR? And the truth is, quite easily. Intimacy is not the physical aspect of the relationship, but rather the deep emotional connection you share, even when miles apart. It is a difficult concept to explain, but you can still feel intimate and emotionally close without being physically close. However, I do not think I would have been able to make the distinction between these two concepts had it not been for my LDR.
14. How to Make Decisions
There are a lot of difficult decisions to make in an long distance relationship. Perhaps the most difficult is who will make the final move so that you can be together. You can read more about how Chelsea & I made that decision here. Even knowing that the decision needs to be made, does not make it any easier to make. I have found that you need to approach decisions from a careful position, balancing the emotional and functional benefits & sacrifices that will need to made either way.
15. To Make Sacrifices
Sacrifices are unavoidable in any relationship. But long distance relationship couples must sacrifice much more than most. From financial sacrifices to be able to visit each other, to the ultimate sacrifices of leaving everything behind to move in with your partner, sacrifices almost characterise the long distance conundrum. To make these sacrifices gracefully, and to support your partner when they must make them also are two hugely important aspects of an LDR.
16. To Be Less Selfish
Humans are inherently selfish in some regards. But my LDR has taught me to be less selfish. Instead of thinking about my decisions and my life, I have begun to think about our decisions and our life. While it is arguable that this is the case in any relationship, it happens much earlier in a long distance relationship. The decision to take a new job, which may make your work schedule busier, or to make a lifestyle change, has huge consequences on not just you but your partner also – and this is amplified the longer the time difference between you both too.
17. To Empathise
Empathy is easy in person. It is easy to understand and relate to somebody who is with you, and you can clearly see the impact their situation is having on their lives. However, long distance relationships can create a disconnect. It is inherently harder to be empathetic with a situation you have only heard of, than are witnessing unfolding before your eyes. So, in a way, long distance relationships teach you to be more empathetic and understanding, despite the distance, and the personal disconnect.
18. The Importance of Planning
Long distance relationships tend to involve a significant amount of planning, sometimes into the not-so-near future. Chelsea and I generally have our trips planned out six to twelve months in advance. You can read more about our planning process here. While sometimes circumstances prevent us from being able to plan the trips in as much details as we would like, we are still able to work out rough dates and ideas. More than this, however, we have our long term relationship plans laid out. In a lot of ways, this is the nature of the long distance relationship. Because they are so difficult, it is hugely important to discuss your goal (closing the distance) much earlier than other couples may.
19. The Meaning of Love
A lot of people wonder what love really is, and whether or not it can be defined. But, for me at least, being in a long distance relationship has taught me exactly what love is. It is caring for someone more than yourself. It is the willingness to give up everything you have, and everything you are for a person. It is a wonderful, exhilarating rush that drives us to be together, despite every obstacle life tries to put in our way. I can say with certainty that I love Chelsea with all of my heart – and I know that our long distance relationship is only the beginning of a wonderful, amazing life together.
20. Who I Am
To end on a somewhat philosophical note – I think that my LDR has taught me a lot about myself as well. I have discovered what kind of person I am. I have discovered how much I am willing to do for love, and how much a single person can mean to me. It has taught me how I react in difficult situations, what kind of man I am, and what kind of man I want to be. I know I am not perfect, and I have a lot of work to do. But knowing myself is the best starting point I could have asked for.
These are just my personal opinion. I am sure that my long distance relationship with Chelsea has taught me much more than these 20 lessons. But these are the ones that are most important to me.
Of course, I would love to hear from you too. What has your long distance relationship taught you? Do you agree with this list, or are there any other items you would ask? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to click here to see more of our top 20 lists.