It finally happened. You met that special someone, connected on all levels like a circuit board, and you’re ready to start that long commitment as a couple. But, it’s not always so simple: perhaps one of you has to move, or go back to school, or any manner of like circumstances. That’s the way it was for me, when I had to come back to finish school right after I met this one amazing woman. We talked about it, and came to the conclusion that what we started was too precious to surrender. So we buckled up for one year apart. It hasn’t been without its trials, but through the months I’ve been able to come up with some insights on the matter of long distance relationships. Below are a few tips I’ve come up with to help my fellow long-distance-lovers keep the love alive when they are kept away by distance:
1) Spend time together in-person.
Be it every other week, once a month, etc., the important part is planning a clear date and time period and sticking to it no matter what the circumstances may be. This not only gives you two something to look forward to, but also acts as a sort of built-in system of reward spurring you on to complete your respective goals and tasks, knowing that the reward of the job well done is to be reunited with your loved one. I would also advise taking alternating turns in regards to who comes to see whom if that’s possible. However, it is ultimately meeting somewhere where you can spend quality time together that is most crucial. Speaking of that, try to make sure neither of you are busy with work or school when you two are seeing each other for such a short time. Try to have dates with your partner during this time; go to various attractions such as concerts, museums, surprising places you’ve always wanted to visit, and unique restaurants. Don’t simply stay inside. This is the system my girlfriend and I adopted, and it’s worked out amazingly so far. We’re about four hours apart and every time either of us makes the trek to the other, the distance feels shorter and shorter.
For further insights into how long-distance-relationships can truly be successful, I enlisted the help of others also committed to then. Regarding the importance of seeing one another regularly, Mirjana Walther, significant other to The Galleon’s own Anthony Maranise, and an Education major at Creighton University in Omaha, NE said, “[Seeing each other] becomes like confirmation. You take everything you talk about over however long you’ve been apart and then, when you see each other, it all becomes real. It’s almost like you’ve been in this dream and now it’s become such a beautiful reality. You don’t have time to get mad at each other and things move quicker because you squeeze all the time you can’t see each other into the little time you do see each other.”
Nick Traylor, a sophomore outfielder on CBU’s baseball team and a business major, is also involved in a long-distance-relationship. He and his girlfriend, Logan Livingston, a kinesiology major, attends Mississippi State University. The two have been together for more than six years now. He also spoke on the importance of seeing one another in-person. “If possible, we try and see each other every two weeks. This is easier in the fall because we aren't as busy and there are multiple holidays,” said Nick. He added, “In the spring that number gets up to three to four weeks because of how busy our schedules are. Two weeks is fine because… it does not feel too long, but when I can't see her for four weeks, it does get really difficult.”
2) Cultivate Intimacy
Here, I’m not referring to purely sexual intimacy, though such chemistry is normal. Every couple is unique, and you two need to act with what you’re comfortable with. Some couples need to be very “touchy-feely” when together, while others find equal joy in cuddling on the couch and watching Netflix. There are so many dimensions of intimacy for couples to explore and demonstrate their affections through; it’s just important to show that affection because it serves as a crucial validation of the feelings of both parties involved and helps to strengthen trust. This will curb the intense loneliness felt between the meetings you two have.
Intimacy is a “buzz-word” for many in that in today’s culture, it almost unanimously evokes thoughts of physicality and sexuality, and while this is a component to nearly any successful relationship, it is not and should never be the chief component. Holistic intimacy, that is, cultivating a sincere and meaningful “closeness” with one another that transcends embodied interaction and connects with an even deeper level of one’s being is paramount. Intimacy between couples occurs also in terms of emotionality, intellectuality, and perhaps most importantly, spirituality.
Speaking about their deepest level of intimacy with one another, Anthony and Mirjana revealed a connection in soul that no distance can overwhelm. Anthony explained, “Mirjana and I are both pretty religious people so God certainly plays a central role in our relationship. I am reminded of a beautiful quote by the Cistercian monk, St. Aelred of Rievaulx, who said, "Here we are, you and I, and I hope, a third - Christ - is in our midst." His quote here reminds us both that our mutual faith, not only in one another, but also, in God, acts as a glue that holds us together even when the distance or time until we see each other again seems overwhelming.” To this, Mirjana alluded to both emotional and spiritual intimacy as she added, “We are understanding of each other and our schedules while still having reasonable expectations of each other. We talk about things personal to each other and we confide in each other. There’s always something to look forward to. We trust in Love and in God, keeping Him at the center of our relationship.”
In my opinion, a couple apart should Skype and/or Facetime as much as possible. A study from the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships finds that healthy LDRs call each other every day or every other day, and that couples tend to Skype once a week. Seeing each other’s faces far surpasses merely texting or calling. People tend to sound different when texting, and it’s important to remember the person you’re with instead merely attempting to remember a wall of text. Also, be sure to not suddenly go silent for several hours. If you’re not going to be able to communicate, make sure they know about it. They’ll appreciate it.
Nick and Logan seem to be of the same mind in terms of an effective communication method. They said, “Facetime has been a key factor in strengthening our distant relationship. It’s a good way to interact with one another even if we can’t physically be with one another.” Anthony and Mirjana prefer Skype to Facetime, but a similar trend in the importance of recognizing and picking up on facial cues seems to be the underlying commonality. Mirjana often reminds Anthony that while he is good with verbal and written communication, much of her communication is non-verbal thus the importance of being able to see and read one another’s facial remarks when communicating.
Anthony added his thoughts on LDR communication, saying, “We're both gladdened in heart that the long-distance part of our relationship is only temporary and while we look forward to the day that we can be together on a more permanent basis, we persevere through the times of missing one another by remaining faithful to one another, communicating via written letters, which is a truly lost art in itself, Skyping, texting, and, perhaps, our favorite, visiting each other in-person. We try to see each other at least once a month which, for people in our position, is pretty healthy.”
These survival tips may sound simple, but they’re important to maintain a healthy and lasting long distance relationship. These rules, while not universal or necessarily applicable to every couple, do seem to be substantiated at least by the responses gathered from speaking with others in long distance relationships. To all others involved in these sorts of relationships, remember that you’re not alone. In fact, these kinds of relationships are fairly common. According to The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships’ study on LDRs, “nearly twenty percent of all college relationships are long distance.” The struggle for couples apart from each other does not have to become insurmountable. My own long-distance girlfriend, Kaitlyn, always reminds me, “This is all about, all leading up to the time when we can finally be together as we should.” So, throughout the struggle, keep hope alive, but above all, keep loving and let that love be the bridge that connects you to your long-distance love, despite the miles in between.
Dominick Platt is a senior at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon.