Long Distance Relationships - My Experience and Why I Wouldn't Change it for the World

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So often, in the media, relationships are portrayed as malfunctioning because of distance between two people but it’s simply not the case. Billions of people are in long distance relationships, and some fail, but just as many survive.

Words by Amy Gibson

If I had a pound for every time I heard ‘long distance relationships never work’ by now I would be living in New Zealand and not in long-term functioning LDR myself. I live in England, but my boyfriend lives in New Zealand. If we are talking about long distance relationships than ours is pretty much as long a distance as you can get. Being in a LDR is a weird juxtaposition of wanting time to go slowly when we are together and super speedy when we’re apart. Our relationship has been extremely testing on us, and it still is, but we work together and if anything the distance makes us stronger (queue the clichéd ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ sign in your kitchen), and is not as doomed for failure as many articles suggest. There have been times when I have really struggled with being apart and I have turned to Tumblr or Instagram pages for support, and times where I could not see a way for us to stay together, and times when I’ve wondered if it would be easier to just have an English partner. But, despite all that, we are still together and happier than ever. I love him and he loves me and the distance is just a small sacrifice that we have to put up with. I’m not writing this article to sound preachy or self-indulgent, but I have often found solace in reading others stories about LDR relationships because it gave me hope when I was feeling down. So often, in the media, relationships are portrayed as malfunctioning because of distance between two people but it’s simply not the case. Billions of people are in long distance relationships, and some fail, but just as many survive.

We first met at my local cricket club. He was our contracted overseas player on a sports visa and I played for the women’s team. He instantly bonded with my family because my dad also grew up in New Zealand about 10 minutes away from where he lives. Most of my dad’s family still live there (ironically, he met my mum travelling in England while she was at university and he never went home again) so, as a family, we have visited many times, and would not be opposed to moving there in a couple of years when my sister is finished with school. My dad introduced him to us and because he was close with my family, we spent a while trying to ignore our feelings for each other, but after a (classy) drunken kiss in a nightclub we gave in.

We were completely caught up in a whirlwind of emotions when we first started dating, and even though I didn’t want him to leave, I always assumed that when he left in September that would be it for us, so when he referred to me as his girlfriend I was completely flummoxed. It was then that I realised that he was in it for the long haul and I was more than happy to go along for the ride.

When I look back I don’t know how we got through that first year. We had only been dating for about 8 weeks and his visa was about to expire so he had to go home. We knew we wouldn’t see each other for at least 7 months and that was if he could get another visa and contract to return to England at all. When we said goodbye, we honestly did not know if we would ever see each other again and that was absolutely soul destroying. We stayed in contact every day with long skype calls and WhatsApp was our saviour. It took about 4 months for us to get the word that he would get another contract and he returned the following April.

We were completely caught up in a whirlwind of emotions when we first started dating, and even though I didn’t want him to leave, I always assumed that when he left in September that would be it for us, so when he referred to me as his girlfriend I was completely flummoxed.

Everyone imagines this emotional reunion where we jumped on each other and embraced in a suffocating hug (think 90 Day Fiancé reunions), but the truth was fair from that. Imagine a far more awkward peck and a brief cuddle. This wasn’t because our feelings were any less for one another, but we had to get to know each other, and get used to being around one another all over again. Neither of us had had a serious relationship before so it took a lot of adapting for the both of us, but again, we made it work.

I met my boyfriend the summer before I started university. I had always had my heart set on going to uni and had already been offered my dream place studying English by the beach, although every bit of me wanted to abandon it all and run away to New Zealand when my results came through, I knew there was no way I was leaving England just yet. I remember at my first cricket training session after my results, a team mate told me two statistics, one that 60% of relationships that begin before uni will fail within the first year, and secondly that 40% of long distance relationships will not work out. Those statistic completely scared me because I couldn’t imagine us ever not working out, but also our future was so uncertain, if I was to believe the stats then the odds were definitely stacked against us (However, he attended my graduation last month so here’s a tip: stuff statistics).

Unfortunately, even though we have worked out, the positives for a LDR are minimal. It is REALLY hard and requires a lot of trust. The time difference between England and New Zealand is roughly 12 hours so our periods for communication are limited. We maybe crossover for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. I find myself getting obsessed about the time and making sure I have internet during those windows because I don’t want to miss out, so much so that I can sometimes neglect what is going on around me. I hate that I get so reliant on having my phone and being glued to Snapchat or WhatsApp, but if I miss out on speaking to him that day then I am instantly miserable.

We fall out more because you can’t always gauge someone’s tone or sarcasm over message and it’s easy to just put the phone down rather than actually sorting problems out. But despite all of this, it’s a testament that we do work together. The last few years have gone by really quickly, but it’s worked out relatively well for us. He would return to New Zealand in September and I would go to uni, then I would visit him during our long Christmas break, go back for semester two and he would arrive for the summer just as I finished. I could see other course mates getting distracted by their significant other and feeling guilty for not going to visit them often enough, but for us this was never an issue. I could get my head down and word hard and enjoy the time I got to spend with him even more.

I am at an exciting point in my life now because I no longer have the restrictions of university, but we are likely to have to do the long distance thing at least twice more before next September when we can hopefully settle in the same country as each other. We know we are lucky because four years of long distance is relatively short as for many people (if their partner is in the forces or contracted abroad) there is no foreseeable end. No matter the distance, being in an LDR is hard, if you cannot see your SO easily when you need them, you are bound to have difficult days, but the reward is strong. If I have learnt one thing from our relationship, it would be to trust your heart and enjoy the ride. It has been a difficult three years so far and it’s not over yet, but it’s so worth it. I would rather only see him 6 months a year than never again. I have friends who have been with their SO for a much shorter time than we have and have moved into a house, got a dog etc. and it is really easy to get jealous, but I know that one day, it will all be worth it, and so much more rewarding after what we have gone through together. Our experience is testament to our relationship and to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.