I have been taking a break from my usual blogs about things that matter in the world that lead to mental health issues to liven things up and increase some happy mental health moments by writing my own series titled: “My New Journey: To Love.” If you haven’t had a chance to read/listen to it, it is my personal journey with Chelsey (my gf that lives 2000 miles away from me) and everything that it encompasses, the good and the not so good. It is a very loving and healthy relationship for both of us. There are times that it sounds truly to good to be true even to us and believe it or not.. it really is absolutely amazing. This is not to say we don’t have tough times or roadblocks because we do and part of this journey is being completely open and honest about those and how we get through them.
I did the story as a way for people to see what a long distance, age gap (there will be another blog shortly on this topic), and healthy relationship goes through and looks like. How it can affect mental health and how to navigate through the struggles from a distance to ensure bigger issues don’t arise and that each partner feels loved and supported at all times.
I decided after this last trip to see her in MO that a little more needs to be discussed in a separate blog which I have titled; “Long Distance Relationships: Not for the Faint of Heart” because our departure this last weekend was a lot more intense and harder than I think either of us expected. I want to talk more about it and how to work through and process the things that arise with a long distance relationship. I am hoping to shed some light on the subject for those of you considering it and also for those of you in it, in hopes of preparing or salvaging what you have. So here we go:
Planning in an LDR
Long distance relationships (LDR) mean that you will do a lot more planning and preparing than in a relationship that is close to home. What does this mean to you? To start: You don’t have the convenience to just get in your car and drive 20 minutes to your partners house. You don’t get to plan weekend dates on Friday and spend time together the next day. There is no “drop-in surprise dinner” on a moments notice. When you miss intimacy with your partner you rely on phone sex as a means of closeness with them because seeing them in person right then is NOT an option. Yah, I know sucks and definitely not the same thing.
It gets a lot more complicated. These types of relationships take planning and not sitting next to your partner planning like it’s a fun vacation. You spend a lot of time planning it alone. Looking up airline websites for the best deal, dates, and times to fly. It is coordinating via phone to your partner to find out their schedule, days off, plans, and what works for them. It is pulling money from savings (usually upwards of $400 a month) and putting that money towards purchasing an airline ticket rather than buying that new outfit or new pair of shoes or God forbid actually leaving it in savings to gain interest. It is taking the time off work and hoping you have cool friends with the same time off to take you to the airport, drop, and also pick you up when you return so you don’t have to spend more money on parking. It is sleepless nights waiting for that day to come and a lot of charging your phone because it is always dead from all the time you spend on it talking/texting. It is sitting on the plane in anticipation for 3+ hours to get to your person. It is a huge commitment of time, finances, and emotions. Above all though… It is everything you are willing to do for that one person that means more to you than anything and that person you love. Is it worth it? Absolutely, without a doubt! But before you dive into one, let’s talk about a few more things it entails. Moving on…
Disbelief ~ Dealing with the critics
This is a tough one to talk about because we have both had our fair share of this.
CRITIC(S): a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something; a person who expresses disagreement with something or disapproval of someone (oxford dictionary.)
People generally have a hard time accepting LDR’s because they can’t possibly understand how you can meet someone and get to know someone that you haven’t met in person….let alone love them. You get a lot of people (friends, family) that mock the relationship you have started. They will question how you can love someone you haven’t met? How you can get to know someone that well over the phone? They will ask, “what if they look nothing like their pictures?” or “What if she has… or does…?” or in our case these things as well as friends digging up things that have no bearing on our current relationship, but rather our past relationships just to try and put fear or doubt in our heads. It is something you too may be faced with so I am mentioning it ahead of time. Remember they don’t know you in this new relationship nor understand that you have already spent hours upon hours on the phone with them as well as FaceTimed to see they really are who they are. Will you know everything? NO of course not but nobody does when you are getting to know someone whether it is in person or long distance.
The disbelievers can weigh on you, heavily. These disbelievers are your friends or family and what they say can come with influence amongst other things. It can be hard to not hear what they are saying because words spoken can often cut like a knife, but it is in those moments that you take a step back and reflect on yourself and your person and what you have. Remember, they don’t know you in this relationship you have started they only know you and your past as a friend. That don’t know what you and your partner have built already through talks, texts, videos, phone intimacy, and other things, but YOU DO! This is when you lean on your partner and talk about what is happening. Remember this relationship is not a community project, it is between the two of you, nobody else.
How secure are you alone? Like really alone? Probably the first question you should ask yourself. Like the title of this blog/podcast says, .”..It is not for the Faint of Heart”. Meaning, to not be strong enough to handle a situation, to be weak, to be short in the bravery to face something complicated or unsafe (idioms.com). LDR relationships have many levels to them, which we will talk about, your confidence and bravery will determine your ability to withstand all that an LDR entails. So as I said, ask these questions first and now let’s discuss what this alone time looks like.
You will spend more time without your partner than you will spend with them. Read that again. Yes, you will occupy some of that time on the phone, texting, or FaceTiming each other, but you will ultimately be home alone without them more often than not. This can be a huge adjustment for people dating in an LDR compared to the convenience they have always had living close to their person.
I know what y’all are probably thinking… It’s fine, I like my “alone” time. Let me be clear that this alone time will seem fine in the beginning, but trust me, it will start to wear on you and then you will act out in different ways trying to understand that feeling and what it really means. What it means is, It sucks! We all say we like our alone time and a little is great, but we are talking 27 out of 30 days in a month! You really ok with that? That number is a true reality. I literally see and touch my girlfriend 3 days out of 30 days a month (sometimes 31 depending on the month). Do we like it? Hell no! It is not nearly enough for either of us, but what keeps us holding on (sometimes barely) is that we know it is only temporary and some day (a year from now) we won’t have to go any days in between because we will be living together. I have faith (as does Chels) that we have what it takes to make it that long. We are here to help you too! Keep reading.
This topic is a tough one for me. Missing events sucks. We have had to go through job changes for both us, me moving to a new place, family events (Maui), sporting events, Gay Pride, nights out with friends, my softball games, dinner dates, and upcoming holidays that will also be spent alone, because it is just not feasible to be at every single thing when you have to fly there to do so. Plus, we both work full-time, different shifts, and we have a two hour time difference (which is also something to consider). When there is a time difference, like we have where she is two hours ahead of me, you have to adjust to things differently. She goes to bed at 9p which is 7p my time. I have a couple hours to go when she is going to bed. I miss those hours talking to her, but I have since adapted my own hours of self-care and decompression time while she is sleeping. When she is on her way to work at 7:30a her time which is 5:30a my time she calls and wakes me up. We talk until she heads into work, then I get up and get ready to go to my job. You just find ways to make it work when you can’t talk or be together.
Missing the events doesn’t seem to get easier though. For example tonight she is getting together with friends to celebrate another friends birthday, I would love to get ready with her and go celebrate but I can’t. Friday I leave for a huge Lesbian softball tournament that I am playing in. It makes her anxious and I get it, but I love her and we trust each other so I just continue to reassure her, WE are unbreakable and everything is going to be ok. Neither are cheaters so.. It is all about trust and reassurance in these moments as well as a ton of compassion and understanding! Also, I don’t expect us to go to every event together, separate friend time is expected and fine, but there are times she wants me there and times I want to be there too and we just can’t. So if you are considering an LDR these are other obstacles you could face.
In the midst of life, illness happens. This could be a cold/flu or worse that lands you in the hospital. It could also be family illness or loss of a family member or animal. We will talk about these things first then move into the overall sadness topic under this heading.
This happened to us so that is why I find it important to bring it up. Both Chelsey and I got extremely sick during the beginning of our LDR. Both of us landed in the ER. Both of us back in the ER room alone due to COVID. We only had our phones to communicate to each other. We couldn’t physically be there for each other obviously and even if we were, we wouldn’t be able to go in to each others room… only able to care for each other after we were sent home (which is the part we miss). It was hard for both of us. We both have Physical Touch as our number one love language so add that to the equation and it made it even worse. We got through it and we will likely get through more, but it is hard and something you don’t have to deal with with someone that lives close to you.
Luckily we haven’t had to deal with family illness or animal illness, but can only imagine how difficult that will be for us and our LDR. We will navigate through and of course if it is a major illness we will find a way to fly and be there for each other. Just thought it was good to mention.
Now, let’s talk about sadness, because there will be a lot of it. I know, sorry, but these blogs get really REAL. It is normal to feel sad being away from someone that you love. Getting off the phone, not being able to text while at work, not being able to go places they are going, missing them, the impending doom the night before you have to leave to come home, the goodbye at the airport before you leave her to board your plane, the heavy heart to heart talks on the phone/FaceTime where one of you is sad or needs extra reassurance so you play the stronghold but inside you are sad for them as well. There will be a lot of these experiences and if there is not compassion on both ends your relationship will struggle and probably not last. Chels and I spend a lot of time reassuring each other of our love for each other. DAILY. I am not talking about convincing the other of our love (we do have our moments where we do that for each other when it is really needed) but, I am talking about the daily “I love you”, “I miss you”, “I am in love with you”, “I wish you were here”, “I can’t wait to see you”, “I thought about you all day”, “you make me so happy”, “I would choose YOU over and over every time!”, “I can’t wait to feel you next to me”, “I want to have sex with you”, “I crave you!”, etc…. Those types of texts and comments. We do them daily!!! No need to ask, they are always freely given and multiple times a day and at random times as well. Sadness creeps in, as does insecurity, so the more you let the other person know how you feel about them, that your relationship is good, and what you miss the less sadness will happen and it will also bring you closer. It truly bridges the gap when you can’t be there together.
End Result ~ Future Plans
This is an absolute must “talk” you need to have with the person you decide to see in a LDR. I mean what is the point of starting something you won’t finish? You intend to date this person? Want to see if there is a future together for the both of you? Then you should probably talk about what happens should yes be the answer to all those questions. Who will move where? What are the pros and cons to who is going to move? What sacrifices will each person make to make that happen? What is your timeline for this move? For example, with me and Chels we talked about who would move to who and we decided she would move to me “initially” for various reasons but then when the lease is satisfied WE would decide where (what state) we plant our roots, together. 1). I have a big place and am on a 2 year lease that I just signed. 2). I make substantially more money and also have 2 jobs which will enable us to pay things off and save money for a new place, travel, etc. 3). Honestly, the weather is better here (not as humid) be a fun break for Chels and 4). I make enough for us to live on so Chels can work part-time to bring in SOME money while enabling her to go back to school Full-Time to get her Masters if she wants.
With her making this sacrifice to move, I told her we would set aside enough money to enable her to spend a weekend a month traveling to see her parents, brothers, and nieces/nephews. Family is important to both of us, I don’t want to take that from her. We also decided to wait a year from this decision which is actually close to a year and a half of dating before making that decision. Yes, it is hard and going to get harder, but this is why you have to really discuss everything when deciding to do a LDR. It can definitely take its toll on a person’s mental health so the more you can do to lessen those affects, the better off you and your mental health will be.
The Good Stuff!
Is it worth it? Absolutely! If you have met the person of your dreams. If you are in love and want to start a future with someone, distance doesn’t matter. For me and Chels, we would rather do all this work than lose what we have. Our love is worth it. Here are some ideas of things you can do to bridge the gap between the two of you while you are apart:
- Cook together via FaceTime
- Phone Sex/FaceTime Sex (Don’t be embarrassed you aren’t the only one)
- Send little gifts in the mail
- Watch movies together via FaceTime. Turn on the save movie and watch it together.
- Make notes on the note app and share it so you can both add to it
- Do a countdown on the Vacation Countdown app… It makes it fun to count the days til you are together each day.
- Drive to wear you plan to take her/him and FaceTime when you are there so they can see.
- Leave little notes for each other for the flight home.
- Send them door dash to their home or work.
- Make a TikTok about them so they can see how much you love them.
There are a lot of things you can do to let the person know you miss them and love them. Be creative! Long Distance Relationships can work, but they do take work, so if you aren’t willing to invest the time into a person you probably shouldn’t start start with them. Chels and I have built, from the ground up, an amazing relationship. We communicate about everything, even the hard stuff. When we are together it is honestly easy, fun, romantic, and most importantly healthy because when we aren’t together we put in the work and love to keep it strong. What keeps us going, and we still struggle in between, is the little things like I have mentioned in this blog and the big things too. Knowing this is temporary and that some day we will get to the day in and day out together is what also keeps our heads above water. What we do have is an incredible love and that in and of itself is unbreakable. We know what we want and that is what we will have. It is just a matter of time:)
If you choose to embark on such a journey to love in an LDR, you have 100% our support and we wish you all the luck. It is worth it!! All of it is worth it for love, at least Chels and I think so! Good luck and as always….