You know those annoying people on Facebook who only use pictures taken with their other halves as profile pics, post puke-inducing mushy status updates and leave lovey-dovey messages on their partner’s Wall for all and sundry to see?
My fiance Alain and I are one of those couples.
But given that we only ever see each other every few months or so, I think we’re entitled to a free pass. We’ve been in a long-distance relationship for more than three years now and despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to live in the same country for more than six months. When I tell people this, I’m usually met with these responses: “I can’t imagine doing it” or “I’ve done it before but it didn’t work out” or “I’ll never choose to be in a long-distance relationship”.
I can understand the incredulity. Before I met Alain, I also told myself that I never want to be in an LDR. I mean, seriously, aren’t relationships hard enough as they are when you live in the same timezone?
There is one and only one reason that you should ever be in a long-distance relationship, and that’s when every fibre of your being tells you that you need to be with this person. I could come up with a whole string of cliches about needing him like you need oxygen, etc, but you get the drift.
Alain and I did not fall in love at first sight. But we did fall in love at first encounter; our connection was pretty much instant and it became clearer to me over the next few days that we spent together. Having had my fair share of lousy dating encounters, I knew I was onto something special and so did he.
I believe a long-distance relationship can work only when both parties have that unshakeable certainty that it will. It’s that certainty that will encourage the effort of waking up early and staying up extra late to Skype; of taking the time to tell each other and find out about what happened in each other’s day; of making the extra effort to maintain emotional intimacy over a fuzzy screen when you just can’t do it in person.
Of course, it’s not all roses and sunshine, so when we fight on Skype (a rarer occurrence these days, thank goodness), we need to really talk it out and make sure there is no residual resentment. After all, it’s not like we can give a concluding cuddle to the argument.
In spite of the distance, the bond Alain and I share is much stronger than the one I shared with my ex in my previous long-term, same-country relationship. In the final year of my last relationship, I barely saw or talked to my ex more than a couple of times a week. It didn’t even cross my mind to text or call him when I travelled on my own for my three months (the death knell of a relationship that had been dying a slow death for years). Alain and I, on the other hand, do our best to talk every day, even if it’s just for five or 10 minutes when we both have to work.
The success of a long-distance relationship is really dependent on that old nugget for any relationship to work: communication. The distance works as a constant reminder of how truly and fundamentally important it is so we make more of an effort to maintain it instead of taking it for granted.
Of course, you’ll only be inclined to put in so much to make it work if it’s worth your time and effort in the first place, which is why now, whenever friends ask me how to make a long-distance relationship work, I answer the question with a question: “How sure are you that you want to be with this person?” Anything less than 100 percent is simply not worth the emotional investment.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Lastly, she believes that everyone should make it a point to travel solo at least once in their lives. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets
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