LDRs are hard, but they come with their own set of redeeming factors too, says Denise Li.
Can I just say it? I am absolutely miserable right now. I just sent Alain off at the airport the night before – he was here for two weeks over the Easter break – and as usual, I was a sobbing, slobbery mess when I came home from the airport and for the most of yesterday.
Long-distance relationships are funny things. I actually cope fine most of the time when we’re apart. When I’m not working, I’m at the gym or hanging out with my friends, so it’s not like I spend most of my time at home feeling sorry about myself and my situation. But every time we’re together, it is the best feeling ever, and whenever the time comes for us to say goodbye, it feels like someone is cutting off one of my limbs.
I do try my best to be the person who sees the glass as half-full most of the time though, and despite the pain and suffering Alain and I put ourselves through, I think there are some benefits of being in a long-distance relationship that some couples living in the same timezone are not privvy to.
1. When you meet, it always feels like the initial stages of a relationship
My heart always skips a beat when I catch the first sighting of Alain at the airport. And when we say hello, it’s pretty close to what you see in the movies – we hug, and kiss and we refuse to let go. Even just the simple act of holding hands feels magical when you’re first reunited with your love. We’ve been together for four years now, and it always feels amazing when we first meet at the airport.
2. We communicate – a lot
I was talking to a friend who’d been together with her boyfriend for eight years. She lamented to me about how she’s been seeing him only about once a week and, the last time they met up, it was with another friend for dinner, so they didn’t really get to spend quality time together. She says, and I quote, “Sometimes, I feel like a single person.” I know how this friend feels because it felt this way in my last relationship. When you live in the same place, it’s all too easy to assume that the person will “always be there”. Even if you don’t get to meet up in a certain week, you’d just think: Oh well, there’s always the next.
I think this is especially true in Singapore where it’s not very common for couples to cohabit, and not seeing each other becomes the norm, rather than the exception. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for couples having lives apart from each other. In fact, I think it’s healthier that way. But you have to admit that it’s all too easy for it come to a point where you have to ask yourself: Are we taking each other for granted?
3. We get what we give
In social psychology, there is something known as “equity theory”. In every relationship, an individual gives and receives, and that he will perceive that relationship to be equitable if he feels that he is getting as much back (rewards) as he is sacrificing (costs). The theory states that if the individual perceives the relationship to be inequitable – that the relationship it costing him more than it is rewarding him – then he will do whatever he can to close that gap. This doesn’t mean nitpicking on every single tiny aspect of the relationship; it just means that, all things considered, you feel that things somehow … balance out between the two of you.
The point I’m trying to make is this: It is so much easier to tell if your relationship is equitable if it is a long-distance one. When all your interactions are done over Skype, you can more quickly tell if your partner is investing as much into the relationship as you are. Alain and I recognise that we each have to make sacrifices in order to make it for Skype time. With the 7-hour time difference, he sometimes has to stay at home even when he has errands to run; for me, I have to cut short going out with my friends at night to make it to my computer at a decent time. Being in an LDR, you’re always aware of the fine line you’re treading; any slightest perceived imbalance has the potential to cause resentment and derail the relationship. This means you’ll put in more effort to ensure the relationship is as equitable as possible.
4. You don’t sweat the small stuff
In the face of a 7-hour time difference, and trying to work out what’s the best way for one person to make The Big Move, it gives you a sense of perspective. Suddenly, a lot of the little things don’t matter. In my last relationship, I was constantly worrying about things like: Am I more awesome than his ex? Does he secretly think I’m fat? Why does he not text me to check that I got home safe when it’s late at night?
Perhaps hindsight and maturity have something to do with it, but it’s also partly to do with my making a conscious decision not to get obsessed over things that are beyond my control. It wasn’t easy initially, and we’ve had our fair share of fights over stupid things, but I can safely that’s (mostly) all in the past. Now, we’re all about picking our battles. Sometimes, when things get a little heated, one of us will stop and ask, “Do we really want to fight about this? Really? Are we going to waste our precious Skype time arguing about something stupid?” Usually, the answer is No. We take the next few moments to resolve it without dragging it out more then we have to, then we move on.
So, most of the time, being in an LDR sucks. But it’s not all doom and gloom all the time. In my darkest and most lonely moments, I remind myself that I’m very fortunate to be in a relationship with a man who’s willing to stick it out with me in this extremely trying situation. And that’s usually all the assurance I need.
Love In Lines is a special under the Relationship section of Material World. The four founders each takes a week in a month to talk about dealing with love from different perspectives. Founder Denise Li talks about the trials and tribulations of being in a long-distance relationship. Stay tuned for more!
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