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Things I think about Thursday: Long distance love

 A kiss countdown I made for my Best Beloved

I’m madly in love with a wonderful man. He is caring, thoughtful, romantic, has the same outlook and attitudes as me, and gives great snuggles.

And he lives in a city 10 hours away by car (I don’t drive)  or 1 hour on the plane.

We decided that it was worth putting in the effort, as anyone does when they get into- or stay in- a relationship whether the person lives next door or on the other side of the world.

But it’s definitely not the same when you’re not in the same place, and can’t just pop round on a whim or when you need cuddles. Here are the five most important things Ive learned about long distance relationships.

They’re not for everyone

Being apart, especially in the early stages of being a couple, is hard. My Best Beloved and I had to wait 5 weeks for our first kiss. There are plenty of times when you just want to be able to do ordinary couple things, like walk around holding hands or cuddle on the sofa, and you can’t because the other person isn’t there. Missing the other person can wear you down, and not being able to express your feelings physically (even a touch of the hand can express love) can leave you feeling drained, and envious of other couples who can. So you have to find other ways to express your feelings.

Keeping in touch is everything

Texts, IM, Skype. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but talking as often as you can is really important. The weeks I’ve missed my partner the most are the weeks where he’s been on a late shift and I’ve not been able to talk to him online. It helps that my best friend is on the other side of the world, and that we’ve lived on different continents to each other for the past 12 years. I’m used to a person I care about being words on a screen.

It’s also an opportunity- especially if, like me, you’re working on being shy about talking about relationship things. Talking via IM lets you compose, think about what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it. It helps me be more authentic because I can take a bit of time to express myself how I want to. And when all you can do together is talk, it’s a really good chance to learn a lot about each other. I recently got myself a book of discussion questions for people in a long distance relationship, and plan to start working through some of them with the Best Beloved. We had some awesome deep and meaningfuls over the long weekend that left me feeling more in love and loved than ever. Talking and sharing things about ourselves brings us closer, even though we’re far apart.

You have to have a life outside the relationship

That’s true, of course, of any relationship but it’s especially important in long-distance. Your lover doesn’t want to think of you moping at home when you should be out enjoying things. They want you to be happy, and part of that is doing your thing and having a blast. If I’ve had a great night out, it gives me something fun to tell my Best Beloved all about. There is, however, a big BUT…

Independent is NOT like being single.

One of the things my Best Beloved did which meant the absolute world to me was not go to an event, because he said he wouldn’t feel right going without me. While we both get out and do plenty of fun things, go to parties, movies, and generally get up to hijinks, there are some things that we say no to if we can’t go as a couple. He’s the first man I’ve had a relationship with who’s understood this idea, but it does matter.  To me, it’s a way of letting him know (and a way of him letting me know) that I value and respect our relationship, and that he’s loved and important to me.

It’s a great excuse to be soppy- and craft!

Now, I may be a little biased on this one, because I love, love, LOVE getting things in the mail. And I also love sending things. There’s something very special about holding something in your hands that your lover has touched, or is going to touch.  Postcards, love letters, silly cards, photos, little gifts- a long distance relationship means a good reason for all of them (if you needed a good reason- I’m pretty sappy so even a small excuse is excuse enough).  One of my favourite things I’ve made to send was a Kiss Countdown (see the photo above)- doodle frames (well my own version of them), with the dates leading up to his next visit, and a kiss for each day- as you can see from the photo at the top of this post.

In short, long-distance does involve extra effort, but I think that that can be a really good thing. You have to get into the habit of choosing each other. You have to value your relationship. You have to be creative about how you express your love and let the other person know they’re special to you. And you get the excitement and loved-up-ness of time together when you visit each other, which is made even better because for those precious days, the focus is totally on enjoying every moment of being together. It’s something I plan to keep making time for, even when I make the move up to Auckland and we can be together more often. Because I don’t ever want to forget how special it is that we’re a couple, and time together just enjoying that is one of the things that feeds your soul in a relationship. And those moments when we get to Arrivals, see each other and both break into big goofy grins? They’re totally worth the wait.