“I can go the distance.” What actually happens when you decide to go the extra mile(s).

TV shows and movies are constantly showing people that go to extenuating lengths for love… Noah wrote Allie 365 letters. Jack died for Rose. For goodness sake, Hercules went to HELL and back to save his love Meg! But what happens when “going the distance” is actual “distance?” As young people navigating decisions with college, jobs and much more, long distance relationships often arise. Relationships are always hard. Throw in not being able to see each other, and you might feel like it’s an impossible task. It isn’t. Just as you probably didn’t expect yourself to be in a relationship with miles between, this journey will make you go through phases that you may not have expected either. Love has a funny way of making you do crazy things, for example, being in a relationship where you do not see the person for what seems like forever, it also makes your emotions go wild. Here are some of the stages that are likely to happen when you LDR.

1. Dread.

Before you embark on your time together, that in reality will be your time apart, there is dread.  As the ominous day lurks closer and closer the situation becomes real.  The “what am I going to do without him/her” will run through your head a million and one times.  When you hangout, you might get nostalgic and feel like each thing you do is the “last” one.  The last movie date before you leave, the last trip to your favorite ice cream shop, the last time you drive away from their house.  These experiences may feel extra special or maybe extra sad, but you need to remember that it isn’t actually the “last”.  You will see them again and you will get to do these things again.  At this point it may feel like that day is eternities away, but always remind yourself, it’s not actually the last time.

2. Doubt

When you are first getting used to being apart there is bound to be doubt. Doubt in your partner, doubt in yourself and doubt in your relationship. Relationships are built on trust, but when you place a significant distance in between you and your other half, it is nearly impossible not to let your mind wander. It might not be that you don’t trust him or her, it might be that you simply do not know who they are around and you don’t trust “those people.” When you are together you usually know who they are hanging out with, what they are doing, the area they are in; but when distance becomes involved you do not only have to trust your partner’s loyalty and decision making, but the people who are surrounding him or her as well.

You might also doubt yourself. Doubting your partner is partially you doubting yourself and having insecurities. Doubting your own ability  is a pretty natural response, especially if this is your first time doing a long distance relationship. The “can I handle this?” will be there at the beginning, but in time you will realize, “Oh, I am handling this!” Know that it takes a lot to decide to partake in a long distance relationship. By deciding to go the distance you need to remind yourself that your partner obviously values you and your relationship.  If they agreed to it, they are essentially telling you, “you are worth the ____ miles and extra effort.” To them, you are worth it. They believe in you and you should too.  

Finally, you might doubt your relationship. Are we strong enough for this? Is this all worth it? Can we actually handle the distance? These thoughts can consume you because you want to believe that you two will make it, but you also understand that it is just the beginning of what can be a very long journey apart.

Doubt is not bad. It’s natural and it’s there because you care. However, the key is that you cannot let it consume you to the point that it affects your relationship. Seriously, just trust your partner and communicate with them about any doubts you have. They most likely are feeling the same way. As time goes on this doubt will most likely subside and trust in your partner, yourself and your strength will grow.

3. Lovey-dovey

Being apart causes you to miss your partner… probably a lot. This longing to be with them when you can’t can often make you more “lovey-dovey” and sappy than you would like to admit. Every time you see their name light up on your phone and every time you open up a snapchat, it will feel like a big deal. At times you may feel like you live on Facetime or Skype: having homework dates, watching movies “together”, casual talks about how your day was. Whether the call lasts for 2 minutes or 2 hours, seeing their face and hearing their voice will give you a sense of life and really bring out how much you care. (Girls, you might even get to see him cry, and trust me, it’s more adorable than you could ever imagine.) You’ll thrive off of stupid inside jokes and even the silliest little things that make you think of them will suddenly appear everywhere. You will appreciate these things, whether it’s seeing someone wearing their favorite sports team’s jersey, eating one of their favorite snacks or hearing a joke that you know they would love; these things will stand out to you, make you think of them and probably make you smile like an idiot.

You may find yourself doing corny things that you only thought strangers on the internet with 200k retweets did. Writing letters, posting a cute instagram picture with wayyy too many emojis, sending voice messages, care packages, the list can go on and on, but if/when you are in the this sappy, heart-melting stage, you will love every second of it. Who cares if you double-posted about how much you miss him/her? Who cares about using cliche quotes from rom-coms in everyday conversation? Feeling like this is great, and you will feel closer than ever in your relationship, even though you are physically apart.

4. Excitement/Sadness

These two are together because where there is one, eventually and inevitably, there will also be the other. You will experience ups and downs of each of these throughout your time apart. Planning trips to visit each other or even just waiting for the phone to ring, you will be filled with excitement and anticipation. As the next time you get to see him/her grows nearer, the minutes will feel like days and the seconds like hours. You’ll talk about plans and everything you hope to do when you are together again.  Big plans, whether they happen or not, will be something you look forward to and coming up with them will be half the fun. Whether it is marking the date on your calendar or printing out your plane ticket, each step you take closer to the highly anticipated visit will make you giddy and your stomach might feel like a balloon that’s going to burst. Finally, the excitement of when you actually see the person is like no other. After a long time apart, seeing their smiling face in person really is indescribable. You might cry. You might shake. You might just be speechless. This moment you have been waiting for will make you realize that it was all worth it.

Then the hard times will hit. Each person handles the sadness of being apart and the sadness of the long road ahead differently. This can be particularly hard if you don’t know when that “next time” is.  What if you don’t know when they will have access to a phone or the internet; or you do not know when your hectic schedules will align perfectly again for a visit. In these cases, you are left with the pain of waiting for an anonymous amount, and let’s be honest, you are going to expect the worst.  Once you experience this inevitable sadness, it definitely could make times bitter sweet. The phone conversations might not be upbeat or as enjoyable because you are stuck missing the other person. When you visit, there will always be that thought of knowing that it will once again be ending with a goodbye. Remember that if you want experience the highest of highs, you will probably have to experience the lowest of lows as well.

5. Decision Time

This stage is the hardest “stage” to explain because “deciding” will be a continuous process throughout the relationship. In fact, you began with making the decision to give the long distance relationship a chance. However, you and your partner will have to continue to decide if this type of relationship is worth it. You will be evaluating this within the first few weeks when you are full of doubt, when you are waiting for the next visit and after a year or two of doing long distance.

If you are just beginning a long distance relationship do not let this stage scare or intimidate you. It might be so easy that you don’t even realize you have decided or it could be really damn hard. It just depends.

As you are embarking on this difficult type of relationship, you always need to remember that life around you is happening as well. As time changes, circumstances and people change with them. Your future ambitions and plans may take a different path than you were planning, just as they could for your partner. Spending time on your own while your partner is doing the same elsewhere might affect the people who you each become or wish to become. This does not mean that you are going to change for the worse. It just means that you will be continuing to figure yourself out and grow as a person, just as you have all of your life. Remember that in the end this is your life, and ultimately, you should want both you and your partner to be happy and successful. Each step of the way you will need to evaluate what is important and what the relationship is worth.
Relationships, no matter if they are long distance or not, take effort. Deciding to commit to the effort necessary to make it work is always a choice. There are plenty of couples that decide from the beginning and never go back. They stick it out, it works perfectly and they live happily ever after; I’m not saying that will not be you. I’m just saying that decisions will be a large part of this journey, and the answers, just like a long distance relationship, are not always easy.

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