Learning how to make a long-distance relationship work
Views | Lexi Beasley for The Clarion
Long distance relationships can be difficult, but Beasley believes the commitment is rewarding.
Prior to last semester, Ben, my boyfriend of three years, and I had not gone more than 10 days without seeing each other. And believe me, 10 days was quite the hiatus for us. Now, however, we have lengthened that gap to three and a half months – a drastic change from our normally intertwined life at Bethel.
Last semester I traveled from Minnesota, where I’ve lived my whole life, to the Big Apple, where I spent a semester taking writing classes and doing an internship at Verily Magazine. However, moving to New York City for almost four months meant that Ben and I would have to participate in the dreaded long-distance relationship.
The summer months before I left were spent emotionally and mentally preparing for the time away from him — yes, I was that girl who cried at the thought of leaving her true love. But the lessons I have learned have been invaluable, not only for our relationship, but also for both of us as individuals.
There are many articles that I’ve seen about whether or not one should enter into a LDR, but what I haven’t seen are ones about people who have actually participated and succeeded in this difficult journey. And since Bethel stresses studying abroad (and I highly recommend it!), many students have to get used to the idea of being apart from their significant other. Thus, I want to explain both the highs and lows of our time apart and share the three key lessons I learned.
1) Use, But Don’t Overuse, Technology
Technology can be a huge blessing for those who have to manage relationships across long distances. Skype, cell phones and the Internet have made keeping up with loved ones seem a bit less daunting. Ben and I tried to keep our communication up so even though our lives were totally separate, at the end of the day, we still felt connected. Sending him a picture of my walk through Central Park or something that reminded me of him was always a fun thing for both of us. Letting him see a picture of my world made it feel less like there were 1,013 miles between us. However, putting the cell phone down can be equally beneficial. While our time spent together at college has been wonderful, many times friendships with others can suffer. Being separate allowed Ben to spend ample amounts of time with his college buds and allowed me to develop friendships with girls in New York. Constantly using your phone undermines this and defeats the wonderful benefit of being totally present with friends. Maintaining time away from the screen is just as important as time on it.
2) Plan Ahead
One of my favorite things I did to prepare for my time away was surprising Ben with a basket of presents the day before I left. Each present was labeled with a date — one for every week I was gone. Though it took some time (and money), every week both he and I were able to look forward to it. Every Sunday we would Skype and he would open the present marked for that day. The presents ranged from a new movie to a couple packs of gum. By planning ahead, Ben knew how much he meant to me and was reminded of this every week. Having things to look forward to besides the end date, which can seem so far away, was key to the enjoyability of our time away from each other.
3) Become Your Better Self
Through my semester in New York, I was truly able to develop as an individual more than I ever have. Coming into college with a boyfriend, I never felt like I was on my own, though I loved being able to have Ben so close and always being able to talk to him when I wanted to. After moving to New York, this level of comfort changed dramatically. I could no longer walk five minutes to his dorm. So instead of pining away and feeling bad for myself (which I will admit I did on occasion), I decided to use this time as a way to grow individually. Everything very quickly became solely up to me. Grocery shopping and making every meal myself, though sometimes challenging, became fun! (I totally took for granted Bethel’s cafeteria!) I even learned how to cook chicken — something I was terrified of before. That one took a full Skype session with my mom, so I suppose I can’t take full credit. Taking the subway every day and having none of my previous comfort system around me, allowed me to grow and become more independent. And Ben appreciated it, too! No one likes feeling like someone is totally dependent on them for their happiness, especially during the dating years!
My time away from Ben, though difficult at times, produced many unexpected blessings. Our time apart has increased the love and admiration that I have for him and has made me feel so lucky to have such a good guy by my side. As they say, distance truly does make the heart grow fonder!