I always feel weird writing these sorts of things, but at the same time, I can’t not say anything. One of the most common questions I got in Colombia was, “Do you have a boyfriend?” The follow-up question was almost always, “Here, there, or both?” To most people’s surprise, I had only one boyfriend, and he lived in the United States. The response that annoyed me the most is, “Are you SURE you don’t want one here too?” But I’m not going to address that here. You can’t argue with fools. A few people responded positively, commenting on how I’m faithful or our relationship seems sweet, but many people expressed to me that they could never be in a long distance relationship or that they tried once and it didn’t work out. So encouraging.
I want to encourage you that it is possible. Granted, it depends on the type of relationship you are looking for or you already have, but that’s not to say it can never work. When I started dating B, he was stationed in GA, and I was living in FL. A month later, I moved to Colombia. A month after that, he transferred from active duty to the North Carolina National Guard. We have been together almost a year and a half now, and I can honestly say that, despite the distance, I am happy with him. (Enough so that I’m going to marry him). At this point, I absolutely hate long distance, but it is worth it.
1. Have a good reason for maintaining the relationship.
If you were in the relationship primarily for physical benefits, there’s no reason to stay together. Also, if you fear being alone or want a security blanket and/or backup don’t bother. You are a capable individual. You do not need a significant other. Be in a long distance relationship with somebody because you see something long-term, something that goes beyond the period of time in which you are physically far away from each other.
2. Communicate communication agreements.
B knew I didn’t have data on my phone while in Colombia, and he understood that this meant I could only text him when I had wifi (e.g. when I was at home or in some Colombian hostels/hotels – the rest didn’t have functioning wifi). I communicated this with him before I left, and he did not expect me to speak to him 24/7. He also knew when I was traveling I wouldn’t always get wifi. Now, he understands that if I am teaching or in class (even though I now have data on my phone again), he’s probably not going to hear from me. On the other hand, I know that B will not text me while he is at work or training. That’s okay.
We’ve agreed to Skype when our schedules align. We used to sometimes Skype six days in a week, but nowadays with out busy schedules it’s more likely to be once a week or once every couple of weeks. It is a priority to both of us, but that doesn’t mean it always works out.
3. Understand that your communication methods are going to fail, especially if you are international.
Sometimes his phone dies. Sometimes my wifi goes out right as we are about to Skype. Sometimes one of us falls asleep in the middle of a text conversation. We don’t take this is as an opportunity to assume the other person hates us or is cheating. There has only been once where B thought my silence was anger, but that was because I made the mistake of sending him something sarcastic without clarifying that I wasn’t being serious.
4. If you’ve agreed to not kiss other people, don’t kiss other people.
This one is pretty clear. Don’t cheat.
5. Find someone you can trust.
You need to be trustworthy, but you need to be with someone who is also trustworthy. Perhaps if one or both of you is the crazy jealous type this isn’t going to work out. Neither B nor I are like that. We have friends (male and female), and we trust the other person to be respectful and honorable.
6. Have a life outside of your significant other. Let them have one too.
Your significant other should be a priority, but don’t let them become an inhibition to you going out and doing the things you want to do. This one goes both ways. They get to have a life too. Sometimes one of you is going to go out with friends or spend a weekend with family without texting/Skyping/calling. That’s okay.
7. Be practical.
Mail in Colombia doesn’t work, so B and I didn’t send snail mail, even though I do love it. We also both work full-time, so we prioritize a good night’s sleep over a Skype date. He originally wanted to visit me while I was in Colombia, but the cost made us decide that it was better that he didn’t. Buying a smart phone that I could use in Colombia was going to be too expensive, so I didn’t have data and we talked when I could get internet which allowed us to talk for free. Now that we are shorter long distance, we see each other about every three weeks. I have found that I can drive up to NC for less than $60 because of current gas prices, so I do most of the traveling. We have also met in a couple of other places to visit friends. Next semester, we probably won’t be able to travel to see each other as often as we would like. I will be working on graduating, and B has sergeant training.
8. Be understanding.
This goes for both the big things and the little. I know that B hates writing of any kind and that I cannot expect to receive a text longer than 10 words from him. He knows that I am obsessive about my work and will forget to text him for hours on end. I know that B’s time in the National Guard is necessary for his career, and so I will not make him feel guilty about the fact that it keeps him in NC. He knows that Fulbright was a fantastic opportunity for me, and thus he was supportive. I know that his truck eats up gas and flights are expensive, so I do most of the traveling because I can do it for way cheaper. We realize that long distance is necessary for a while (it will be a month shy of two years by the time I move to NC), and we were and are willing to make the sacrifices to make it work. For us, it’s worth it.