Thursday, June 15, 2017

Can Long Distance Work?

Ten months ago, I found myself hopelessly in love with the most wonderful man on this Earth - who lives 2,000 miles away from me. We started our relationship living in different states, and that situation has continued to this day. And I'll be honest... it's been tough in some places. But it's also been an excellent test of our communication and commitment to seeing this through.

It hasn't been tough because of our relationship dynamics or compatibility. Quite the contrary. We adore and love each other with the same ferocity (probably more) as we did when our relationship first began. Neither of us can even fathom being in a relationship with anyone else because, in our minds, there is no one else that will ever begin to touch what we have with each other. We believe that at our core. 

It's been tough because, at some point, romantic relationships need to advance and move forward, and partners need to grow together and feel a sense of sharing a life. After you've learned all the parts of your partner that make them who they are, the initial newness and excitement dissipates a bit. You've learned their history, listened to all their stories (a few times, in my case), figured out who they are at their core and what their guiding principles are, and gotten through the "new relationship sex phase." In long distance relationships, many of these things you discover more quickly than you would in a proximate relationship because your relationship is built on talking to each other. Just constant communication. 

Relationship discoveries in the sexual, cohabitation, and shared experiences arenas are slower and take a back seat to truly getting to know your partner through communication. In this respect, the distance really is a kind of boon for your relationship. You find out pretty early on if you can truly be friends with this person, and if you actually enjoy talking to them constantly, unfettered by anything physical at all.

However, once you've exhausted the exciting "learning about you" and friendship phases, things start to get a little hairy in long distance relationships. Because... now what? How do you advance a LDR beyond the friendship aspect into those other areas that inevitably fall behind? How do you keep moving forward? How do you build a life together while apart?

I'll admit we've struggled with this here and there, but the one thing that's guided us through is always being flexible and open to adjustments that help us grow closer. We've tried a variety of techniques to stay connected, to keep advancing, and to build a world that's exclusively ours. 

So, for those who might be struggling with building intimacy and closeness while in a long distance relationship, I wanted to share a few tips that really helped us continue to move the ball forward in our relationship. 

1. Know The Statistics. Long distance is tough because things feel very uncertain sometimes. I'm a research nerd, so when I first contemplated going into an exclusive long distance relationship, I read all the various statistics surrounding the long distance dynamic. There are a lot of abnormal bumps in the road that most couples in proximate relationships don't have to contend with, and you should both be aware of those bumps upfront. Here are some links I found helpful:

2. Tumblr. I know this sounds insane, but Tumblr is chalk full of beautifully sexual pictures, videos, and GIFS that you can send to your partner to show them what you're into in the sack and to also get feedback from them about what they're into. Because most of these are shorter formats (than, say, a 2-hour porn), they are SPECIFIC. You can send a GIF of a man grabbing a woman's thigh in a particular place or a pic of a man kissing a woman's neck in that one certain spot. Also, Tumblr is a giant, wonderful sex cauldron - anything you could possibly be into sexually you can find there. I promise you that. I will say that this app was instrumental in building sexual excitement prior to many visits to see each other. 

3. iPassion. Unfortunately, this game app is exclusively for Apple products, but if you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, you're in business. Get over to the App Store and download it now. It's basically a game that's the sexual equivalent of The Newlywed Game. It's a "sexy couples quiz game." You answer a series of questions and try to guess your partner's answers as well. I can't tell you how many interesting conversations this game started for us. It also helped us draw some pretty important boundaries around what is and what is not okay for both of us. It gave us some pretty awesome ideas about future sexual escapades as well. The best part? It's competitive and if you win, you get a prize - like a massage or your partner cooking a special dinner. Those come in handy.

4. Between.  This app is a more recent discovery of ours and is where we've chosen to "build our shared world." Between lets you share a calendar for all your important dates together, but also day-to-day stuff, like which days you'll be hanging with friends or have an event to attend. There is a digital photo book inside the app that allows you to upload all your mutual photos and videos and create photo albums of your time together. The app also includes a private one-on-one chat room for just the two of you and the stickers included are funny as fuck (think: marshmallow eating another marshmallow's ass). The chat works similarly to Facebook Messenger, with options for video and voice memos; however, this chat is SEARCHABLE, which is badass. You can look up past conversations by date! Between also tells you the weather, time of day, and location of your partner. Lastly, there's an option in the app to create a "Love Letter." You can write up to 20 pages of all your gushy stuff to your partner, set it to music, then schedule a date and time that you want it delivered to your partner. We kinda love this app, and it's been really great for keeping us focused on staying connected with each other.

5. Scheduling & Flexibility. I can't emphasize this one enough. When you and your partner are living two separate lives, you HAVE to make time for each other. My man and I have had to adjust our communication schedules and the WAYS in which we communicate more times than I can count in the last 10 months. Our lives are both hectic - we have kids, jobs, friends, and other priorities that make demands on our time and energy - but we are committed to adjusting however we need to in order to feel connected every day. And our needs have changed over time too. You can't get stuck in a communication schedule that leaves you feeling alone, stressed, or overburdened. Making time and finding ways to always connect is a constant fine-tuning. We just did a fine-tuning last week that I can already tell we should have done MUCH sooner - we both feel less stressed and more connected than we have in while. The idea is to schedule times to touch base every day (We do quick phone calls through the day.) and at least one time per day to actually connect and discuss things more in depth (We do a longer call or FaceTime every night.), but you also have to leave room for spontaneity - quick "I love you calls" and cute text messages. And we haven't missed our once per week date night on Saturday nights since we started this craziness 10 months ago. Stay flexible and fine-tune as you go so that you both feel loved, connected, and also have some breathing room.

I'm not going to tell you that long distance isn't hard. It is hard. But sometimes it's more worth it than you could have ever imagined possible. And I ain't giving that up.


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