Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Column: Long distance relationships are worth it

February 13, 2020
Photo by Genna Barner | The State News

Loving someone who’s more than 700 miles away can be tough. It can cause you to miss them constantly. It can be draining. It can cause you to be touch-starved. It can cause anxiety. It can cause stress.

It can also be entirely worth it. 

My girlfriend lives around Providence, Rhode Island. I live in Lansing, Michigan. We met online through a group of mutual internet friends and bonded over our love of cats, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and Chinese food.

We didn’t initially start talking with romantic intentions. She knew I was in Michigan and I knew she was in Rhode Island. The thought never crossed our minds in the beginning.

But life doesn’t always go the way you’d expect, and one year and two weeks ago, my girlfriend and I started dating. 

We made a plan to try and see each other at least once a month, and so far, that’s held up. By the time this is published, I will be in Rhode Island with her for Valentine’s Day. 

It’s a great relationship, and I think, ultimately, the distance has made us a stronger couple. 

I won’t lie and say it’s always been easy. The biggest hurdle a long-distance relationship, or LDR, faces is how to handle “minor emergencies.”

A “minor emergency” is pretty much what it sounds like, an emergency or unexpected event that emotionally or physically affects someone in a negative way. Normally when a minor emergency occurs to someone’s partner, they would be able to physically be present to comfort the affected loved one. 

Here’s an example: Let’s say your partner got a bad grade on a project they worked extremely hard on and was distraught. In a traditional short-distance relationship, you can bring them some ice cream and a movie to cheer them up.

But in an LDR, you can’t really do that. It’s hard to justify spending $150 on a plane ticket and taking two days out of your week to fly there, comfort them and fly back. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s that you just really can’t do that unless you’re extremely rich — and much to our dismay, neither of us are.

So, you have to find ways around that. Sometimes a phone call or FaceTime session can be an appropriate substitute. Sometimes it’s sending them flowers unexpectedly, or perhaps it’s sending them $10 over Venmo for coffee. Often, it’s just listening and acknowledging their feelings.

The distance can also be a good thing. The ways couples manage to get around the barriers of an LDR can be an unmatched bonding experience. It’s like solving a puzzle together. You put your two heads together and come up with an amicable solution. Think of it like one of those team-building exercises at work — but for relationships.

Finding ways to spend time together while physically apart can lead to new hobbies. We decided to play “Stardew Valley” together online. My girlfriend never really played video games, but I play them regularly. She discovered she enjoys fun, lighthearted video games that make us laugh. Shout-out to “Untitled Goose Game.”

LDRs can also lead to the discovery of new places and cultures. You’d be surprised how different New England is from Michigan. Whenever I go out there, I learn something new about the land, the people and the food. I absolutely adore New England now, and I don’t think I would have discovered my new happy place if it wasn’t for this girl who lives 700 miles away. 

Like traditional couples, each LDR is different. Some couples won’t be able to afford monthly visits. I know we wouldn’t be able to if it weren’t for our parents’ generous support. Some things that might work for some LDRs might not work for others. If you ever find yourself in an LDR, focus on what works best for your relationship. Do what makes you happy.

I miss my girlfriend daily. It’s a struggle, it can hurt, but when the plane lands and she’s at the airport holding a surprise hot chocolate for me, it all becomes entirely worth it. 

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