Being stronger than distances

If you follow Dutchgram on Facebook, you’ll have noticed that this week I’ve shared some content that is very different from usual.
It’s a video from Jay Shetty about long distance relationships.
It touched me so much that I’ve started reflecting on my personal experience. Somehow I’ve felt the urgency to elaborate a bit on that and what I feel about it. For others, that may recognize themselves in this situation, and may find some comfort or hint for reflection. For me, to stay still for a moment and be grateful for that lovely boring everyday life together that now I luckily have.

My personal situation

I’ve been in a long distance relationship for three loooong (3!!!) years. I know very well the complexity and the uncertainty of that situation.
Besides the emotional component of the distance, there is the practical one that requires you to plan your time and your holidays carefully.
I remember the struggles to find a time slot that could be congenial for the both of us, those Skype calls often falling in a distant silence, the fights for the little attention, the discussion about the future, uncertain and maintaining distances.
The communication when being far was different from the communication when being together, and the communication we have now. At some point, when you come home from work (tired at least), you do not have much to say. Being forced to find the right words in front of the screen (after struggling to find the person behind the other screen) is not comparable to getting a glass of wine, cooking a dinner together and then chilling some time on the couch.
But mainly, we were missing doing things together. Forcing a conversation on the phone is different than talking when feeling it, after boiling down for what happened at work. We were missing the normal life together.

That time together

On the other hand, I remember the excitement of the countdown to meet each other. All the difficulties were payed off the times we could actually spend a period together. Especially when Cristian was visiting me, we could have that normal life together. Going to the supermarket and cooking together, going out with my new friends and showing him my normality was filling that gap in no-time. It was so easy to get back to us, after having been me and him for so long.
Getting used to the reverse change was not as fast, and every goodbye at the airport was more painful.

A complex balance

If any relationship requires a good balance between individuality and being-one-thing, this holds also for the long-distance relationships. But that balance is so much harder to find. You can’t count on quality time together and you do not want to be “too much” independent, but you also do not want to live isolated in the life you have here and now. It’s important for both to keep enjoying while giving attentions to the other at the same time.
I can’t talk for Cristian, but for me finding a good balance has not always been easy. Possibly I’ve been too individual at times (especially in the Erasmus and young-PhD time), and I’ve required to many attentions other times. I was sincerely craving for that message to arrive, for a spontaneous phone call or the request to Skype.

Ode to a modern era, with reservation

Luckily we live in 2000-and-something, and we can exploit the luxury of connecting anywhere and anytime with other people around the world.
I remember when I first came here I didn’t even have Whatsapp on my mobile phone, while now I can share pictures on the go to let others see what I see, have group calls with multiple people sitting somewhere else.
I am not sure I would have experienced (and I would experience nowadays) the distance in the same way. I am thankful for Skype, Whatsapp, Telegram or whatever method that connects with people I care about around the world.

On the other hand, with many communication methods, we also have as many social media. In my opinion, they can be dangerous to long distance relationships because they suffer from a (strong) positive bias. Somehow we can still see what people in your “previous life” (and especially our long-distance partner) do. We can get the wrong idea that they are living the good life while we’re on the couch wearing a pajama. Social media can give us the idea that we are missing out something, and they make us unhappy, envious, jealous, and convinced that the other person does not care enough about us. But again we can’t preclude the other the right to live and enjoy life (especially, talking about myself, being the one to take the step and leave/sign a contract abroad).

Growing apart

Two people living in different countries, speaking different languages, having different economic and housing situations, different types of support, subject to very different stimuli and challenges and everyday life end up being different.
This was my strong statement and major fear. I was begging to try to communicate as much and as deeply as possible, to be able to keep that link tight and stronger than all differences in conditions.
I was afraid that one day, finally together, we would look at each other and do not recognize the other person anymore.

  • share the (good and bad moments)
  • share moments of life together
  • find the optimal way to communicate. And by this I do not mean being both online. I mean getting information through, and making the other part of our life. For me, no matter what, the traditional phone calls are the best (sorry Skype!)

A happy ending

I realize now how negative all this can seem. I’ve struggled with the distance, yes. And very much. However, I am truly confident that everything happens for a reason and I do not regret for that difficult time. In a sense I also think it helped us grow to the persons we are now. And to the relationship we have now. Together. And close to each other.

And we can say we have managed to keep a sort of a balance between individuality and couple, we have enjoyed that time together that was so short and so special, we (I at least) have cried at the airport – when welcoming for excitement and when saying goodbye.
We have tried to communicate despite all and used the social media conscientiously. While growing along different paths we have tried to hold our hands to be able to recognize each other the day we would have “met” again. And finally, we have managed to make that distance disappear.

If you’re in a long distance relationship, send something or call your beloved one. You’re definitely stronger than distances.
But if you have the luck of sharing the couch with him/her, please squeeze each other in a strong hug.

Enjoy that lovely boring everyday life together.

Marta

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