I’m going to be honest…long distance relationships suck. They’re horrible. They’re difficult for anyone that cares about their relationship…and their own sanity. Any person that pursues a long-distance relationship (LDR) must have a tremendous amount of strength to survive it. And it takes two. If one person isn’t strong or isn’t committed, it will inevitably fail. You learn a lot about yourself and your partner when there’s distance between you.
Before I met Stephanie and while I was backpacking Central America, I never imagined that I’d consider being in a long distance relationship. Relationships aren’t exactly something you plan. I met Stephanie and decided to give a long distance relationship a chance.
Relationships can be very difficult, even without distance between both people, so the distance makes things exponentially more difficult.
International Long Distance Relationships
Being in an international long-distance relationship complicates things even more. It requires even more commitment, more patience an a lot more effort. Nothing comes easily. Sometimes it’s downright exhausting.
And to further the complications – differences in cultures, language barriers and familial expectations can make things confusing and stressful. I experienced all of these things before I finally made the move to live internationally, to El Salvador, to be with my latina girlfriend Stephanie.
Reddit Advice For Long Distance Relationships
I was working in California and visiting Stephanie every 3 months, for about 4-5 days each visit. Sometimes more, sometimes less. During the in-between time, when I was alone in California, I was always keeping busy. I’m a software engineer and programmer, so even when I’m not working, I’m often still on the computer, at the gym working out, or eating food at a different restaurant in town to try to keep my life interesting.
One thing that caught my eye was Reddit. They have a subreddit called LDR, short for “Long Distance Relationships”. I’m usually not one to get into “love” related topics online. I’m mostly interested in nerdy stuff, like software, technology, economics, etc. However, I didn’t really have a choice because I was so stressed from being in a long-distance the relationship. Finding a coping mechanism helped me a lot. Instead of bottling up my stress, or endlessly venting to friends and family, I could give support to other people and receive support from other people. I know, it sounds cheesy as all hell. Maybe it was. But it worked.
I talked on Reddit a lot with other travelers that were experiencing the same thing. We often talked about the challenges and struggles we faced and shared helpful ideas on how to overcome those challenges.
The 3 Most Difficult Parts Of A LDR
Every long distance relationship is different because every person is different. However, when I was talking to people on Reddit, I saw a common trend in the conversations. Everyone struggled with these three things:
- Lack of physical intimacy.
- Fear of losing your partner (which sometimes leads to trust issues).
I was 31 when I started this Long Distance Relationship. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. At first, it was all about the novelty of the love, adventures and suspense of another visit. But after about 6-8 months into the relationship I started to realize how much work it would be. And it was a lot of work.
Going without physical intimacy while in a long-distance relationship is hard for anybody. My girlfriend and I missed each other emotionally and physically. With my stressful job, I had nobody to go home to in order to relax with, laugh with and share any form of physical bonding.
Having too much free time wasn’t a good thing, because I’d often waste that free time. I had to keep myself busy in order to not let the stress get to me. Stress from work. Stress from the distant relationship. Stress from being alone. Stress from worrying if it would all crumble out of the blue and slip away.
Talking to friends and family was mostly unhelpful.
When I had a lot of stress, sometimes I would try to talk about things with friends and family. But I couldn’t open up completely to them because a guy can’t really talk about sex and intimacy deeply with parents. And due to my unusual circumstances of being in an international long-distance relationship, my parents admitted that they didn’t understand everything. Hell, I didn’t understand everything. It was new to me too.
My friends were somewhat helpful. But, in order to protect everyone’s sanity, I tried not to talk about it very much. I remember I had a few hour-long conversations with different friends about it. I had to force myself to shut up and not mention it again. Seriously, I went from this cool traveling guy with a comfortable level of confidence to “how am I going to survive this shit?” Fortunately now I can laugh about it all. But it was brutal at the time.
Communication is the most important thing.
I’m not talking about frequency of communication. Talking often doesn’t mean there’s depth to your conversations. And depth is absolutely critical. I’m talking about communicating about important things, opening up, knowing each other well, and feeling comfortable knowing that you’re both on same page. Stuff like boundaries, expectations, family relationships, values, goals, differences, strengths and weaknesses, beliefs, etc. We even had a conversation about communication itself one time.
For example, sometimes I’d asked “Are you just venting about this? Or, do you want me to solve the problem for you?”
The idea is…she was communicating and I didn’t know what she was looking for. If I tried to give her advice, sometimes she’d just want to vent. I get that. We all need that sometimes.
Talking and texting daily is important, but it’s more important to be able to mutually share your feelings and have deep conversations when it’s necessary. Without those deep conversations, you’re really just skimming over the surface. Physical intimacy isn’t possible, so you must take advantage of emotional intimacy with your distant parter at every chance you get, even if it’s sometimesabout difficult conversations.
If you’re finding that your LDR lacks depth or you are always the one to be asking the questions, then you need to think about that. Your partner needs to be putting in effort too. It’s a two way street.
Finally, the “long-distance” part of our relationship ended. Now we are together.
Fortunately, Stephanie and I finally united (or “closed the gap” as some people say). My girlfriend and I are together now because I moved to her country El Salvador. The two years we were apart were hard but it was worth the wait.
Use Reddit To Survive Your Long Distance Relationship
If you haven’t used reddit before, it’s a good time to start. Reddit won’t solve all of your problems, but it will give you a give you a good place to handle the stress from your long distance relationship. Even if your relationship is perfect, there times when everyone thinks long distance relationships suck.
You can ignore most of the cheesy crap that you see at the top of the subreddit. Scroll down the page to find conversations. There’s a lot of people sharing their stories and looking for support and advice. They often give good support and advice too.
Also, I’m a big supporter of seeing a therapist. Therapists are there to listen to your needs, hear you vent, give you unbiased advice and offer you coping mechanisms. If reddit’s not enough for you, consider taking it to the next level and seeing a therapist. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a therapist. Emotional turmoil can be very painful and you may need support.
You’re Not Weak If You’re Stressed About Your Long Distance Relationship
Long distance relationships are not natural. As humans, we’re designed to be with the person that we love. Otherwise, there’s no difference from being married to a romance novel (as in, a book). We read the words, we feel the sense of love, but there’s no human to feel intimacy with. Being married to a book isn’t normal.
Remember, one of the best things you can do is set a specific date in the future when you’ll see each other again. Even if it’s in a year. It’s better to have a specific date to look forward to, rather than just imagining that some day it’ll happen. They days go by faster and you’ll be able to focus more on your own life when you’re looking forward to that specific date.
My heart goes out to anyone that’s in a long distant relationship. Hang in there. And feel free to send me a message if you need advice. I’ve been there before. Be strong and take care of yourself!