Long before I was in one, long-distance relationships intrigued me. I don’t know where my fascination with them began, but there was something about them that seemed so romantic to me: exuberant airport embraces after months of not seeing each other, writing letters every day, getting flowers delivered to your desk at work on those holidays you were apart, etc. I’m sure that Hollywood must have had something to do with this ideal I had in my head.
When Carlos and I started dating last year in Ireland, we both knew that if we stayed together, long-distance was in our future. Neither one of us were planning on staying in Ireland long-term, and our homes are on different sides of the Rio Grande. So, when Carlos left Ireland last September, the long-distance part of our relationship began. Reflecting back on the long-distance relationship so far, I would definitely say the first stretch was the hardest for me. Carlos and I lived less than a 10-minute walk away from each other in Dublin, and saw each other every day. We ate lots of meals, watched a lot of movies, and did a lot of fun things together. To go from that to nothing, faster than it takes you to process what’s happening, was really hard on my heart (I’m speaking for myself-Carlos is a different person, and therefore the situation has been different for him).
I left Ireland on November 4 and November was a particularly rough month for me, because I didn’t know if we would actually make it to that first visit, whenever it would be. We weren’t having big problems or fights, I was just doubtful that our relationship would withstand the distance (to his credit, Carlos was much more confident than I was. Which is maybe why he felt like it was ok to wait until mid-December to come to Texas, rather than November 5, which is what I would have preferred 😉 ) When I finally thought I couldn’t stand it any longer, Carlos told me one night while we were skyping that he was going to buy a flight to Texas. He bought it that night, for 2 weeks later.
Here’s what I wrote on this blog about his visit:
After 2.5 months, I spent this last week with Carlos. To say that our time together was good would be an understatement. It was so comfortable and fun and relaxed and rich and, most of all, a confirmation that what we share isn’t limited to Ireland. We’re still us, and figuring things out on the other side of the world now is new and exciting (though definitely difficult too!).
After his December visit, we had cleared two major hurdles in my mind: the first period of separation, and seeing if our relationship still worked on another continent.
I don’t remember the next period being too hard. I was sad to not be able to see Carlos on Christmas or New Year’s, or be with him on his January 3 birthday, but all of the holidays and having other family and friends around were a good distraction. I decided to go see Carlos at the end of January/early February. Even though our relationship had passed the Texas test, we still had to pass the initial Mexico test, and I knew most of it depended on how Carlos’ family and I interacted. Thankfully, I was able to be myself and we all had a great week together. 3rd hurdle cleared!
After that near-perfect visit, things got really, really hard. I think one of the reasons our long-distance relationship has been challenging is because it has had to weather both of our post-Ireland adjustments. Admittedly, my adjustment took longer than Carlos’, which is why the month of February was rough. Somehow (thank you, God!) we survived, and Carlos came to visit me again in mid-March. It was a wonderful visit, and I was okay (as in, not hysterical) when he left too.
April came, and after an unexpected turn of events, it was possible for me to see Carlos sooner than we had expected. About 3 weeks ago, I bought a ticket to see him from April 26-May 3 (I’ll post about the trip soon). It was the best trip yet, and (hope I don’t jinx anything), I’m holding up okay since being back.
Though I am still learning every day, here are some of the main things I have learned to do (and not to do) in my long-distance relationship:
-Be thankful you are still together (just not physically together). On those days when I really miss Carlos, I ask myself if the pain of missing him right now is better than the pain I would feel if we broke up and he was out of my life forever. The answer has always been a resounding “YES,” and that helps me persevere just a little bit longer.
-Pray a lot. I pray that God will remind me that His love is sufficient, and He has. Also recently, whenever I am frustrated at Carlos or maybe don’t understand some of his words or actions, I have started saying a quick prayer for him. That softens my heart and helps me to see Carlos the way God sees him.
-Trust the other person. Thankfully, neither Carlos or I have had much difficulty trusting the other person in the sense that when we say we’re going out with friends or going out of town, we’re not worried that the other person is cheating or doing something dumb. What I have to remind myself, however, is to trust that Carlos has my best interest in mind. That he loves me until he tells me otherwise. That even if he’s having fun at home with his family and friends, he still misses me.
-Remember that this season will not last forever. Either we will break up (God forbid) and I will have learned and grown a lot, or we will be together together again. We both think and hope it’s the latter, or we wouldn’t still be together.
Obviously, long-distance relationships are much different than the picture I had in my head before. Yes, there are joyful embraces in the airport and occasional letters and gifts, and those things make me really happy. But in between all of that is the really hard part-the part that makes you evaluate really quickly if the relationship is “worth it.” I think you should do this in any dating relationship, but it’s especially important in a long-distance relationship. When you’re about to buy a plane ticket to a foreign country for a week, it’s important to ask yourself if the money is worth it. When you’re spending hours a week on the phone, it’s important to ask yourself if the time is worth it. When you’re having an argument over Skype or even worse, Facebook or texting, it’s important to ask yourself if the emotional energy is worth it. Sometimes you will have doubts, but at the end of every one of these days, Carlos has been worth it to me.