Keep It Real: Long-Distance Relationship 101

It was about a year and a half ago now that my ex-roommate and I heard of a new movie that featured his ‘actor twin’, Anton Yelchin*. The movie in question was called “Like Crazy”—and, what with Mr. Yelchin being Conor’s famous doppelgänger, of course we had to watch the preview when he found it on YouTube.

… Three minutes later, I was dumbfounded. Like, literally: I felt physically sick. We looked at each other and didn’t have to say anything. Neither of us knew what the movie was about before we watched the clip, but three minutes was all it took—”Like Crazy” is a movie about a British girl who moves to America for school, falls in love with an American guy, and then has to move home.

So basically, it’s a movie about my life.

The trouble is, this movie is a pretty painful example of the long-distance relationship gone haywire. Yelchin and Jones’ fictional entanglement was certainly less of a “relationship”, more of an “it’s complicated”. In hindsight, I (very presumptuously) would like to suggest that I, Amy Longworth, would have been more than happy to impart some wisdom to the pretty young things waifing this way and that across the Atlantic in “Like Crazy”. Ah, yes: Having lived through the same situation, I think it’s fair to say my boyfriend and I have made a cleaner effort of the whole thing. And here is how.

Okay… let’s rewind a little. I moved from my small town in England to Pittsburgh, Penn., in the summer of 2011, to attend the University of Pittsburgh for a year. I met my boyfriend (now fiancé) within a few weeks. We chatted in a class. I invited him to a party at my apartment. He walked me home after class. We kissed at the party, and then kinda sorta became inseparable. It was all very simple, very sweet, and very, very fast. I fell in love with him quickly. I wasn’t looking for a relationship—in fact, I loved the freedom of being a single lady in a big new world, but I couldn’t not fall for him. We just had chemistry, I guess, and I admired every aspect of his character. We’d geek out over British comedy and “Adventure Time”, smoke cigarettes on my balcony together, talk all night ’til the sun rose the next day. You get the idea: It was a blissful year, and I was happier than I had ever been. But 10 months later my visa ran out, and I had to return home. And we just… didn’t break up.

Since I returned home, life has been tough. Neither of us come from moneyed backgrounds, so visits are scarce, and we struggle to make them happen. I worked for 40 hours a week all year, on top of finishing my degree, just to raise the money to go and visit him. We managed to make a visit happen once every three to four months. It was, and is, utterly miserable.

But we love each other. So we will beat on, as Fitzgerald’s metaphorical boats against the metaphorical current, struggling constantly not to lose sight of each other somewhere in the midst of our ‘real’ lives. That is, the life outside of the Facebook/Skype/Snapchat-driven cyber bubble that we call our relationship, 85% of the time.

There’s always that resounding intake of breath or head-cock of sympathy when you mention you’re dating someone who pretty much lives on the other side of the planet—and people always, always ask how you “manage”. There is not short answer to this question, but I do believe that there are ways that you can make a long-distance relationship work—heck, we’ve proved it, and we’re two of the derpiest, flakiest people I know. We’ve learnt through trial and error how to muddle through and “make do” with the precious little time we ever have together. At this point, I’d say we’ve ultimately been successful.

I have pushed myself, however, to come up with something of a formula for other people out there who find themselves in a long-distance relationship—or are on the cusp of being in one. So, without further ado, here are three key elements that, I believe, are crucial to keeping your relationship afloat when you’ve got a whopping great ocean planted in between you.

1. Keep calm.

It goes without saying that every relationship is different: some couples are pretty chilled out; others drive each other, like, crazy (sorry, had to). It’s unfortunate, but I must say that, while lover’s tiffs are healthy and ultimately minor issues under normal circumstances, the pressure of the distance (and time difference) takes its toll when you can’t be there to scream at each other in person. It’s easier for tensions to multiply like bacteria on a petri dish when you’re cultivating resentment simply by not being there for one another. First things first, then: Slack off each other a little bit. Chill out. Make a special effort to be understanding if he doesn’t act exactly the way you want him to, or if he talks to other girls, or if he doesn’t send you flowers every week.

2. Keep it honest.

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I’ll be honest: I’m a control freak. My crazy-stressy-worrisome-weirdo thoughts pervade every area of my life—especially my relationship. So when I know that he’s going out and getting his drink on at the weekends, it’s difficult to control my own thoughts from laying out all the “what-ifs”. And I’ll be honest again: We’ve had a lot of ‘stuff’ between us to deal with, to which I will add no further comments. But we have always, always been honest. You have to accept that, while you can’t control every aspect of your life, but you can always be honest. Knowing that he’s being truthful with me about his feelings has helped so much, and he knows he’s getting the truth from me, too. I truly trust my boyfriend’s word, and we’re always on the same page because we just say things how they are and handle each situation accordingly. This is such an important part of any relationship, but especially with long-distance—because you can’t exactly force-feed each other veritaserum in a LDR.

3. Keep sight of your happily ever after.

I have realised that there is one aspect to the long-distance relationship that is, ultimately, the deal-breaker: You have to have a goal. Like, a mutual goal. The hardest struggle, for me, was not knowing if we would ever end up together “in the end”: neither of us could easily become citizens of each others’ home country, and it is extortionately expensive to visit every few months—not to mention thoroughly depressing to imagine your relationship surviving on a sporadic diet of stolen days of holiday and constant financial frittering. For one year, the visits proved to be soothing tidbits of snatched time, but overall, I would never advocate a relationship that is so starved of physical interaction. It’s not healthy; you cannot “get on” with your lives if you’re trying to plan your own futures separately without admitting defeat in the relationship zone. If you’re very serious about a relationship, you need a direction. There has to be a “point”; make it your point to share a mutual happy ending. All together now: Awww.

*If you’re a fan of Mr Yelchin, the likeness is actually uncanny—and yes, my ex-roommate is single.

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