And so, it finally happened. After resolving to never be in a long distance relationship (LDR), karma got me back by putting several oceans between me and my boyfriend when I left for grad school in London. We went from seeing each other everyday to… seeing each other every day, actually, only this time through webcam.
It was difficult but we adapted and overcame. And I learned a couple of things along the way.
Turns out LDRs are all about numbers: there were countdowns ‘til our next meeting and constant time zone calculations. I made tallies and crossed out calendar dates with gusto. It was difficult to not automatically add hours whenever I checked my watch, as I would instinctively estimate the current time in his country.
When daylight savings kicked in, I was initially devastated, because it meant one hour less that we’d have to chat online.
There’s always something to do in London - that’s what I love (and resent) about it. I was having the time of my life daily, yet there was often an annoying voice in my head repeating, ‘I wish he was here to experience this.’ It happened while I watched plays, found a new food spot, and during every particularly nice stroll at the park.
I ended up making a list of things for him to try during his inevitable visit. One side effect of doing so meant I had to avoid certain activities – mostly Potter-related, because of our mutual obsession – so we could eventually do them together, as that would spare me the time and money of going twice.
When you’re in an LDR, every minute of communication with your partner is worth sprinting home after class for. And that’s what I’d do to catch him before he had to go to bed, due to our inconvenient time difference. I developed a routine, where I’d get up early so we could chat before I left the flat. He’d do the same for me, getting up much earlier than usual for his work commute, when it was my turn to go to bed.
Sometimes, spontaneously going out with friends meant I wouldn’t be able to talk to him online for that day. He understood, naturally, but I couldn’t help but feel guilty about not maximising the mutual free hours we had together. Learning to shake off those irrational thoughts was a challenge.
My boyfriend and I had always been adventurous eaters and one of the activities I knew I would miss most was eating out with him frequently. But food-related updates became a constant in our daily talks, and his restaurant visits would leave me steaming with jealousy.
With my postgraduate school budget, I couldn’t eat out as often. So I started learning to recreate dishes he had had from scratch, from Chinese dumplings to Korean samgyupsal (pork belly). In turn, once he visits, I’ll help him try first-hand the diverse cuisines that London has to offer.
One of the perils of being in an LDR is the high chance of miscommunication. You’re limited by too-slow internet, solely verbal and written exchanges and a deficiency in communication in general. If you both happen to have had a bad day and are both seeking comfort but can’t find it in each other’s words, passive aggressive advances can quickly mutate into full-blown silent treatments that last for days (or even weeks) on end.
There is no shouting, wiping away tears, or crushing hugs. There is only a twisted war of attrition until someone finally breaks and sends an apologetic email. Arguments may not be as explosive, but they are cold, long-lasting and make the distance between you two more palpable than ever.
I figured out the hard way that isolating yourself in a time wherein solitude already eats up so much of your life just makes things a lot worse. Since then, my boyfriend and I have worked on establishing different means of showing our love for one another - after all, written ‘I love yous’ and heart emojis can only do so much. We’ve started playing video games online and watching shows at the same time. We’ve made conscious efforts to avoid squabbling over petty matters.
Sure, an LDR is still a daily struggle, but we’ve been conquering it one day at a time and have been learning to fortify our relationship in the process.