Three years ago this week, after a year and change of shuttling back and forth between Seattle and Vancouver for weekend trips to visit my long-distance boyfriend, I got on a Bolt Bus with a one-way ticket to Canada (metaphorically, anyway; they mightn’t have let me in if I hadn’t actually booked a return ticket). We spent a few days in the basement bedroom of a not-so-comfy sharehouse he had called home for the first year of his Canadian working holiday visa and then we moved into our first apartment together on West Broadway, a small but cute, retro-looking one-bedroom with mint green walls and close proximity to the many breweries of the False Creek industrial area (all the important stuff).
It was definitely a big adjustment; it was my first time moving in with a significant other and it was our first time spending more than a week in the same place in over a year. “Closing the distance” was obviously so exciting but also nerve-wracking in some ways. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to “survive” LDR (long distance relationships) and being apart from your SO, but as wonderful as closing the distance is, it brings its own set of challenges.
However, after almost three years of living together (aside from another three-month stint of LDR before we moved to New Zealand), I feel like I have a pretty good idea of the important things to remember in order to successfully close the distance.
Remember… to be independent
When we first moved in together after being long-distance, I didn’t want to let him out of my sight. To be able to spend time together every single day was like a dream come true, and even though I was living in a new city and country I would’ve been perfectly happy to hang out and watch netflix on the couch all day long. But it’s important to also have full, independent lives outside of each other. This was hard for me because I was self-employed working from home, sometimes I felt lonely and I wish I had made more friends that weren’t my SO’s friends (although they are obviously great!). I did much better with this in New Zealand and was much happier.
Remember… it’s okay to want alone time
On the flip side, it’s good to remember that it’s also okay to want alone time. Sometimes it feels like because you closed the distance you should want to spend every second together, but it’s totally fine and healthy to need your space as well! Being an introvert, there are times when I just want some quiet time away from everyone, even my family/best friends/SO, whoever, and the first time I felt that after we “closed the distance” I felt so weird about it because I thought, “Haven’t I had enough alone time?” But even couples who have never been long distance don’t spend every second of their relationship together, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to no matter how long you’ve been apart.
Remember… you still have a lot to learn
This is especially true if your relationship starts out long-distance (i.e. you met online) but even if you spent a bunch of time together in the same place before you became LDR, it’s not the same as living together. You will learn things about your partner that you wouldn’t have learned from just hanging out with them or even staying over at their place for a visit, some good and some really freaking annoying. This is true of non-long-distance couples who move in together, too, but the “culture shock” can feel even more dramatic when you go from occasional visits to everyday routines. Be patient, be open-minded, and realise that it’s all totally normal.
Remember… the “fight” isn’t over
Closing the distance feels like an end point. The hard part is done, right? No more mismatched timezones or dropped skype calls, no more airport goodbyes or lonely nights. But it’s important to realise that closing the distance is just the beginning. You have to realise that you might (and probably will) still face conflict in the future, and you have to keep using that communication and patience and balance that was so important when you were apart. And don’t take your partner for granted! When you’re LDR, every time seeing each other feels extra special because of the time between visits, but there’s no reason every day can’t be special as well. Date nights, surprises, new adventures.
Remember… what makes it all worth it
Okay, now that I’ve gone on about needing to have a life outside your SO and how you’ll learn that they leave their toenail clippings in the sink and how you’re definitely going to fight and all that, the most important thing to remember is that you and your partner are a team and you’re there for each other whether you’re a thousand miles apart or in the same room. My SO and I haven’t quite reached the end of our LDR journey (although we don’t plan to be separated again) because we’ve been on a series of temporary visas rather than a permanent one, but I still can’t believe it’s been three years now since we closed the distance (and over a year and a half since we last lived apart at all). When Game of Thrones ended last week we mentioned how we used to download the episodes and Skype to watch them together, and that felt so long ago. There’s nothing better than getting to come home to your partner every day, and whether you’re beginning a long-distance journey or finishing it, or three years on, it’s the best thing to remember.