My Story: Taking on a long-distance relationship

Sarah Blanchard reveals how she coped while away from her partner

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Photograph by Aaron Burden via Unsplash

Relationships are difficult already, but having a long-distance relationship is the next level. I’ve been in a relationship with my partner, now my fiancé, for almost three years and there have been a lot of things that have tested this relationship.

We met in college and we would Skype each other for up to eleven hours. We spent the majority of our time together, so when he left for an apprenticeship in the second year our relationship did get slightly harder to manage as we would only see each other at the weekends.

After this, I started a job in a bar where I regularly worked night shifts. My weekends together with my partner became less frequent as I wasn’t getting home from work until 3-4am, and then I would sleep most of the day away after my shifts. My boyfriend and I thought this was difficult, until we gained some perspective when I started studying at university in October 2016.

Now we live three hours away and see each other maybe once every five weeks. This is hard on us but I know that there are other people in relationships who have a more difficult time than us. I know relationships where the partners are in different countries. Now that is dedication.

We Skyped every single night, intitially, which helped a lot in the first week or so. We texted every hour of the day, talking about anything and everything just so that we could continue the communication in our relationship. But after the first term, the distance took its toll and there were times when we really had no clue what was going to happen to us or even what we wanted to happen. Things changed, things happened.

One of the difficulties we had to overcome was the presence of my partner’s friend whom he had known since high school: we will call him Maximus. He and I never really got on as friends, though we did try. He would “third-wheel” with my partner and I when we went for meals, shopping and other activities, as Maximus himself didn’t have a girlfriend which I suppose could be one of the reasons why he never really took to me.

So, Maximus was majorly involved in our relationship for about two years or so. This was until I had finally had enough of him. He was constantly trying to break our relationship up, as he outright admitted on numerous occasions. Maximus confessed to my partner that he was doing this so he could have my partner all to himself, like he did when my partner was single. He put a lot of strain on our relationship and caused so many arguments between my partner and me, usually over little things that weren’t argument-worthy.

My partner didn’t see that a lot of the problems we had in our relationship involved Maximus’ presence, which is understandable when I look back now as Maximus was my partner’s close friend. In the end, I was tired of all the stress and after a lot of swearing and yelling, I blocked Maximus from my life and my partner finally got the message. Maximus was no longer a participant in a relationship that was none of his business.

Now, before I carry on, I need to clarify that neither my partner nor I have ever cheated on one another. I write this because when you are in a long-distance relationship, people tend to think you easily slip up. For our relationship this was not the case. I know my partner struggled a great deal at first, as he knew that there were guys who would ask me to go for drinks. Of course, I would turn them down and my partner would get the same sort of attention back home when he would go out.

If we weren’t in a long-distance relationship, we would find it easier to ignore things like this. But when you add distance to a relationship, casual annoyance can grow into something more worrying. After all, you never know for certain, do you? Trust is one of the biggest parts of a relationship, I have found. But I can safely say that I do trust him and I would like to think that he trusts me too.

Keeping a relationship alive and fun has its difficulties when you are with each other all the time. Now, imagine trying to do this when you are apart for long periods of time and/or in different countries to one another. Luckily, in this day and age we have the use of video-calling and Snapchat, so keeping contact is relatively easy. But having new topics to talk about can sometimes be challenging, as after a while the same conversation occurs over and over again.

So, to try and steer from this conversation trap, we try to specifically talk about fruitful topics like his job, my course, what we did during the day, what work we hope to achieve and what films, programs and YouTube videos we plan to watch and if they might be any good for the other to watch. Having topics prepared has kept our conversations active, and we have been more motivated to think of different topics because of our awareness that talking from morning to night can otherwise slowly wither each other’s interest.

Another aspect of having a long-distance relationship is that your personality can change without your partner’s knowledge. By this I mean that I am definitely not the same person I was when my fiancé and I first started going out, particularly now that I have started university. My partner is exactly the same, and, after weeks apart, when we see each other again it is very hard to accept these changes.

I know that I have become a lot more confident as a person, after meeting a lot of new people at university, and am becoming a much more independent person as I’ve had to live alone and look after myself. So, when we come to see each other again I know that my partner will see the end-product of this change and not have any knowledge of the process I took to reach the change.

My partner and I have grown together but we have also grown away from each other: there are times when we have been slightly surprised by the other’s actions, the way the other dresses, or the other’s favourite food and drinks which have been had without the other present.

Finally, I sometimes feel that I miss doing activities other than talking with my partner. For example, my partner is going to the cinema to see a film in a few weeks that we both want to see. But because we won’t be together, we will have to watch it separately.

This sort of thing happens a lot, unfortunately, but my partner and I work this out by either waiting until we next see each other before doing something, or compromising and each doing it with our own friends. Compromise, trust and communication are what help our relationship a great deal and especially make the distance a bit easier to deal with.