The Long Haul: F*** the naysayers

Megan Amato // Associate News Editor 

My advice to people who ask me about long-distance relationships (LDR) is simple: don’t be in one. However, if you’re like me and you do find yourself having feelings against your will, as they say, c’est la vie.  

Years ago when I went on a solo trip to Scotland, I never expected to fall in love. Sure, I had a one night stand that turned into a fortnight, but I thought that was a simple case of holiday lust. However, here I am seven years later, married, and having only lived in the same country as my husband for just over half of our relationship. It’s not easy and it’s often lonely but if like me you are a bit of a masochist in love and decide to enter an expensive and often exhausting relationship such as this, then this is my first serious bit of advice: do not, I repeat, do not listen to anyone’s predictions about your relationship. 

Media is the OG of “it will never last” messaging. There are countless films and TV shows portraying ill-fated long-distance relationships. There’s cheating (I’m looking at you, HIMYM), misconceptions, miscommunication, and often financial constraints that end up dividing the couple. When they do show successful LDR’s, they tend to be focused on couples who have the financial capital and flexible careers to make it work. In this version, the couples visit each other once a month, surprising each other with impromptu bonus visits in between, and send each other elaborate “I’m thinking of you” gifts. The media perpetuates this idea that you have to have money or else your LDR is doomed.  

I am not going to tell you that you don’t need money because the truth is that money doesn’t hurt—it would have definitely made things easier for my relationship. During the first two years that we were together, I worked two minimum-wage retail jobs to be able to afford bi-yearly trips. That’s right, only twice a year did I hop on that transatlantic flight to see my Caledonian boyfriend. Don’t worry though, he also visited twice a year. It was hard and I was tired nearly all the time. However, despite the lack of disposable income and free time, we made it work because while money doesn’t hurt, it also isn’t necessary. Hold on to your hats folks, because I am going to be incredibly cheesy for a second. What is necessary is trust. Followed by respect and of course, love. If you have these things then expending all that effort, time and money become bearable. 

One of the things you have to develop when in an LDR is thicker skin. Everyone from your friends and family to classmates, teachers and that random lady in the checkout line at Chapters will have an opinion regarding your relationship. Essentially, because your partner lives far away, you’ve entered a relationship with the greater world. You will receive unsolicited advice in the place of hugs and kisses; sympathetic pats will become the new holding hands, and comments regarding your lack of sex life will replace, well, your sex life. All these people will begin offering their support whilst at the same time opening up a bag of popcorn and waiting for your relationship to crash and burn. 

And folks, oh, folks—I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have received a variation of this comment: “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t go so long without sex.” As if my lack of sex life was an opportunity for them to open up about how they couldn’t go a few days without getting some. This comment is often accompanied by sympathetic head tilts and words to the effect of “you’re so strong” like I’ve just battled some ghastly illness. I get it. Sex is important in many relationships, but not all of us need it 24/7. Besides, it’s like they’ve never heard of a vibrator or something. 

And of course, there are the people who are blatant in their views of the inevitability of failure. “It will never last” will leave the lips of many, and if you don’t hear it to your face, don’t worry, a friend of a friend will make it known that another friend said it. Stories about people’s own failed LDR’s or those who know someone whose LDR crashed and burned will reach your ears in an attempt to help you see the futility of your relationship. Others will claim that you’re not in a “real relationship” and try to hook you up with their single friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  

All this works together to makes you self-conscious and fill you with self-doubt. You stop telling people about your relationship and get annoyed when others bring it up. You stop wanting to talk about how you feel and instead you pretend like you’re fine. You live a single life—without the sex of course—drink heavily, and stay out late. You’re an introvert and being out so often exhausts you but the world has made you feel like it’s unhealthy to be so alone; like your choice to be with someone who isn’t immediately available to you was the wrong one and there might be something wrong with you.  

At least, that was my experience in the beginning. I became my own biggest naysayer. But they were wrong. My relationship lasted, and the self-doubt—mostly—died. One of the beautiful things about being in a long-distance relationship is the relationship you develop with yourself. You understand the things that are important to you, what your needs are and your own strength. And to be honest, more than the love, respect and trust—all necessary—the most important thing in a long-distance relationship is having all of those in yourself. 

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