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The other week, I got stuck in Budapest with COVID-19.
I had taken this holiday to feed my need for adventure and visit my friends. What I didn’t know was that it would bring up memories of my long-distance relationship with my partner.
We’ve been together for more than five years now, 2.8 of which we were separated by an ocean, adding up to a total of 12 seasons (as we call them) of being together.
When I think of this time, there’s a bittersweetness to it.
To describe it, I’d like to borrow the phrase my father uses when he talks about growing up in the GDR: “Nobody wants the GDR back, but…”—followed by things that worked well in the communist system that was East Germany.
So, while none of these separations were by choice but rather forced on us by the immigration policies of our respective countries, there are some surprising lessons I learned from them:
1. The good kind of drama.
While I’m not a fan of drama in relationships, constantly having to say goodbye, going to and leaving airports, and looking forward to meeting again created a baseline of longing and missing each other that painfully made us realize how much we wanted to be with the other person.
2. Taking things step-by-step.
Especially in the beginning of our relationship, we didn’t know yet where things were going, and if it was worth fighting for. I believe that this helped us stay in the moment and take things step-by-step, instead of falling in love with the idea of what we could be in the future.
3. Making plans is key.
The hardest periods of being separated were when we didn’t know when we’d meet again, like in the beginning of the pandemic when the borders were closed and flights were canceled. We felt like we were in a limbo. Having an end in mind for a period of separation because we booked the next flight made our time apart so much more bearable.
4. The amazing sex.
While I’m not sure if I believe in “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” I definitely believe that absence makes us humans hornier. Some of the best sex and horniest periods of our relationships happened after we were separated for a while.
5. The odds are against you.
While the concept of globalization makes us believe that anything is possible (the conditions of the current pandemic excluded), it’s definitely not the case for immigration law. Fighting to be together included the most annoying bureaucratic nightmares I’ve ever had to face. Depending on where you’re both from, the system may be against you, so prepare yourself for a battle.
6. The shared victory.
The thing with the odds being against you is that when you beat them, you feel incredibly proud. Succeeding to be together has been one of the greatest joys of our relationship and is something we think back on often. Because of it, we often find ourselves being grateful for the little, everyday things, like being able to eat breakfast together or shopping for groceries.
While I realize that I’m coming from a privileged point of view because we passed this difficult period, I hope that if you’re currently in a long-distance relationship, these learnings can be of benefit to you.
I’d love to hear about your experiences, past or present, with long distance.
Share them in the comments or write them up into a post here.