Sunday, 23 September 2012

On going the distance...

I'm currently writing from Gothenburg.

I know what you're thinking - I seem to be in a different city each week!  Honestly though, I really am living in Belgium now.

It's just that my boyfriend happens to live in Sweden.

Of course it would be nice if we lived in the same country, but as we all know, Life Is Never Simple.

I have a feeling that things used to be simpler - at least when it came to relationships.  About 50 years ago, your average Joe would meet your average Jane in school.  They would marry right after graduation.  Joe would get a job, and Jane would stay home to take care of the cooking and cleaning and - eventually - their 2.5 children.  If Joe got a new job in Arkansas, Jane and the 2.5 children would move there with him.  Simple.

What's that, sweetie?  We're moving to the South Pole?  How lovely!

These days most Janes have careers too.  Which, don't get me wrong, I think is awesome!  But it does make things more complicated.  And to further complicate things, most people are spending longer in school.  And even after graduation, they might spend years moving between several different internships and jobs before really "establishing" themselves in a career.  So it might be quite some time after graduation before Joe and Jane can think about marriage.  And in the meantime, what if Joe gets into grad school in Chicago while Jane gets an internship in New York?  What will Joe and Jane do???

I'm getting really emotionally invested in this whole Joe/Jane situation.
Well, Joe could ask Jane to move to Chicago with him and forget about the internship.  But that internship might have been essential for Jane's career.  Without it, she'll end up in a dead-end job that she hates.  Meanwhile she'll watch Joe's career take off with growing jealousy.  She'll resent him for making her sacrifice her career for him.  She'll always wonder what things would be like if she'd done that internship.  Joe will see that Jane is unhappy and he'll feel guilty.  Nobody wins.

If Joe and Jane are both dedicated to careers, and they both want what's best for each other, they may need to accept that for now they have to be in different cities.  And this is exactly what lots of young Joes and Janes are doing.

More and more young couples these days are finding that they have to "do the long distance thing" for a while.  Because at this stage of life you can't really be picky about your opportunities.  You have to go where the work is.  Or where the grad school acceptance letter is.  And chances are, they won't be in the same place for both of you.

This is exactly the situation I've found myself in.  I met a lovely tuba player while I was in Glasgow.  And shortly after I got into the opera studio in Ghent, he got into an orchestra academy in Gothenburg.

So here we are now, living in different countries.  And yeah, it's not ideal.  But it's not all bad either.  Thanks to modern technology, there are millions of ways to stay in communicado with a long-distance paramour.  Email, snail mail, facebook, phone, text, carrier pigeon - and of course, Skype.

I pretty much think Skype is the best thing since sliced bread.  Except, of course, when you're having that all-important pivotal conversation in your relationship and it suddenly decides to stop working.

-What, you're breaking up with me??
-No, I said you're breaking up!!!!!

The thing is, now that we have Skype and everything, it's easy to talk to each other anytime.  But it's not the talking that you'll miss.  It's all the other things.  No, I'm not just talking about the obvious things here!

Making out!!!  And other stuff...
I'm talking about the little things.  Walking down the street holding hands.  Eating a meal together.  Cuddling on the couch watching episodes of Scrubs.  Or Mad Men.  Or whatever floats your boat.

Or simply just being together - no talking necessary.  Just enjoying the togetherness.

That's the stuff you really miss.

And even though you'll want to visit each other as much as possible, let's face it, neither of you have wads of cash or big chunks of free time in your schedules.  So finding the time and money to visit each other can become an almost-impossible task.  It's like fitting an elephant into a pair of jeggings: it may be possible, but only after a LOT of stretching.


I do believe that in the right relationship, distance can help you appreciate each other more.  Because when you do get to see each other, it's amazing.  Nothing beats that feeling you get when you see your sweetheart get off that plane.  And suddenly all those little things you used to take for granted when you lived in the same city - holding hands, eating meals together, and so on - are the most awesome things ever.  You'll savour every little moment like you never did before.

Absence makes the heart grow Fonda.
And let's not forget, for a relationship to really work, you need to have bigger things in common than a postcode.

I love that my boyfriend is a musician, because it means we're on the same page here.  We understand why we both have to take these opportunities and be where we are.  And while we're not in the same place physically, we are in the same place in life.  We're both setting off on this adventure - new country, new school, new possibilities - at the same time.  Which is really, really cool.  Same journey - different locations.

So it's not easy.  It's not ideal.  It is what it is.  But with the right person, it's worth "doing the long distance thing" for a while.  In fact it may even strengthen your relationship in the long run.

And in the future?  Well, who can say?  Of course I hope that eventually my boyfriend and I will be able to find work in the same country.  But for now I'm just happy to have someone who really gets me.  Someone who makes me laugh.  Someone who calls me on my bullshit.  Someone who always seems to know the right thing to say.

Someone who happens to live in another country.

But you know what?  Some things are more important than that.


  1. Yet another thing I've spent a lot of time thinking about lately! I 100% agree that people have to do what's best for them at any given point in their lives. However, I've also realized that if the couple doesn't at a certain point make it a priority to live in the same place, the relationship won't succeed. This may well mean that one or both parties will need to prioritize the relationship over a career opportunity, and just have to make the decision not to be bitter about it. It really just comes down to what's important to someone at that moment in their lives. It might be career now, relationship later, or it might always be career, but that may mean at the expense of the relationship. It sucks, but that's life.

  2. Agree with Jennie here, LDR need an expiration date... What is lovely about relationships overall is how you are transformed by them. If the current relationship makes you a better person, your next relationship will be even better. Just live in the present moment with no expectations.

  3. I agree too. At some point you do need to figure out how to be in the same place, and this will probably involve some difficult decisions and compromises. But I think that for most of us there's a time when we have to make our career a priority and go where we need to be for that. For me and my boyfriend, that's where we both are right now. That may change in the future, but right now we're making the long distance thing work. I like what you have to say about relationships, Flor - wise words :)