It can’t be that hard to live in different cities… right?
Long-distance relationships always seemed implausible when I was younger: how could two people be in a relationship, yet spend their day-to-day life apart?
I had seen my parents go on work trips for a week or two at a time and all seemed well, but my media consumption also showed me the well-known trope of girl and boy in a long-distance relationship: girl surprises boy, boy is cheating on girl, girl eats a whole pint of ice cream on a curb in the rain.
But while sitting at the dinner table during one of my parent’s dinner parties, picking the green peas out of my rice, I overheard my mom’s diplomat friend say something strange. “Yup! This fall, I’m moving to Sweden, while David stays back in Seoul until next winter. Then he will come join me…” A unique situation notwithstanding, I started to realize there are nuances in relationships, and different things can work for different people.
Fast-forward 10 years, and here I am, two-and-a-half years deep into a long-distance relationship. When I moved to Montreal two years ago for school, I was forced to leave my partner behind in our country’s quaint little capital. Although we had only been together a little over six months, and had initially planned to break up like most people do when they start this new phase of life, we decided to give it a go!
Ottawa to Montreal is only two hours by bus, train or car — so when I say to people my partner and I live in different cities and they initially give me a glance of pity, I must swiftly clarify that it’s a mainly-long-distance-relationship-but-is-it-really-long-distance since we practically see each other every second week.
When I tell people how long we’ve made it work, they always seem impressed — for me, it didn’t seem exceptional — we were just like any other relationship. It didn’t occur to me that we were doing anything different. Yet the more I think about it, the more I see the differences between relationships where two partners live in the same city, and those where they don’t.
Here are a couple things I like to keep in mind when trying to navigate the relationship landscape.
Communication is key
This may be one of the biggest relationship clichés, but it rings more true than ever when you have to decipher body language and tone over FaceTime or texts. In general, 20-somethings have trouble communicating their feelings efficiently, which can lead to frustration and miscommunication.
In my experience, I’ve found that I often get frustrated when my partner can’t match my “energy” when it is convenient to me: you could call it a remnant of immature childish behaviour. I tend to take my frustration out on him, which has led to me creating an unsafe space for him to express his feelings in the past.
Rather than shutting down and getting upset that my partner can’t relate to my current state of mind, I need to allow him to feel what he wants, without it impeding my own expressions. In short, it’s okay to be experiencing different things at different times — acknowledge what your person is feeling, and empathize with them without letting it impact you in the now.
The independent side of your relationship
When you’re in your twenties, everyone is always expected to be mingling — going out and meeting all kinds of people. And I mean, I like going to restaurants, or even the occasional party or park hangout. All around me there is a perception that being in a partnership — especially a long-distance one — could have a negative impact on the quality of your classic ‘uni life’ experiences, but I disagree.
Maybe I’m lucky in the sense that I hate clubbing — so even if I was single, it would never be something I would pursue — but I’ve found that if there is a basic sense of trust between you and your partner, you are able to do all the fun partying and mingling you want, without the pressure of flirting and/or rejecting flirtation. Instead, you get to go make friends and then come home to a heartwarming text reminding you to take some Advil from your boo thang.
Speaking of my boo thang, shoutout to him for being super kind and driving up to Montreal every second week despite the parking situation in the Plateau — love you.
Feature graphic by Madeline Schmidt