The facts and figures do not work in favour of the long distance relationship but realistically, you get out of it what you put into it.
My current relationship began in the summer before I left my hometown of Hull to attend university in Sunderland. There are exactly 131 miles between where my parents live and where I live now.
I had recently come out of a serious two/three year long relationship which ended badly so I was still in the healing process when I met Stephen. (I had met him previously when I was 16/17 but we didn’t keep in touch.) We dated for a month or two, the whole time he knew I was going to be leaving in September but that didn’t deter him at all, persistently asking me to be his girlfriend. I said no approximately 300 times which was painful for me because I really did want to be his girlfriend but like everyone else on the planet, I didn’t believe long distance relationships worked. By 4am on the 13th September 2014, the day I was leaving, the romantic in me won and we agreed to try and make long distance work! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
Photographs from my university project ‘Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder’.
Over the past 2 and a bit years I have become a very rational human being. The first year living away from my family, friends and Stephen took its toll on my mental health, my uni attendance was terrible, I had gone deeeeeep into my overdraft, I was sleeping most of the day every day or not sleeping for days at a time. All I wanted was to go ‘home’ but when I got there, it didn’t feel like home anymore. It felt like purgatory, neither Sunderland nor Hull felt like home anymore and that feeling only went away this year now that I’ve found a living situation I’m comfortable with.
Stephen worked during my first two years of university which made my visits back to Hull quite difficult as I was working 9:30pm-4:00am so I’d be going to sleep as he was waking up to go to work at 7:00am. We were on opposite sleep schedules so we didn’t have time to do anything with our days but in September 2016 he went back into education and started a foundation course in computer science, which has made us seeing each other more often a lot easier as we have the same time off. It has also given us the opportunity to book some adventures together as he doesn’t have to take time off work and during term time I don’t work weekends or nights. We’ve got tickets to see Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes in Newcastle and we have plans to go camping in Filey again, planning things to look forward to help to stop the mind from wandering to a bad place, having something exciting to focus on helps me not feel lonely.
Funnily enough I think it was the awful and painful arguments that we endured that helped me kick myself into gear at uni, as my attendance got higher, my grades got better, I became happier and less angry so the arguments slowly became less frequent and we learnt how to communicate with each other in a way that helped our relationship.
This is the point in my life where I became a rational person, I am still overly emotional (I cry at least once a day regardless of it being because I’m happy or sad or overwhelmed or hungry or tired or I watched that video of the racoon that washes his candy floss and it dissolves). My rationality began when I started meditation, it helped me gather my thoughts and store them in the correct parts of my brain to deal with one at a time rather than a swarm of emotions all at once. I no longer provoke arguments just because I want someone to pay attention to me, I no longer post Tweets or Facebook statuses seeking attention, I no longer leave six missed calls on Stephen’s phone because I know he’s busy while I’m feeling down. I take care of myself, I do something that I know makes me happy, I don’t rely on other people to take care of my happiness.
And it wasn’t just me, he acted the same way. Every time I went out and didn’t check my phone he’d bombard me with calls and messages, making me feel guilty that I wasn’t there for him as soon as he needed me. Thinking back on it now makes me so proud of how far we’ve come as a couple and how much we’ve grown up as individuals.
I understand it’s not for everyone, some personalities aren’t meant for long distance but luckily mine and Stephen’s are, either that or they’ve developed to be that way.
We’ve now been on so many adventures together despite our severe lack of money and the fact that neither of us can drive. We had our first holiday, camping in Filey for a few nights, we’ve been to my auntie’s wedding together, we’ve celebrated lots of birthdays and Christmases, been to Hull fair multiple times, had a weekend away in Leeds to see Black Sabbath, watched tonnes of Wrestling at silly o’clock in the morning, watched a ridiculous amount of movies and motivated each other to succeed and be happy for over two years.
There are some times in every relationship where there are doubts from either party but the most important thing for me is to communicate these feelings and work through it rather than being angry at them or yourself for feeling the way you do. You can’t force happiness so if you’re not happy, something is wrong and communication is key to fixing your happiness.
The day I’m writing this part of the post is around our two and a half year point and I’ve struggled this week in feeling the amount of support I want. I know Stephen wants to support me as much as he can but unfortunately there are some things we don’t see eye to eye on. Some things I think that are important he’ll not think twice about and vice versa but we are still young, growing and learning. We’re not rushing into any life changing decisions, nothing depends on our relationship, we’re together because we want to be, because we’re happy with each other and because we love each other.
We do plan for the future as ‘normal’ couples do and for a while we felt like we were waiting for our relationship to start properly once I returned to Hull until we realised that was years away, not a few days or weeks, years. So we make the most of the time we spend together and we don’t waste time dwelling on the sadness that comes with knowing we’re going to be apart again soon.
We’re not lucky like many people say we are, we work hard at our relationship and for us at least, the long distance is indeed worth it!