Some of my first serious relationships were long distance. It was hard, but as a teenager it was a little easier, simply because I was still living with my parents and stuck going to high school every day, so living with a partner or having the freedom to go out on adventures any time we wanted wasn’t an option. So I had a few relationships that involved eight hour phone conversations through the whole night, ending sleepily as the sun rose. Figuring out how to use a webcam in the early days of chat messengers, and sometimes leaving it on as we went to sleep so we could see each others peaceful faces during the night if we woke up. It was hard at times, I was deeply lonely and felt very isolated, and we would eagerly count down the days until they could visit. When we fought, because in at least one dynamic we had our share of problems and fights were unfortunately frequent, there was no ability to offer physical comfort or intimacy to mend our closeness afterwards.
Once I had my first relationship in college, where we moved in together within the first week, long distance became harder. I got used to a constant presence of a partner, the ability to take an impromptu midnight run to Taco Hell, or walk through the woods together when we needed an escape from the world, and share a moment of intimacy on the bank of a stream. I got used to sharing a bed, something which I was extremely attached to for many years after, until I re-discovered my ability to be independent and learned the equal joys of sleeping alone sometimes. I had a few long distance dynamics in my early adulthood, but after a couple years I decided I wasn’t willing to put myself through the inevitably painful part of missing someone so much and struggling to connect in every day life. I set a boundary, I would not do long distance relationshipping anymore. I kept to it for quite a few years. The most I was willing to do was start relationships that were long distance for a short time, with the goal of quickly narrowing the distance and moving in together. Not a hard thing to do since I had an ever fluctuating household of partners and friends, and we always managed to cram another person in when the need arose.
Well, that changed again, probably when my partner Shara went from living with me, to moving back to their hometown a couple hours away. Our relationship improved in some ways, they were in a place that was healthier for them when back home with their group of friends, and we worked hard on figuring out a communication level and visit schedule that worked for us. Because it was an already established relationship of a few years at that time, I was willing to put in what it took to make long distance work. Then I got involved with Kwik, a partner in Canada. I hadn’t considered beginning a long distance relationship that I knew would stay long distance, but I decided on a whim to give it a try and was happy with how it functioned. When I met Hoffy this past year, I had already changed my views and was willing to get into LDRs again, and I’m glad for it, because that has grown into one of the most impactful relationships of my life. So, I do long distance relationships again. They are not easy, they require a lot of dedication to work well at times, but for the right person I have found it is worth it for me.
I think it also might be easier when polyamorous, or a relationship anarchist. Polyamory accepts more then one relationship at a time. With a long distance relationship, a lot of the struggle is often a lack of physical affection and intimacy, and not being able to share little every day moments as well. If you have the possibility of a relationship in your life that already provides those things, it can be easier to not feel starved for them when getting into an LDR. Of course you may miss those things with that particular partner, but you don’t get so touch starved overall that it impacts your mental health even more. As a relationship anarchist, relationships are custom build from the ground up, made to fit the needs of the people involved with a respect for autonomy, and limiting expectations only to what both are comfortable committing to. Because of this absolute possibility of fluidity in structure, you can go into a dynamic with the knowledge that you will see someone infrequently, but leaving behind societal and cultural expectations that a relationship is less valuable if you don’t cohabitate or spend time together daily. While not having certain regular daily interactions may still be painful, you remove the societal expectation that things must be a certain way to be valid or real, so that pain is not compounded upon.
Tomorrow I’ll go into ideas I’ve compiled over the years for making LDRs work well. I’ve found them to be a very integral part of my happiness because of the wonderful partners I have, and am grateful I opened back up to the idea. Still, they are difficult, and I hope I can offer some helpful suggestions on how to connect more with someone even when not there in person.