I promised to write about long distance relationships and my own experiences living in one for the month of February – the month cradling Valentine’s Day in its grasp. Even though the topic was my own idea once I started to plan the actual post, I got nervous. You see, the initial reaction for many people when hearing the words “long distance relationship” is doubt. On top of that I am a pessimist at heart and instead of blog posts I mostly write fiction in the category of drama. How can I write a blog post which is honest to myself, not written like a drama or not as a list of insecurities? I don’t want to publish something like that, especially in February even if the Amor’s arrow has a long, long, long distance to go.
Let’s see how that goes.
In late 2019 me and my partner had been in our intercultural relationship for four months when he needed to leave Finland (we are the study abroad cliché). Four months are not much to get to know someone, yet we decided to try to continue our story in the long-distance format. The plan was for me to go to meet him twice during the next half a year, first to visit and next to stay since I got an internship position in his country.
Then, as you might guess, Covid happened.
Plan A to meet turned to plan B, plan B got buried and plan C seemed like a necessary lie to keep going. And just like that the original few months had turned into a one and half a year of separation. During that one and half years I made a lot of mistakes, not in the relationship between myself and my partner, just mistakes that made the situation unnecessarily hard on myself.
The first mistake was inventing hardships before they even happened. I read about long distance relationships, watched videos about it and expected to have the same troubles as these people on the internet had faced. Well, most of it I got wrong. Finding time for each other wasn’t actually very hard. We were committed on calling each other every day, sometimes briefly, sometimes longer. Our time difference was six hours, but it worked fine. We didn’t have any major issues of distrust towards each other, and any uncertainties were openly talked through. We gave each other time and space to celebrate our cultures’ holidays with our families with hopes to share them in the future. It can be bittersweet, but we can enjoy our separate lives as they are and build something in between.
My actual biggest issues which I had not foreseen were the (poor) handling of not knowing when the next time we will meet would be. “Good night” turning to “I miss you” and forgetting what my partner smells like. Yes, you read it correct – smell, scent. For some reason the sense of smell has always been strongly connected to my memories, feelings and people. I am immediately reminded of my father when I smell wood dust and my grandmother is raspberries. When the moment came when I realized, I don’t remember the scent of my partner’s skin or even the type of shampoo he uses I felt disconnected and guilty for days. It unraveled from there, wondering what level his eyes are in comparison to mine, if we stand nose to nose. I was asking myself questions I could not answer anymore, the answers taken from me by the time and distance. I don’t recommend you to do that to yourself. Doesn’t really feel nice and it's pointless in a wholesome level.
The second and by far the stupidest mistake was counting days. Here you see my inclination to melancholy thinking. I was not counting the days with February-vibes, like how now this is my longest relationship so far or planning and getting excited over our first anniversary. No, no, I counted things like; now we have been separated longer than we have been together, and now it has been one year since you left. Looking back, I would tell myself maybe, maybe not to do that.
Family and friends had an interesting part in this story, and they introduce you to my third mistake. Thankfully no one seemed to have any major issues with me being in a relationship with a foreigner from a different country, culture and language. What people did take interest and offense on was the distance, which came as a surprise to me. Several people were concerned I am wasting my time waiting or just plainly making a big mistake even trying to make a long-distance relationship to work. I know their concerns come from their care for me, but the thing is, all the concerns they share I have already thought about. I know. I know why I made this decision, and you are recounting all these concerns to me only serves to bring my spirits down. So, the third mistake was listening to the concerns and pity for too long before I started telling people that even if it turns out to be a mistake, it was a mistake I wanted to make.
People don’t seem to have anything to say on the matter after that.
I’m not saying long distance relationship isn’t hard. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck in so many ways. What I am saying, is that I’m happy I decided to do it. It was nothing I expected it to be, nothing people liked to tell me it would be. I am more secure in my relationship than ever before knowing we can get through something like this together, and I am no longer afraid of the idea of a long-distance relationship.
We live together in Finland now. We are learning to share our day-to-day life as an intercultural couple, not as a long distance one anymore. It is different yet the same as before, frustrating and great. Which to me makes it sound like any other relationship.
So, everyone in a similar situation or anyone who knows people in a long-distance relationship and feels the concern bubbling to surface – let’s all calm down. It’s just another relationship and the only way to know if it works is to live it.
Text and illustration by:
Familia’s communications volunteer
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