5 Things I Learned from My Long Distance Relationship

by Randie Henderson

As 2014 comes to a close, it is now the time for reflection. As January approaches, many of us are also making goals and plans for the new year ahead. For myself, this means wedding planning for my fiancé and I is officially about to commence. I have found that these days, I am nostalgic, wanting to reminisce on our past together and the lessons we’ve learned over the last year. Specifically, just 8 months ago, we were in a long distance relationship. Here are the things I learned from from being apart, but I feel these lessons will resonate with most relationships.

Communication is key.

I don’t care how anyone spins it: You must absolutely talk to your partner when you are constantly away from them. There were, of course, times when we couldn't speak as much (during finals and before I was able to get a phone when I studied abroad). But, for us, it was imperative that the other could be reached at all times. Skyping while doing homework, texting while in between classes, phone dates before a party, and falling asleep on the phone helped us stay connected when we couldn’t physically be with each other on a regular basis.

When you want to see someone, you find a way.

To this day I can’t tell you how we managed to see each other at least once, sometimes even twice a month, every month (not including school breaks) for 4 years. Working for $7.15 an hour doesn’t exactly rake in the big bucks, but we made it work. Sometimes we needed financial help from loved ones; other times we just had to save, save, and save… but it was worth it. We were able to turn small weekend trips that allowed us to see each other into special occasions. Not only was seeing one another good for the soul, but it was also a necessity to keep our relationship strong and healthy. If someone is unwilling to put in the time and effort to see you, it may be a sign they’re not up for the commitment.

You can still create your own “fireworks.”

Whenever we were able to see each other, everyone always knew that this was our time to have intimacy. When he visited, I was not ashamed to put signs up telling people I would have to see them later. And when I went to see him, his roommates always seemed to magically disappear right on time. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, and if it’s what you choose, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in your fondness for one another. You’d be amazed by the things you come up with to celebrate finally getting to be together. Thinking outside the box always made for great visits. *Cue “Rocket” by Beyoncé*

Needing someone is not a sign of weakness.

Now, we did not and do not need each other for mere basic survival. Of course, all we really need is air, water, food, and shelter. However, in our relationship we were not and are not just trying to survive. The type of person I want to be needs him and the type of person he wants to be needs me. We are great friends to each other and there is so much about him that I love. His ability to show constant grace, how easily he forgives, his drivenness to work hard—they all inspire me to be better. I don’t ever want to reach my peak when it comes to the type of person and scholar I am. Many have been made to believe that a relationship causes you to settle, but in reality I’m my most driven when I keep in mind that I am about to start my own family and that someone has chosen to spend the rest of their life with me. Unhealthy pride and healthy relationships do not mix. Being vulnerable and trusting that person won’t take advantage of you should be as instinctive as saying, “I love you.” Our relationship has allowed us to grow up in more ways than we would have alone.

You need a village.

Love and love alone will not—I repeat, will not—be the reason your relationship works. You will need friends and family to make sure the both of you keep your promises; don’t drink too much when you’re angry, sad, and lonely; and don’t blast each other on social media when you’re frustrated. You need a village to hold you accountable. We are so blessed to have people in our lives that genuinely love us and would tell on us if we ever acted in a way that was not fair to the other. Great friends and family hold a mirror to your face and ask you to have integrity and recognize your part in every situation.

Here’s hoping that you’re reflecting on your own lessons learned from 2014… and using them to create an even better 2015!

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Randie Henderson is a Gates Millennium Scholar and recent college grad. She is driven to write, read, learn, and educate about ways to dismantle oppression in America and globally because she is passionate about people and justice. You can find her on randiejourney.tumblr.com.

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