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How to Survive a Long Distance Relationship and a Demanding Career

Homegrown relationships are increasingly becoming so 1995, as technology brings the world together, people now prefer virtual meetings over in-person meetings and chatting up a stranger on Skype, BBM and Facebook have all replaced letters and other forms of communication to a pen-pal. Ikeja-20130120-00296

On his way back from the airport, a friend called me. He had just said a first of many goodbyes to his new girlfriend who’d be continents apart to pursue her academic aspiration. I’m guessing many thoughts had crossed his mind seeing her leave and she too must have gone through her phase of questioning while they held hands, wishing themselves luck in their now long distant relationship.  Long story short, my friend wanted to know how the tutor and I managed to keep a 5-year relationship going strong. The way he sees it, we’ve been together that long, but the tutor and I have only been together for slightly over 3 years; 14 months break in between sums it up to 5 years.

It’s easy to keep up with the trend, have that favorite person you like to talk to online and maybe at some point, you feel you know this person so well you want to move a notch higher in the relationship.  So 5 years and less than 25 visits altogether sure requires an explanation, especially if you know that we’ve been only 3 hours away from each other. Now it’s less with flights.

These are some of the things I learned and adopted in my relationship through the years.

*For the sake of my incurable writing disease, LDR means Long Distance Relationship.

LDRs and physical dating are different systems.
This is fundamental, so many LDRs hit the rocks because partners fail to see things from this perspective. You can’t have a significant other miles away and expect him or her to act like s/he is physically present with you.

Understandably, you want the best for you and your partner, you’d like to be sure you are doing the right thing and by nature, cross-check a lot of things but some partners take this act of concern to the extreme by becoming detectives in their relationships – tracking every move, sucking up all the oxygen.  

I didn’t realise this early enough and the relationship suffered. Being a woman and naturally emotional about everything, I read meanings to things and my emotional intelligence was killing me. The moment I discovered this truth, things started taking shape.

People subconsciously feel freer out of sight and when you monitor your partner’s every move, he’d snap at some point.  Committing to a LDR means allowing for more breathing space, trusting blindly that your partner has your best interest at heart. So there goes, trust is an important element in a LDR; if you can’t trust your partner you can either choose not to commit to the relationship or call it off already. But bear in mind that monitoring your partner doesn’t guarantee her fidelity.

Understand who you are. Understand your partner.
I am an ambivert, I love alone time, I have occasional mood swings, I could be terrible with teams and I more often place importance on my career to the detriment of everything else – my health, family and relationships. It’s not commendable, it’s just me.

The tutor is irritable, self-disciplined and has an uber-focus on his life goals. So my mood swings sometimes got to him, with limited talk-time on his part, I kept causing a rift with my hyper-suspicion. I just couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t give an arm for me even though I wasn’t ready to lose an eyelash.

We had more low moments than high moments, we were hot and cold. It was all roller-coaster and I had woken up one morning to break up with him for no just cause. All of this kept recurring in different forms until I got to understand him better and he learned to understand me. This wouldn’t have taken so long if we had done a cross-match of our strengths and weakness, our likes and dislikes etc.  Mind you, we talked often but weren’t really communicating. Not that I didn’t try to know him better, I just gave up asking the “so tell me more about you” question, coupled with the fact that I loathe it.

Mind your habits around your partner.
Occasional hangouts, staying late at work, working round the clock  maybe pointers to working hard and shaping a successful career but don’t expect your partner to understand that when you eventually get to spend sometime together. Respect his time, give her a good memory of her last visit with you.

LDRs have a way of masking big problems and if you don’t utilise the time spent talking or seeing each other, you  cook trouble for yourself, the type you’d most likely be unable to handle. I once lived  with him for a month to be closer to the company I interned with and I broke up with him shortly after that.  It took us another 2 months break to think through things deeply. Long distance don’t kill relationships, doubts do. 

See your relationship as a business venture.
My job is demanding, the tutor also did jobs where he was practically at work 24/7 so we both didn’t give as much time as a normal working relationship would require. When you are in a LDR, committing could be tough,  it just so happens that one partner waits for the other to set the pace.

A huge benefit of long distance relationship is you have control over so many things, your career to start with. Clearly men place more premium over their career while women focus more on family but I’m probably the exception. Since I moved out, I have only visited my parents twice yet they live in Lagos. But that’s a topic for another day.

A LDR is like a baby – you have to tend it, nurture it, give it all your attention. So also is a growing career. 

LDRs work for you and your career if you reach a consensus with your partner. While the tutor was settling into the corporate world, I had all the time to myself and I chose to focus on building my career. I handled responsibilities in school and got better for me.  Placing emphasis on our careers put a strain on the relationship but we were able to cross that hurdle by setting goals for the relationship. One being to give it everything it takes and if for any reason we break up again, to part for good.

Elements of compassion, respect and even love can be stripped in LDRs but with a goal in mind and a strict adherence to the unwritten rules, you’ll have the best relationship yet.

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