What I learned from my three-year long distance relationship

After three whole years spent living in different apartments, cities, then landmasses, I’m finally nearing the end of the long distance chapter of my relationship.

Finally.

My partner Nate and I met in college in December 2013 (we say “partner” because we’re ~mature adults~ and equals). After I sat next to him in class and we talked briefly, I stalked him on Facebook, he asked me out a bunch of times and showed up to my social events until my friends checked him out and I got jealous and realized I liked him, and the rest is history!

We fell in love quickly, and even during the first month of our relationship, I knew he was the person I wanted to marry someday.

The only problem was that he’s a few years older than me and was graduating in a matter of months. We dreaded talking about the future and letting the reality of our inevitable long distance or breakup set in.

The week before he graduated, we finally sat down and had the talk: what was going to happen when he moved back to Orange County and started law school, while I was continuing college in Santa Barbara?

Among the many qualities Nate and I share that make us a great couple is our ability to openly talk to each other and solve our problems rationally — and most importantly, as a team. We’re also both relatively narcissistic (if you couldn’t already tell by reading the previous sentence).

We sat down and talked through every one of our worst fears about the outcomes of both a LDR (long distance relationship) and breaking up. We discussed every possible aspect of LDR we could think of and how we’d each like to handle it.

I visited him every other weekend during my senior year — I came to him because he needed to focus on studying during his first year of law school. Also, I loved coming over because his parents would feed me and I was broke as hell (and his mom’s homemade pho ga is the best ever).

After I graduated, I moved back in with my parents in Davis, California and we flew to each other every three weeks between NorCal and SoCal for over a year.

But during that last year, I battled with insecurities, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction with myself while I worked in retail and lost a lot of my confidence.

I relied heavily on Nate to be there for me when I needed encouragement, validation, and friendship. I got frustrated with him often because I didn’t have anything else in my life going on and focused mostly on him and our relationship.

I was desperate for something in my life to change and get me out of the rut I’d been in for over a year.

I ended up choosing to take a job in journalism back on Guam, where I was born and raised. I knew it could mean the end of our relationship eventually as I accepted a yearlong contract across the world from him, but I needed to do it for my own happiness and professional success.

We ended up breaking up only two months after I left California. We were both so heartbroken because we still loved each other deeply, but I wanted to stay on Guam with my new life and he was too scared to move and was still in the middle of his last year of law school. (Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending — we got back together!)

Nate and I are excellent at many things, but treating each other like normal exes isn’t one of them. We ended up still texting every day, we said “I love you” for months, and continued to be best friends who supported each other.

I can’t say I ever imagined my life (and our relationship) to unfold this way when I first sat down next to this random (well-dressed) dude with glasses and poofy hair in class, but no matter what happens in the future, I’ve changed and matured so much in the past three years we’ve been together.

These are a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned during three years of long distance (from a three-hour drive, to a one-hour plane ride, to an ocean apart):

Being alone is actually really great (and healthy).

When Nate and I first started dating, we spent allllll our time together. We took another class together, we ate lunch together between classes, we walked home together and watched TV shows in my bed for hours until he went to bed late, then we met up again in the morning in class and repeated the whole thing every day.

I got so used to spending every waking moment with him (and bailing on plans with other friends and extracurricular commitments just to be with him) that it physically hurt to be apart when he moved.

Eventually I just learned to distract myself and count down the days until we could visit each other, but it wasn’t until I moved far away from him and my family that I actually learned how to live my life fully for myself.

I cultivated a group of close friends who I hung out with every weekend (and during the week too), I grew closer to my coworkers and went out with them after hours, I made time to reconnect with my extended family, I went to the beach and tried new things on my time off. I grew so much getting thrown into new environments every day for work, too.

I actually had a full life for the first time since we started dating (maybe even for the first time in my life), and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that I chose this life for myself instead of putting romance first, for the first time ever (I’ve been boy-crazy since elementary school, unfortunately).

Living very far apart forced me to grow like crazy. Even though I love Nate so much, I’m grateful I got the chance to go somewhere on my own and figure my life out for myself. We had a rough half year when we broke up, but I still wouldn’t change it if I could because it made me into the independent, self-sufficient, and happy person I am today.

It also worked out best for our relationship too, because I needed this growth to be a better partner to Nate, instead of getting mad at him for every little thing because I was unsatisfied with my own life. Going through this rough patch also strengthened our relationship so much, and now we’re even more connected and smitten than we were during the honeymoon phase. #smitten4ages

It’s easy to take each other for granted, but make sure you don’t.

I can’t stress how important it is to remember how much the other person is right for you and is there for you, even when you’re not physically together.

After he goes to bed and can’t text me for the rest of the day, I think about him a lot. We’re apart all day, but when I can’t even talk to him, I take some time to sit and actively think about him, our future, fun times in the past, or why I love him so much. (This is all so sappy, I usually don’t write this many nice things about him all at once)

Having a period every day when I can’t talk to him makes me even more grateful for his presence when we get to text regularly during the time we’re both awake.

Don’t sweat the small stuff — but the small stuff also matters so much.

This sounds confusing, but these are two different definitions of “small stuff.”

I used to nitpick every little thing Nate would say to me and get irritated if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. If I texted him something fishing for a compliment and he didn’t praise me the way I wanted, I’d get upset and sometimes ignored him or gave him a bad attitude.

Since we got back together, I try not to to read too much into the wording of his messages (plus I just stay too busy with work and my social life to over-analyze as much as I did when I had no job/friends). Texting is a difficult and ambiguous form of communication, and getting mad about it just creates more tension — and it’s already hard enough not seeing each other in person.

But it’s also hard not to read closely into texts when texts are sometimes all we have to connect in a LDR.

Even though I’m busy with work most of the time, and I end up texting a bit mindlessly sometimes, I try to make time to be thoughtful about my messages to Nate. If I’m busy in the moment, I hold onto a thought and bring it up to him later or if it’s a serious topic I make time for him.

It’s easy to let things fall through the cracks, but it’s important to make time for your partner and let them know they’re worth it.

You need to treat it like a real relationship even when you’re not physically together.

Even though we can’t actually sit down to dinner or show physical affection, we try our best to show each other we’re still each other’s priorities.

When I first moved to Guam, sometimes we’d have to cancel or delay Skype dates last minute, because other things got in the way of our face-to-face time. If he didn’t make time for me, I felt hurt because I didn’t feel like I was important enough to him. And if I didn’t make time for him, I felt like our connection was becoming less tangible and we were fading out of each other’s lives.

Now we make time to Skype every Friday or Saturday (my time), which is a lot easier now that Nate is done with school. It takes some rearranging of our schedules, and sometimes I have to turn down plans with friends or family in person. It’s easy to cancel a Skype date since we’re not physically together, but the time commitment and effort made to be available for the other person are still real.

People aren’t static.

When Nate and I first got together, I thought he was this cool English major who loved writing and reading fiction (basically I thought he was just like me). For his birthday, I even bought him a book with hundreds of writing prompts because I thought it’d be fun for him.

Months into the relationship, I learned he didn’t like writing for fun at all (besides getting some enjoyment using flowery language for his school assignments). He’s a nice person so he thanked me for the gift, but it’s still sitting on his bookshelf, untouched. Instead, his interests were mainly basketball and poker. He also didn’t reveal he was a huge anime geek until half a year into our relationship — maybe that was my bad for talking about how weird anime lovers were, before I knew his true nature.

About half a year to a year in, I realized he wasn’t the person I thought I was falling in love with at all.

But that was okay, because I loved the person I was getting to know even more than the fantasy I made him out to be in my head.

During the course of our relationship, we’ve both changed a lot from who we were when we met. I’m not the same 20-year-old campus activist and he’s not the lazy party animal he used to be (jk, the lazy part is still somewhat true). But we’ve changed so much, together.

Three years in, we’re starting our careers, he’s done with law school, I’m more self-assured, he’s more liberal than he used to be, I’m less religious than I used to be. He wrote a chapter for my LDR advice book and had fun with it. And I even started watching anime with him! Now that’s true love.

We’ve both gotten to know each other so well that we can handle any problem together and know what to say to make the other feel better.

I used to be sad that the honeymoon phase was over, but sharing lifelong mutual growth and support is so much more fulfilling.

If you’ve found someone you can grow steadily with over time and encourage each other, even with the difficulties of distance keeping you apart, you’re incredibly lucky. I know I am.

Why Getting into a Long Distance Relationship is the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Teens

This post is an excerpt from a self-help e-book I’m writing about long distance relationships.

The reason I started blogging in the first place was because I felt like I had gone through so much in my own relationships, so I wanted to put advice out to everyone that I wish I could have given my past self. And if I could borrow the DeLorean from Back to the Future to save young Chloe from making the biggest mistakes of her life, I’d go back to my senior year of high school and then my freshman year of college to urge her not to get into two separate long distance relationships (why didn’t she learn from her mistakes the first time?!).

The big sister personality in me makes me want to save everyone I possibly can from the kind of heartbreak I went through when I was a teenager, because the bad things that happen to you as a teen can stick with you and haunt the rest of your future relationships (if you let them). I wrote this chapter specifically to let any teen readers who might be considering long distance know how difficult it is—and more importantly, to try to tell you why I think it’s a terrible idea, even if you go into your LDR with the best intentions and are madly in love with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’m going to get very real with you and tell you that you’re almost guaranteed to break up if you get into a long distance relationship in your teens, and more often than not, young people’s LDRs end up bitterly.

As a teen, you’re probably more insecure now than you will be when you’re an adult—not being very confident in yourself is less than ideal for a relationship, and is even worse for a relationship when you’re far apart. Although girls nowadays seem way more put together than my friends and I were in high school (I barely knew how to put on eyeliner, let alone how to contour my face or put on false eyelashes, and we had no filters besides generic websites like PhotoBucket!), teenage years are often filled with a lot of insecurities about looks and self-worth in general. Even if you’re using MAC, your foundation right now isn’t going to be great (a little makeup humor for you!). At this point, both of you probably haven’t really tried dating anyone else yet either, and I’m sorry to say it, but this could make you or your partner more likely to cheat. If your partner cheats on you, it’s probably not because you weren’t good enough for them, but that they haven’t tried being with anyone else besides you yet (or they still want to try dating everyone they can).

This could go both ways too, where you feel like you want to hook up with other people around you, or you start crushing on someone new, because it’s natural to want to try new things when you’re young. Instead of hating yourself for wanting to explore or potentially hating your partner for fooling around behind your back, it might be a better idea to just let each other go so you both have the freedom to do what you want, especially since you won’t be able to see each other anyway—and what’s the point of being in a relationship when you’re young if you can’t do the basics together like going to the movies, going on dates, or just hanging out (not to mention satisfying the urges of your ~raging hormones~).

When I was in LDRs when I was 17, then 18-19, my then-boyfriends hadn’t dated (and just as importantly, hadn’t had sex with) anyone else before me, so they ended up talking to a lot of different girls behind my back while we were dating. While I was an ocean away from them in California, they felt free to flirt with girls through Facebook messaging and one of them went on dates with other girls while we were still in a LDR (he even sexted someone else).

Five years later, I don’t have any hard feelings toward them because, although nobody should be excused for being a huge asshole to the person they’re dating, I know we were only 17 and didn’t know better. My ex was too immature to grow some cojones and tell me he wanted to see other people, and I was so naive that I thought I could be with my first love for the rest of my life.

In my ex’s defense, it’s difficult to commit to one person when you haven’t even seen for yourself what else is out there—especially when you’re only 16 years old and haven’t made out with more than one person in your life. Even though he shouldn’t have had a bunch of side baes behind my back (that slang didn’t even exist at the time; I’m old), I now understand why he would want to date around when we couldn’t see each other.

You can definitely be in love with someone while they’re around you and have a meaningful relationship, but it’s hard to keep it going when you’re both going through so much in your own lives apart from each other. When you’re young, it’s even harder to keep your connection strong when you’re separated because you’ll be growing and changing so much (especially if you’re going to college).

A lot of teens (my younger self included) get into LDRs going from their senior year of high school to college because it’s so hard to say goodbye, and if you’re in love, you want to keep this good thing going for as long as you possibly can. It’s important to follow your heart and do what feels right to you, but your heart will thank you later if you don’t drag out your relationship with someone because you’re too afraid to make a clean break or too naive to think you’ll still be with someone you chose when you were 17 when you’re in your late 20s.

What you want when you’re 18 (in life, but in this case in a partner) isn’t going to be the same as what you want when you’re 22, or 26, or 30. Before you really commit (please please please for the love of god, do not get married) remember that you are young and will definitely change, and your tastes will change. Think about your taste in music when you were 14, or even 16. It’s not the same as your taste in music at 18, right? Unless you’re still into Green Day and My Chemical Romance, or other variations of the middle-school-punk genre. If your taste in something as important as music changes drastically in a few years, imagine how much your taste in romantic partners will change (this will likely change even more and is way more important).

Bonding over things like going to raves together (contrary to popular belief, couples who rave together do not necessarily stay together), or both being obsessed with The Office, or flirting in Trig for the whole school year won’t be reasons for you to stick together for the years to come. And 22-year-old you will want to kick 18-year-old present-day you’s ass for wasting time on someone who won’t be worth months pining over each other in a LDR, once you’re graduating from college and looking back on everything you wish you could re-do about your glory days (geez Chloe, tell us how you really feel!).

Also, you might want to ask yourself why you want to get into this serious of a commitment now when there’s so much to see and explore while you’re young. I know how annoying it is when older people tell you this (I hated how condescending it was when family members talked to me about relationships while I was in high school or early college, and how it made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter), but it’s true—you really do have the rest of your life to settle down and be monogamous if that’s what you want, so why start so young when you haven’t even figured out what you want for yourself yet?

Right now, you can save yourself the trouble of getting cheated on, or ruining someone’s life (not to sound melodramatic), or wasting the most fun time of your life worrying about your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend; just let this relationship go peacefully. If it turns out that you’re both single at some other point in your lives and live in the same area, then that’s awesome and you can give it another shot! But right now, as someone who has been in two messy LDRs in her teens, I can tell you that the best thing for both of you is to just live your lives separately and enjoy yourselves while you’re young—trust me when I say that you have plenty of time for grown-up relationships, cheesy declarations of love on Instagram, and all the serious commitment you could ever want in the future. What you won’t have in the future is the chance to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want, and live out your bildungsroman as your own person, without being tied down.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record and probably pretty cynical too, but I promise you I don’t hate love! And even if I don’t know you, I care about your happiness and personal growth very much. I don’t have many regrets in life, and I know if I went back and made better decisions, I might not have grown into the person I am today, but I do think that I could have avoided a lot of emotional stress, tension with my family (arguing about how serious my LDR had become while I was only 19), and trust issues I have now because I had bad experiences with long distance while I was younger. I also think I could have enjoyed myself more in college (and when I moved from Guam to California in high school) without having to worry about my basically virtual boyfriend. The worst part about long distance is that if you let it, it can make you live more for someone you’ll rarely ever see, and neglect the people who are actually around you, and all the awesome things about where you are in the present. Long distance usually only works out and is bearable if you’re able to come back to each other at least semi-regularly and know that you’re going to live near each other eventually, but when you’re in high school or college and one of you moves away, you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll finally be together again (and might not have the freedom or money to visit each other enough).

You might be thinking, “oh, she just went through two crappy relationships and my boyfriend/girlfriend and I aren’t like that!” Even if you two are cuter together than Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, the strain and stress that comes with a LDR can drastically change your relationship. Your dynamic will be totally different when you go from seeing each other every day at school to having to rely on Skype dates (while getting cut off every few minutes through the spotty Wi-Fi connection in the dorms) and texts to keep you together. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the exception to the rule, but it’s really hard for any couple to still feel close to each other when they’re separated for weeks or months at a time.

I know how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to say goodbye to someone you love so much (and I don’t think you ever love again as intensely as you do when you’re a teenager, so it’s even harder), but if you really love this person (and really love and want to take care of yourself), the best thing for both of you ultimately is to try to be happy with all the memories and good times you’ve had together, but agree that your happiness and futures are more important than hanging onto a relationship that will almost definitely end eventually. It’s going to hurt like hell, but after many pints of Ben & Jerry’s and binge-watching Gilmore Girls a few times over, in the long run this will be the best decision for both of you.

The 10 Commandments of a Healthy Relationship

Writing for Lovescrewed started out as a way for me to reconcile with the bad relationships I had in the past and learn from them, while I went on my journey to becoming a whole person and loving myself. But then I stopped writing early in 2014 because I got into a new relationship and everything was so exciting and fun—and who wants to read blog posts about me being happy and in love anyway? People come to self-help blogs to get raw, honest advice, and I wasn’t dealing with the ghosts of my past anymore to fuel my writing.

Not to say that I’m unhappy now that I’m blogging again, but as my boyfriend and I grow closer to the two year mark in our relationship, I’ve come to learn a lot about relationships, as this is the longest and most serious one I’ve been in.

Needless to say (since it’s evident in my many blog posts), I’ve had my experience with toxic relationships, and learned from my mistakes. I’ve also learned a lot while navigating through this newer relationship. It’s interesting to see how much your feelings for someone can evolve over the span of a couple years—from smitten to infatuated, to learning that they aren’t the person you thought you were falling in love with in the first place, to accepting them for who they truly are and loving that you can learn new things about them even when you thought they couldn’t surprise you.

It’s not always easy, but if you’re with the right person, it’s worth it and hopefully you’ll grow together.

Here are some of the most useful things I’ve learned, and guidelines I try to live by in a relationship (even if I mess up sometimes):

  1. Promise to yourself to never check their phone. Obviously I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m guilty of being the psycho jealous girlfriend who actually blocked girls repeatedly from my ex’s Facebook and Instagram accounts while we were dating… It was hard to stop, but I decided I never wanted to experience that burning angry feeling that made me want to throw up every time I got stalker-y and jealous. I can’t say I haven’t occasionally wondered about whether there’s anything suspicious on my boyfriend’s phone, just out of curiosity (and from seeing way too many Instagram memes about it) but it was important for me to set boundaries for myself. I don’t want to become that distrustful, sneaky person again, and I don’t think anyone enjoys feeling like that either.
    It’s a slippery slope from checking once just to get rid of nagging insecurities, to constantly being anxious about what they might be doing behind your back, and not trusting them enough to believe what they say. If they’re cheating on you, they’re probably smart enough not to comment heart-eyed emojis on someone’s pictures and they’ll probably delete her texts too, so why bother checking? Trust your gut, and if something makes you uncomfortable, try to talk to them about it. But don’t go sneaking around behind their back because if you can’t trust them enough to take their word for it, then it isn’t a great relationship anyway, and it definitely isn’t worth the stress of worrying if you’re being cheated on.
  2. All boyfriends/girlfriends shall remain innocent until proven guilty! Every relationship is somewhat of a gamble of trust, but if the person hasn’t done anything to make you distrust them, try to let go of the pain you’ve gone through during past relationships and don’t just expect the new person to cheat or treat you badly. The worst mistake you can make is to drive a great partner away by misplacing blame on them for something your high school boyfriend did to you 6 years ago. Don’t let the mistakes of your old teenage ex define every relationship you have in the future, or you’ll always expect to get hurt like you did when you were 16 and neither of you knew how to even be in a healthy relationship.
  3. Be each other’s cheerleaders. Encourage each other and support each other’s dreams! This is especially important because a partner should be one of the first people you come to when something good happens to you, and you’d want to be that person to them too. Give good advice you think will help them and show enthusiasm when something exciting happens. There’s no such thing as too much positivity or good attention.
  4. Pick up new hobbies together. If you started dating just because you both liked the same movies or had the same taste in music, chances are that your mutual interests will get old eventually, because your tastes will probably change over time. If you’re in it for the long haul, you have to find activities you both enjoy doing together. My boyfriend and I like to start watching new TV shows together which makes it our thing, and gives us another source of references for our many inside jokes.
  5. Don’t hold their past against them. Try not to get mad or jealous if they slept with a bunch of people before you two dated because that has nothing to do with you. What’s important is how they’ve acted since you met and started dating. You shouldn’t blame someone for something they did before they even knew you existed.
  6. Keep complimenting each other even if you’ve been dating forever. It’s easy to stop doing this over time because you already know you both are attracted to each other. But it’s still nice to hear that the one person you really want to think you’re hot is still into you, or to know that they still think you’re beautiful even after seeing you in the morning all greasy-haired and crusty-eyed. Getting a compliment from your significant other feels a thousand times better than getting 200 likes on an Instagram picture (well, maybe not, but it’s close).
  7. Don’t ask for anything or expect anything. You should definitely expect them to treat you well, but I’m talking about material items. Your boyfriend doesn’t owe you designer bags or jewelry. Although it is nice to receive gifts, don’t be one of those girls who expects her boyfriend to spoil her with expensive things. Follow Destiny’s Child’s lead and be an Independent Woman (The house I live in, I’ve bought it / The car I’m driving, I’ve bought it / I depend on me).
  8. Be grateful and remember to say thank you even for the little things. You’ll become more appreciative of what your partner has to offer if you’re noticing and thinking about the effort they put in to make you happy.
  9. Say “I love you” often, or express fondness in whatever way you’re comfortable with at that stage in your relationship. It’s helpful to remind each other regularly that the love is still there.
  10. Learn how to communicate openly and honestly with each other. This is the most important part of maintaining a healthy relationship. If you don’t express it to your partner when you’re feeling upset with something they did or didn’t do, or when you’re feeling any other emotion towards them, they will not know. This might be obvious, but if you don’t tell them directly, they probably won’t figure it out—nobody is a mind reader (and neither are you, so don’t expect anyone to be omniscient about your thoughts and feelings). If it’s too hard for you to tell them directly, try writing out a letter or a text to them explaining everything you’re feeling, and then try sending it. If it’s a good relationship, then they’re likely to respond well and try to help you meet your needs.
    Another important part of communication is active listening. When your partner is talking to you, don’t just think about what you want to say next—focus on them, then think of how you will respond after. It’s important to let them be heard and be empathetic so you can be there for them and give them what they need. Because while a relationship can be great in that you have someone who will be there for you, it’s your duty (really, it should be your privilege and pleasure) to be a good friend to your partner.

Blessings in Disguise

Note: This is Lovescrewed’s first guest post, courtesy of my sister/cousin Samantha Barnett, who is a junior at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School on Guam.

–Chloe    

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My cousin Chloe was four years old when I was born and the moment that we first met is immortalized in a family photograph: Chloe is gap-toothed and balancing a baby me in her arms, while smiling mischievously. You could say that our future together was cemented right then. Because we were four years apart, I felt safe. There was just enough age and maturity between us that Chloe experienced every trial of growing up before I did. She had seen around the bend into the future and therefore she was my navigator, giving me advice on handling difficult situations with strength, wit, and foresight. We were like sisters, bound together by our family. Our family could collectively be defined by two traits: firstly, nearly everyone in our family were writers who had found success as journalists; and secondly, nearly every woman in our family was divorced. Our grandparents had divorced, remarried, and divorced again. Chloe’s parents had divorced, and both her mom and dad would eventually remarry and have other kids, making Chloe the oldest child and the oldest girl in a mixed family.

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Looking back, I realize that Chloe’s fate mirrored my future. My parents would divorce when I was eleven, but before then I wondered how Chloe was coping with new family dynamics. The summer before my parents divorced, Chloe and I were spending the weekend at my great-grandmother’s house. My great-grandmother has one wall which seems to be dedicated to family history: displaying framed photographs of school pictures (including my great-grandma’s prom picture), family reunions (members of my family were scattered between Guam and the West Coast, mainly California), and wedding pictures. Chloe noticed that the glass of the frame holding my parents’ wedding picture was cracked without actually splitting down the middle. We wondered if it was a premonition of some sort, or if we were just letting it get to our heads. Either way, whether we predicted it or not, my parents divorced within the next few months.

From then onward, Chloe and I were bonded in a different way: we were divorced kids. It changed us, but it made our relationship stronger. We became more cynical, and we couldn’t swallow soap opera love stories without snickering. We speculated about love: wishing that our parents would get back together, gossiping about Chloe’s high school boyfriend, crushing on Johnny Depp, and wondering if fairytale endings really mattered if the prince and princess loved each other at some point.

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Then, for the second time in my life, things started to change. Only this time I could not have predicted it. Chloe’s dad had found success as a blogger, and money was coming in. It was an exciting time for her family and they were talking about moving to San Francisco. Moreover, Chloe would be graduating soon and she planned to go to college stateside. At the same time, divorce was casting a more prominent shadow over my life and I was adjusting to my newly dating parents. My dad had a girlfriend who my brother and I didn’t know very well, and liked even less. Within the next year, Chloe left for San Francisco, and my dad told us that his girlfriend was pregnant. It was a blow, and I thought I had never needed Chloe more than I needed her now that she was gone.

We talked irregularly on the phone, and I knew that she was having a difficult time adjusting to a new high school in her senior year. She was in long distance relationship with her high school sweetheart, and it seemed to me that long distance relationships magnified all the tensions that regular relationships only hinted at. I read Chloe’s emails about her jealousy issues and watched my dad attempt to reconcile his rocky relationship with his now pregnant girlfriend. I swore off love, vowing not have a boyfriend until I was in college. At the same time, I delved into a world of fantasy romances, reading Wuthering Heights and The Princess Bride. We thought that divorce was a curse, bestowed upon our family in particular. Maybe Chloe and I fantasized about guys even more than regular teenage girls would, because we were seeking a sense of security.

Talking in Grandma Shannon's garden in Santa Rita
Talking in Grandma Shannon’s garden in Santa Rita

Then something strange happened. Maybe it was because we came from a long line of writers, and our genes had decided to kick in. Chloe and I started sending each other emails, not short blurbs or updates, but lengthy emails that were almost like diary entries. In these emails, we began to come to terms with a world that seemed to be constantly shape-shifting around us. We turned the people in our lives into characters who came alive when we wrote about them.  We were the shape-shifters now, and we found strength in each other, in writing, and in hope. We’ll always be bonded because our lives are rooted in the past, in creating new futures, and more than anything, in the kind of love and heartache that only family can cause.

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Enjoy Your Surroundings: Adjust or Be Miserable

When I was seventeen, I thought I had a perfect life and spent the next few years feeling miserable, wishing I could have that life back.

I had spent my whole life growing up on Guam, surrounded by a huge family and a network of friends who loved me. I had a serious boyfriend (who was on the football team), I went to a good school (albeit a strict one) with smart girls, I had a best friend who lived a short drive away, I lived in the same house since I was a kid, and I could hang out with my cousins any time I wanted. My life was perfect.

Then during my junior year of high school, my parents decided to move our family to California. I tried to be happy all year, but towards the summer, I was miserable. When we finally moved, I wanted to die. I lost 10 lbs in the first month I was away from home. I cried myself to sleep every night for about a year, until I went back to Guam the next summer.

I used to resent my parents for not letting me go back to Guam, for taking me out of my perfect life on Guam right before I could experience my perfect senior year, for making me miss the year we won Songfest (I cried so hard when I watched the videos of my class’s awesome performance and had to miss it), and for making me miss out on senior prom with my boyfriend (I skipped out on my senior prom in Davis because I was too emo). I resented myself for not telling them earlier that I didn’t want to leave. Most of all, I resented everyone around me for not being my Guam friends and California for not being familiar. I made myself miserable.

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Look how excited I was on my first day of senior year!

I didn’t care about where I was and I decided I’d just go through the motions that year until I got to college. I didn’t make an effort to make any friends; I spent my lunch periods reading Harry Potter alone in a secluded area outside or studying for the SAT (but hey, I got a 1950 with no tutoring, plus straight A’s all year).

Then, before I started college, I got into another long distance relationship. I spent my whole first year of college feeling shitty about everything, wishing I could speed up time and graduate so I could go be with my “soul mate.”

It wasn’t until this year that I finally got over the misery I put myself through. After awhile, I realized that there was no point in being depressed just because I wasn’t back home. Sure, I miss my parents and siblings while I’m at school, I miss my cats, I miss my childhood friends, I miss my family back on Guam. But once I started focusing on what I do have rather than mourning what I don’t, I became so much happier.

I live in Isla Vista, California, where it’s around 70 degrees and sunny most of the time. I live within close walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. I have a handful of awesome friends who all live on the same street as I do. I get to study literature and film in an academic setting and get credit for having brainy discussions with my peers. I get to be a part of organizations I’m passionate about, and work with people my age who are passionate about the same things. I am surrounded by beautiful people, all the time.

All those things were true even through the depression I put myself through during my freshman year, but I didn’t care to acknowledge them. All I wanted was that one guy who lived on Guam who wanted me back.

But now I’m free. I’m finally at a place in my life where I am truly grateful for everything that happens to me (even if I happen to bitch about everything all the time, I don’t really mean it). I see other people I know complain about missing their significant others, complain about missing home, and it makes me sad and frustrated. You may not be in the place you’d like to be at the moment, but for now, you are still in a place full of blessings.

Don’t spend your time feeling bad about what you don’t have, because you’ll never be happy. I had moments of fleeting happiness sparingly for a few years, and I never want to go through that again. I also don’t want to see anyone else go through that either, because it’s the worst.

Instead, be happy. Choose to be happy. Make the choice to be grateful about the amazing life you have, and start by looking around at all the good things around you. It may not be perfect, but neither is the life you’d spend feeling empty, wishing for what you can’t have.

–Chloe

Ways to Make Long Distance Work

As a veteran of long distance relationships (I’ll refer to it here as “LDR”), I’ll tell you straight up what everyone thinks about LDRs: they don’t work. I’ve done 2 years of long distance (from 2 different relationships), spent months researching statistics about the outcomes of LDRs and tips to make it work, and went through months at a time when I’d cry myself to sleep every night because of the stress of long distance (not to mention trying not to burst into tears throughout the day).

I tell everyone I care about who considers getting into an LDR not to do it, because I know firsthand how painful it can be. You feel like half of yourself is missing every minute you’re away from your partner. Whenever you see cute couples, you wish PDA were outlawed. You spend most of your time wishing you were somewhere else or talking to your partner instead of enjoying the company of those around you. (I know it seems like I’m just trying to talk you out of LDRs, but I’m getting to the point) But, I also know how beautiful long distance love can be. If you’re lucky enough, you find a person who you’re crazy about enough to promise them that you’ll be faithful from miles away, that you’ll spend your Friday nights on Skype with them instead of scouring nightclubs for a piece of ass, that you’ll spend your hard-earned money to travel to visit them even if only for a few days, etcetera, etcetera.

So if you’re brave (and crazy) enough to commit to a LDR, here are a few lessons I’ve learned on trying to make it work. Side note: these tips work well for non-long distance relationships too.

  1. Define the terms of your LDR very clearly. Make sure you each understand what the other person expects from this relationship and agree on what you both think is fair to ask of each other. Some of the key topics to discuss before agreeing to the LDR are whether or not you’re allowed to date or get physical with other people, how often you’ll visit each other, how often/when you’ll set aside time to communicate, and so on.

  2. Set a timeline. One of the biggest reasons why LDRs don’t work is because a couple has to be away from each other for too long, so it feels like the pain of being apart will last indefinitely. If you set at least rough dates for when you’ll be able to visit each other, you can count down the days together, and it’ll make the time apart much more bearable.

  3. Take turns and make compromises. Alternate when visiting each other, so you each make an equal effort on spending money or traveling to the other person. Take turns if you need to sacrifice other important engagements to make time for each other, or with staying up late to talk to each other. That way, you don’t feel like one of you is doing all the work with keeping the relationship together, and you appreciate the equal effort your partner makes.

  4. COMMUNICATE. I can’t stress this enough. Without communication, there is no relationship. You don’t have the luxury of seeing each other face to face, so you have to put in the effort and make sure you let each other know what’s going on in your lives. Figure out what works best for you two, then call, Skype, text, email, Facebook message, or send courier pigeons to each other regularly. A lack of communication can cause either party to worry, which can lead to more trouble in the relationship.

  5. Keep a journal or log of what goes on in your daily life. It’s easy to forget what happens throughout the day and when you talk to your long distance partner, you want to have interesting things to tell them. Writing down things you think of that they’ll want to hear about can help you avoid awkward conversations where neither of you has much to talk about, so you can keep the spark between you two. I keep a little notebook in my backpack at school for stuff like this and it helps.

  6. Don’t isolate yourself to the relationship. While you may want to spend every waking moment talking on the phone with your significant other, it’s important to stay close to the friends and family around you. Just because this one person isn’t in your presence doesn’t mean you can’t have meaningful relationships and fun times with other people who care about you too. It’s unhealthy to be codependent in a relationship, so make the most of your situation and cherish the people you do have around you instead of always pining for someone who can’t be there.

  7. Do thoughtful things for your partner to remind them that you care. You can’t see each other face to face on a daily basis, kiss, hug, (or any other physical activities), so it’s easy to lose the romance in a LDR. But you can still do little romantic things to show your affection. You could send flowers or chocolates, themed care packages, etc. Even though it’s super easy to communicate through Facebook, letter writing is a more romantic, thoughtful way to show your love you care. Get creative — write your partner a story about how you fell in love, make handmade cards for your anniversaries, fold up little origami hearts to give them for each day you were apart, make a video montage of your barf-worthy-cute couple pictures. These romantic gestures will show your partner you’re thinking of them, miles and miles away.

  8. Have long distance dates. You may not be able to go out to the movies and hold hands, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still watch movies together and spend quality time. Set a date and time that works for both of you when you can have a Skype date. You can each prepare a meal (simultaneously or before the Skype call) then each eat in front of your laptops, so you can enjoy good food and each other’s company. Or, you could Skype while you each stay in and watch the same DVD at home. Distance can’t stop you from having a good time when you’re both willing to work a little extra to be romantic.

  9. Either stay 100% committed or end it. The worst thing you can do in a LDR is break your promises. Whether you agreed to stay monogamous, call each other once every other day, or text daily, you made a commitment to this person, so you have to honor it. If you lose sight of why you’re in the relationship, think it over and break up with them if that’s what’s right for you. Just don’t string them along while you ignore them or mess around with other people, because that can mess up a person emotionally for the long term (plus it’s wrong).

I probably sound like a cynic here, but that’s not true. I love love. Although I’ve been scorned by love on multiple occasions, deep down, I still believe that there’s someone out there for everyone. And if you think you’ve found that someone, but you’re thinking of ending it because one of you has to move away, don’t give up hope. I put myself through hell going through LDRs, but some of the best, most romantic moments of my life happened because I took a chance and tried. So if you’re going to try long distance too, I wish you the best of luck—and check back on the blog in the future for more posts on LDRs!

-Chloe