With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, I have become acutely aware of the fact that I will be spending the majority of my summer away from my partner. Since the beginning of our relationship a year and a half ago, we have never gone a full month without seeing each other. I will be in Italy for five weeks, starting three days after my last final, which makes it necessary for us to deal with the fact that we will not be able to see each other during that time.
Long distance is hard. I speak from experience; I was in a long distance relationship my senior year of high school. It was a complete disaster. Why? Well, to put it simply, we did not communicate well at all.
That relationship taught me a lot about communication that I hope will help my current partner and me this summer, especially since we will have a six-hour time difference. So, that begs the question: how do you communicate effectively with your partner when you are on different continents?
I really emphasize communication as the key to any relationship, long-distance or otherwise. Now, I personally believe that the best form of communication is a conversation, in person, where you can hear each other’s tone of voice as well as read bodily cues. It also provides the opportunity for physical touch, which can be reassuring, especially during difficult conversations.
Nowadays, there is a lot of technology that allows us to do everything we can normally do face-to-face, short of physical touch. If I cannot meet with someone to talk, as will be the case in three short weeks, my next choice form of communication is Facetime or Skype. Video chatting is useful because you can see each other and that makes a world of difference.
Have you ever been on the phone, and there’s an awkward pause in conversation and you don’t know what to do or say because you can’t see the other person? That happens to me all the time and I hate it. That problem largely disappears with video chatting because you can at least see each other’s faces and read their reactions.
If you cannot video chat, use the phone so you can hear tone of voice. Obviously, if you absolutely cannot use the phone, texting can be useful, but there are some serious dangers that come with texting, especially if you are trying to communicate something important. Whenever I need to have a serious conversation with someone, I avoid conducting it over text.
My senior-year girlfriend broke up with me over text because she continually avoided my attempts to discuss our issues over Skype or the phone. We relied far too much on texting throughout the duration of our relationship, making it difficult to talk about how we were really feeling, and whether or not we were on the same page in our relationship.
One of the reasons I have been able to maintain my current relationship for a year and a half is because I have insisted on open, honest and clear communication from day one. We constantly talk about our expectations of each other, and if there are any issues we talk them out before they blow up in our faces. As a result, I feel I can talk to my partner about anything, and we are totally in sync.
So how are we going to maintain that level of communication without being physically together for five weeks? Well, I will have to go without cuddles, hugs and kisses, but that will make them even sweeter when I return. What I will not do without is face-to-face conversation. We will schedule time to Skype before I leave so that we do not lose touch. We will set realistic expectations together about how frequently we will be able to talk. I will send postcards so that she knows I am thinking about her whilst I frolic around Florence. Most of all, we will be patient, and remind ourselves that when I am back on U.S. soil, we will have a stronger relationship than ever before.
Katelyn R. is a Behind Closed Doors columnist who knows she can go the distance if she can be strong.