When you are chronically ill your support network is everything. I am very fortunate to have the wonderful support network I do. However, many people in my support network don’t live close by and over the last eight years I have become an accidental pro at long distance relationships…of all varieties.
My husband and I were long distance for the first three and a half years of our relationship (for a couple of months we were even in different countries). He once made me a promise that he would never let more than six weeks go by without us seeing each other, and he kept that promise even when it was incredibly difficult to because of university and work commitments. We learnt a lot during those first years and although it was incredibly hard at times, I am glad we did the distance thing. It strengthened, and taught, us so much that we continue to rely on, even though we are now married and live in the same home!
My experience with long distance is not just romantic relationships though, I have long distance relationships with two of my best friends (Lianne and Emma). I met them both at University and they are two of the greatest women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They’ve stood by me through everything and we have shared so much together as we grew up together through university and beyond.
They stood by my side as I married Dave and last year I had the honour of doing the same for Lianne. Life is busy and maintaining long distance friendships is not easy, it takes work and I am so grateful these two ladies think I’m worth that work! They could easily have escaped me when we all moved our separate ways after University but more fool them because they’re stuck with me now.
My long-distance relationships extend to family as well. I moved away for University for a number of years and now my parents live in the Outer Hebrides which is a 12-hour journey from where I live! My brother and sister in law also live in a different part of the country to me. It’s incredibly difficult at times when you are as close as my family are and live so far apart, goodbyes never get any easier. I have just waved my parents off this morning as they return home so I thought I’d distract myself from the horrible feeling goodbyes always leave me with by writing this article.
I decided to cheer myself up by remembering some of the positives that come with long distance relationships, here are the six best things about long distance relationships.
There is always something to look forward to.
Whether it’s a visit, a phone call or a Skype session you are never short of things to look forward to. Having friends and family who live far away means I get to make amazing plans and constantly have things to look forward to. I regularly have catch ups via phone with my best friends Lianne and Emma to look forward to. We’ll be visiting Lianne and her husband Dan in the next month or so and I’m going away with my parents, Dave and my brother and sister in law for my 30th birthday in October. I have daily, or weekly, messenger chats with all of the above and I video call or Skype with Emma every so often too. We mostly just laugh at our faces covered by various ridiculous filters because we are super cool. There is always something to look forward to when you have long distance friends and family.
You prioritise communication in a way you often forget to when people live close by.
I know I am far away from my best friends and every day thousands of little moments happen that I miss. It’s so important to keep in touch, even via messenger, to make sure you don’t miss too many of those moments. It’s even more important to prioritise time for the big moments. When I plan catch ups via phone with either Lianne or Emma I set aside several hours because we try to cram in as much as possible and update each other on all those little moments, as well as the big ones.
When my husband and I were long distance we had to perfect the art of effective communication. We missed so many day to day moments in person, but via text, phone, email, Skype and messenger (MSN messenger folks, before Facebook messenger was a thing) we managed to be share many of those moments. I will never stop being amazed by how advances in technology mean communication across every distance is becoming easier and easier.
I think it is so easy to forget to effectively communicate, I know even since being married my husband and I have been guilty of forgetting to chat about the little day to day quirks that make up life. It’s important to take time out to just chat about nothing and everything, as well as the important big stuff.
Getting to travel and see new things.
I’m really fortunate my parents live on a stunningly beautiful island in the Outer Hebrides, because it means that when I visit them I also get to explore this incredible place! If they hadn’t moved there I may never have visited the Hebrides, or at least not often enough to have explored as much of the Outer Hebrides as I have.
My brother lives in Lincoln, another place I hadn’t been, and if he hadn’t moved there I might never have seen the stunning Cathedral and everything else they have to offer there.
My friend Emma lives near Cambridge, I might never have explored that beautiful place (or been run over by a cyclist) if I hadn’t been to visit her. Lianne lives in Preston and I lived there for five years myself so I don’t tend to see anything new when I visit, but I love that I get to go back and visit my old stomping ground where I made some of the best memories of my life so far.
All these long-distance relationships mean that I get to do, and see, things I may not have without people there I wanted to visit. I get to take road trips, plans trips away to other places with those people and also show people all the parts I love of the North East.
Being reunited is the best feeling ever!
It really is an amazing feeling when you know you’re about to see someone after weeks or months of being apart. You enjoy the count down to when you’re seeing them, the moment you finally arrive at their house (or them at yours) and that moment you finally get to see them and give them the biggest hug!
That feeling you get being reunited with someone you’ve missed is so incredible, if they ever bottle up happiness to give out they should put some of that feeling into the recipe.
If you can survive distance, you can survive anything together.
This was massively true for my husband and I (we had a fair few doubters). Any long distance relationship, romantic or not, requires commitment. You know if a friendship or romantic relationship survives across distance then that person really gives a sh*t about you. That is one heck of a foundation to start from and believe me if you can survive distance you can survive anything. One of my oldest friends Katy lives in London now and thanks to my crappy health I haven’t been able to get down to see her yet. We don’t talk all the time, but I know if I ever needed her she would be there and vice versa. When I do finally get down to London to visit her nothing will have changed between us because those types of friendships can survive the test of time and distance.
This is similar with my wonderful friend Elaine who lives in Ireland, who I met working in France and who has continued to be sunshine in my life. The same goes for my friendship with Lianne and Emma. We talk more often, but I don’t get to see either of them as much as I’d like to due to my health and the fact we all have busy lives. However, my friendship with them has survived because we are committed to it, and distance won’t ever change the relationship we have.
You really treasure the time you have together.
It is so easy to take those we love for granted (and we are all guilty of doing it at some point) but when you don’t see those you love most very often it does help you appreciate them a lot more. It also reminds you to treasure the time you do spend together and make the most of it. Whether you’re out and about doing something, or just sitting chatting, you realise how special those people are. Every moment you have with them matters. I think for me this is perhaps the most important thing that long-distance relationships have taught me and it’s a lesson I will always try to remember.
There are of course some truly crappy things about long distance relationships, but that would be a whole article in itself. The hardest thing for me will always be saying goodbye. I don’t think waving my parents off from my house or waving goodbye to them as I leave their house will ever get any easier. I don’t think saying goodbye to anyone I love who doesn’t live close by will ever get any easier, but the saying goes “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” (Miriam Adeney).