Trials of the LDR: What it’s like loving from a distance


In a recent post on LDRs (long distance relationships), I talked to all ye blog-folk about the ups and downs of being in a long distance relationship and what to ask yourself before committing. With the consent of my loved one, I want to go into more detail about what it means to be in one. I’m airing out my $h1z.

Being in a long distance relationship is one of the most painful forms of love I think one can experience, especially when your communication is limited. I thank the universe on the daily for modern-day technologies like Viber and Skype, because otherwise I think I would collapse entirely.

Like I’ve said before, one of the hardest parts of being in a long distance relationship is communication. Suddenly, your love languages and pet peeves are no longer your biggest concern; now it’s making time for each other, accounting for the time differences, making sure not to miss that Skype date, trying not to take it personal when you don’t hear from your extra-significant other for 5 hours, adjusting and bridging the gaps between it all with trust.

When my partner first left the States after our Christmas vacation, I fell apart. We took turns crying and comforting each other and promising we’d overcome the distance. I also promised him I wouldn’t watch him leave the airport, but then I hid crouched on the top of an escalator while 20 or so airport patrons eyed me suspiciously so I could watch him weave through security; I couldn’t handle the thought that I might a regret a single second I didn’t spend memorizing his face before he left. He wasn’t moving to New York for a temporary stint, or to Boston for graduate school, or abroad for a 2-year development contract; he was boarding a plane back to Europe indefinitely. Our pockets were empty and nothing was coming through the financial pipelines. We had no idea when, or if, we would ever see each other again.

Since that day, nothing has changed. Neither of us have jobs, we’re both struggling to put food on our tables and pay for a bed to sleep in. We’re literally a world apart, but yet we fight to figure out how to survive without letting go of the future we painted together in our head over the past year.

I feel like most of the blogs I read about long distance tend to gloss over the hard parts and convince you it’s going to be fine. No one talks about the fact that you’ll cry yourself to sleep (and sometimes, awake) for the next three months. No one tells you that you’ll pick a fight because your partner didn’t sign onto Skype exactly when you agreed to. No one tells you that every day will be its own test, or that every bump in the road will make you deeply question whether you’re both going to make it. You’ll remember how the hours spent physically together felt like minutes, but in your partner’s absence each day will suddenly feel like a year.

Going out feels like walking through jello with weights strapped to my feet. I try to tell myself that the only thing I can do is move forward until we move together, but every breath feels like a betrayal, and every step feels like it’s taking me further away from him and from our life together. Focusing on anything that doesn’t directly relate to going back feels impossible. Laughing with friends feels like one big fat lie. But despite all of this, giving up and moving on is absolutely inconceivable.

Sometimes it feels like a marathon race; each day we get through is a mile run with blistering, bleeding feet. My closest friends are my hydration stations, my best books are my gel blocks. When I try to read blogs and relate to an LDR community that tells me it will be okay, all I see are stories of people who knew when the distance would end and I’m reminded exactly how uncertain our future is. I try teasing apart the problems and walking myself through them one by one, but like a bad 80’s hairdo it’s just too much of a mess. Questions about when we’ll be together are tied to questions about my career choices (or lack thereof). The nostalgic ache I feel for his bad jokes and Greek recipes is the same nostalgic ache I feel for the River Thames and long rides on the Tube. You can’t separate the pain when it’s blended together in one long memory.

My typical Zen(ish) approach to problems doesn’t apply here, because “just be”ing doesn’t get me a job or a bank account stacked enough to buy my vacation back to London. There’s no guidebook for navigating endless long distance relationships, and there’s definitely no “Dude, I know exactly what you’re going through right now” when you’re returning from a year-long stint abroad to a city where almost nothing and no one has changed.

Now, while I recognize this subject diverges from my typical “international student life” theme, I can’t help but use this to give future students a fair warning of what falling in love with a European does to your soul when there’s an expiration date on your Visa. And selfishly, I can’t help but write this simply to ask for empathy from the people around me who don’t understand why I keep trailing off at the end of my sentences and/or staring out the window with a blank expression as lost as I am in my thoughts and/or breaking in to sudden and inexplicable sobs whilst junking on New Girl episodes or watching kittens on Facebook. Or at least just explain that last bit a little..

And thus, I close with a semi-appropriate quote written by someone I know absolutely nothing about outside of Wikipedia:

And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
-Khalil Gibran



  1. mexinglish · March 16, 2015

    I can relate to you a lot in my frist year in my LDR, when I met my now fiance, we never thought it was going to become something completely serious, and after 3 months we started our relationship he lost his jon and I didnt have one because I was in the university so that make everything more complicated, no one of us had the money to afford a plane ticket so it was a very stressful situation, for the next months he tried to find a job, but nothing, there were many days where we almost broke up because we didn’t know if we could be together one day, until finally he got a good job and we could afford plane tickets, but of course LDR’s are hard, very hard, stress for not having money, stress for school, for family, friends, bad comments, girls who wants to mess up your relationship, stupid arguments thanks to all the stress that all these things cause, it’s crazy, but of course everyone say everything will be okay, becasue if you two really want to be together you two won’t let than anything of these affect your relationship, a LDR is equal to sacrifices, patience, loads of tears, stress, pain, lonlyness, crazy days, trust issues (sometimes) an many things more. But you two can do it if you really want to.So stay strong and kepp fighting for your relationship that at the end all this crazy things will be worth it 😉

    • An American Grad In London · March 20, 2015

      Thanks for this. It is really difficult, and it’s nice to hear from someone who has been there. Happy to see you and your beau are reunited! I can only hope we get there, too. 🙂

  2. Marie · April 7, 2015

    I’m in an LDR and have been for over a year. My situation is similar, with some advantages. One is that my SO travels sometimes for his work and we’ve been able to see each other more than we would otherwise, about every 3-4 months so far. That is about the duration apart we can stand. Also, we have high potential to live together in less than a year, and, although my resources are limited, I do have some.

    I am thinking, scheming, dreaming of all the ways to earn a living that will allow us to be together, and I am willing to make some serious life adjustments toward that. It is very difficult when you can’t plan for the next visit, so emotionally trying. We have both cried from the ache of longing, and I find it hard to really live my life as I should, but I do try. So I fuly understand what you’re going through.

    Best wishes to you and I hope you can persevere.

    • An American Grad In London · April 8, 2015

      It’s always so comforting to hear from someone who’s been through it (or going through it).

      We cry, too- and laugh, and scream, and everything in between. I think the one thing that LDRs are good for is testing whether your relationship is worth the ups and downs and general instability that the distance creates. So far, he’s been incredibly supportive (and I strive to be, though I think I often fall short) and persistent, and that helps me to be, too. On our good days, I’m sometimes thankful that the distance teaches me patience and reveals just how unique and worth the struggle what we have is, and on the bad days both remembering that and remembering what it felt like to be physically be with him keep me going.

      It’s really great to hear from someone who has been at this a year because when there’s no end in sight it’s hard to know how long one can endure it – kudos to the two of you! And I hope that you do end up living together again within the year, it’s such a relief to have the end in sight.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

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