Romantic relationships are difficult. No matter the similarities, differences, arguments, trust, prior friendship status, outside influences, or anything else, it is a universally accepted fact that romantic relationships are difficult. They are trying. They test your patience, discernment, faith, and tolerance.
Dictionary.com's first definition of “difficult" is "not easily or readily done." So, when I say "difficult," I really mean it just takes effort. Being in a long-distance relationship, I have learned a few things about relationships in general, perhaps more so because of the added strain of distance.
But the most important thing I've learned is that — despite the distance — I am in the happiest and healthiest relationship I've ever been in, and I have never been so ready to tackle life with anyone else. But before I get more sentimental, here is a list of things my boyfriend has taught me:
1. Communication is key.
Being long-distance, my boyfriend and I spend much of our relationship talking on the phone since we can't see each other during the week. We call every night and talk. Of course, we text when we can throughout the day as well, but our phone calls are sacred. It's like our "date" for the day.
Something I've learned is that when you truly care about someone, you want to share everything that's happening with them — you want them to know because you want to experience life with them. But another piece of communication is telling them when something is bothering you. Whether it be something in the relationship, something in life in general, or anything else. But especially in the relationship, voice your opinions.
If you're not happy with how something is going, feel like you can resolve an issue a better way, feel like you aren't getting everything you need, or a plethora of other options, let your partner know. An untold issue can't be fixed. And then once you tell them, talk it out with them. But talk, don't argue. And remember open and effective communication includes listening too, not just thinking about what you're going to bring up next.
2. Patience is crucial to being able to communicate well.
Another important piece of communication my boyfriend and I have struggled with over the phone is misunderstanding. It is a lot easier to have a conversation, especially a deep and heavy one, with someone in person because you can read their body language and see their facial reactions. Because we often don't have that luxury, to help with this, we communicate without talking over each other, putting down the other person, or being close-minded to what they have to say.
In my relationship, we say how we feel, finish what we're saying, the other person responds with their view on it, and then we discuss it all. We have to have patience with each other because we might misunderstand the entire conversation at first. We give each other time to explain our point of view, then we find a solution or compromise. Patience can be difficult when you feel like you're not being heard. But, be patient with patience... it'll come.
3. Trust is even more important when you can't see what they're doing.
Jealousy is probably one of the most common factors of breakups. In some form or fashion, you can get jealous, which leads to or stems from distrust. Distrust ruins relationships. Because of the distance, because of not being able to SEE what my boyfriend is doing, I must have a strong relationship grounded in trust. And truly trust — not just saying I do then stalking him on Instagram or following his geo-tag.
Know your partner and trust them. If you can't trust them, figure out why, and talk through it with them. If you are able to genuinely trust your partner, jealousy isn't even on the table, which makes your relationship exponentially more healthy.
4. Physical attraction is heightened when you're emotionally and spiritually connected.
I am first and foremost attracted to my boyfriend's character and the person he is. And as the saying goes, the more you know someone, the more or less attractive they get. I once heard a relationship being compared to a rubber band. Say there is a rubber band on the wall hanging on a pushpin. If you pull that rubber-band up in one direction (emotional attraction) and pull it up in another direction (spiritual attraction), the bottom piece still hung around the pushpin will have so much tension, it will eventually pop up the more you stretch the top two corners.
So, if you are attracted to your partner emotionally and spiritually, the physical attraction is bound to catch up the more attracted you are in those other areas. While this is totally normal and human, you do need to be wary of this and keep your relationship in balance. My boyfriend and I both agree that all three elements of attraction should be kept in balance, though you can't necessarily have too much emotional or spiritual attraction, while too much physical attraction can turn love into lust. And we all know how that can ruin a healthy relationship...
5. Spend time doing outdoor activities together.
Don't stay at home the whole time. It's difficult, especially when you don't see your partner throughout the week, to not want to just stay in and snuggle all day. But, that's not healthy. Not to say you shouldn't have time that you just spend home relaxing together, but it shouldn't happen all the time. Plus, the more you do things outside together, the more you can learn how that person interacts with others and responds to different situations.
With my relationship, I've learned how fun and adventurous my boyfriend is, but also how polite and kind he is to complete strangers. Learning those things about him has made me grow to appreciate him more, and I wouldn't have learned those things if we just stayed in. Doing fun things together helps you learn more about your partner.
6. Stay off your phone while you're together.
This one is big for my boyfriend. I have always appreciated that when I am with him, he gives me his undivided attention. The only time he is on his phone is if his parents call him or we want to look something up. It makes me feel appreciated and special that he can go without his phone for a few hours. If you want to snap a pic, go for it. Look up the show times for a movie? Do it.
But don't sit there scrolling through social media or playing a game when you are with your partner. My boyfriend always says he wants to “make the most of the time we have together." Show your appreciation and respect by simply putting down the phone.
7. Make time to be with your families.
Spend time with your families, both with and without your partner. This comes with a balance of life. I shouldn't spend my entire weekend with my boyfriend, neglecting to spend time with my family. But that's not to say that my boyfriend should be gone every time I'm with my family either. My family has gotten to know and love my boyfriend the same way I do because of the time he spends with them. And the same goes for me spending time with his.
Don't forget that your family came first. And I'm sure they want to spend quality time alone with you, too. But, if your partner doesn't hang with your family at all, they won't get to know the person that you love. It's all about that balance.
8. Spend time with your friends.
The same goes for this as it does family. Life is all about balance. Being long-distance, this is somewhat easier, because we have the whole week to spend time with friends since we only have the weekends together. But even so, it's important to find that happy medium of where and whom you spend your time with. And when I go home or my boyfriend visits me, we can spend time with our friends together, allowing our friends to get to know them just like our families did.
But don't neglect your friends. Becoming “that couple" who no longer have friends because they spend all their time together isn't cool, or healthy. Have guy time and girl time. It's OK to not be with each other every second. In fact, it's not healthy to be.
All in all, my boyfriend has taught me how a relationship is supposed to be. He's taught me how you should be loved and treated. And girls, there's nothing like it. Take some advice from a girl who feels like a loved and appreciated princess even through miles of distance. And hey handsome, thanks for teaching me what love is.
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