4 Valuable Lessons I Learnt from my Long Distance Relationship

My fiancee and I celebrate 7 years of being together today and I thought it was the perfect time to write this in celebration of our milestone. In all 7 years that we have been together, we have had to endure 6 being apart in some form of physical distance.

We met through a mutual friend at the University of Auckland in New Zealand during the later stages of our sophomore year and had little if any expectations of what was to come of our relationship after graduation. Little did we know that 7 years down the road, in exactly a month’s time, we would be getting married!

Going through a long distance relationship in my opinion was possibly the best thing to have happened to us and I honestly think that things would have turned out differently if we did not have to endure this phase in our lives. Here are 4 of the most valuable lessons that I learnt from my long distance relationship.

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Communication Trumps Physical Contact

Don’t get me wrong, holding hands, cuddling and all types of physical touch, I missed it dearly and it was ever so important when it came to being in a relationship with someone. But once the craving died down and I could see past the physical aspects of a relationship, I began to realize that it was not as essential as I thought it was.

Not having each other around physically forced us to go full throttle into real intimacy – conversations. Having conversations that we had never even bothered to have in the past stripped us down and helped discover sides that we never knew existed. Dreams, values, plans – it was all laid down in front of us to talk about.

It was an exploratory phase for our thought process and how we engaged each other in worldly or rather unworldly topics. How we strove to support each other in our careers which we were only just paving for ourselves when we first set apart. How we dealt with conflict when all we wanted to do was tear each others eyeballs out where we could not.

Our experience allowed us to discover that our values were intertwined and that we trusted each other and were committed enough to keep going. And we learnt all this through constant communication with each other.

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In this day and age of Skype, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp Calls, you name it, there is no excuse for not being able to communicate. It was not rigid or demanding. Once we established a comfortable schedule for the level of communication that kept us both happy, we committed to it.  A daily Skype call after work when we did not have social commitments or were not working overtime worked for us. And if we had little to chat about, then we would just go about our own to do list while on Skype simultaneously, just not engaging in conversation. The fact that we were both on the other end kept us happy.

If you are in the same boat, establish a conversation schedule and be happy with the communication that transpires between the two of you, just make sure communication happens.

Be Appreciative of every Moment

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Image extracted via Google Images

Living in the moment was inevitable, especially when it came to a long distance relationship. Each time I got to see my now fiancée again, be it on a holiday that we were taking together or when we visited each other, I always knew that there was a flight home awaiting me at the end of it all. For the last 6 years, our time together has been defined.

This only made us more appreciative of the time that we shared. Every meal together was consumed with gratitude, every anniversary or birthday celebrated in the presence of the other was a blessing and even being able to walk hand in hand down a road was a reason to celebrate. Because they were rare, having these moments together were just pure bliss. I began to take notice of the little things that made all the difference, whether it was just a funny gesture or a serious trait.

This was also the best opportunity to test how strong our relationship actually was. A long distance relationship brings out the best and worst in people and it is the ideal way to find out if your relationship is sturdy enough to go through tougher times. Trust that the distance WILL make you and your partner stronger and take it as a positive opportunity to slowly get to know more of each other.

Every moment without my fiancée around was an extra moment that I would be able to spend with my friends and family or just to do ‘me time’ things that I loved doing. I remember jokingly telling myself that I had the best of both worlds because I was single half of the time and blissfully attached the other half of the time. Now that I think about it, I did have the best of both worlds and still do. I had an amazing group of friends and family who brought out the best in me and I was able to work extra hard at my job sans the guilt of not having to spend enough time with my significant other.

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Image extracted via Google Images

I also picked up a lot of new interests that I have continued to do up to this very day like yoga, distance swimming, working on my coordination in step classes, started getting immersed in hiking mountains and the like. I tried to live in the moment. To avoid excessively missing and reminiscing in the past when there was such an amazing present to exist in and I am grateful that I did.

We both lived in different worlds and allowed those worlds to collide whenever we had the chance to see each other again but living in the moment was imperative.

Change is Inevitable – Come to terms with it

When we first started out in a long distance relationship, we were both non-believers who were willing to see where we went and take a chance on love. If it worked out then yay but if it did not then at least we could both say we gave it a shot. But damn it took a lot to work things out at times, especially with change.

There were two types of change for us.

1.       Change in circumstances

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Image extracted via Google Images

The first change happened constantly. Once we graduated from university, I decided to travel back to Malaysia for a while to pursue an internship with Louis Vuitton while my fiancée remained in New Zealand to work full time. Managing Skype calls were a nightmare thanks to the time difference and the fact that whenever he was awake I was asleep.

Shortly after a trip to India to see his extended family, where we had almost no form of communication apart from text messages, he decided to go out on a whim and try and look for a job in his field in Perth. Although this meant no time difference when it came to Skype calls, it was a long depressing month for him where he had to hop skip and jump from one shabby room to another trying to make ends meet. All this while I remained in Malaysia, constantly worried about one too many things about our situation.

Just as he planned to leave Perth, he managed to get a job as an exploration geologist at BHP Biliton. Simultaneously, I became quite stable in my job at Groupon and we managed to come together again in travels and made frequent trips to see each other. We were still physically apart but the circumstances were definitely better. At present, I have moved to Perth and we live together but again circumstances have it that Akash who is in his 5th year at BHP still travels to and from work and despite us living together, we still endure distance in our relationship.

All this happened over the course of 6 years and whether we liked it or not our circumstances were constantly evolving. All we knew was that we wanted to be with each other so we took one thing at a time. We had to accept and trust that things will work out despite the circumstances and that has definitely kept us going.

2.      Personal / Character changes in each other

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Image extracted via Google Images

I think we are all familiar with experiencing change in ourselves and character as we take on different phases in life. I was shy and introverted in school, sociable and sweet in university and became ambitious, demanding and horribly impatient once I started working. I did not know how quickly I was changing in character until it was pointed out to me.

Similarly I witnessed a whole lot of change in my fiancee (Akash) as well. He used to be a goofball at university, always saying the silliest things that made me laugh and he never took life too seriously. After moving to Perth, he changed drastically. He took on the responsibility of so much more that I think in a way it seemed like the energy just got sucked out of him. He called it boring, I call it maturity.

It was during this time that we had to start adapting to the change in ourselves. Lucky for me I was quite happy with the changed person that Akash had become and I was happy that there was someone there to point out when I was adversely changing at some point in my life for me to try and challenge myself to get back on track.

As humans, we evolve and sometimes individual change becomes bigger than you can handle. Like a change in values, in life plans, in religion, those are some of the things that we did not have to personally go through but at that point you have to decide if you want to accept and come to terms with it or walk away.

Have a goal in mind – make plans

I’d love to say a long distance relationship is all about going with the flow. For us, it was, in the beginning. But as soon as my feelings became grounded and our investment in the relationship was undeniable, I began to question where this was all going. Were we eventually going to find a way to come together at the end of it all?

So when I traveled to Perth for the first time where a migration officer greeted me with a taut expression and asked me what my intentions were coming to his country, I honestly did not know what to say.

Pictures from Rottnest Island where Akash eventually proposed in July 2015

We had the best time in Rottnest Island that week and almost like an answer to my prayer, one evening we sat down before the sound of the lapping sea and I asked him about his future plans. Was it to settle down in Perth? Head back to New Zealand? Live out of a backpack? His exact answers are all a hazy buzz in my memory at present but I remember very vividly that everything he mentioned that was a part of his future plans had me in it. It was this clear thought out inclusion of me in his life that made me sit up and resonate my future plans with him.

From that day on wards, I felt like I knew exactly where we were headed and I was determined to achieve that momentary vision that had played out before me that night. To test the waters, I decided to apply for a working holiday visa in Australia. That would give us a year to live together and see if things really worked out the way we wanted it to.

What the heart wants, the will never gives up on. I applied for the same visa three times in a row. The first year around, I was ill prepared with documentation and did not manage to secure the right documents on time. I had to wait a year to reapply. The second time around, I was ill prepared with timing, little did I know that Malaysians were so desperate to get the visa that the queue outside the embassy started in the wee hours of the morning! The third year that I attempted to apply, they changed the entire system to an online appointment booking system. This time I was so prepared that I remember sitting down in one of the cubicles at my then office with ten different chrome pages open in case one timed out while I was filling an application. Sure enough, I got the first number that was issued and a couple of months later, there I was on board the flight to Perth.

Akash had bought a house in Perth in that time, no car but a home was far more than what I could have asked for. A year passed by and soon we were faced with the possibility of starting from scratch with distance yet again. Somehow that goal that we seemed to have was unfazed and this time around with a more complex application system, I applied for a partner visa to remain in Australia with Akash. After a nerve wrecking 1 month, my visa came through, I got a job and again the rest was history.

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Image extracted via Google Images

It is crazy what that one little plan that we had years ago powered us through so much. The mind achieves what the heart desires. Plans do not necessarily have to be long term. In the few years that I failed to get my visa, we made short term plans in the form of holidays or trips that took the edge off our long term goal. That gave us something to look forward to as well. So if you are on your own journey of distance with your significant other, making little plans on when you would see each other and perhaps bigger plans on when to end the distance helps. Paint the picture and your mind will take you there.

At the Heart of the Challenge

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Image extracted via Google Images

Truth to be told, amidst the days and months of missing and longing I hated the distance as much as I was grateful for it. My insecurities and weaknesses surfaced even quicker in our long distance relationship than I was ready to face and without the reassurance and patience of my fiancee I probably would not have pulled through.

While it will seem like all hell breaks lose all at once when the voyage begins, it only gets better from there on. And if it all works out at the end of the day you will be so much more grateful for the experience. And yes. Having a partner who is as committed as you in the relationship is essential. Otherwise you’d be sailing your own boat with no one to meet you in the middle of the ocean.

Dedicating this post to my amazing fiancee – Akash Jani. Thank you for always inspiring me to be the best person that I can be.I love you.

 

 

 

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