The Realities of Long Distance Relationships

If you told me this time last year, that in exactly a years time I’d have a boyfriend who lives in Australia, I would have laughed so hard in your face. In fact, if you told me, simply, that I had a boyfriend, I’d probably have laughed at that too. I didn’t set out to get a boyfriend. My dating app activity (albeit always more for fun, hookups and general attention #validateme) had dwindled to practically nothing – apart from swiping through London’s most “eligible” accounts for really funny, and often really exhausting cliches to share (anonymously) on my Instagram stories.

But that’s the way relationships always happen, isn’t it? “I wasn’t even LOOKING for a relationship and THEN IT JUST HAPPENED!!” screamed many a woman, whilst gesticulating with her phone, the lock screen lit up with a photo of her and her new lover. Side note: I am that woman. He is my screensaver.

Anyway, I certainly wasn’t expecting to meet my boyfriend the night I walked into Bungalow in Santa Monica in April last year. He was probably one of the first people I noticed in the room, but dismissed him instantly because, quite frankly, he looked like a fuckboy. But after we got talking, well, yeah. Chemistry is chemistry I guess. He was from New Zealand, lives in Australia, and was over in the US for Coachella. Pro: not one ounce American douchey bro guy like I had initially suspected. Con: did I just mention he lives in Australia? Trust me to pick out the man in the room who lived the furthest away you can possibly get from London for me to have cHeMiStRy with.

After after that night we messaged throughout the week, and met up for the briefest 10 minutes in the car park by Venice Beach before I had to fly home (we just so happened to be in the same place, same time, again) which confirmed that no, I did not have beer goggles on the night we met and that yes, he was actually as nice as my drunk self thought he was. Some people may call this fate – I call it a very very pleasant coincidence. And then we said goodbye. Did I honestly think I’d see him again? In reality no. But I hoped so. And deep down something was telling me something *could* happen. So I messaged him pretty upfront straight away saying something lame about how I’m sad we didn’t get to spend more time together because I really sensed there was a ~vibe~ – very anti-cool girl, I know. 

We didn’t stop talking when we both got back to our homes, and ignoring any real sense of stranger danger (sorry mum and dad) and doing something that could have totally backfired, I told him to meet me in Bali at the tail-end of my girls holiday. So he did. 6 weeks after we first met, he flew out and met me in Bali. It was intense. It was a risk. What if I didn’t fancy him? What if he didn’t fancy me? What if all the sex we’d talked about was actually going to be shit and I had to spend a week with a guy who’s shit in bed that I don’t fancy??? You can talk to someone for hours and hours on FaceTime like we did, but you still don’t really know what they’re like in real life. I have seen many episodes of Catfish!!!!

But here we are now, 10 months down the line…

How it works for us.

We’re incredibly #blessed that we have jobs and lifestyles that support our relationship. Jimmy works 3 weeks on, then 3 weeks off over in Australia (no, he is sadly not a pilot, which is what a lot of my followers thought! That would be v sexy if he was…) And with me being self-employed, I can be flexible with how and when I work. We’re also both luckily in a financial situation where we can afford to fly every few weeks or meet part way – although truth be told, it’s costing me a total fortune and I haven’t put money in savings in months. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that love is free because they are a liar (or VERY good at freeloading – if this is you then tell me your secrets please.) We either travel the whole 24hr+ journey to one of our countries, or meet up part way – Europe/Bali/Sri Lanka. My bank account may be taking a hit, but, I’m getting to travel the world with the person that I love – we’re making amazing memories which I hear are priceless (remind me of this when I’m struggling to get onto the property ladder…)

And another dose of brutal honesty, no matter how strong our connection and ChEmIsTrY has been, I’m not entirely sure the relationship would have been able to develop had it not been for this flexibility. The average person gets 28 days paid holiday in the UK and Australia (I think) and if you’re flying as far as we have to to meet up (usually 12-24 hours travel depending on the location, losing around 1-2 days because of the time difference) it would take up a lot of time and holiday. Trips would be much shorter and way way less frequent. I don’t think I could cope with that as it just wouldn’t give me the kind of relationship that I want! So for anyone who’s thinking of making a holiday fling a full-time thing, I have to get you to be really honest with yourself – is it something you can really develop? Can it give you what you really want from a relationship? If you think so then by all means, go for it sis!

What did my friends and family think?

Everyone thought I was stupid. E v e r y o n e. Apart from Lauren Crowe who helped set us up that night in the bar. But even my closest friends were like “yeah but, what’s the point? Where is it even going?” and they had a point – where WAS it going? I had to approach it expecting absolutely nothing other than a little bit of fun. Until you’re both willing to make a firm commitment to a future together in some way – and this often means one person agreeing to move at some point – then you have to just treat it as a bit of fun. After my friends saw how happy I was and met him for themselves, they couldn’t be happier for me.

Friends and family just don’t want to see you get hurt, that’s worth remembering.

Saying goodbye and spending time apart.

It happens like a scene from a movie:

We go to the Heathrow airport, making small talk on the tube, laughing, joking about the funny things that have happened. But a cloud of sadness hangs over us. He walks to the check-in queue – maybe he has lost his passport? Or maybe his flight is cancelled and there are no more flights to anywhere in Australia ever ever again so he will just have to stay here, forever?- I hope to myself in silence. Shit. He gets his passport out – better try harder at hiding it next time. Dropping it in the bin was WAY too obvious… “travelling alone Mr Hickford?” the check-in assistant says, whilst eyeing me up. Like, would you like to rub it in my face that he’s leaving anymore? Hiss! Oh, there goes his suitcase. He could surely get that back if he changes his mind about leaving in the next 3.73 seconds. Should I just live my most spontaneous life and book a ticket back with him? Lol no terrible idea. I didn’t bring any makeup or underwear with me. Obviously. Shit. We are walking towards security. I guess this is goodbye. I may be far smaller than him, but I am still far too large to fit into his carry-on luggage. *emotional music starts to play in my head* (must add this song to my “Alone Again” playlist on spotify). We kiss. I hold his hand until he physically has to let go because he’s going to miss his plane. And I stand there waving, constantly, like a toy who’s off switch is broken, whilst he leaves. I get on the tube. I go home to my empty flat. 

Alexa, play my Alone Again playlist

Jokes and fabrications aside, saying goodbye is the hardest thing. After spending an intense amount of time together, you just get so used to their constant presence. I’m someone who loves their space and rarely feels lonely when alone, but when we leave each other things feel super empty and deflated. And the few days leading up to the end of a visit is usually haunted by this feeling that it’s all coming to an end. That has got easier, I’ll admit – and when we have solid plans, with dates and flights booked for our next meeting, it always gives us something to get excited for. And if you make a whole bunch of fun plans for when you are apart, it gives you other things to look forward to to make things a little less depressing.

But that feeling of meeting him at the airport or hotel again is honestly so incredible it makes it worth it. You literally feel high when you’re with them again. It’s all swings and roundabouts I guess.

Communication & Conflict

Communication in an LDR is the hardest thing to navigate – especially if that person is 11 timezones ahead! FaceTime is the best thing. It’s the closest you’re going to get to the real deal and can help make you feel much closer than just a normal phone conversation. You do have to put in a lot more effort than your average relationship, texting and calling as much as possible to try take the place of the relationship that forms when you’re physically with someone. Plus you have to make commitments and schedule your conversations like you would when going on a date night if they lived in the same country. I will often call Jimmy at 4:30am his time so he can spend time on the phone to me before going to the gym before work. You make those commitments if you care about someone and it’s the only time you have.

I get asked so much about how to keep conversation going, and to be honest, it’s the same as any relationship – you just can’t force it. If it’s not meant to be, it will just fizzle out. But we always find something to talk about.

One thing I would say is that because so much of our communication is essentially virtual/digital, there have been niggly little fall-outs – well, not even fall outs, but weird patches or strange emotions we’ve felt that simply wouldn’t have happened if we had been together physically.

There have been times where he has had no signal at work and we have hardly been able to talk – and that can breed an element of insecurity i.e. me frantically messaging him “DO YOU STILL LOVE ME?” Or him going out and not opening my message for fourteen hours because he lost his phone, whilst I sit and stress wondering if he’s died. If I lived over there with him I probably wouldn’t have been half as concerned! But you just ride the wave when you have to – and it luckily does not happen often.

We don’t argue much when we are apart – but when we do, I have actually found the physical distance a total natural way to create some emotional distance from the situation, which makes it easier to gain a bit of perspective.

Missing sex and physical affection

I admit, my love for sex toys seems to be directly correlated to my LDR developing. If you are not comfortable with pleasuring yourself in the absence of your guy/girl then get into it! Masturbation is great for your mental health and wellbeing anyway – it’s a huge stress reliever. I legitimately think it be as much a part of your wellness routine as going to the gym, your skincare regimen, or, well, even showering. And sex toys – my top recommendations for mind-blowing orgasms is the Lelo Sona Cruise (the original is my fave), the Nu Sensuelle bullet, and the Ann Summers’ Moregasm plus G-spot Vibrator.

Sure, none of this is quite the same as real life dick, as a lot of the time you do just want to be touched by that person (and touch them!) butttttt… this stuff is a pretty decent replacement. And I have to say, weirdly, since being in an LDR, my relationship with sex and my own pleasure has grown and evolved. Yeah, we do sext. These conversations have helped to verbalise my sexual wants and needs better than in any other relationship I’ve been in – and also has made me better at telling him what I want in the bedroom in real life. Communication is king.

As for general physical affection, it really comes and goes in waves. There’s nothing worse than having a shit day and going to bed upset when all you want is a cuddle and a kiss and someone to play with your hair and tell you everything’s all okay. And then you wake up alone and sad again and it’s like FFS WILL THIS TORMENT EVER END! Wow, now I’m making myself sad again… But I chose this. I knew what I was getting myself into. It would be much harder had we met in the same town, then moved apart, but as this is all we have ever known it simply set the standard this way.

Anyway, the emotional torment does end, and like anything, you just get used to it. You have good days, you have bad days. It’s just life. And I personally feel it makes you value their affection so much more when you next see them again.

Trust.

Another thing I get asked a lot about is trust. “How can you be sure he’s being faithful? You’re less likely to find out if he’s cheating so are you more paranoid about it happening?” – honestly, it never worries me. Trust is different in every relationship. I’ve been in LDR’s with less distance between us before and had zero trust in that person – because it depends on the person. It depends on the relationship.

Ok sceptics, he COULD be lying when he says he is out with his friends. He could be Snapchatting other girls dick pics when I’m asleep 12000 miles away. He could have cheated on me with someone at his work or back in Melbourne. But I’m unlikely to find out about it… so there’s no point in stressing about it. If someone is going to cheat, they’re going to cheat – where they are doesn’t really matter too much.

In fact, the only thing that makes me distrust him is people asking me “how can you trust him if you don’t know what he’s doing?!?! He could easily cheat and you’d never know!!!” And THAT makes me overthink things. But that’s other people pushing their own relationship insecurities onto me. I’ve never had to question his feelings and faithfulness to me so I never really worry about it. Sure, I can imagine he’s had a good flirt with girls on a night out at points, but that’s human nature. People like to feel desired and wanted, and I understand that. So long as I’m not being mugged off then it’s all good in my eye. I believe the right person will make you feel secure – distance is irrelevant.

How can it work long term if it’s long distance?

What’s the end goal? I hear you cry. Or, more brutally, like my friends asked me during the early days of the relationship: “what actually is the point though?” – I’m pretty good at keeping a sensible head on my shoulders when it comes to falling for people who are unavailable (emotionally, or, in this case, physically I guess) and from meeting him, I have always been adamant I wouldn’t ever move to Australia. It’s too far away from my family, my audience there is so small compared to my UK audience that I’d be taking a serious career hit by moving there (Australia seasons are opposite to the UK, not to mention time difference, so a lot of my UK audience just won’t be able to relate to me anymore and #unfollow) – I just had zero desire to move there. I love London. It’s my home.

On the flipside, Jimmy has always been more open to the idea of moving to London. It’s (hopefully) on the agenda, at some point, but not set in stone with any dates. We have travel plans for the next few months, so we’re taking it as it comes! If it never happens, then it never happens. It’s as simple as that – obviously it will be sad, but it’s just life, you know?

But if he hadn’t told me in the early days that he wouldn’t mind moving here, I don’t think it would have developed the way it did. I’d just have cut things off or kept it as a hookup situation instead… I didn’t want to get in deep with someone I have zero future with. Personally, I cba with heartache and stress that comes from a relationship with no future. So in my incredibly brutal opinion, I just don’t think an LDR is worth pursuing if nobody would be willing to relocate in the future.

So, the real Low Down on Long Distance…

LDRs are not simple, but I wouldn’t say they are really difficult either. I believe that any relationship that’s right for you should be relatively care-free most of the time (distance or not) But honestly, from my experience so far, it can be incredible. The fact that you are making a relationship work despite the distance (whatever that might be) already shows that there is something special worth going the actual distance for. I see it as a testimony to the connection between two people. It definitely makes you value someone a lot more. It’s forced me into letting myself be more vulnerable and communicate things without fear of pushing someone away (bc they are already v v v far away…) – but then again, this isn’t even really distance that enables this traits in a relationship, this is what any GREAT relationship should do for you. So I’m not sure what the future holds – but I’m excited to see where this journey takes us.

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3 Comments

  1. Hey sophie!
    My name is Joy and i’ve been following you for a while now even before you started your LDR.
    I just wanted to say that i really love what you wrote and how you tell us about your personal experience with LDR.
    I am currently in a LDR at the moment and my boyfriend happens to be working in the UK and is also a petroleum engineer.
    I love how when i can relate to most of what you say in your stories about you guys’ relationship and especially how you resumed LDR so well in this blog.
    Thank you!
    Love,
    Joy

  2. LOVED this post Sophie! I couldn’t agree more on so many points… I’ve been with my now husband for nearly 9 years, we got married around 2 years ago and we’re going back to long distance because of work and I’ll be living in another city to him. I’ll miss him like mad, but I feel so lucky to be with someone who lets me pursue my goals while he achieves his career too. With good communication and trust and a desire to really want to make it work anything is possible – as you both prove!

  3. My boyfriend and I were a LDR for the first 4 years (although only a 3 hour drive, not the other side of the world!), and have lived together for the past 3 years, how moving to my home is the best thing that’s happened to us, I could never go back to a LDR! The saying goodbye used to kill me!

    Kathleen / http://www.madeinthe1990s.com