I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with my girlfriend, Shira, since December of 2018. We live 1,500 miles and a time zone apart. Finances and schedules dictate that we can only see each other about once a month. While not every moment of the last 14 months has been blissful, our relationship does consistently grow stronger and deeper over time. She is the love of my life. I didn’t understand what happiness was until I met her. Now, I can resonate with the declarations of love that are depicted in movies, books, and songs. I am lucky to have found “the one.”
Shira just posted a video discussing long-distance relationships, and you can find it here. Her vlog prompted me to consider our relationship and provide some insights into why it is thriving. So, let me take you through a little bit about who we are, why communication is our relationship’s basis, and a few techniques we use to stay close when we physically are miles apart.
How We Met – The Social Media and Telecommunications Phase
I think you must know that Shira and I were friends first. We connected on Twitter over our mutual appreciation for SwanQueen (a ship from the show Once Upon a Time). I was writing fanfiction, and she liked it. We started by lightly interacting with each other’s tweets for months until one day, in January 2018, she privately reached out for some advice.
From then on, we could not stop talking. We messaged via Twitter’s direct-messaging system for months. I used to joke that we didn’t have enough XP to exchange phone numbers :P. We would discuss everything and anything, and she already knew my life story before we got to the summer. After finally exchanging numbers, we quickly graduated to phone calls that would last all day (I kid you not, four hours was an average length), before I finally had the balls to FaceTime. This was a massive step forward because I generally hate how I look, and using FaceTime feels awkward.
Did I think this was anything more than a friendship? Not at all. I thought I was a straight woman who had made a close friend. Nothing more. Looking back, I was insane not realizing what was developing. It was clear to many that this was something more. Yet, I lived in the shroud of ignorance for a long time…
Physically Meeting – Excuses to Meet and Flights, Flights, Flights to Houston
I’d never met anyone from the internet before, so I was rather trepidatious about the idea. There was a Once Upon a Time convention in New Jersey in October 2018 that I knew Shira was going to, and I thought this would be an ideal setting to meet. My roommate and I planned our trip there in February/March, and that was when I’d finally meet Shira. Great. However, as we grew closer, that date became too far in the distance to be tolerable.
So, I devised a new plan to meet sooner in reasonably neutral territory. My roommate has a sister that lives in Manhattan – perfect, as Shira lived in Queens at the time. We decided to take a trip to the city, and I could meet Shira then. This would be in mid-July. However, as the date approached, Shira couldn’t wait even that long and was able to come and visit me in Houston in late June. I had about a week’s notice!
I was so nervous, I suppose, that I couldn’t look her in the eye for the first two days. I know, that sounds ridiculous if we were *just* friends. I rationalized it to myself as being worried that she would not like me as much when she met me in person. At the time, the only close friend I had was my roommate. I didn’t want to jeopardize my only other close friendship by meeting! Daft, I know. That was my thinking, though. 🙂
Let’s just say things went well, as did the New York trip soon after in July. They were followed up by more visits in August and September, before we saw each other at the aforementioned convention in October. Things went a little crazy for me mentally at that point when I realized I had feelings for her. I didn’t know who I was, but that’s a story for another post. Needless to say, things course-corrected, and Shira visited again in November, and then she came for her first ever Christmas (she’s Jewish).
We were alone for 10 days. That’s when our romantic relationship started officially.
Communication is the Core of Us
If it weren’t for Shira’s communication skills, our timeline would have been quite different. She told me shortly before the convention that she was in love with me. I let her down, gently, I think, due to my belief of my sexuality, but the concept of a romantic relationship persisted in germinating in my mind. I was still a firm no on pursuing anything further, until I finally let a margarita lower my inhibitions and tell my brain to stop overthinking things. One night, at the convention, I wanted to kiss the woman before me, whom I knew loved me. By the time Christmas came, I was ready to explore something more.
Communication by both of us got us to that point. Without being open and honest about our feelings, it’s hard to predict what may have happened. If Shira had never told me how she felt, would my mind have ever evolved? If I hadn’t been able to talk to her like a friend while she processed her feelings, would we have gotten to that point? Of course, it is hard to predict such outcomes; I can only tell you that it was pivotal in Shira and I becoming an us when we did.
Difficult conversations are needed in all relationships. You can’t be passive about everything, which is my default setting. It’s so important to talk. In relationships around us, both Shira and I have seen small irritations grow into full-blown wars.
As a result, we never let things fester. If something frustrates us, it is dealt with at the moment, or very shortly after that. We discuss the issue, see the problem area, and together devise a plan to fix it. I am aware this sounds oversimplified, but it is precisely what we do.
We’ve never gone to bed angry at each other.
Remember that communication only works if the other listens, absorbs, processes, and responds to the other’s concerns. If Shira didn’t do anything when I brought up an issue, then I’d stop bringing up concerns. You can see how quickly that would dissolve the relationship.
Shira and I had a solid foundation on which to base our long-distance relationship. There was a friendship first, so we knew each other intimately before we were lovers. We got close through conversation and enjoyment of each other’s company through telecommunications alone.
We’ve taken that base and developed it into something magical.
How We Deal with Distance
While Shira and I use many techniques that come naturally to all stable relationships, such as honesty, trust, support, and understanding, we do a few things that keep our relationship flourishing long-distance. Here are just a few tips that I’ve noticed have helped us.
- Make Plans to See Each Other Before Parting
A key thing we’ve always maintained in our relationship is booking the next visit before the last is over. That is, we never part not knowing when we will see each other next. I couldn’t imagine the emotional burden of not being able to count the days until I could hold her again. Planning our visits gets us through challenging moments when we miss each other. “Just 11 days,” we can reply to soothe that longing.
- When Together, We Travel When We Can
Life is about experiences and moments, and traveling is an excellent way to achieve this. It can be expensive, but we’ve managed to make it work on a shoestring. When we travel, we both share the same level of comfort, and neither has to make recommendations based on experiences (the pressure!). Importantly, we both get to experience something for the first time simultaneously. That can only build a bond between us.
Finances are a constraint for us (she’s a student, and I work at a University), so we mix in some overnight trips when we can. One of the first excursions we took was a night’s stay in San Antonio. Recently, we went to Toronto for a night, before staying at Niagara Falls to conclude a truly beautiful and memorable adventure.
The summer of 2019 was our first vacation together, and it generated many wonderful memories for us. We went on a road trip that took us through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, before heading back to Texas. We went camping, hiking in 110-degree heat, we cliff dived, and did a few other things that I think are too personal to write here. We talk about it frequently, bringing up events that make us laugh. I will write a nice long post on this trip soon and link it. Until then, I’ll conclude that it was the trip of a lifetime.
This summer we are taking another trip. The first stop is Greece, so Shira can meet my family, and then we will go to Israel, before concluding in Rome to catch a flight home. Israel is not a place I’d have considered visiting until I was part of this relationship. I cannot express how excited I am for this trip. We will both get to show and share elements of our lives that we haven’t been able to previously while confined to the United States.
We both like to travel and enjoy the world around us, and I see many trips in our future.
- Live Your Own Life
I want to do everything with Shira. Whether it’s binge-watching a TV show or trying a new restaurant, I always want her with me. But that’s the burden of long-distance – you can’t always be with each other. That doesn’t make me stop doing things until she next visits, though. That could not possibly work. The alternative would be me sitting waiting for us to be together to do anything. Life is too short for that, and I can’t only do things with my girlfriend (even if I might want to),
Shira has a busy life between college, work, the gym, and her various other obligations. When she can fit it in, she’s very social, doing things I wish I could take part in. For example, she’s going to see the Lumineers next week. Do I want to be going with her? Damn right, I do (we LOVE that band), but we can’t go together and I would never want her not to go because of that. Don’t miss out on things because your partner can’t join you.
I went to see Celine Dion a couple of weekends ago, and Shira would have loved to have been there with me. Granted, her appreciation for Ms. Dion isn’t as elevated as mine, but she still wanted to be there for me. Funnily enough, I fangirled properly for the first time at the concert, and Shira would have loved to have seen that first hand. As it is, she got the point from my messages and our chat the next day.
We have found a way to be individuals and a couple simultaneously. We’re happy when the other gets to experience something great. Jealousy does not exist between us.
- Make Time for Each Other
While living our own lives, we must balance that with including each other too! Shira and I look at our schedules for the week and see what times work best for FaceTiming. We plan! Sometimes we FaceTime while I am writing and while she is working on an assignment. We’re not even talking, but we are with each other.
We also arrange “date nights.” This is when we plan to watch a movie at the same time while on the phone. Or text through it, then call each other afterward. We are experiencing it together in a sense. We’ve eaten meals at the same time, too.
Yesterday, we FaceTimed so we could open our Valentine’s Day cards together so that we could share that. These are small things, but they build, connect, and grow our relationship.
- We Have an Endgame
I am all for the surprises in life. You never know where things may take you. Look at my relationship with Shira! However, I do like that Shira and I are on the same page about our long term relationship goals.
When I can (waiting on my Green Card), I want to move to be with her in Buffalo until she finishes her degree. Having that goal in our sights has helped get through the inability to be together now.
Shira and I were long-distance friends before we entered into a long-distance romantic relationship. We see each other as often as we can and experience life together as much as we can. We have a plan for the future, and that gets us through the hard times that we face when 1500 miles may as well be 1500 light-years.