When I met my current boyfriend, I had a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires and no intention of entering into a relationship, let alone a long-distance relationship. I had plans of travelling for a year by myself and working my way around South America. Three things happened: I realised that I didn’t have enough money saved, I had a major mental health relapse, and I fell deeply in love.
I’m notoriously bad at long-distance relationships. I’d tried them twice before my current boyfriend, and they always ended the same way. I got caught up in the excitement of travelling alone and decided to make a major life change: dumping my boyfriend. I always relished the instant freedom that came from being single, and have a habit of booking plane tickets immediately after a breakup.
But this was different.
Should you pursue a long-distance relationship?
Long-distance relationships are hard; plain and simple. They’re a big commitment and mean that your emotional energy will always be pulled away from the present time and place. There’s a reason that so many long-distance relationships fail: they put a lot of pressure on both parties. They test commitment in every possible way, and your partner can sometimes feel like an abstract concept on the other side of a phone or computer.
I knew that my boyfriend was worth the commitment and sacrifice because he encompasses the two different kinds of men that I am attracted to. I usually date men who are emotionally intelligent and highly committed, but often lack real ambition or the desire to travel like I do. I am also attracted to men who are travellers by nature, highly intelligent, and terrified of commitment. I was never able to reconcile these two kinds of men until meeting my boyfriend. He is in touch with his emotions, understanding of mental illness, highly committed, and wants the same free travelling lifestyle that I desire. He is the ideal partner, and the only one who has survived the pressures of distance and travelling during our relationship.
I don’t think it’s wise to pursue a long-distance relationship with someone who you are unsure about. The pressures of distance and the distractions of travelling will inevitably lead to the failure of that relationship. You need to know that your partner shares your values and your vision for the future if it is going to work.
The difficulties of a long-distance relationship while travelling.
Long-distance relationships are challenging enough as it is, but become extra difficult when travelling. The vastly different time zones, the days full of exciting new activities, and the nights with pressure to socialise with fellow travellers all add up to a busy schedule. You need to be able to strike a balance between enjoying your time travelling and making time for your partner if your relationship is going to succeed.
As well as issues with time management, long-distance relationships are challenging because of the physical distance. My boyfriend and I had many fights because of simple disagreements that wouldn’t have happened if we could have seen body language or heard tone of voice. We were also unable to soothe each other with physical contact if he was having an anxiety attack, or if I was having a BPD meltdown. The distance forces you to soothe with your voice alone and to learn how to talk your way through conflict.
Jealousy and insecurity are also huge issues. I know that my boyfriend and I both struggled sometimes when the other was in a social situation where someone else was flirting with them. We are open and honest with each other about everything, so we always share those kinds of stories with each other, but jealousy can rear its ugly head. Trust is a really big factor if your long-distance relationship is going to succeed.
You need to schedule regular times for contact.
My boyfriend and I struggled a lot over weekends. He has two jobs and works double shifts every weekend, often until midnight. There is a 15.5 hour time difference between Adelaide and Colombia, and so when he was free between shifts, I was often asleep. Every single weekend, we would argue and feel insecure that the other person didn’t value the relationship enough. However, it was just the difficulty of the time difference that was getting in the way.
You should agree with your partner on a regular schedule for phone calls and video calls. I had a voice call with my boyfriend every day, and video calls were subject to the WiFi of the location I was in. Sometimes it was incredibly frustrating to push through the patchy internet of dodgy hostels, but we made a commitment to maintain regular contact. It is important to establish a routine that works for the both of you so that you both feel valued and supported in the long-distance relationship.
You need to learn how to respect each other’s space.
The true beauty of travelling alone is that you develop confidence in your ability to navigate difficult situations by yourself. This independence is a gift, and one of the reasons that I choose to travel alone, even if I have a partner at the time. It is easy to get caught up in worrying about your long-distance relationship at the expense of your travelling experience, but it’s so important to have balance. Although you should have scheduled time for contact with your partner, you also need to focus on yourself and your own experience while you are away from them.
All healthy relationships have balance and time away from each other within them. There is no difference in a long-distance relationship. In the past, I have become obsessive about staying in contact with my partner, at the expense of truly absorbing the place and experiences of the country that I am travelling in. It comes from a place of insecurity, and in the long run it both hurts the relationship and takes away from my personal growth. It is so important to let go of the stress that a long-distance relationship brings and trust your partner to still care for you even if they aren’t speaking to you constantly.
Your relationship will be so much stronger.
Healthy relationships have two strong and independent individuals who choose to come together and spend their lives together. They are built on mutual respect, trust, values, and life goals. If your relationship can survive the pressures of distance and travel, then you will be so much stronger for it.
I am currently in the best and most fulfilling relationship of my life, because I have finally learned how to comfortably have time away from my partner without stressing the entire time. I struggled with co-dependency in past relationships, and feel like this is the only one where I haven’t felt trapped and panicky. Spending a few months of this relationship long-distance definitely helped to strengthen our bond, because we learned how to survive without each other.
Long-distance relationships are challenging and stressful at times, but can definitely be worth it with the right partner. If you learn to both make time for your partner, and respect their time away from you, your relationship can flourish and grow. After all, if you can’t survive some time apart while travelling, then your relationship probably wasn’t right to begin with.
Have you ever travelled without your partner for a few months or even longer? What strategies did you use to keep your relationship strong and healthy?