Long distance is not a competition

Written on March 6th, 2017

My boyfriend and I are going to celebrate our four year anniversary this May. We’ve spent about one and a half of these years in the same place, and the rest has been varying degrees of long distance. We do pretty well with it, but of course there are times where we just feel sad – I’d be worried if there weren’t!

Last fall he visited for a weekend, and after he left I tweeted something about how empty my heart feels when he leaves and how those who live in the same city as their loved ones shouldn’t take it for granted. Sure, it was a form of complaining – but I thought it was pretty harmless.

Someone I went to high school with but was never close to was quick to tweet back “I would definitely settle for the same state 😓”.

I was a little taken aback. For one thing, my boyfriend transferred schools in January and is now over twice as far away from me as he was then – and get this – in a different state. Back in October when I tweeted that, I was hyper-aware that I had less than three months before he moved. This girl knew nothing about our situation or the fact that he was indeed about to go further away.

Moreover, I found the comparison ridiculous. Long distance is hard regardless of how many miles are in-between you and your significant other, and the magnitude of that distance doesn’t automatically determine how often you’ll see each other. One of my roommates is dating a wonderful guy who lives in England, and over the past semester she saw him almost as much as I saw my boyfriend. I’ve found over the years through painful battles with insecurity that comparisons rarely breed anything positive unless you’re looking at your own individual progress.

I replied to the tweet with exactly what I was thinking: “everyone’s struggle/sadness is valid.” She never responded.

I quickly moved on from the entire thing and went on with my life. I respected that this girl also has a right to say what she wants on her personal social media, and I realized that it would be hypocritical to act as though she shouldn’t post certain things.

But it’s not hypocritical to encourage the world to compare less and empathize more.

I’ve seen many posts and heard many comments lately about long distance relationships and the people in them. Around Valentine’s Day people were “waiting for everyone in LDR’s to brag”. I constantly see individuals whose relationship stretches across a country belittling those who are “only” a few hours apart. It seems like we’re not allowed to share how we feel without someone questioning whether or not we “should” feel that way.

I’m sick of it.

Long distance is not a competition. No relationship is a competition. It doesn’t matter if you’re 60 miles or 600 miles apart – you’re still allowed to miss your person and you’re still justified in feeling sad. I firmly believe that we shouldn’t take what we have for granted and I do my best to be thankful that my boyfriend and I aren’t even further apart… but you would never say that you can’t be happy because someone has it better, so I don’t understand why we should feel guilty about being sad because someone has it worse.

Everyone’s relationship is different, and comparing them doesn’t do anything but create contempt.

Sure, I frequently think about the time difference and longer distance my roommate and her English boyfriend have to fight through, and it helps make my own struggles feel smaller. And yes, I know that watching my long distance relationship has helped one of my other roommates appreciate the fact that she and her boyfriend both live here in Madison. Acknowledging the battles of those around you helps put things into perspective, and that’s absolutely important – but you don’t have to fight your feelings or feel guilty just because someone might have it worse.

We all need more understanding, more empathy, and more support. We don’t need competition or comparisons.

If you feel lonely because you’re missing someone you love, I stand with you. I don’t care if you just saw them yesterday or if it’s been months. I don’t care if they live a half hour or a full day’s drive away. If you miss them, you miss them, and that’s okay. If you feel your heart caving in because they’re not there to hold you, that’s okay. You don’t have to pretend that nothing is bothering you simply because you’re afraid that you shouldn’t be sad. Here’s a pivotal truth I recognized a few years back: your feelings are valid, always.

It’s important not to let those feelings dictate your life or make you bitter, but it’s also important not to squash them under shame. You feel what you feel, and that’s a beautiful thing. It makes you more human. It makes you more brave.

Your feelings, your experiences, and your life are yours. They are not anyone else’s. As difficult as it is, I’ve been making a massive effort lately to compare less and love more because I don’t want to participate in the judgment filling our world.

So whether you’re miles away from your significant other or right next door, I support you in every last struggle you have. I stand with you in every last thing you feel.