So here is a subject that I’m sure concern a lot of people.
Long distance relationships.
I started my relationship in Dundee. We lived quite close for about a year and a half, which was awesome (when I say close, I mean 10 mins for a while and then about 3 mins!).
During this time, I was at college, and he was at Dundee Uni doing computing (got myself a smart one there!). The year he graduated, I had decided to apply to uni, having (finally) decided what I wanted to do with my life! So that’s where it went to a bit of a complicated place. We were both starting very different stages in our lives.
We applied to our respective jobs and universities all over the UK. When I got into Dundee it felt right and I loved it and he got a wonderful job with a large company in London, the best of his offers.
So we discussed everything of course. In stories, people consider if they should break up when they move away. I’m happy to say that that was never an option for us. We never even discussed it. But I would think that if long distance is something that you can’t begin to comprehend or if you don’t really love your boyfriend or girlfriend, it could be something that you may need to discuss, even if you are just to dismiss it or something. Going into a long distance relationship cannot be done lightly.
So the way my course is structured means that I have 3 years which makes up “part one” of my architecture degree. Then I have a year out, working in a firm, then 2 more years in education (part 2) and another year out and a final exam for part 3! I am now halfway through year 2 of part 1. My year out, I (obviously) plan to spend in London. I am also planning to try to get into uni for my Part 2 in London. If I have money, and if I can get in, of course!
Those are my plans. But I have a year and a half to wait before any of that happens.
Now let me tell you of my long distance experiences and hopefully it can help advise or inform you about your own and people you know’s relationships. I have organised it into points as inspired by this blog post.
I get depressed quite easily. Don’t get me wrong, I am a positive person, but the toll of being apart from the man I love contributes to every stress that I have anyway (eg. uni deadlines, family illnesses etc) and I spend a lot of time wanting to just do nothing (not helpful in a fast paced course such as architecture!) or losing all motivation even to get up or cook meals.
This has a very real impact on life and it is something that I make myself fight a lot of the time. This is a prime example of why a long distance relationship isn’t just for fun. You have to be careful because this sort of pressure can really affect your life.
Following on from my last point, I also spend a significant amount of time in doubt. Do I really want to be an architect? Why on earth am I staying in a city that I don’t want to be in when I have no doubt at all that my boyfriend is more important to me than any career I could have? Well it is because I want both, and he will still be there after my 3 years inn Dundee, but if I give up this course, I will find it a lot harder to get any kind of job in architecture. And anyway, I have done enough already (over halfway through the 3 year time now) so I may as well see it through, or what a waste it would have been. I was going to apply to a school in London after first year. However, I knew (and was advised by my year head) that I would most probably have to repeat first year, and this was certainly not something that I wanted to do, being older than the majority of students in my year, and spending enough time in one year college courses. So, I have stuck it out. I really enjoy it, but it is certainly hard at times.
I spend so much of my time alone. When I am at home, I spend probably 90% of my time in my room, alone. I have 6 house-mates who I barely see. Perhaps this pursuit of isolation is partially because as an only child, being brought up in the middle of nowhere, I am accustomed to and value my time alone. I strongly feel as well though that I just don’t want to spend my time with people because I don’t get to spend enough time with my boyfriend.
As is mentioned in the “Texan in Tokyo” blog post I linked earlier, which as I say inspired me to write this, I find myself bailing on parties and other social occasions, to instead spend my time instant messaging my boyfriend, or playing a game with him.. or because I just feel less like it because of how much I miss him.
It’s quite hard to explain that to people. I never want my friends to take it personally if I don’t want to go to something at the last minute or if I leave early. When someone hasn’t experienced how it feels to be long distance, it is very difficult to understand quite what it feels like.
Talking of friends, another challenging thing about it is that because I started a new course, and moved into a new house at the same time as my boyfriend moving to London, he doesn’t really know many of my friends, and those that he does, he doesn’t know more than my stories! And the same goes for his friends. I feel like because of this, my friends can forget that I have a boyfriend. Well they have never thought that I’m single, but I feel like he is a foggy concept who doesn’t quite exist in their realities.
I like doing things with my (and his) friends as well as my boyfriend, but because of our time constraints, we tend to spend most of our actual time together, just together. It makes it quite intense; dropping real life in a way, and suddenly spending all of our time together. It is good though, and fun, but it doesn’t really help us get to know each other’s friends!
We aim to see each other about once a month. During term time, he usually visits me at a weekend, because he works (essentially) 9-5 Monday-Friday, whereas I tend to do uni work over the weekend too, and into my evenings, so that I am more able to work if he visits me than if I go down.
I make up for it by spending nearly the entirety of my holidays in London, or, when it’s Christmas, with him wherever. This year, for example, was a little bit mad as I went down to London for a week, came up to a couple of places in Fife for about a week, then went to Dundee, then Aberdeen for New Year, back home to Dundee, then down to london for a few days and finally returning, the day before term began!
Anyway, for our regular visits in term time, a month seems optimal. Well not optimal, I would be so much happier if I got to see him more often, but too much travelling is so tiring as well as expensive and horrendously time consuming, so this is what is manageable. The times we have waited longer than a month to see each other (usually because we have expected a holiday time when we see each other for much longer would make up for the extra time apart) have been terrible. Following the last time we did this, we have decided that we can’t go so long again. A few days extra are okay, and to be expected, but when it comes close to two months, I just spend all of my time thinking about it and getting so frustrated.
I have been using countdowns which I make and save the link to, every time we book a train. This saves me time because otherwise, I would spend a lot of time trying to work out exactly how long it is until I see him. This helps me to cope with the time apart because I can see how the time is passing and how much time I have left.
6. Emergencies and Important Events
This is maybe the hardest part. When something happens in one of our lives where we need or want each other. Last semester, my boyfriend had an accident and was in hospital for a few days. He wasn’t able to let me know and I found out from his mum. We kept in good contact and were eventually able to find his ward and speak to a member of staff. I also eventually managed to speak to him on the phone. I cannot describe how much it killed me to not be able to go there immediately. But I am so grateful to the hospital for being so accommodating to me, as it is well known that if you are not directly related to a patient, they will often not tell you anything.
His dad and I did take the sleeper bus aka Megabus Gold down that weekend (which was much more comfortable than I expected and I got an OK night’s sleep on it), though by that time, he was back home. But at least we were able to make him meals and ensure his comfort for the next week or so.
There have of course been other times, especially if he is ill, when I want to go and look after him, or when I need him here with me, but what can you do? We phone, we text, we do what we can. And we know that we will be there for each other properly in the future.
Oh my! Money! We usually take the train. This is partly because the bus takes SO long and is difficult to fit in to an ordinary weekend and also because planes would go from/to Edinburgh, still requiring probably 2 trains or buses between there and Dundee. The train is also usually the cheapest option anyway (well except buses, but as I said, they take much too long) and goes either all the way, or has a brief change at Edinburgh Waverley.
As both of us are under 25, we both own a 16-25 railcard which gives us 1/3 off train travel. This means that we are able to find tickets (when booking online, early enough in advance) for about £25, though more commonly for around £45 (one way).
These are great deals compared to what tickets cost usually, but they never-the-less use up a lot of our money.
8. People Always Think They Understand
This is one of the hardest things. People compare their relationship experience of living an hour away from each other and seeing each other only every weekend to your situation. One thing I have learnt from this is that I could never compare my experience to someone who is even further from their significant other.
When someone says “I know how you feel” and they recount their situation, which sounds like luxury to you, it can be pretty annoying, and it is difficult not to say “No you have a slight idea of how I feel and no more. That is nothing!”
Of course, I don’t say such things; it is clear that people are just trying to empathise, and to them of course, their situation is hard. So I usually just quietly nod or something and let them run through what they have to say, without agreeing that they are in the same position, nor denying the difficulty in their own.
I will end by saying how much I respect those people who commit to a continuous long distance relationship, for example with somebody in the army, where not only could they often be abroad but also facing a very real danger, regularly. Could I go that far? I suppose I would have to if I was put in the situation but I have no idea how I would cope with it.
Good luck to everyone out there who is trying or going to try to make it work. I will repeat again that it is not something to get into lightly. A lot of long distance relationships don’t work, and the ones that do, often have some great ups and downs. And they are certainly not the romantic idea portrayed in films. Well they can be very romantic, and it is always exciting to see each other, sometimes even making you nervous, like when you first started going out, which can be a nice experience, but it is important to consider whether this time, which is in the minority compared to all of your time alone, is worth it.