Updated: Feb 14, 2022
“So, Long Distance. Do you think we can make it work? We’ll be in different cities. This past 2 years in college we’ve been together 24*7. How will we manage?”
Priya asked me this question but I think she was afraid to hear the answer.
I, on the other hand, was simply happy that she was asking questions about making it work rather than breaking up. For me, it was a step in the right direction.
“Say something Darshan”.
“We’ll manage. In fact, we’ll rock it. We’ll be an inspiration for our friends. There are so many people who make it work. And it takes just 90-minutes by flight to reach Hyderabad from Mumbai. I’m sure we’ll make it work”. I reassured Priya and myself.
It had to work. Optimism is my coping mechanism.
For those who know us, they know that we eventually did make it work.
So yes, sorry for disclosing the secret. But as they say, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. And in our case, we’ve had quite a journey. It was even summarized in our wedding invite:
10000+ cups of tea,
1000+ hours of video calls and
An unaccountable number of beers later.
We're getting married.
So join us in this celebration
A lot of friends and some overly inquisitive colleagues have always asked us, “How did you make a long-distance relationship work?”
Same Country - Different Cities
See, staying in different cities is one thing but staying in different countries and making it work was something quite unheard of. Well, even we’d not known anyone in our immediate circle who had made it work.
Of course, we'd read about strangers who'd made it work. You know the ones that we read about in Humans of New York or its Desi version, Humans of Bombay.
So, we were operating in unknown territory.
The honest answer is I don’t know.
I mean there were a bunch of things we did that worked in our favor and there were a bunch of things that we thought we shouldn’t have done. There are no set rules of making a long-distance relationship work. In fact, there shouldn’t be rules to make ANY relationship work.
The whole idea of it is that it should come naturally and eventually they become traditions.
I’m digressing. Like I said, I don’t have a list that says, 5 Things to Do if you are in a Long-Distance Relationship or 10 Things that every couple in Long Distance relationship should do.
But I can tell you guys the things that worked for us along with the things that probably didn’t work.
What worked for us
What worked in our favor was the time we’d spent with each other before we began the long-distance relationship. You see, for 2 whole years we’d spent an inordinate amount of time together in the same college. It wasn’t like it was love at first sight. But even before we started dating, we were good friends and we used to spend a lot of time together. In fact, Priya was one of those few people in college I was able to openly talk to. But then, she’s one of those people everyone finds easy to talk to. I think that’s what worked for us when we were away. I was always able to say everything to her (and she to me).
Now, at the risk of sounding extremely cheesy or dramatic, I’ll say this.
When you’ve spent so much time with a person and know them, like we knew (sorry know) each other, you even understand their silences and pauses over a phone call thousands of miles away. It was our ability to talk to each other about everything under the sun that helped us through some of our most difficult times. Some people like to call it communication. But we never had this conversation about the fact that we need to "communicate" with each other. We just did. It was therapeutic at times and frustrating. But that’s how it is.
And yes, this is difficult. Because the whole idea of talking to each other about everything means you do that even when you are mad at that person or even when you’ve had a terrible fight.
Don't discuss your relationship with others
What you shouldn’t do however (most people fail here) is discuss your fights with a third person.
So, you know a while ago I just spoke of how there shouldn’t be any rules.
This is one rule that you need to follow in any relationship. Long-distance or not. Never discuss the issues of your relationship with another person.
Yes, that is in bold. And I’m going to tell you why. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and underline it (writing it doesn’t make sense because when you read it, it will be bold and underlined. But I literally just scrolled up, highlighted the text and pressed Ctrl+U. Yes, I use a Windows system. Mac sucks. A story for another day).
See, every relationship has fights. It is how you resolve it makes all the difference. In our case, we’d closely observed a lot of relationships around us. We’d seen couples fighting with each other, discussing their issues with their “close friend”, and then hooking up with that “close friend” or sometimes friend zoning that close friend.
Listen, we all need a shoulder to cry on when we’re upset or have had a fight. But discussing your fights or your issues in relationship with an outsider is a bad idea. It will only create more differences. And we’d seen it happening to our friends (No, we weren’t their “close friends”).
So, when we started dating, somehow even without discussing with each other, it became an implicit ‘Rule’. We’d never discuss our issues with a third person. Not even with our closest friends or a family member.
Instead, what we did was we told each other. Yes, it is messy and difficult. But it helped us. It may not help you. But you can try it. It may just make your relationship stronger or it might crumble (and then you can speak to that “close friend”).
We’ve also been asked if we never felt lonely.
Well, it worked for us that we’re both workaholics. Having said that, I’d be lying if I say that we didn’t feel lonely. Not just lonely, we even felt insecure. Not insecure about whether we’ll break up or not, but insecure about what’s next? Calling each other helped. When Priya was in India, it was easier. We could call each other at any time of the day (unless we’re at work. Then we don’t call each other - Workaholics) and speak if we felt the need to.
But that changed when she moved to the US.
Time difference is a BITCH.
It took us a while to get used to it. But eventually we found our rhythm. We spoke to each other once in the morning and once before we went off to sleep. It worked out well for us considering the time difference and the fact that we weren’t working at those times. And yes, video calls at least once a week. It was something that started off as a need to see each other, to feel a little close to each other, to have that intimacy and eventually set into a pattern where it was unsaid that we’ll have a video call once a week.
I somehow feel the urge to clarify this that at the time WhatsApp didn’t have the video calling feature.
Coming back to the topic of loneliness.
Yes, sometimes it was unbearable. Especially when I was around couples. See, normal couples are fine. Even boring ones are fine. But there’s a breed of couple who just can’t seem to stay away from each other even for a minute. Those are the ones that disgusted me. That’s when you really feel lonely.
Also, we started hanging out with our single friends.
This was also the time when dating apps had just entered India. It was like a new world for everyone. Suddenly, everyone thought they had options. The temptation was there but I didn’t see any ‘single’ friend benefitting from it. Needless to say, the temptation faded away.
I’ve discussed this with Priya too. She was in the US. She’s had random people approaching her in bars offering her a drink and what not. She just dealt with it. To this day, I’m grateful to her that she didn’t consider saying Yes to any of those hot, chiseled guys in a Chicago bar.
Before wrapping this up. I just want to share one more thing. It was not something that we used to follow while we were both in India. But we discussed it when she was leaving for US and I feel it really helped us. It is a simple thing, but difficult to follow.
Never go to bed angry at each other
You see, earlier when I said, that you need to talk to each other when you’ve fought. I didn’t mention the timeline. And like I said, it didn’t matter to us when we were in the same country.
But when she was leaving, we decided to never go off to sleep angry or without discussing and resolving the fight. It was okay to not talk to each other for a few days after a fight when she was in India. But when you’re so far away from the person you love, and you’ve had a fight. Not talking to each other only makes things worse.
And so, in the 2 years that she was in the US, we never went to bed without resolving the fight (the time difference made it worse).
It’s something we follow even today. No matter how mad we’re at each other, no matter how much we’ve fought the entire day, before we shut our eyes off for the day, all cards are on the table. We speak our minds off and then go to sleep.
That’s it. That’s what we did. No big life altering adjustments. It is the little things. It is always the little things.
That and what we’ve felt for each other. You know, that feeling that is usually exceedingly difficult to express, is considered cheesy by some and romantic by a lot of others.
Because without it, all of this is just moot.
And now, just for the heck of it (and for those who scrolled all the way down looking for a list), here’s a list of things, big and small we did that worked for our long-distance relationship.
Talk to each other every day at least once.
One video call per week
Transparency. Tell each other everything about your past relationship (if any). This way they’ll never be surprised if they meet your school friend and they decide to speak about your first crush in school.
Be a little insecure. It’ll keep you on your toes.
But trust each other. Its contradictory. But there’s a fine line. You’ll know if you cross it. But I hope you don’t.
Do not discuss your fights with a third person.
Do not go to bed without resolving a fight.
Tell each other everything.
Write notes to each other. It has an old school charm to it that goes a long way.
That’s it. Good Luck.
PS: Please don’t call me if this doesn’t work out for you. I’ve already said that this is what worked for me. It may or may not work for you.