“If it is love, you’ll make it.” is something I heard very often during my long distance relationship. It also happened to be my first ‘serious’ relationship – and it lasted exactly eighteen months. Truth is it was love, but we didn’t make it. With overwhelmingly positive pop-up posts flooding our Facebook timelines every day, and bite sized easy to consume feeds, I have come to realize that most people who have an opinion on LDRs haven’t been in one themselves. With all the ideas that glorify love as this entity that conquers everything and wins wars taking over our minds, it becomes very easy to delude ourselves into a believing that our relationships are, in fact, of more consequence than they appear to be.
LDRs, to top it all, have been written about and sung about and celebrated in so many forms, throughout the history of time that they now hold a place of honour in the multitude of different kinds of relationships. The problem was that with me, the concepts of togetherness and being in love captured my attention and made me overlook the dynamics of the actual relationship.
Add to this, the distance, and you have the perfect recipe for chaos. Our relationship blossomed online for the most part. We started dating right after he left to go abroad for his education. And the distance drew me to him. I knew we wouldn’t be in the same city and I knew I wouldn’t get any of the things that constitute a ‘normal’ relationship. I wouldn’t get to touch him, or see him in person every day, there would be no kissing or holding hands, or movie dates. I would be complicated and difficult and I loved what it symbolized. To me it validated all the notions of romantic love – being together against all odds and making it work despite a nine hour time difference.
The first few months were a breeze. Drunk on the idea of being in love, we made it without any friction whatsoever. There were differences of opinion of course, but we overlooked those because we believed that what we had was special, different – it was long distance you see. Eventually though, we couldn’t gloss over the not so pretty details about where our separate lives were headed. Add to that the staccato bursts of emotion that lasted a couple of months at a time when we saw each other. Being together in person was exhilarating. It was like finally taking off after cruising mindlessly when we weren’t in the same country. Whenever I felt like bringing up the things that bothered me, there was an overwhelming sense of guilt. We were together and we wouldn’t get this again in a few days time. Should I really be complaining instead of being grateful for what I have? This meant that I ended up suppressing a large chunk of my real feelings and in hindsight, I am sure he did too. So when the fights did happen, they were explosive. Months and months of negativity poured out of us in torrents and although there were holes in the foundation, we refused to acknowledge them.
His anger issues surfaced for the first time and this pushed me further into my shell. To others, we were perfect – #relationshipgoals, the works. Only, ignoring all the problems seemed the way to go because I had taken it upon myself to confirm everyone else’s positive biases about MY long distance relationship. I held on with both my hands and refused to stay afloat even when I realised it was a sinking ship. Needless to say, the end wasn’t pretty.
I see now that we didn’t make a functional couple. What should have been perfect in theory didn’t work out that way in reality. Only what should have taken not more than a couple of months to figure out cost us a year and a half of bouts of abuse, anxiety, and the pressure of conforming. I pride myself on my rationality but I couldn’t set myself (or him) free for the longest time because I felt like I was letting everyone down in the process. We played the blame game but in a very unique way – each time we had a fight he’d say it was his fault and I’d say it was mine. I was so preoccupied with doing the right thing that I forgot that this is my life and I didn’t have to live up to the preset standards of long distance relationships.
When it ended, there was heartache but also a sense of relief. And in all honesty, it could have worked, had we not been the same people. The point of this rant is not to put down the institution of LDRs but instead to talk about why if it’s not working, it simply isn’t. You don’t need to make yourself feel guilty about backtracking solely based on it being long distance. If you are unhappy, choose yourself. If you are angry all the time, choose yourself. If you are anxious, insecure or worried, understand that you are allowed to feel all those things and that you are not forced to hold on simply because the world tells you that you must try harder because you need to compensate for the physical distance.
In any relationship, there is almost always a disparity between the kind of person we think the partner is, and the idea we have of them in our heads. It takes time to figure out what we truly like about them, and even more time to fall in love with the bits that surface after months and months of dating. Sometimes, this process is easy, but most times it isn’t. In a long distance relationship, shattering this illusion takes far more time than it would otherwise. Trapped in an endless cycle of longing for each other and an all consuming joy upon being reunited, when reality finally punches you in the gut, it is unforgiving.
Nearly a year later, we are tentative friends and we realise that we are better this way. It wouldn’t have worked out even if we lived in the same country, or state, or city. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a long distance relationship in the future. It may work out, or then again, it may not. What goes unsaid is that I now know that people change over time, and not always for the better. And the best we can do is find someone who evolves with us, long distance or not. Maybe the puzzle pieces will never fit perfectly, but this love business is a mighty fine one to figure out.
Tanvi Deshmukh is a nineteen year old girl from Pune, India, with an affinity for words and books, cats and coffee, Nepalese food and hippie music, and the colour green (along with Oxford commas). Currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in English, she loves poetry, volunteers at an NGO and plays the keyboard in her free time. Along with devouring books of all kinds, unless of course, she’s in the middle of heated discussions on feminism, patriarchy, gay rights, or what to name the neighbour’s new dog.