A long distance relationship most times, isn’t the plan. At least, it wasn’t for me. I already knew I would have to be away from my partner for about a year since I was an aspirant to the Nigerian Bar, but we weren’t told exactly when it would begin, and where we would be posted. When we were asked to choose, I picked locations close to where my partner was. I wasn’t ready for the shock that would follow.
I remember telling my partner about the uncertainties and ensuring we spent as much quality time together as we could. But nothing really prepares a person for a long distance relationship.
I was not given my preferred choice. In fact, we were at going to be at least 18 hours from one another (if we travelled road). I cried so much that night. Plus I was given just 5 days to prepare and resume school.
And on resuming school, I had no clue what was waiting in there for me. Anyone who knows Lagos state, Nigeria, knows how stress filled living in Lagos is, with overpopulation being one of the major causes. I got into school with incomplete documents for registration so the first few days were so destabilizing. I stayed on somewhat endless queues, trying to finish up registration, sort out my accommodation and catch up on lectures. I had finished my undergraduate program two years before then so I faced a hard time fitting back into the formal system.
In a nutshell, the first week was terrible for me. My partner tried to make it better with constant calls and messages, checking up on me and stuff but it only infuriated me more. Especially when in an attempt to make it better, he says things like “I understand”, and I know he clearly doesn’t.
I knew miscommunication was the deal, but I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I didn’t even have the time to at that point.
IT GOT WORSE!
The way Law school is structured and our hostels built, guys and girls are in close proximity to one another. It looks likes we are all trapped in the same building for a period of time, seeing the same sets of people almost everywhere you go. With over 1000 individuals, and probably over 600 men, all degree of “fineness and specimen of men” were made available. Men of all shapes, shades and sizes. I was confused. Much more is that they knew just what to say to a girl they like. Well, almost all of them.
I knew I was in a committed relationship, but that didn’t stop them from coming. If anything, the fact that someone else finds you desirable makes you more desirable. I knew nothing good would come out of these relationships but the attention…gosh! I loved it even though I wouldn’t admit it to myself at the time.
I started bouncing my partner’s calls, stopped the pet names, subconsciously compared him to other guys, and wanted him to do what they were doing to me. These other guys were spontaneous, reckless, daring, confident. They had shown me that I could have more than I did, and I loved it. I was constantly plagued with the question, did I settle for less? Why didn’t I just wait a bit?
I can imagine how God was just smiling at me, and comforting my partner during these periods of foolishness. One day, Superman (like I like to call him) called me and raised some concerns. He said I was withdrawn and distant. I gave some excuses, but I felt pain in my heart. I knew I loved him, and that I needed help. There were only a handful of people I could trust their wisdom, so I reached some friends and our journey to restoration began.
I have always been an honest person, at least to myself. And it extends to my relationship with other people. I knew we were not doing well at all in our relationship, and I was in need of counsel so I reached out to a few of my friends who I trusted their counsel and love for me.
First person always was Michael and talking with him helped me see things in a greater perspective. If tables were turned and I was in my partner’s shoes, how would I feel? As soon as he asked me this question, I knew my answer and I knew the extent of damage I had caused.
I knew I had made a mistake but I had to question my motives. In less than two months of me being away, things had changed so drastically. Something had to be wrong. I had to admit that something was missing in my relationship I hadn’t taken note of. It was time to have an honest conversation with my partner.
I apologized and opened up to him. I told him how I felt and all the emotional rollercoaster I had been through in the last 7 weeks. I told him that we had to step up in our game. And the truth was that we weren’t prepared for being apart. The usual routine and activities we were used to during the times we were together won’t suffice in these times. There had to be deliberate efforts in making us work.
My partner was so forgiving and reasoned a lot with me. Then, he asked that we brainstormed on how to improve the quality of our relationship.
The first thing I did was reach out to every credible person in a long distance relationship and asked them strategic questions. I will keep them anonymous but will share all of the tips I learned interacting with them
We had gotten so consumed with “trying” to keep and sustain the relationship that things had gotten mechanical and somewhat rigid. I couldn’t remember the last time we genuinely laughed about a thing. We had forgotten how to live in the moment and just enjoy ourselves. This was largely because we both could be quite goal oriented and great planners, so most of our moves were calculated and took out all the fun. It didn’t overturn immediately, but the awareness of this was a great start.
Closely related to living in the moment, I realized that the little things make all the difference. We didn’t need to have all the great things of life to appreciate life, we just needed to focus on what we currently had. I wanted my partner to be many things to me, and I forgot all about what he already is.
He is trustworthy, loyal, committed, confident, kind, creative and many other things. There were things I needed him to do better and same as he, but appreciating the little things made us stay encouraged to do better. I wrote down all I loved about him and started vocalizing them to him. I learned to send random text messages just appreciating what a beauty he is, and how lucky I am to have him. I told him not to be under any pressure to respond, I just wanted to love up on him. But of course, when love is given, it is always reciprocated.
Do those little things, like involving your partner in your day sending lovely pictures, video calls, random texts, surprise gifts and anything that just makes your significant other know you are thinking about them. They do make all the difference.
Routines might bring in rigidity, but it helps with long term sustainability; depending on how they are managed. Because of our busy schedules, we started with having deliberate “us time” at a specific hour in the day. Although I still multitasked sometimes, it worked for a while. It revealed priority and intentionality. In fact, I would look forward to those times when it will just be us on a call so much that I had lined up activities for the call. I had a list of all the questions, jokes, gist; everything I would share and tell my partner.
Eventually, we didn’t want to wait for a specific time to call anymore, as we had gotten so involved in each other’s lives, we couldn’t wait to share. So the calls became more often, shorter but more often. If it was going to be a long call, we would ensure we weren’t working actively at the time, and have the call.
Then, we created social media platforms to document our progress. We had shared with close family and friends, as a way to stay accountable. We had specific days to share, and did it with so much joy. If you want to hear more of our stories and progress reports, join the family here.
We took it further and utilized the blessing of the internet. What activity did we want to do and couldn’t because of the distance? We outlined them and did them together at different places. We had days in the week for sharing online, movies and appraisals. During movie nights, we would stream a movie at the same time and have discussions about it. We could plan dates and go for them at the same time, which helps us think and feel we were together. There are times we even planned to fall asleep at the same time. It was so beautiful.
We had learned from past experiences so we didn’t wait until we are in crisis mode before taking periodic appraisals. We played online games like “Never have I ever, This or That, Quiz games” and any other thing that helped us know and appreciate our differences better. We asked questions about how better we could love the other person and what we could improve upon. These discussions were done monthly, and it felt like routine check so no one felt attacked. We became more committed to loving the other person more, and the focus shifted from ourselves.
No matter how great you maintain a long distance relationship, there should be a plan for a physical visit. We now had something to look forward to, so it kept hope alive and we worked towards it in all wise. As soon as we could travel during the pandemic, we seized the opportunity and did. During these visits, we focused on creating lasting memories that would linger for a long time, because we knew we wouldn’t always have that.
WHERE WE CURRENTLY ARE
We have grown and evolved over the months and now, we appreciate how far we have come. Due to popular demand, we decided to share a bit of our journey with the hope that a few things would be learned from it, and applied where relevant.
Love is really a beautiful thing, too beautiful that it cannot be hidden. We hope you appreciate all the love and beauty you presently have in your life.
When you walk in, my heart beats differently.Anonymous
Write to you soon,
Grace & Bob