The old saying goes, “you can’t help who you fall in love with”.  Well, it is true – man; woman; black, white, and in-between; older, younger – you name it there are millions of couples out there that do not fit the Ozzie and Harriet or Ward and June Cleaver format.  Are any of them wrong?  As long as everything is consensual from both sides – absolutely not!  What makes them different from my relationship?  Probably about 85-90 percent of them are not in a long distance relationship.  Sometimes I am envious of their nearness to each other.

Long distance relationships (LDR) are hard – very hard!  You are not able to be there at a moment’s notice when the other person needs a hug, their car broke down and they need a ride, is sick and needs TLC, etc.  Date nights are non-existent.  All the things couples who live near each other can do for/with each other.  If you don’t hear from them when expected, your mind immediately turns to the worst – they are hurt and can’t get to the phone.  Sometimes plans made have to be broken or altered due to unforeseen circumstances.  Even when life throws road blocks, and contrary to popular belief, LDRs can, and often do, work.  You both have to want it bad enough to put in the hard work to keep it going.  Just as with those who live near each other, if one or the other in a LDR is not willing to put in the effort to keep the lines of communication open, the relationship will fail.

Communication is K-I-N-G and the most important aspect of LDR success.  Compatibility, physical attraction, and having a good number of things in common with each other are important as well.  But communication is most important.  In this world of instant access, (texting, cell phones, email, etc.), couples in a LDR now have it much easier than those just 30 years ago.  John and I keep in touch via texts daily, calls when our schedules allow, (he works nights while I work days), and see each other every other weekend.  I am grateful that I have a job that allows me to work extra hours so that I can often take a four-day weekend to go see him.  Otherwise, visits would be resigned to vacations only.  Sometimes work gets in the way and we decide – together – that we postpone the visit until he is off again.  This has happened a few times.  One time I didn’t see him for three months.  It makes me sad when we don’t get our weekends together, but I understand he has to work when they need him.

John has an unconventional schedule.  His shifts are twelve-hour nights and sometimes longer.  During the two-week rotation, week one he works Monday and Tuesday, is off Wednesday and Thursday, and then works Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  Week two is the opposite.  When they implemented this new schedule, we scheduled my weekend visits to coincide with his off weekends so we could spend as much quality time together as possible.  Usually that quality time consists of grocery shopping, cooking, (something we both enjoy doing together), and yard projects.

As an example of life throwing roadblocks, this visit was supposed to be his off weekend.  However, due to the absolute stupidity of a coworker, John has had to work extra shifts.  Said stupid coworker went out one night, got drunk, got into a fight and ended up with his jaw broken in two places.  So now, our time together is limited to about two hours after he gets home in the morning and about 45 minutes before he goes to work in the evening.   Therefore, instead of his usual schedule, he has worked nine nights in a row, had last Sunday night off, and now has to work another seven nights in a row.

Over several phone calls prior to this visit, we discussed whether I should come down or stay home.  It is my spring break meaning I would have the week off.  I knew with the increased work schedule, he would be sleeping all day and working all night.  We would barely have any time together.  I made the decision to come down anyway.  Even with the limited time together, I am glad I am here.  I have been able to help him by taking care of the dog, the shopping, and general housework so he can relax as much as possible when he gets home.  Some would say that this is grossly old-fashioned of me.  And that I should have went home or not even come down considering the current work schedule as I am his girlfriend – not his housekeeper.  But I absolutely disagree!!  Stepping up and doing what the person you love does not have time, (or energy), to do is what love is all about.  Moreover, these difficult times helps us appreciate the easier times that much more.

So yes, a long distance relationship is hard.  Is it worth all the hard work?  Absolutely!!