When I was 15, I remember hearing the lyric, “This love will never be convenient,” in the Front Bottoms song “Tattooed Tears.” Although The Front Bottoms still remain my favorite band, I always found that lyric stupid. I believed that if you truly loved someone, you made time for them. You made love convenient.
Four years since first hearing that song, and one harrowing breakup later, I now understand that relationships aren’t easy or convenient, and that fact alone can outweigh any emotion.
On Tinder last summer, I met a boy—I’ll refer to him as Jake—but we joked that we met on Words With Friends. He opened with a compliment about my bio that read, “I’m not flirting, I’m networking.”
We went on a few dates, started talking everyday, and soon I started calling Tinder Jake, Boyfriend Jake.
Everything about our relationship felt right. However, I went to school in Boston, and he went to school in Connecticut. We said goodbye to each other at the end of the summer and agreed to try long distance. Only one state apart, we naively believed it wouldn’t be hard.
But long distance was hard. He visited me the first weekend after I moved in, and I sat in the South Station Bus Terminal crying as soon as he left. We talked everyday, but often one of us was busy with homework and not paying attention. I had meetings every night until 10 p.m. or later, and he had homework until 3 a.m. or later. I planned to visit him at the end of the month, until he got his syllabi and realized that he would spend 10 of the 24 hours on homework.
I wish I could say this was a temporary hardship, but, as the song warned me four years ago, our relationship would never be convenient. We couldn’t be together physically together for longer than a month at a time in the foreseeable future.
But there were times when it did work. We had great conversations that sometimes lasted for hours. We spent one blissful weekend in Boston. Unfortunately, that happiness was provisional.
According to the Center for the Study of Long-Distance Relationships, 14 million people in the U.S. are in long-distance relationships as of 2018. That means 14 million people probably feel the same way he and I did—the feelings were there, but the logistics were not.
Despite this, I really do think long-distance relationships are a good thing as long as some factors align.
First, long-distance relationships require an end-date. One of the most reported causes for long-distance breakups is the lack of one. Long distance can work for a while, but it’s not indefinite. As someone who looks too far into the future regarding anything I do or any relationship I form, I saw it coming. I think part of me wanted to prolong our relationship even though I saw its infeasibility. But deep down, I knew it would end.
Another component to any successful long-distance relationship is managing time apart. Time away from a partner allows room for vital personal growth, self reflection, and forging an independent lifestyle, which come naturally through long distance.
Time apart is a make-or-break factor to a long-distance relationship. When Jake and I were apart, I sometimes felt that by missing him, I was actually missing out on my own life. There is a thin line between time apart spent on personal development and time apart spent hurting.
Getting these factors right takes time, planning, and real work. Entering a long-distance relationship means accepting commitment and expecting difficulties. You can’t always make time for someone no matter how deeply you care for them. Jake and I just couldn’t do that right now.