Long Distance Relationships

I’m going to write about a very touchy subject here.

I come from Toronto (in the magical land of Canada). Before I left, I spoke to my girlfriend about how hard it would be to maintain our relationship. I had heard from friends in optometry school that long distance relationships  were especially stressful in first year because of its difficulty. I wanted to make sure that we could work things out–that we would see each other as much as possible in between quarters and reunite at the end of these four years as if nothing had come between us.

When I left her the night before my plane took off, we both knew that it would be difficult. We felt we were ready to put in the necessary work to make things work.

A lot of people talk about how difficult it is to maintain a long distance relationship, but no one really talks about it in detail. A lot of long distance relationships work out–but for me, it hasn’t all gone according to plan.

No one told me how hard it would be for me sit in front of the computer screen, trying to comfort my girlfriend when she was upset.

No one told me I would lose my temper during those few moments I had to talk to my girlfriend over Skype, struggling to keep my insecurities in check while I was sleep deprived and tired of looking at books all day.

No one told me that I would have to make tough choices–like, when on a break from studying, choosing between going out with my friends or talking to my girlfriend. That isn’t even taking into account the time I want to spend on other things.

I’ll admit that I was a little bit naive when I came to ICO with a relationship. The reality is more difficult than I imagined–but I attribute that more to my ignorance and lackadaisical attitude. While I’ve been here, I’ve had to make tough choices. I’ve learned a lot about my priorities and the things worth paying attention to.

I’ve been spending more time thinking about relationships.

I am not an authority on love and commitment. The words that follow are not meant to be the truth. I don’t even want you to listen to me if you disagree, but maybe these words will help someone out there who’s deeply in love and unaware of the mistakes that they are likely to make.

You’ve probably heard this before in other places, but serious relationships absolutely need to be nurtured. There is no way around that fact, unless the people in that relationship are extremely low maintenance.

Relationships are built on a commitment to trust and love each other, and if you suddenly spend all of your time studying, it’s easy to overlook your relationship. I am guilty of this.

By nature I am an introvert who enjoys conversation and good company. I am goal-driven and I know a lot about myself, but because I spend so much time in my head, thinking about myself, I am also very self-centred. I tend to forget that there are other people in my life.

As you can imagine, this isn’t very good for maintaining a long distance relationship where communication, understanding and effort are mandatory.

I’ve realized that I don’t know myself nearly as well as I thought I did. That the priorities and goals that are at the top of my mind aren’t as important as some of the things I’ve sidelined. That worries and concerns aren’t black and white. That right and wrong don’t matter in an argument with someone you love deeply, especially when it’s about things that don’t matter.

I’ve learned that it’s hard to apply and remember everything even though I know it.

And I think the greatest lesson I’ve learned–the thing I should have know all along but didn’t– is that relationships are deliberate. They don’t just “happen.” You have to choose to make it a priority.

I can’t say my workaholic days are behind me and I can’t say that I’m the greatest person to be in a relationship with, but I’m trying. I hope that if you’re in a relationship with someone you love, long distance or not, that you’re trying too. It’s not worth losing love over the little things.

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5 Responses to “Long Distance Relationships”

  1. Stephanie Tan

    Good post! You’re definitely not alone.. I entered ICO in a 5 yr relationship that lasted 5 months as a long distance relationship. In the end, I had to do what was best for me. Good luck with everything! The 4 years at ICO go by far too quickly!

    -Steph

  2. GT

    This was such a beautiful post. I’m in the midst of a very difficult decision myself – whether to pursue a PhD at an institution where it will mean living away from my parents and being away from my boyfriend for more than 4 years. It’s such an incredibly touch decision and reading this absolutely touched my heart – thank you for such a realistic glimpse of the ups and downs of a relationships, and how worth it it is to nurture a relationship with one you truly care about. All the best of luck with your studies – your girlfriend’s a very lucky woman, you two seem to have a very bright future together ahead of you! 🙂

  3. David Phan

    Thank you Stephanie. It’s really good to know that there are others who can relate.

  4. David Phan

    Thank you for your kind words. I hope that whatever you choose works out for the best.

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