What Nobody Tells You About Being In A Long-Distance Relationship
When Alex Dobrenko and Lauren Wilde first embarked on a long-distance relationship, they didn't know what to expect. Over the three years they spent dating while he lived in Austin and she lived in North Carolina, they came across many challenges and surprises, both positive and negative. To impart what they've learned, they created the web series Distance, which explores a long-distance relationship from two different perspectives.
Dobrenko and Wilde now both live in LA, and Dobrenko wrote and stars in the series while Wilde produced it. In order to show how easy it is for long-distance couples to interpret the same situation differently, they made two versions of each episode, one from each partner's point of view. "The core of it is, there's no such thing as objective reality," Dobrenko tells Bustle. "It's all subjective based on what's going on with you."
"The level of connectedness for a long distance relationship must rival that of those couples who have the luxury of being together," bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter tells Bustle. "Long-distance couples must work double duty to make sure they're sensitive to their partners' needs. They understand that speaking to each other is a harder task to accomplish. They must learn to anticipate each other’s needs in advance."
To learn more about long-distance relationships, I talked to Dobrenko and Wilde about the biggest surprises that they came across during their relationship and now convey in their series (which you can watch the trailer for here).
1. They're More Common Than We Realize
"Everyone who worked on our show either was in a long-distance relationship or had been in one perviously," says Dobrenko. And while that may be a biased sample, research has found that up to 75 percent of college students have already been in a long-distance relationship. So, if you're wondering if long-distance relationships can work, the answer is definitely "yes."
2. Misunderstandings Are Easy
"When you're long-distance, you don't see the other person forever, and it's really hard to understand what's going on with them when you've experienced them only through technology," says Dobrenko. For example, he used to get anxious when Wilde texted him "K," instead of "OK," thinking she must be mad at him. To avoid these miscommunications, it's important to talk to your long-distance partner about any concerns that arise.
3. Jealousy Might Pop Up
Even if you don't normally get jealous, a long-distance relationship might bring out your insecurities. "All relationships have moments of insecurity when you are getting to know the other person, and when they live states away, you have to be able to reign in those insecurities and just trust and be open and honest to talking about those things instead of keeping them bottled up," Wilde tells Bustle. "Communication is so key in an LDR. I remember having moments of insecurity when Alex would be out with friends of his, and maybe they were female, and me worrying my little head about if he was going to fall in love and like any of them more than me. But because we kept such open communication and honesty in our relationship from the start, I felt safe to voice my insecurities and fears and he would reassure me."
4. You Need A System To Keep In Touch
Since you won't be able to catch up in person, you may need a system to stay up to date with each other. "It doesn't have to be long phone calls or FaceTimes," says Wilde. "It could just be sending them an article you saw online that you think they might enjoy, texting them a picture of a cute dog you saw on your walk, leaving little notes hidden around their room when you visit so the other one finds them for weeks after you leave, etc. Because of the time zone difference, Alex and I had a little email chain going. At night, I would send him a goodnight email before I went to bed because he was already sleeping, and then in the morning, he would read it and respond, and by the time I woke up, there would be my morning email from him."
5. Your Reunions May Not All Be Magical
When you go a long time without seeing each other, it's easy to build up your reunions in your mind — but they may not all be great, and that's OK, says Dobrenko. Try not to expect more from them than you would from a date with a nearby partner. "Don't expect movie-perfect airport hellos and goodbyes," says Wilde. "Don't expect the most amazing things to happen each time you are together. Not saying these things won't happen naturally, but as soon as you start expecting things, it usually only leads to disappointment, and those types of feelings and fights can really hurt a relationship."
6. There Are Online Resources To Help You
Wilde and Dobrenko were amazed by how large and supportive a long-distance relationship community they found online. If you're looking for advice, encouragement, or inspiration related to your LDR, you can visit the LongDistance subreddit, the Loving from a Distance forum, or the Instagrams surviving.the.distance, longdisneyrelationship, and longdistancepositivity.
"I think these communities are a beautiful representation of the support and love that can happen via the internet," says Dobrenko.
7. It Actually Has Its Advantages
"One thing that surprised me that I felt a little bit guilty about was that I liked it," says Dobrenko. "I want to achieve a lot, and it's a lot easier to achieve and accomplish things I want to do when I can't hang out with Lauren every day." Many people like the independence that long-distance relationships afford them, the specialness of the time they manage to spend with their partners, and other aspects of these relationships. When you hear about long-distance relationships, you usually hear about the downsides, but there are upsides, too.
"I don't know what would have happened if Lauren and I had been in the same city for the first three years of our relationship," says Dobrenko. "You learn different things about the other person that comes from not being next to them. It made me fall in love with her in ways that existed outside of any physical ways." And there's no shame in appreciating that.