#ShiftHappens We asked some people if their long distance relationships lasted or not 1 year ago

#ShiftHappens We asked some people if their long distance relationships lasted or not

Shift Happens

"He broke up with me that night and I had to pay for flights home the next day. I was supposed to stay for a week."

Long distance relationships have long been a point of contention, argument, and straight-up confusion for a long time.

Comprehending just how two people could ever make a good go of things while being thousands of miles apart for an extended period of time is difficult, especially if you've never tried it yourself.

And as someone who has never tried it herself, I decided to go ahead and ask some people who have actually been in, or are currently in, long distance relationships how they got on with things.

One of those people was Keeley, whose first long distance relationship did not end well. However, the outcome was less to do with the fact that she and her ex lived in different countries, and more to do with the fact that he was, in her words, "an asshole."

"I've only ever brought three guys back to Canada with me, and he was the only one my parents ever hated," she says.

"We knew each other on and off for over a year, and the last time I saw him, we went to a party and he was brutally cold.

"He broke up with me that night and I had to pay for flights home the next day. I was supposed to stay for a week."

Keeley had met this guy when she was doing Erasmus in Winchester while already studying abroad in Limerick.

She says she would visit her ex frequently enough, often spending a week with him in the UK during her final year of college without him ever returning the favour.

Despite all this though, their relationship eventually ending didn't have anything to do with it being long distance. Rather, Keeley says she thinks she probably would have came to her senses sooner if they had've both been living in same country.

"It's eight years later now and I'm looking back like, what the fuck were you thinking?" she says.

If you wanted to harbour a guess as to how many people will find themselves in long distance relationships over the course of their lifetimes, you'd probably be wrong.

Because 75 percent of us will - whether it's cross-country, a brief flight across the Irish sea, or the other side of the world.

And 75 percent is a lot of people.

Another one of those people is Fionnuala. She and her boyfriend started seeing each other when they were both living in Ireland before he went to Canada for a year.

Fionnuala says she wasn't initially sure about staying together at first, but she didn't fancy anyone else and neither did he... so they decided to give it a go.

"I could see myself being with him longterm and I think he felt the same, but it was very much a case of 'right, we'll give it a bash and see.' We've talked about our future since he's been away which was 100 percent a necessity and inevitably made us stronger.

"During the hard times you need to know there's something beyond them landing and just being there."

When it comes to long distance, the hard times can almost appear to be twofold.

There's the obvious stuff like missing the person you're with, wanting to meet up with them when you can't, and just sometimes needing someone to be around.

Then there's the more complicated stuff like navigating time differences, managing jealousy, and actually just having the time to talk to each other.

Fionnuala says that she's pretty much used to all of that by now, but that it's difficult knowing that people are still judging her relationship.

"Everyone has an opinion which I can appreciate, but the majority are unhelpful," she says.

"I don't think people think (long distance) works. A lot of people thought we were putting our lives on hold for a year.

"It's viewed as a lot of work, which it is, but then they equate that with negativity. It comes down to how much you want to be with someone and how much you are willing to put in. It's how all relationships work."

Throwing yourself into a relationship entirely is evidently possible whether you're living across the road or across the world.

And when you consider the payoffs of long distance - the looking forward to seeing each other, the excitement involved in booking flights, the genuine and unadulterated delight when you are finally reunited after all those months apart - the whole concept does actually seem a bit romantic.

It was for Niamh anyway, for a while.

On her first date with her ex, he told her that he had just gotten his Visa to work in New York - and for that first year together (but living apart), it was, according to her, "like a movie."

"In the beginning it was fantastic, it was romantic," she says. "We were living in different countries but we were planning our lives around each other. And then after that first year, the cracks started to show."

Niamh says she started making plans to move over to the States herself, but that while all of this was happening, she could start to feel her ex pulling away.

The arguments started, the feelings of neglect crept in, jealousy was rampant whenever either of them went out with any of their friends. Eventually, talk of her moving over stopped until one day they broke up via Skype.

"The fear and anxiety drove me to a place of total mental incapacity," she says.

"I had lost myself in this relationship, everything else had fallen away, and this was the centre of my universe. I was like a pencil and this had wore me down to the absolute nub. He had left a path of destruction. It was brutal."

Once that relationship ended, Niamh convinced herself that long distance could never work.

She says that establishing communication was too difficult and that gaining control of a situation was virtually impossible when you can't speak to a person face-to-face.

Three years later though - and doing long distance with somebody new - she believes that in order to make things work, you both need to be "100 percent in it."

"I'm not thinking about my future abroad anymore," she says. "My plans are continuing here, they can't be based around someone else. I'm much more secure in my relationship now than I was back then."

The way to make any relationship stand the test of the time is the age old cliché of communication and, maybe more importantly, balance.

Euan did long distance with his partner, Leanne, for 13 months while he was living in New York and she in Dublin. He says that before he left, they talked about how scared they were to be living apart for so long but that, ultimately, their situation helped strength their relationship.

"It put communication at the forefront of our relationship, and that's something that benefits us every day," he says. "When your partner is on the other side of the world, you can't afford to be upset and not be willing to talk to them about it."

Euan's experience of long distance also differs considerably in terms of what tends to be considered the negative aspects of living apart as a couple.

For lots of people, physical intimacy is a craving that they understandably cannot shake, but Euan says that maintaining that intimacy was probably one of the easier things about his relationship.

"We would manage to video call each other for a short while most days, and usually make time for longer calls about once a week.

"Once we were in our routine, our calls allowed us to feel like we were a part of each other's days, and allowed us to be physically intimate too."

Doing long distance can mean misery, jealously, loneliness, and heartbreak.

But it can also mean a newfound understanding of your relationship, a strengthened bond, and a genuine appreciation for the person you're going out with.

For it to work, you have to commit, you have to look after yourself, and you have to be invested.

So, pretty much the same as any other relationship, really.