Nothing tests a relationship like long distance. Whether it be a couple hours or a couple hundred miles, the space between you and your other half is going to affect the relationship —no doubt about it.
The question is… will the distance make or break it?
This summer, I journeyed 3,500 miles away from my boyfriend, Stephen, for two and a half months.
I spent the entirety of that time working as an intern in Trujillo, Peru for a nonprofit Christian organization called Inca Link, which was extremely fulfilling and life-changing.
But, let me tell you, it was really hard too.
In the year and a half that we’ve been together, I’ve never gone without seeing Stephen for more than two weeks. We both lived in Toledo when we met and even now he lives only 45 minutes away, so we are still able to see each other every week.
This summer was the first time that we had ever done long distance.
In the months leading up to my trip to Peru, I really wasn’t worried about our relationship. Of course, the distance would be hard, but we could do it. Love conquers all, right?
About a week before I left, reality (and panic) set in. I was afraid to leave my boyfriend, scared to leave everything I knew and terrified to say goodbye to the people I loved. Looking ahead, two and a half months seemed like forever.
How were we going to do this?
So, for Stephen’s, but mostly my own sanity’s, sake, I sat down and wrote several “Open when” letters for him to read while I was gone.
“Open when you feel sad,” “Open when you need a trip down memory lane,” “Open when you need to know how much I love you.”
The idea was that it would make the distance a little more bearable.
Still, leaving him at the airport may have been one of my hardest goodbyes. It may have included lots of ugly crying that I’d rather not talk about.
Things didn’t get any easier either once I got to South America. My phone was stolen on day number dos, so I couldn’t text him anymore, and Wi-Fi was practically nonexistent, so I could barely message him on my laptop.
Days passed and there was no way for us to contact each other. It was harder than I ever imagined it would be.
But we continued to make an effort to communicate and be part of one another’s life.
Even though we were thousands of miles apart, we made each other a priority, and I think that’s a huge part of what kept the relationship from crumbling.
The rare occasions that we were able to talk made me appreciate communication so much more. During the second month, we made the hour a week that we were able to talk as meaningful as we could.
When we went days without talking, he would leave me letters in my Facebook messenger about what he did that day and what he was reading in his daily Bible devotions. Days later, when I finally got Wi-Fi, I would open them and read about how his week had been.
Those letters got me through a lot of long and exhausting days in Peru.
Of course we had our number of miscommunications. You can only say so much through a Facebook message or email. But we didn’t let the small things get to us.
In many ways, long distance was difficult, obviously. But I think it was also good for us.
We grew a lot as individuals while we were apart, which helped us grow closer together when I got back from Peru.
For example, I learned how to better deal with and resolve conflict over the summer, and that was such a valuable thing to bring back into our relationship.
I also learned that I can live without my boyfriend and, at the same time, I learned that I don’t ever want to.
Can I live on my own in a foreign country for months? Yes. Can I experience a new culture and make new friends? Yes. Can I learn how to serve God and others better by myself? Of course. But I would much rather do it all with him by my side.
I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity I had to go to Peru, and if I had to go back and do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat. It helped grow my faith, my leadership skills, my love for others and my self-awareness.
And it helped strengthen and grow my relationship with Stephen in the long run.
So long distance relationships aren’t bad or good. They’re exactly what you make them to be. I’m so glad that we chose to put in the effort and make ours meaningful and lasting.