Posts tagged Long Distance
7 Lessons I’ve Learned: Taking Time Apart In A Relationship

Jennie here.

Ivan left very early on a Saturday morning. We got up around 6am and went to our favorite donut shop to grab a “last coffee date before he left for the airport. He asked if I was going to be sad without him for two months. I nodded. When he finally left, I went back to our quiet studio apartment and immediately stretched out onto my full-sized bed and rolled around - soaking in all the space and the coldness of our bedsheets.  

I thought to myself: At last, freedom.

This was me for like...two minutes.

This was me for like...two minutes.

Yeah, so that “freedom” was very short-lived. It only lasted about a day and a half. Almost immediately, I noticed a gaping void in my life as I spent a very long and lonely night at home, ate dinner by myself, and went to our local farmer’s market the next day solo. Everything felt a little lackluster.

Here are the most frequently asked questions/comments I’ve received about Ivan being away:

  1. Why is Ivan in Taiwan for two months?
    He is fulfilling his lifelong dream of writing (and completing) his first fictional novel. He was halfway done last year but he’s finally locking in the final details in March! I’m so excited for him.
     

  2. Do you trust him to be away from you that long?!
    Why wouldn’t I? Doesn’t everyone need a break from time to time? I have complete trust in him and want to support his dreams in any way that I can.
     

  3. Are you going to visit him in Taiwan during the two months?
    Nope, I won’t. Partially because of work but also because I want to respect his privacy and his choice to write in complete solitude - which is what he needs.
     

  4. You must be so lonely without Ivan.
    No, not really. Two months seems like pennies compared to our entire lives. I mean, I miss certain things about having Ivan with me but I know that this trip and time apart is only temporary. And why not take this time to just focus on myself as well?


Why It’s Important To Be Apart:

Sometimes, You Forget Your Individuality


Source: Like Crazy (2011) movie

Source: Like Crazy (2011) movie

Ivan and I have been together for almost nine years now. We did long distance for six years. And it’s easy to forget that before we met, before we got married, and before we lived together - we led completely separate lives, in different cities as two individuals.

So, time apart for me means that I get to be alone. And being without Ivan really tests my independence (in a good way). Ivan and I both strongly believe that we need to learn to be comfortable with ourselves to craft the lives that we eventually want to lead. That’s why we created this blog.


7 Observations of Being Apart


 
This is what I imagine it looks like for Ivan without me ;)

This is what I imagine it looks like for Ivan without me ;)

 

Here are my observations from our time apart so far:

1. Time moves more slowly without him around.

I’ve noticed this a lot more in the evenings after work, when I’m alone. For close to a decade, Ivan has been my most intimate companion. With Ivan around, I’d normally spend time with him talking or debating, having dinner, etc. The days seem really long without him. It reminds me that time is the only currency we’re always spending that can’t be replenished. I should be more grateful and probably get more things done.

2. When I’m alone, I’m forced to think deeply about my life.

On a positive note, I get to rebuild or re-establish my sense of identity, how I process things, and how I approach my goals; it helps me refocus on my life and individual needs. However, on the other extreme (and stressful) end, I also have to face the truth about myself. When left alone to my own devices, I start to think about those existential questions and thoughts that I've been actively suppressing in the back of my mind:

  • I can't believe that I'm almost thirty now. That means that one-third of my life is over.

  • Did I spend my life in the best way possible?

  • What do I even have outside of my work? Is that where my value is? Work, work, and more work?

  • Is this where I wanted my life to go? If this isn't it then what do I want?

  • What am I passionate about?

  • Where is the meaning in my life?

3. I’m forced to be braver and to experience hardships on my own.

The downside of always being with each other is that he can become a crutch that I subconsciously rely on. When I’m on my own, I force myself to become stronger and braver.. An example of this is when I had to negotiate for a huge promotion on my own at work. Two issues came up during the process: a political issue that shifted my role and my inability to de-couple my self-worth to my job. I spent long evenings alone rehearsing and practicing very measured reactions and pitches. I did fine on my own but it felt 10x more difficult doing it without Ivan’s support.

4. I have more time to socialize, to reconnect with and meet new people.

I’ve known for the past two years that Los Angeles was always going to be a temporary pit stop in my life. I hadn’t made much of an effort to invest in relationships or friends in the city. And if I’m being honest, I thought the people here had nothing to offer me (which is clearly stupid). Instead, I heavily depended on Ivan for my social needs and it wasn’t ideal. I started to feel like I was living in echo chamber - where I was only conversing with uber-liberals at my tech workplace or I was chatting with Ivan about our long-term travel plans and goals and personal finance and investments. It all started to feel...repetitive. So I wanted to correct this by meeting new people. As I've opened up my social outlets, I realize that there is still a lot I can learn. People still surprise me.

5. I don't have to compromise on things I want.

Selfishly, when Ivan’s not around, I can do all my “secret single life” behavior without judgement or compromise. More specifically, Ivan and I have two very distinctive living styles. In case, Ivan is a “creative” and prefers to be messy with our home (e.g. he throws his dirty socks wherever, waits to wash dishes for days, etc.); for me, I am anal retentive - if things aren’t “in their place” or done immediately (e.g. wash dishes immediately, keep the moisturizer lotion in the same place (Ivan’s note: Lol. That’s very specific) , etc), I tend to lose my shit. So the moment he left, I got to organize my space exactly how I’ve always wanted to. It was a small act of freedom that I enjoyed, perhaps a little too much.

6. Daily routines with Ivan are embedded deeply into my life.

I’ve come to the realization that a ton of things don’t seem quite right anymore without Ivan around. I guess I first noticed it at bedtime - I noticed that I would subconsciously leave an open space for him on our bed when I go to sleep at night. I only notice this void with things that we typically do together: budgeting, grocery shopping, eating dinner, late night conversations, etc. It just feels like there’s a large gap in my daily routine now without him around.

7. I actually get a chance to miss and appreciate him when he’s away.

One of the best things about doing long distance for six years was having that sense of longing and appreciation for each other. You start to take that for granted when you live together. While he’s away, it’s much easier to reflect on all the ways he’s made my life and our life together better. For example, on really long days at work - when I feel like quitting or screaming into the void, Ivan will go out and get my favorite chips (Chester's Flamin' Hot Fries) and then he patiently listens to me go on a rant about work. It’s something so small but I feel grateful to have him as part of my life to share the ups and downs of this journey.


Time Apart In A Relationship Is Healthy


 
 

Taking time apart in a marriage is really healthy.

And “taking time apart” can manifest in different ways (e.g. a solo weekend adventure, friends night out, solo activities, etc). What’s important is that you take time to focus on yourself - it can help you maintain your individual identity, goals, or dreams; you also get a chance to do the things that you actually like to do. It’s refreshing to be reminded that I am responsible and in control of my own life.

Have you and your partner experienced this sort of situation before?
How do you handle growth and change in your relationship?
What's the longest that you've been apart?


Jennie's Marriage Decision: 5 Reasons Why I Married Him

Jennie here. 

If it hadn’t been for Japan, Ivan and I would have never met. It was pure coincidence that we both ended up studying abroad in Kyoto in the fall of 2008. A few weeks after we met, the global financial system imploded (and our scholarships lost 40% of its value overnight). We were 20 years old. Just kids. Looking back, it’s still crazy to think about.

When Ivan and I started our relationship, I had no intention or plans of getting married. We thought it was just a summer fling, but after a few months together, I realized there was something more.

We were a pretty unlikely couple. From the outside, what most people saw was two people who were constantly at odds and pushing each other’s buttons. We had a lot of fun but there were a lot of tough times too. We struggled through jealousy, loneliness, and misunderstandings during our times together and apart. 

While I’d like to tell you we now understand each other completely, that simply isn’t true. We’re constantly growing, changing, and re-adjusting. A marriage isn’t easy but Ivan ticked a lot of my personal criteria that I knew would make me happy in the long term. 

A very real and intimate photo of us right after we exchanged wedding rings at city hall. I was so happy at that moment.

A very real and intimate photo of us right after we exchanged wedding rings at city hall. I was so happy at that moment.

So, how did I know that Ivan was the right partner for me?

1. He challenged me constantly.

From the very beginning we challenged each other’s beliefs, philosophies, and actions. On the outside, it looked like a lover’s (or hater’s) quarrel. And because Ivan is well-read and analytical, he liked to question everything that I said or did. We used to argue over everything, from why we made certain choices to what made good books, movies, or music, etc. And although that’s still part of our daily routine, it’s become more of a fun routine of verbal and intellectual sparring; it keeps us alert, makes us stronger as individuals and has actually made our relationship better.

2. Life together would be filled with adventure.

Traveling and exploring different cultures has been the one constant in our relationship. One particularly memorable moment was when Ivan took me on a date to Heian Shrine (平安神宮, Heian-jingū) by bicycle - except we got lost and never made it there. He has the worst sense of direction of anyone I've ever met (and had too much ego to ask for directions). What should have been a 45 minute bike ride turned into three hours of aimless wandering. I remember feeling so exhausted and frustrated by this “date” that when it started raining (during the hot and humid Kyoto summer), I just broke down and cried. Ivan felt so bad that he said he would do whatever I wanted to make up for it. Randomly, I told him to dip his feet into a random fountain in front of a love hotel. And he did it. We never made it to the shrine together but looking back now, we found out so much about ourselves and each other. I laugh just thinking about it.

3. Even the small, mundane moments became meaningful.

A few summers ago, Ivan and I took a train ride from Florence to Cinque Terre in Italy. It was a long train ride and eventually, Ivan fell asleep while I read a book. Having him there by my side made the entire experience better in some way. I didn’t appreciate it as much when I was younger but I recall a lot of long walks together or trains or bus rides. Some of my favorite moments are when we would sit there in silence, watching the passing scenery.

4. We have similar priorities in life

Deep down, I wanted to be with someone who had their own ambitions and goals in life. Someone who was as independent as me who could appreciate the urgency of living life and achieving something real. When I met Ivan, we often clashed but I knew that our Type A personalities would lead to interesting experiences because neither one of us could accept failure. We wanted to be “high-achievers” in our own right.

5. He accepted the entire Jennie package.

There was one evening early on in our relationship where I remember laying out our individual intentions, flaws, and past memories. There was a lot of personal stuff that we shared that made me realize that Ivan was unapologetically himself, and it made me feel comfortable to be that way too. I’m a perfectionist who is also bossy, petty, sarcastic, spiteful, ambitious, high-strung, an occasional bullshitter, and arrogant. I have positive attributes as well but Ivan has to put up with the negative stuff on a daily basis because it’s just part of the Jennie package. Somehow he manages to understand the intentions behind my actions and loves me all the same.



Marriage Podcast: A Six Year Long Distance Relationship #LDR

If you subscribe to iTunes then check out their channel here!

Jennie here! 

A few weeks ago, we were lucky enough to be featured and interviewed on a Brooklyn-based podcast called The Paper Year. Evan and Caitlin started this podcast in order to document their first year of marriage together and to chat with other married couples about their experiences. 

So, how did we get on this podcast?

I was a huge fan of their podcast since they started and really admired their ambition to start and run a podcast together! So, I reached out via email and told them a little bit about our (slightly Kafka-esque) long distance relationship and marriage. And a few months later they asked us to be on the podcast! I had to twist Ivan's arm to get him to agree to the podcast but, in the end, we both decided to put ourselves out there. 

It was our first time podcasting and we had a great time speaking with two strangers we had never met over the internet. Anyway, make sure to check out the podcast (linked above) and read a few of the highlights below.


Highlights and Quotes from the Podcast


It was a Kafka-esque immigration process...like [the short story] In the Penal colony where the guy is getting hole-punched by the machine...
— Ivan
 

Lessons Learned From Our Long Distance Relationship (of 6 Years)

  1. Not all love stories are romantic. Yeah, so our relationship started off because of a drunken kiss. Who hasn't experienced that? In the end, we ended up together and that's romantic and real.
     
  2. Manage expectations – with yourself and each other. In our case, we created a "social contract" to solidify our expectations and plans together. We talked about how often we'd see each other, how often we should evaluate our relationship, etc. This contract helped us communicate better and carried us through various milestones together. 
     
  3. Be realistic about your budget together. Can you really afford to see each other? We were two broke students who couldn't see each other often because it was expensive. Over the course of six years, we spent upwards of five figures on visiting each other.
     
  4. The immigration process is probably one of the toughest experiences you'll have as a couple. For Ivan and I, we had no choice but to immigrate and begin that process together – otherwise, it would've meant the end of our relationship. The 17 month process was long, hard, and emotionally draining. 
     
  5. Independence is crucial to the success of any relationship. Throughout our relationship, we prioritized taking care of ourselves first because we did not want to be defined by our relationship. We wanted to have our own projects, hobbies, and distinctive goals. Ultimately, prioritizing ourselves helped us become better partners.
 

He was so drunk...he was swimming on his bedsheets because it had dolphins on it...
— Jennie
We will chase down a goal until it’s dead.
— Ivan

5 Lessons We Learned After Six Years of Long Distance

Ivan here.

Jennie and I spent six out of the seven years doing long distance, separated by borders and oceans. For months on end we were thousands of miles apart, fourteen hours away. Years passed, as the Earth spun indifferently around the Sun. 

It takes a certain type of personality and mindset to make long distance work. Though it may seem romantic looking back, trust us when we say that in reality, it’s a torturous grind. Technology makes it easier, but communication between two human beings is and will always be a flimsy, makeshift thing. 

There are no short-cuts. Here’s what we’ve learned having come out of it (relatively) unscathed:

1. Start with the end in mind

Distance is a cold bitch. It doesn’t care what your relationship deserves. If you don’t have a plan, you’ll probably fail. 

We were college students when we met. When we graduated, both of us needed jobs and the idea of going through the long (and expensive) U.S. immigration process while looking for our first full time jobs seemed like an unnecessary handicap to place on ourselves.  

Instead, we decided to pick a coast for our job search. I ended up in Toronto. She was hired by a company in Boston. A two hour plane ride wasn’t so bad, in the grand scheme of things. We had a plan in place to sign our marriage paperwork and start the immigration process within the first two years. And aside from the soul-sucking, wrist-slitting, bureaucratic shit sandwich that is US Customs and Immigration, that’s pretty much how it went down. 

2. Be ruthlessly practical

At the time we started long distance, we’d only been together for about three months. Our time abroad in Kyoto was nearing an end and we sat down and talked about the current and future state of our relationship. 

The thing about a LDR is that you’re either all the way in or out. There is no middle ground. There’s no waiting to see what precious flower will blossom from your relationship. 

More important than the decision to be in a long distance relationship was the fact that we wrote down (on a piece of paper) some hard rules about not dragging on a relationship if we were unhappy. If it wasn’t working, we’d give each other an out. We kept ourselves accountable by doing monthly check-ups to discuss what went well or poorly; it kept us honest. 

3. It’s better to over-communicate (but be kind)

Communicating is probably the #1 contributing factor to the success of a LDR (or any relationship for that matter). Of course, we love each other and that’s important but without the basic foundation of communication, we would have never made it through the six years apart. Early on, it’s tough to be honest because as individuals, you’ve probably kept the majority of your personal views/opinions to yourself. That doesn’t jive in a long distance relationship. 

Unless you’re telepathic, your partner isn’t going to understand what you think, want, or need. So do yourself a favor and be honest with each other about when you’re happy, upset, surprised...pretty much every emotional component of the spectrum should be verbally communicated as soon as it surfaces. And be honest if you need some  space from each other as well.. We’ve had plenty of arguments go from bad to worse in less than 5 seconds because one or both parties wanted to be as hurtful as possible in the heat of the moment. 

4. Be prepared to make hard sacrifices

Although we knew that sacrifices were an inherent part of any relationship, we weren’t 100% prepared for how much it would cost (in time and money) or the toll it would take on our social lives.

Time and money

LDRs are expensive time and money sinks. For our first year, we had to navigate the distance between North America and Asia, and then Canada to the US for our last five. As two broke students, we tried to see each other every couple of months. Those round-trip tickets alone would cost at least $300 - $400 each, not to mention trying to cram every minute of quality time together into the span of a week. 

Social life

Our LDR meant a lot of Skype/video time together in the evenings, almost daily when we could manage it, or emails/phone calls on days that we couldn’t “see” each other face-to-face. It meant we had to really prioritize or plan around our social life that made us both happy and that was tough at times. It forced us to strike a balance together and apart. 

5. Be honest with yourself

Finally, it’s important to try to distinguish between what you want and the lies that you choose to tell yourself. 

Are you only in this relationship because you’re afraid of hurting the other person? Or that it might jeopardize your mutual friendships? Or that you’ve invested too much time and energy into it to back out now? Are you only in this relationship because you’re scared of the unknown?  

It’s not OK to live your life on someone else’s terms and there are no legitimate reasons for you to stay in an unhappy situation. In our experience, living for appearances or making decisions based on the expectations of others is responsible for a lot of unnecessary suffering.  That’s why it’s important to be able to look yourself in the mirror and really hone in on what you want.