I used to always tell everybody that a long-distance relationship (LDR) was not my cup of tea. I hadn’t tried it out, but I always felt that I would suck at it. “How can a relationship survive without physical contact?” I would moan. I’d see LDRs fail, and whisper “I told you so” all-knowingly. I’d see them survive, and congratulate the happy couple, wondering what rules and boundaries they had set. I had, quite inappropriately, asked someone if they had turned their LDR into an open relationship. They, much to my amusement, described how steamy their video calls are. Great job and whatnot, I’d say, but LDRs are not for me.
And then, the pandemic happened. Even though we stay in the same city, my partner and I didn’t take a swift enough decision to start living together when the first lockdown kicked in. Additionally, our work schedules became too chaotic for us to even think of shifting bases. We could also have been a tad lazy. Also, given how much we love our personal spaces, we also were a little unsure about how we’d function stuck together, 24×7. Soon, after the first three months, both of us decided to move to our parents’ places, in different cities. That was 10 months back.
It started off easy. That’s what they all say. It starts off with a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of texting and regularly calling. A lot of sharing updates and keeping abreast. Soon, and this is the part they don’t tell you, it starts feeling like a chore. If you are not necessarily a phone call person, like me, a whole day can be summarised in a couple of short texts. Which isn’t great for conversations when conversations are all you’ve got. One day, I sat down to daydream, and realised that when I used to hang out with my partner, we were extremely comfortable in our silences. Reading together, watching something together, doing unchristian things together. After having spent almost a decade with a person, you don’t necessarily yap a lot. Or maybe people do, but we don’t. So, how do two people keep an equation alive when the only option they have is, well, talking?
Our days weren’t necessarily exciting. Which means the daily updates were getting increasingly mundane, like minutes of a very boring meeting. Also, increasingly unnecessary. Irrelevant. Inconsequential. I was seeing relationships around me crumble, unable to bear the weight and torture of distance and emotional fatigue. I could feel us get there too. Ennui was setting in. And after that, you step into the dark, third phase, of LDRs — doubt. I started questioning what this relationship was even about. Why am I still holding on to it? Should I just let go? I downloaded a couple of dating apps. Will I find a stranger with a spark? Maybe there’s chemistry somewhere else now? Maybe chemistry, like an apparition, shifts from person to person, and has now moved into a different host body, which I needed to find. I uninstalled the apps in a day. Not out of guilt, mind you, but out of realisation.
Chemistry is more like a volcano — sometimes active and vibrant, sometimes passionate, fiery, and all-consuming, and sometimes, dormant. While we love the first two instances, we need to remember that in the third instance, dormancy is not death. Dormancy is hibernation embers waiting to turn into fire.
Realisation leads to the most mature thing to do — conversation. The second stage of boredom leads to arguments and bickering.
Conversation leads to understanding if both parties are on the same page. If they are, the status quo is working out. If they are, put in as much effort as you feel like without it seeming like a chore. If they aren’t on the same page, both parties or one party needs to put in more effort. When at this stage we refuse to make an effort for whatever reasons, the relationship crumbles. I am at this stage now. I don’t know if there are any other stages of an LDR. Maybe it depends on the duration too. But I will say this: although I, and many like me, might have survived this long, and stayed afloat, it isn’t easy, and it isn’t fun. Quite depressingly, LDRs always mean one of two ends — either coming back together, or breaking up. I personally still don’t see a long-distance relationship being an ideal state. LDR has to end for a relationship to survive.