It is said that distance makes the heart grow fonder and if that is true then perhaps those in a long distance relationship have the fondest hearts of them all. Mila and I live 4000 miles (6800 km) away and speak different native languages, after one year we can testify the truth behind that saying. And we have a beautiful chocolate cake (thanks Mila!) as a memento for this moment.
This week, Mila and I celebrated one year surviving the challenge that is a long distance relationship (LDR). Throughout this relationship it has been a journey in collecting lessons in communication, resolving conflict, and finding creative ways to close the gap in our relationship.
Mika: I have always been a reserved person so learning to talk with Mila was a challenge because she often urges me to be more open with my communication. I learned to go from being blunt and candid to…well, less blunt and more tactful. I think having some tact with her really helped us overcome the challenges that come with being in a long distance relationship. And there was the more pressing problem of my English and her Portuguese.
I think knowing that speaking English and Portuguese was a barrier from the beginning helped us tolerate this miscommunication while continuously finding ways to improve our communication. Movies with subtitles helped a lot and patience with repetition helped also. “Repete” and “de novo” are the most used phrases between us to this day.
Mila: For me, I’ve always been very open with everyone, not only with Mika. I like to show my feelings, so I have an easier time communicating, even though communication in a distance relationship like ours is not easy, including the language barrier. Since we both speak different languages, at first it was very complicated because my English which was terrible! Although I had already attended classes … all I learned was basic grammar hahaha (this still helped us a lot too)
Surely, my progress in English (and Mika’s in Portuguese) has improved a lot. My progress made it possible for us to talk about more complex issues that really helped us know each others family and personal life so much better.
Like traditional relationships, long distance relationships are rife with conflicts that arise from a host of issues primarily miscommunication.
Mika: Most of the conflicts came down to communication and cultural differences. I really think that it helped that we both said slow down and be silent for a bit. We are both stubborn people so it took a little work to learn that we need to say sorry early.
Finally I found that where words failed, chocolate, food, and a well-timed joke helped to resolve conflicts quickly.
Mila: So true! Most of our conflicts were due to communication! I was often upset because I heard something wrong, totally out of touch, and what helped us was repetition and mainly being nice to each other, as Mika said. We are very stubborn and sometimes we did not want to accept that it was not our fault.
After much patience (he always says chocolate hahahah) we managed to reduce the amount of these conflicts.
Creativity in Closing the Distance
Finally, getting to one year requires some, actually a lot, of creativity. Sometimes escaping the monotony and constant communication you need to invite something new into the relationship to fan the flames and keep the attraction burning
Mila: Ah, lots of fun and … weird questions!
Mika: And entertaining questions!
Mila: Haha! Yeah! Creativity is very necessary in this type of relationship. From the beginning Mika and I took questions took turns asking each other questions, which was very important in getting to know each other. We keep things interesting by always creating games. We also tried recipes that we started to do together by video call, tests and many things! Some nights we went to sleep without being creative, this is normal and just do not let it become a routine.
Mika: I love quizzes, games, and cooking. So, I was glad Mila was happy to indulge in these activities. I found that most of the activities that I came up with came from one of those categories. Some nights we went to sleep with few stories to tell. It happens. We made up for it with a random and intimate conversation or discovery at night.
The Send Off
Relationships are challenging and long distance relationship tests your will and strength of your love and dedication to another person. If you want to survive, avoid allowing fearful, judgmental thoughts from preventing communicating from your heart and connecting with your long distance partner. Common sense, patience, and forgiveness will take both of you a long way.