Long Distance Relationships: Bitter Reality or Sweet Fantasy?

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They say long distance relationships never work! Been there, done that.

Still, this article is worth sharing with all struggling couples out there. The ones who never stop putting in their best to make the relationship work.

I have always been an independent girl for as long as I could remember. Perhaps it’s because I was the eldest in the family.

I remembered being the only one among my siblings who went to boarding school, and then furthering my studies abroad when I was just eighteen years old in the mid-90s.

These experiences made me the strong girl I am today.

Back then, I had just completed my SPM and met a boy during the two-week-long Biro Tata Negara camp. We were just starting a relationship when I got the offer to further my studies in the UK.

I was head-over-heels in love with this romantic young man. He always knew what to say when I was angry, sad, happy, or anything.

Gosh! Those were the days – flirting and falling in love. I was devastated when our days were numbered and I had to leave even though my heart was with him, back in my home country.

But I guess, one has just got to do what one has got to do. Despite the distance, I had always been loyal. Of course, at the time, I thought he was, too.

He often wrote to me, telling me everything that he did, he ate, what he wore, etc. He was a great storyteller. Once in a while, I would call home just to listen to his voice.

Being a student in the UK, I was lucky to be able to generate extra income by working part-time. I saved my weekly earnings and made enough for him to come and visit me during the summer.

Well, back at home, my friends warned me to be extra careful and never trust anyone so deeply. Of course, back then I was convinced that they were just jealous and that they didn’t know him like I did.

He was completely reliable and trustworthy – at least that’s what I thought.

I found out, that after 5 years of loyalty and missing him, there were betrayals after betrayals.

A girl confessed to me that she had been in a ‘relationship’ with my so-called boyfriend while I was in the UK. He told her not to contact him during my summer holidays when I was back in Malaysia.

That was when I would tell myself padan muka. How I wish I could turn back time and spend all that money on Topshop pants or Warehouse tops or even a tour around Europe like my peers. I truly regret every cent I’ve spent on him.

The Bitter Reality: The Ugly Side of a Long-Distance Relationship

Yes, after five years, the betrayals are still real, and it hurts badly. I learned life lessons the hard way.

When you’re consistently in touch with your partner via letters, text messages, emails, and phone calls, you tend to compromise other relationships in your life – like your friends and family.

As my life revolved around him, I forgot to enjoy my own life and the company surrounding me.

There were boys flirting with me and I shut them off. Some were genuinely smitten by me and I shooed them off. I didn’t join parties; I refrained from being happy because I felt guilty for being happy while he was miserably missing me back home.

So, does constant virtual communication help? Nope! I suspect that even if we had chat messengers like WhatsApp or anything else we have today, it wouldn’t have helped much.

It’s all back to the person’s commitment, honesty and trustworthiness. Words can easily be fabricated and sugar-coated to placate the other party.

Also not being able to look a person in the eye and listen to their tone makes it easy to misinterpret their written messages.

You might end up arguing because of a message, and sometimes it takes hours or even days to get the arguments across as we don’t know when our partner would read our messages.

Long distance relationships rely on nothing but trust. When you’re betrayed, it feels like you want to kill that person – at least, that’s how I felt then!

Turning Over A New Page

Despite that, the saying ‘once bitten, twice shy’ didn’t apply to me. Less than a few months after we broke up, I was swept away by another gentleman who studied in London. He was a friend of my best friend.

I was in Manchester, which was a three-hour train journey away from London. Another ‘long-distance’ relationship, eh? I won’t call it long distance as we were in the same country and free calls from the phone service providers back then were so convenient despite of the odd hours (yup, it was applicable only after midnight).

We spoke for hours. There were times when we just didn’t sleep. My friends said rebound love is the best but will never last. For me, that feeling I had about this new guy was everything but a rebound. It was real.

I was on my last year of studies while he was pursuing his master’s degree and had another two years to complete. I had to return home and had spent less than a year being with him in the same country.

When I had to leave after my graduation, it was difficult of course. I started to have doubts.

A year of being away was not as bad as I thought. He called me as often as he could, and we were hooked up on MiRC (something like WhatsApp, but on the web) chat almost every day despite the different time zone.

Love does make you do things you would never have done before. He came back right after completing his studies and didn’t even stay for his graduation. The bad news was, he had to report for duty immediately as he was bonded with his company’s scholarship.

Instead of getting a job in the same city as mine, he was relocated to the company’s office on the East Coast. The weekends were not the same, but he travelled often to KL just to spend whatever time we had together.

Long Distance Marriage: A Fresh Set of Challenges

After three years being apart, he asked my hand for marriage. I have always been a ‘city girl’ and had never wanted to move to the East Coast even after we were married.

We were commuting back and forth for a year after our marriage, and he even missed the birth of our first child. He was paying for toll while our son was being delivered.

That was when I decided to move to the East Coast and so we could be nearer. However, right after my transfer to the East Coast, he was promoted as a Platform Supervisor offshore and was on a two-week rota.

It wasn’t what we planned but I guess it’s better than being a weekend husband and wife.
After two years, my husband decided to have a change in career, and instead of a two-week routine, he was offered a four-weeks rota. The catch? The job was in Brazil.

The offer was too good to decline and so be it – we survived for another two years as an ‘on-off’ couple. Ha! Even telling the whole chronology is tiring enough!

We are on our 10th year of marriage this year. Alhamdulillah, so far so great.

In fact, I am so comfortable not having him around most of the time, that whenever his leave is extended, I really feel like I need some space to breathe. These are the times he would just have to leave me alone.

The Sweet Fantasies: The Beauty in Long Distance Relationships

Relationship is all about commitment. You give your very best, and you take the best from what your partner has to give (not the best from your partner).

A long-distance relationship requires a higher level of commitment from both partners. You need to plan ahead, even when it comes to dates. Have a vision, both short and long-term on where you want the relationship to go.

Being in a long-distance relationship isn’t hopeless, it’s how you handle it which matters most. The key is communication. For any relationship, whether long-distance or not, both parties need to communicate literally, whole-heartedly, and creatively.

Be honest with each other; trust yourself before you trust others. As I learned from my previous relationship, always verify hearsay about your partner, upfront.

Not that I was spying or that I don’t trust him, but I guess, that’s the best option between me making bad assumptions about news I heard or shutting everything off and trusting him blindly.

Most importantly, if you are in a long-distance-relationship, always give priority to the most important person in your life – YOU!

Get your own life, attend to yourself, but put your long-distance partner as your priority too. Share each other worlds; don’t live just with the two of you in it nor live separately without each other in it.

Share and communicate. Give details about your day; express your feelings on everything, what happened, the people you met, etc. Your partner may not be physically there next to you, but he or she can always share your experiences.

Living in a world full of technology where everything is at the tip of your finger, there’s no excuse not to include each other even when you are apart.

For more articles on long-distance relationships, read Here Are a Few Malaysians Currently in Long-Distance Relationships. This Is Their Advice, and What’s Dating a Flight Attendant Truly Like.

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Aimee Thoib
An inspired writer with life lessons to be shared
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