5 Lessons Long-Distance Relationships Teach You (That Every Couple Needs)

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When I met my fiancé, we were studying abroad thousands of miles from home. When it came time to leave, we knew our relationship was just beginning. Too bad we were nine hours from each other back home! You hear it all the time—relationships are hard work! It's two individuals coming together with their own imperfections, values, and belief systems. But long-distance relationships? Well, that's another category of challenging.

I would never wish a long-distance relationship on anyone, especially doing it for four years in the beginning of a relationship. But even though we were thousands of miles apart and it was terribly challenging, I truly believe it laid a strong foundation for our future marriage. For us, distance was a blessing in disguise. Distance teaches you unique, valuable lessons that you wouldn't ordinarily learn without going through this—and they're lessons every couple needs.

Here are six of the most crucial ones:

1. Watch your tone.

Communication is foundational to a strong relationship. And when you can't turn to any physical means of connecting, then it absolutely takes on a whole new priority. I learned quickly that the tone of my voice could be condescending and aggressive even when it was not my intention. My tone would easily turn a conversation into a negative one, and the only person to blame was myself. Our tone, volume, and pace of speech communicate what we feel far more than our actual words, so it's very important that you are mindful of it.

2. Think before you speak.

I would explode with a plethora of emotions over the telephone whenever I was feeling frustrated or we would be having an intense conversation, and my fiancé held me to every word that came out of my mouth, even if I didn't mean it. We have to realize that words can hurt, and the person receiving what we are saying has every right to perceive it the way they want. We can't just say things in the heat of the moment and then one hour later apologize and retract our statements. We shouldn't expect others to tolerate the brunt of our emotions. So I've learned, even though it has taken many years, to take a deep breath before you explode and think about what you want to say. Not everything has to be solved immediately, and sometimes some space to breathe and think will help you come to the discussion with a clearer head, respectful tone, and ready to problem-solve together.

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3. Vulnerability exposes bad patterns and gives you an opportunity to grow.

Being in a long-distance relationship puts you in a vulnerable position. You have to be willing to trust your partner. When we feel vulnerable, our bad patterns will come out, giving us an opportunity to keep them as is or grow through them.

Before meeting my fiancé, I was incredibly possessive and jealous, so when he started getting involved in ballroom dance, it was incredibly tough for me to process. I was upset and angry, but really I was scared, and that fear was keeping me up crying and feeling down all the time. I learned quickly that if I wanted to have any peace in my life I needed to examine my belief systems around having a partner who had his own interests. I had to realize that my jealousy was not serving me in any way. That pattern was hurting me, and if I didn't grow through it, then it would make me lose the relationship. The experience taught me to always be willing to self-evaluate and grow through my weaknesses. 

4. Don't keep score.

A lot of times we hold on to things from the past and bring it into our present moment. We let things bottle up, and the moment we feel frustrated, we lay out all the things that have been bothering us that the other person has been doing or not doing. I learned this method is not very effective and only leads to increased frustration on both sides. I learned it's easier to address things that are bothering you as soon as possible instead of adding them to a long list to bring up later.

5. Put your ego down before you pick up the phone.

From the hundreds of hours we spent on the phone, one thing for sure is that it is incredibly important to always come from a place of love and respect. Our egos tend to want to be right, pick fights, and take things personally. But remember, there is another person on the other side of the line who wants to try to create a relationship and potential life with you. Relationships are very much about compromise, and if all you do is look at things as "right and wrong" and then on top of that always want to be the one that is "right" or who has the "final say," then you are going to find yourself frustrated and with a partner who will want to disengage from you. It pays to be kind and always ask yourself, "Are my actions and words coming from a place of love?"

When you do not see your significant other often, you learn to cherish the time you do have together even more. Not only does it teach you to be more present but to appreciate the small things you get to do together, like watch a movie in bed, go for a walk, or cook dinner together. Being in a long-distance relationship has taught me that communicating openly, honestly, and with respect—while leaving ego at the door—is pivotal in creating a strong lifelong relationship.

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