How my long-term, long-distance relationship has thrived

The importance of communication is cliché; It’s also the best advice we can give

While our first February issue is themed “Love & Sex”, the idea of discussing my long-distance relationship never occurred to me. But for us, this is normal.

Alana and I will celebrate six years on Feb. 23. My better half’s education has brought her to the west coast for the last four and a half years, while mine has kept me in Toronto. Absent a few weeks at summer and Christmas, it’s long-distance through and through.

To stress the importance of communication may be terribly clichéd. It’s also the best advice we can give. The texts and Facebook messages are constant, and as Alana said, “Skype has made things immeasurably easier.” The rockiest patch in our relationship was during our first year apart, before those communication habits had become the norm. Nowadays, our conversations don’t suddenly change when we’re together, because the conversation never stopped.

(We also recently rediscovered our first e-mail exchanges, and our conversations almost literally have not changed. “The actual secret to our relationship: Star Wars!” was how Alana jokingly put it.)

We don’t mind that sometimes a Skype date is dominated by complaining about a class or a co-worker. Long-distance or not, we continue to live our lives. I like to think of Skype as our dinner conversations, with topics the same as everyone else.

We met in that most romantic of settings, a course entitled Foreign Policy of the United States, and we’ve certainly never let distance get in the way of political disagreement. However, it’s always a conversation and never a personal slight.

“This is the weird thing about our relationship,” Alana said over the phone. “From the get-go, even when you have different opinions than me politically, even when I think some of them are kind of wrong-headed, I never want to bite your head off about it. I feel like you still have never witnessed why this is so unusual.”

It’s impossible to read that last line and not smile like a goofball.

Our interests don’t always align. Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom remains my only encounter with Benjamin Britten, while Alana incredulously doesn’t know who the Winnipeg Jets fourth line centre is. It’s Nic Petan. But in each other, we’ve found an openness and caring which goes beyond topics and yes, beyond distance.

My unfortunate bestie Keely Murphy said that patience is a big part of how Alana and I communicate.

“You take time to explain how you’re feeling, why you’re feeling that way, what makes you feel certain ways, what you think about specific things. I think that that’s ultimately why you’ve lasted so long.”

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How my long-term, long-distance relationship has thrived