Intentionality and Long Distance Relationships

By Shireen Emami


It was about a year ago I met the person I now consider to be my soulmate. We met digitally some months ago by chance, when. I decided to go over to a friend’s place and walked right into a FaceTime conversation between my friend and my (now) partner. I entered their kitchen to prepare a drink for myself because I was having a bad day and she caught a glimpse of me.   She said I was cute. I blushed but thought nothing of it since she lived in Milwaukee and that’s a place that has never been on any bucket list of mine. A month or so after the FaceTime greeting, that same friend made a group chat with a bunch of QTPoC folks, myself and my (now) partner included, that they thought would get along. They weren’t wrong because that group soon became part of my tightest circle now – my chosen family.

My (now) partner’s phone broke soon after, so she found me on Facebook and asked me to let the group know that she wasn’t ignoring us, she was just without phone.  We started chatting one on one a bit and she decided she wanted to vacation and meet our little group chat family in Austin. We arranged the dates, I would host her and we would all show her around and have a great time. Little did I know, this broken phone situation and the planning of this trip would lead up to a much more romantic exchange.  I was aloof to idea at the time because a) She is 7 years my junior (yes, I was being an ageist jerk) b) She doesn’t even live here and after my first long distance relationship (LDR) I had sworn them off. c) I had just experienced probably one of the worst breakups of my lifetime. I was sure I wasn’t ready. I was wrong.

The truth is, I wasn’t looking for love but love me found me anyway. 363 days later, not only are we in a long distance relationship, but we are thriving. I can gladly say it is by far the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, and while I am no master at this, I’d like to share what has really worked for us in long distance relating.

COMMUNICATION –  I cannot stress enough how important it is to be shamelessly vulnerable and transparent about feelings in ANY relationship, better yet a LDR. Establish clear boundaries and discuss potential expectations.  Also, be ready for unspoken expectations that develop over time or that you have carried with you from past life experiences and patterns. A good example of an unspoken expectation in my relationship is my partner tends to call me every morning when she wakes up. Because of this pattern, it has become an expectation. Now that isn’t to say I need her to call every morning or else. It just means that if she doesn’t call or at least shoot a check-in text, I may start to worry that something isn’t right. It’s important to be conscious of these expectations and be willing to discuss them. Sometimes when I find myself having an expectation of my partner that I am not ready to process, I make a list of these expectations and try to reflect on where they rooted from and then discuss them when I am ready.  This gives us both a chance to reflect on boundaries and potential compromises as we continue to learn one another and better our communication with one another.

ACCOUNTABILITY – Miscommunications happen tenfold on LDRs simply due to the fact that you aren’t physically there with each other to read one another’s body language and energies. Be ready to own up to the fact that you are not a perfect communicator and that things get lost in translation often. Try to stay humble.

KEEP THE ROMANCE ALIVE –  Try and treat the relationship as you would any other relationship near or far.  In order to keep the romance alive in my current relationship, we ask each other on dates. Bless technology for making this possible because video chatting (FaceTiming in this case) makes this so accessible to us. Whether it be setting up Netflix and counting down the seconds to hit play at the exact same time, ordering each other take out for a dinner date, or going out to a cafe and ordering your favorite drinks and drinking them together in your own cities — have intentional dates and be present for them. Value each other’s time.

GIFT GIVING – This is honestly my favorite and loops right back into keeping the romance alive. This may not be your love language so feel free to replace this with something else but sending sweet postcards, surprise care packages, flower arrangements…all of the above.

INTENTIONALITY – Be present. In one of the first LDRs I was in, I realized the majority of our disagreements stemmed from someone either being super exhausted or super wasted. Don’t have serious conversations when you’re not in a clear headspace. Be intentional with yourself as well and take time to yourself if you need to. Just because it’s a long distance relationship doesn’t mean it isn’t to be taken seriously and serious matters deserve undivided attention. It’s important to stay conscious and present for your relationship.  It’s easy to fall into an “out of sight out of mind” mentality when someone isn’t physically with you, so think up other ways you can be present for your partner and yourself in times of distance.

SET GOALS – I’ve entered relationships in my past knowing my personal goals, but somewhat neglecting them by over-compromising or allowing myself to be persuaded that my goals were “too serious” or “not adventurous enough.” If you find your dreams and goals are too different from your partner’s, it’s a good opportunity to reflect, establish potential boundaries, and find what will work for you.

That being said, it is important to know your own personal goals as well as the goals for your relationship. My biggest personal goal in my life now is to work toward building a family. Prior to meeting my partner, I had set my mind to creating a family with or without a partner and focused on ways to create compassionate spaces beyond the heteronormative idea of family.  I somehow manifested my partner along the way and that goal has evolved into cohabiting with my partner while working toward creating the foundation for said family. I went into this relationship knowing that I wanted this escalation in my next chapter. When we decided to officially date about a year ago, my partner and I discussed what we both wanted for our future. Our goals were super aligned and as a result, we gave our distance an expiration date. Our next goal became to move in with each other on September 1 of 2018 (a year and some months after meeting).  We had several discussions around planning for the move and generating ways to set the plan in motion in a way that felt balanced for us. We did this by splitting our planning duties, putting together a shared budget for shared expenses, and holding space for ourselves and one another through the transition. It is now just a few weeks before that and we’ve put our pennies together and are a few days short of our cross-country road trip to begin this new chapter in our lives.