I’m not going to sit here and pretend that my long-distance relationship is rainbows and butterflies because it’s been tough; my partner is my best friend. We went from seeing each other three to four days a week to not seeing each other for weeks at a time.
I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn't going to ever write an article giving relationship advice and that still stands. I can't give advice on relationships because every relationship is different. I can only be honest about mine.
Not to get all gross and sappy, but we fell for each other fast and hard. My partner and I began dating in 2018 and knew from the beginning that if we were to continue to pursue our feelings for each other, there was going to be a time where we had to be physically apart. Needless to say, we made the difficult decision early on in our relationship to do “the long-distance thing” when it was time for my partner to move to complete the final year of his doctoral program.
Nic and Ethan in front of Red Emma's in Baltimore / Nic F. Anderson
I expected life to finally bring me to my beloved New York City after graduating college in May. I planned on hustling my way up the journalism world food chain and making it to the top. I was ready. I had my clips printed and organized neatly in a binder and perfected my online portfolio. It seemed perfect because Baltimore is only a three-hour train ride from New York City and approximately $30 to $50 for roundtrip train tickets. It seemed doable and made the distance seem less daunting. But of course, that’s not what happened, because when does life actually go as planned?
Two months after graduating from college and one month after my partner moved, I was offered an amazing opportunity to become a part-time news reporter at a hyper-local newspaper. I love hyper-local news and would have been a fool to not take it, so I took it; however, it’s what keeps me in Chicago… for now.
But the three-hour train ride tripled to an almost 16-hour train ride with the price tripling as well. It’s exactly 704 miles between my apartment in Chicago and my partner’s apartment in Baltimore. That’s a 12-hour, seven-minute car ride. Except, if you’re someone like me who doesn’t like to drive on the highway nor pay for tolls, that drive turns into a 721 mile and a shocking 17-hour, 17-minute drive. I’m not even sure if my 1998 model car would make it out of Illinois. That’s what the mechanic I go to tells me anyway.
The exact distance between Chicago and Baltimore (avoiding highways and tolls).
It’s been exactly three months since my partner packed up his things in his Astro van and headed to Baltimore. Our physical time apart has involved a few thousand tears, several impulse plane ticket purchases and an almost unreasonable amount of plant propagation on my end. His involved plane tickets and a lot of trip planning.
I’ve read countless articles on “how to make long-distance relationships less miserable,” but they’re filled with an ungodly amount of heteronormativity, toxic positivity and ads to buy useless things that we would never use (see: touch bracelet). All of things I read made me feel worse. It’s what brought me to my keyboard today.
Throughout the way, I have discovered some things that help make the distance less miserable for me.
For starters, I have really thrown myself into my hobbies, specifically my love for growing things. I have gone from someone with only a few house plants to someone who owns a mini greenhouse and has more than 60 plants around the apartment (yes, including the bathroom). I have an array of vegetables and herbs growing in the greenhouse.
Two levels of the indoor mini greenhouse in Nic's apartment / Nic F. Anderson
I have plants propagating in glass bottles and plants in pots on every windowsill. I even started an Instagram for my plants (@queerhouseplants). Luckily, my roommate enjoys the “forest look” and allows me to continue on with my plant obsession unbridled. All jokes aside, tending to my plants daily helps distract me in a healthy way.
My partner and I have long subscribed to the idea that sending mail through USPS is great; it’s like receiving a present after a long day of work. We have a traveling journal that we write in and send back and forth to each other. I’m a big fan of making DIY activity books with homemade word searches, coloring pages and ad libs. It’s like passing notes back and forth to your crush. It’s cute and fun.
Traveling "love chronicles" notebook with Pigmentó Zine and Haiku Band stickers / Nic F. Anderson
Personally, I enjoy video chatting more than phone calls. Seeing my partner’s face makes me feel better. Don’t get me wrong, hearing his voice is also great, but why not have both if it’s possible? We do normal things together while we video chat such as eat dinner “together” and put face masks on. Engaging in everyday activities while video chatting makes things feel more normal
All in all, I don’t have a “cure” to stop the constant feeling of missing my partner and some days are worse than others. There isn’t a one-size fits long-distance relationship advice. The only honest advice I can give to others in a long-distance relationship is find yourself a hobby, figure out which communication method or methods work for you, check-in with yourself and your partner, put in the work and most importantly: take care of yourself.