WWSD

What Would Sarah Do?  Ancient advice for modern times.

You Can't Always Get What You Want: Advice On Long Distance Romance

Edward Munch, "Separation," 1896. Public domain image.

Edward Munch, "Separation," 1896. Public domain image.

Dear Sivan,

After years of searching, I have finally met the love of my life. We met studying abroad, and at the end of the year I will graduate, but he will still have another year of school. I cannot get a visa to stay here; I have to return to the U.S.

My boyfriend and I have decided to try a long distance relationship and see where it takes us and what we want to do at the end of our year apart. We plan to visit as often as possible, but a year is a long time to be so far from one another.

I am so in love with him; my heart is breaking.

Can our relationship survive the trials of long distance? And, being from two different countries to begin with, where will we be when our year apart ends?

Sincerely,

Long Distance Lover


WHAT WOULD SARAH DO?


Throughout history, women have practiced patience, and the Bible tells us that patience and faith are virtues that will be rewarded. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Hannah all suffered infertility, practiced faith and patience, and were eventually rewarded with children. 

When it comes to patient women of antiquity and having faith that love will persevere, we can learn the most from The Odyssey's Penelope, who waited twenty years for the return of her husband. She even managed to put off the one hundred-and-eight suitors who sought her hand in her husband's long absence. She remains a symbol of fidelity and faith in love, and is the patron saint of long distance relationships.

These stories are meant to teach us that patience and faith will bring us what we long for in life. That if you and your man remain true to one another while you are part, and if you believe unwaveringly that you will one day be together, you will be rewarded with the love you are fighting for. But the truth is, sometimes we give it all we've got, but life has its own plans for us.


WHAT WOULD SIVAN SAY?


Dear Long Distance Lover,

Long distance relationships have their fair share of challenges, but those challenges can be overcome. Many long distance relationships result in reunion, while many do not. In truth, they are like ANY relationship. They require communication, commitment, and compromise, hard work and patience, empathy and compassion, and an unwavering dedication to overcoming obstacles. If you and your boyfriend are equally steadfast in your efforts, if you both fight for your love and are able to conquer the obstacles this long distance relationship will place in your path, then you can and will be together after your time apart.

I once had a relationship that began immediately prior to my leaving the country for six months. When I returned, he was away at school. And so, for the first year of our relationship we were apart. But we were committed to one another and we did what it took to make it work. We wrote letters and emails and had long phone calls. We visited one another as often as we could. We both resisted the temptations that life threw at us. And, after our year apart, we had another three beautiful years together before the relationship naturally ran its course. 

I had another relationship that was rocky, and in the end we decided to take a break when I went to spend the summer across the country. We loved each other fiercely, and we sincerely hoped that our time apart would make us stronger when we came back together. Instead, what began as a temporary distance became the final goodbye we both needed, and now we are happily partnered with others who are more suited to us.

I have a friend who had a long distance relationship with her boyfriend for SEVEN YEARS. That seems like an insurmountable obstacle to me. But, after seven years of long distance love, her boyfriend moved to her state, they married, and they are still happily married many years later. Their patience and dedication paid off. But the key is this: Their patience and dedication enabled them to triumph, but it is not the reason they are still together. They are still together because they were meant to be.

I know this may sound like a load of hogwash, but it is the damn truth. You have to work hard to make your long distance relationship work. You have to be patient and unwavering in your resolve. But all of that is just to give your relationship a fighting chance. In the end, it will work out ONLY IF IT IS MEANT TO BE. And that is something we can only know in hindsight.

I look back on the many (MANY) serious relationships I have had over the years, and then I look at my husband, and I understand without hesitation why I am where I am today. No matter how much I loved my exes, they are my exes for a reason. Those previous relationships simply were not meant to be, no matter how much I wanted them to be at the time. In the end, I was rewarded for my hard work, for my patience, and for my faith. But my reward did not come in the form I had hoped it would at the time.

Patience. Faith. Perseverance. An unwavering willingness to overcome obstacles. We need to practice these skills, yes. And we will be rewarded. But our reward does not always come in the form we want it to take. It comes in the form we need, whether we like it in the moment or not. 

That's it. The Rolling Stones said it best. It may not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth. If you love one another you both need to give your long distance relationship everything you've got. And then you need to trust that, whether or not you get what you want, you will get what you need.

I wish you the strength to persevere, the patience needed to succeed, and the rewards you seek. I wish you and your boyfriend a lifetime of happiness, and I truly hope that your dreams come true. But whether or not you get what you want, take pride in fighting like hell for love. I speak from experience when I say that I have not always gotten what I want in life, and am happier, instead, having gotten what I need.

With women's wisdom and women's words,

Sivan