Surviving the Distance

My boyfriend, Kris, and I have been together for seven years. Out of those seven years, two have been via a long distance relationship. Those two years apart have taught me something very valuable about having a partner; they can’t read minds.

In 2015, my family decided to sell their house in Winnipeg and move to Maple Ridge, BC, Canada. I had no idea what I was getting myself in to. I was 19 and more naive than I want to admit. When my parents first announced that they wanted to move, I didn’t believe them. For years they had talked about moving, first to Calgary, then Edmonton, and even New Zealand. When the day came and they said, British Columbia, I vowed I would never move with them. I was in school and had a great life in Winnipeg, why would I want to give that up? 

After long night conversations with my mom, I decided to move with my dad, step-mom, and brother when I realized that I may never get an opportunity like this again. We packed everything up in September of 2015. The house hadn’t been sold yet (and it wouldn’t sell until November), but we had to leave so my younger brother could attend school. I remember driving off from the old house waving goodbye to Kris and my sister (who was choosing to stay in Winnipeg). I think I cried for about an hour, but then soon after I took a gravol and passed out.

Living in BC, away from everyone I knew except my family, was really hard. I got two casual jobs working with students, which was fantastic for me because I was in school to be a teacher. However, I didn’t make a lot of friends. In fact, I didn’t make a single lasting friendship. I met lots of people, made great relationships with the students that I worked with, but I never met someone my age that I could hang out with. I never felt brave enough to go online and meet people that way. As a result, Skyping with friends from Winnipeg became my saving grace. 

I had no friends in Maple Ridge, so my new alone time forced me to re-evaluate a lot of relationships that I had in my life. Yes, I continued to keep friendships I probably shouldn’t have, but Kris and I evolved beyond what most people expected from us. I soon learned that indeed, men cannot read minds. Communication was so important if we were to be successful in this new phase of our relationship, and I had to learn those skills the hard way.

It took a few fights, and a lot of miscommunication, but I finally figured out how to explain how I was feeling. I realized that when I was feeling jealous that he was out with our friends, it wasn’t his job to make me happy or to make me feel better about missing out. When he was out partying, I would text him subtle messages of me being upset, or give him one word replies. I was mad damn it! Why couldn’t he see that? Because he couldn’t read my mind. I wasn’t honest with myself about how jealous I was, and as a result I would always take it out on him. And that wasn’t fair.

 He was allowed to go out with friends, and believe me, that year I was away, my friends hung out EVERY WEEKEND. I missed out on all of the fun (something we still joke about), but I learned something new about myself. It’s okay to be apart from the people you love. And it was okay to be jealous. 

Even though they were off having fun and I was alone, in my room, with no friends, I learned that it wasn’t the end of the world. My alone time gave me a much needed separation from my old reality. I was growing and needed that time apart from everyone in order for me to finally see what was worth the effort of maintaining long distance. I took stock of the relationships in my life and which I actually wanted to flourish. That toxic friendship I mentioned earlier? Yeah, I got rid of that after an explosive event took place. I vowed from then on I wouldn’t let people into my life that treated me that way. And I said I needed to treat Kris better.

I came back home in 2016 to finish school. Kris and I moved in together, into a beautiful place I like to call Chateaux ala Mom’s Basement. Finally, 2019 came and I graduated with my Bachelor of Education degree and soon found myself in familiar territory, being offered something that required me to move away. I was offered an amazing job in a remote First Nation community in Northern Manitoba. It required me to relocate myself to a community with no yearly road access; aka no easy way for Kris to visit. I wanted this job. But I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. 

I talked to Kris alot about my job offer and what it would mean for us. I had left him four years earlier to pursue my dream life of living elsewhere, and now I was being offered something that again would require me to leave him. What was he going to think? Would he support me on this? Would he want me to stay back? Would he be understanding like he was last time? Could our relationship survive another year, maybe more, apart again?

The answer was, of course. Kris has been the most supportive person in my life when it comes to following my dreams. Ever since I moved away for the first time, I decided that I couldn’t let relationships hold me back from leaving for something new. And Kris understands that probably better than I do. When I told him that I wanted this job really badly, he told me he would be okay. I had lived three provinces away from him for a year; at least this time we would be in the same province. 

There are times when I feel like I take advantage of Kris’s simple and reflexive demeanor. He doesn’t take things too seriously, he is extremely patient (and it drives me nuts — It’s okay to honk at other drivers you know!), and above all else, he loves me and trusts me. Not once did we think the other would be unfaithful in our time apart. Not once did we think that our relationship wouldn’t make it. Not once did we believe this wasn’t possible. Because we trusted each other. And I had learned, years earlier, that it’s okay to be away from the ones you love. If they love you, they will stay in your life.

How did we build that strength within our relationship?  I think Kris and I know our time apart only means our time together is more valuable. After a few months of me being up north teaching this year, I was able to come home for a visit. I made sure to see as many of my close friends as I could, but above all else, I made sure to spend time with Kris. He understood that my time home was limited and I had a lot of people I wanted to see, but I made sure to always keep time set aside for him. Our quiet evenings together were what I always look forward to most (except for one night when I drank too much at a social. Who knew months without drinking would mean my tolerance would change??). I can always count on Kris being there for me. And I know he feels the same way.

Being apart has made our relationship more fun, more interesting, and more valuable. It has also made me a more adventurous, trusting, and independent person. We both understand we have our own lives to live but at the end of the day, we have each other to come home to. And yes, I do still like to make subtle hints at things to see if he will pick up on them. And no, he never does. But I try not to do it as often, because in reality, your partner shouldn’t have to read minds.


Note from Maria: The image at the top of the page is one of my favourites. Our friends had planned a cabin weekend that Kelsey couldn’t make because she was in BC. A friend had snapped her this picture, and she sent this wonderful photo shop job back so she could “be there” too!

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