Raphaël and I met one summer in the south of France. We became friends very quickly. Not ready to fall in love, we tried to fool ourselves by pushing away the feeling of attraction. But this is not how things work. And, in just a couple of weeks, we madly fell in love. But, to be together, we knew we would have to start a long-distance relationship.
The reason was that I had to move to Sweden to start a new school. And, Raphaël had to stay in France to continue his studies. Therefore, we had to make a choice. We had no idea of “how” to make this long-distance relationship work, but we knew we could.
Are long-distance relationships healthy?
To maintain a long-distance relationship, you have to put in the effort like you would with a “normal” relationship. We all have to work on it, taking anything or anyone for granted is the first mistake. Anyways, this article is not about that. It is about what happens after we moved in together. But, if you’re looking for inspiration for your long-distance relationship, check out this article.
To be honest, I was freaking out, even if I have been doing long-distance distance my whole life. First, with my family, growing up in the Dominican Republic while they were in France. Then, with parents, as I left home at 15 to start high school in a different city. I should have known how to handle being away from the people I love. But, the fear of losing him was still present. And I had my reasons.
I’ve been with a guy before Raphaël. We’ve been together for a long time, and we also tried the long-distance thing. We were not ready; we didn’t know how to communicate; we didn’t know anything. Therefore, moving in together after one year of long-distance was a fiasco. For this reason, when I met Raphaël, I had this scar. And I was afraid to experience the same thing. I was scared to lose what Raphaël and I had.
How moving in together changes things:
The most significant change when I moved in with Raphaël was that I had to share my space again. We’ve been part for so long that we forgot how to simply share the bathroom or our favorite side of the couch. I felt like all my little habits needed to change, if not wholly, at least a bit. Being alone was easy; I could just do what I wanted when I wanted it. Being in a long-distance relationship with Raphaël was easy, we were on the phone when we decided to. We could give each other attention when we decided to (to be honest 20h a day).
Moving together with your partner doesn’t mean that you are a different person or half of a person. For as much as we like to think that we found the one, we still are one individual with your own needs and personality. And it’s up to us to give up some habits and keep some others. Keep doing what you love because it’s up to you, and only you, to find the things you enjoy in life. Your partner is just here to walk with you, not for you, towards your happily forever after.
We move in this physical space we call home differently. We think differently, and we need different things. For example, when I get home, I like to do the little things that I have to do before relaxing. For me, it’s a way to get all things done before I can just sit down and enjoy an episode or a drawing session. But, for Rapha, it’s different. He gets home and needs to relax before doing anything else. It makes me so mad because I want to relax later with him. But then, I realize that we are just different and move in this space differently! And I have to respect that.
We created our “living together” cheatsheet:
I like to structure my time. Since I was a kid, I had millions of to-do-list and colorful pens to check them. I feel this need to track my progress, understand patterns of behavior and, look back at what I’ve learned and achieved.
However, Raphaël is the total opposite. He is a doer too, but he likes to freestyle without much reflection or planning. So, when we work together, you can imagine that there can be a bit of a clash. And, to minimize this clash, we created a “living together” cheatsheet. It helps us frame how we communicate to avoid fights. We still fight, of course, but “better” (more constructively).
1. Use the I-message:
When addressing each other, we express our opinions by using the “I ” message. It’s a powerful way to express yourself by showing vulnerability, therefore, being more inviting.
For example, we’d say, “I feel annoyed when you spend two hours in the shower because I don’t have time to get properly ready for work” instead of “stop showering two hours.”
To summarize, we describe the behavior (the “what”), the feeling it creates and, the effect this behavior has on us. We feel less attacked this way and understand better where our actions have an impact and why. Then, it’s our choice, of course, to respond or not (like apologizing and changing our behavior).
2. Have your own space:
When Raphaël moved in, I made some space for him and only him. We share some things, like the shelves where we have books and gears. We know it, we use it together, and we make sure to keep it as we both want it.
But, even in our 1,5 room apartment, we enjoy some me-space. Raphaël has his shelves where he can put his gear, clothes, and documents. He has some space in the bathroom where he can put his products, whereas mine is in the living room, where I get ready every morning.
Additionally, I have some space for my plants (my hobbies) in a corner, where I spend some time in the evening. When I water them and take care of them, Raphaël knows that I am in my bubble, physically here but mentally far away. Having our own space is essential. We don’t feel like we have to share everything, and, for a control freak like me, I can keep some control over the space where I live.
3. Keep your habits (and create new ones together):
One thing freaking me out before Rapha came to live with me after so long was: will I have to change all my habits and create a new life with him? We were so used to be far apart, that we almost created these two different lives—the one with each other, and the other one alone.
Of course, in the first couple of weeks, we were so excited to be together that it didn’t matter. After a while, I needed to get back to the life I created when he was far away (3,5 years). Not entirely, of course. But, for example, hanging out with my friends (friends he didn’t know). For him, it had some time for his hobbies.
I can’t stress it enough: you are an individual on your own. I had to facilitate him into my life, and help him find his bearings. He was the one leaving things behind and coming into “my” world. So, I introduced him to my friends and to the things I liked. But, after a while, he created his habits, and I could continue with mine. We still have a lot of them in common, of course, I’m almost always glued to him anyways.
4. Find your tempo:
Like I said before, Raphaël and I don’t have the same way of functioning. He likes to chill when he gets home, and I, on the other hand, prefer to get things done right away to have some free time afterward. And, sometimes, it can be annoying. But, rather than getting (too) mad about it, we found a middle ground. We just don’t do the same things; we do them together, but not at the same stage.
For example, I like to do things directly when coming back from home. Therefore I will cook or tidy up some stuff in the apartment. Raphaël likes to chill when he gets home, so he will do the dishes afterward when it’s my time to chill. We’re trying to see who likes to do what, and when. We find our dance, our tempo, and it’s easier this way.
Ask yourself how you worked best before you moved in together, both of you. Then, see if you see some patterns, ways you guys could work together best. But, If you are exactly the same, lucky you! You can do everything together and chill together (my dream).
5. Do things together:
Moving in together after a long-distance relationship can challenge the passion. Seeing each other every three months kept the fire burning. The extreme sadness I felt every time Raphaël was leaving reminded me of the love and desire I have for him.
However, when you move in together, this passionate feeling can fade away. We realized that we didn’t do anything special anymore because we were together all the time anyway. Then, we started cooking together, showering together or, having coffee every morning before going to work. We created the routine that fitted us, without being boring, those little things that make your time together precious.
Find those little things that you like doing together, intimate things without being sexual—showering together, holding hands or cuddling during a movie, or cooking together while listening to music. Those things are proven to increase intimacy in a relationship. You can find a few inspiration here.
6. Keep an attitude of gratitude:
When we were living far apart, all we ever wanted was to be together. Every time I cried, the only thing I wanted to be was for Raphaël to hold me. When I was happy, I wanted to share my wins with him. Living so far away can be very challenging, especially when you’re so young. You want to grow fast, share everything, and be bold. Being in a long-distance relationship makes you patient.
THIS INTENSE FEELING OF GRATITUDE COMES BACK RUNNING TO OUR HEARTS.
Because of that, we force ourselves to keep an attitude of gratitude when we are in a crisis. Sometimes, only taking a step back can push you forward. We don’t stay mad for long, because we know how much it hurts when you don’t even have the privilege to be crazy.
So, the last advice we give ourselves when we struggle to share our tiny place is remembering. Remember how it hurts when we’re far. And say it out loud, tell your partner out loud why you’re grateful to them and your relationship. Then, and only then, this intense feeling of gratitude comes back running into our hearts.
Writing this article made me realize how lucky we are to be together. And I want all of you, by reading this, to feel lucky as well. I want this blog to empower you and your relationship. If you have questions, just post a comment or send us a message on Instagram @letyouwander.