I stood in Fiji airport, gripping on to my boyfriend and exuding all the water I had in my body through my eyes. It was not a pretty sight, believe it or not. He was returning home to England and I was to go on alone in South America for six weeks. SIX WHOLE WEEKS. I couldn't believe it. Forgetting about military wives who part with loved ones for six months for a moment... the idea seemed horrendous to me.
But really I was crying because I knew it would be different between us, for a long while. After a wobbly couple of days in America I managed to pull myself together enough to start enjoying the experience. By the time I returned home, I'd got used to being apart. It was actually difficult to be around him at the start.
The first thing is how much you want to see them. When I'd left I was quite set on seeing James for as long as possible when I got back, but a week is a long time when you've been apart for six. It might sound crazy, and I'm sure it's different for other people, but having no physical contact and then having your hand held and your faced kissed can be a huge invasion of personal space to you, after time alone. Especially when your partner is craving exactly that.
After that week, I arrived at university where visits become every other week. My university is only an hour and a half up the road from home, so it's not too tough. But there had to be space between us regardless, for the experience of university to be productive. And there are lessons to be learnt if you want to make it through that space from one another.
All those stupid little arguments you have? Ditch the constant texting or emailing. You'd think that texting is a minute amount of the information you'd be exchanging if you were chatting together. But the truth is it's forced, unnatural and creates problems. If I wasn't replying as fast as normal, because I was meeting new people, he'd become annoyed, understandably, or impatient. And crazily, I'd be the same when I knew he was at work and couldn't respond.
The best way to handle that is to stop speaking all day. Agree to phone or skype once every few days and text a minimal amount of times in between that. I'm not saying that if a conversation comes up you should avoid it, but reducing contact makes it much easier to stop being sad about each other being away and stop those fights.
Settle it with each other how often you're going to visit. That way there's no one who's secretly wishing something else, and you know what to expect and look forward to. Also be strong for what you need personally, if you're doing something like me, in first year of university, you have to know how important it is to make those friends and get involved in the student life. No one wants to be that person drunk calling their partner every night and always being away at the weekends.
Most importantly, planning a killer trip is a must. The times you are seeing one another, work out some interesting stuff to go and do. James and I have organised dinners for each other, been ice skating at Somerset House, visited Christmas markets and met up with friends too. There's not a hope in hell that sitting watching Breaking Bad in your pajamas all weekend with them will make either of you value your time together. Not that those moments should be banned, everyone needs to flop, but since we've taken advantage of the time we spend together, it's been a hell of a lot easier.
The most difficult challenge is patience. Keep your head switched on and try to avoid snapping at them when you're having a bad day, or reading too much into what they've said. Keep yourself together, and you keep the relationship together. It's nice to be able to spoil each other more often.
We had a rough patch in adjusting to that. There was a week where we were crying down the phone to each other, totally confused by our feelings. But the weekend I saw him then saved everything, because we talked and we figured out what our priorities were. Once you've sorted that, you're in it for the long haul. #Youngsters #Social media