|Separation tests couple’s relationship|
|Six weeks in Africa is a learning experience|
|Published Thursday, July 3, 2014 6:30 am|
There is legitimacy in young love. This is a fact that I have had to consistently remind myself over the years.
As a black woman in my 20s, I feel that there is a negative stereotype to ‘dating,’ and for that matter love. Both are always framed as not serious, with cheating and going through different lovers quickly. Or relationships are too serious; five of my Facebook friends have gotten married since I have been on this trip. So there is little room for a middle ground.
I have been in a relationship for a little more than a year and a half. We met during our college move-in day and have been extremely close since then. Because my boyfriend is a student at my college, we see each other almost all day every day. We even see each other over breaks, for the past couple of years we have both interned in the same city between semesters- so with me in Africa and him in Charlotte those 5,445 miles are a very new experience to us.
Even though this distance is temporary and the time is short compared to many long distance relationships, the effects are permanent. I have had life changing moments here, which I wasn’t able to share with him in a way I normally would. Most of my experiences here are so great that I only want to share them with him, but I can’t. With that I say that long distance relationships are hard.
I had a few fears before leaving that states about my own relationship. I had never been that far, from any loved one for that matter, for that amount of time. I was scared; I was excited, I was doubtful. Words of wisdom suggest that ‘Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder.’ while this may be sort of true, I want to share some tips I wish I had heard before I left:
1. Patience is hard to have, but it is needed.
With being so far away it’s hard to get a hold of each other sometimes. With our time differences often times I’m eating lunch when he is just waking up.
If I want a conversation before I go to bed, it’s usually dinner time there or he’s just getting off work. And to send a text to let him know I got home safe will usually wake him up. The learning curve to find times when we were both free was hard. I remember our first digital Wi-Fi conversation; at least our attempt at a conversation, the delay and static caused us both to get so frustrated I wondered if I would ever hear from anyone from home. WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, postcards, all of these forms of communication, will take time to get used to. Not to mention the power outages and lack of available Wi-Fi, we really had to work hard to find a way that worked best.
2. Communication is the key, the lock and sometimes even the locksmith.
This is honestly the most important point for me. In Ghana between teaching, taking classes in culture and dance, and just getting to and from places, I experience so much more than I did in a typical day in America. By the time we have the chance to talk there was always so much I want to say. However, most of the time I can’t remember all that happened in a day or even being able to describe what I have seen. Occasionally that causes frustration on both ends.
Texting does not, ever, adequately describe feelings or tone in conversations. Often some of the longest quarrels we have had started from a misunderstood text. (Darn, autocorrect.) Every so often I needed to remind myself that I need to have some space, just a moment to set down my phone and to be present here instead of in cyberspace. I suggest to never let an argument settle without some sort of resolution, a lot of discussions may need to be tabled, but even if I’m about to go to sleep and its day time there, I can’t sleep angry.
3. Trusting each other should be a prerequisite even before leaving
Being so far is hard, as I have said, but trust should be able to follow. And I’m not speaking of trust like to stay committed in the relationship, but trust with little things. Can I trust that you will give me a call this weekend? Can I vent about this problem I’m having over here and you be okay with it?
Before I left we talked about what things we were and were not okay with, we both think I shouldn’t go out alone, fair enough. Some things we were both comfortable with in The States have to be reevaluated. Doing a pulse check on how things in the relationship are going have kept our vitals strong for the past few weeks.
4. Don’t let ‘this’ put a damper on your happiness
You can make it through ‘this.’ I have to consistently remind myself to be present in Ghana, not to be engulfed in my phone. I chose to go on this trip, and I knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest thing to do, but the experience would be irreplaceable, much like my relationship. I knew there would be ups and downs, even if I was in the States.
Distance only adds a new dimension. I feel that knowing that we can make it through this experience, short lived as this trip may be, we can make it through a lot more to come.
In all actuality I have had hesitations to write much about my relationship while on my trip. I feel that I am almost conditioned to see young love as brief that writing about it almost jinxes it in my mind. Writing this means a lot to me, and I hope it will help others in the future.
Some lasting thoughts: Talk to each other often, but journal more. Know that it’s okay to want ‘space,’ even in a different time zone. It’s okay to get frustrated, even to doubt yourself. You’re allowed to hate ‘this,’ but don’t forget to love ‘this’ as well. This is the experience and the memories you will look back on and remember for years to come.
Cidney Holliday, Davidson College Class of 2015, is on a six-week research mission on Catholicism in Ghana. She is a graduate of South Mecklenburg High School.
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