If you had told 17 year old me that I would be living with Kollin in Chicago and having the time of my life, I would have had a hard time believing you. In any love story there are times of hardship and character building, ours included. Because we have known each other since we were 14, we have definitely seen each other grow into who we are and have shown sides of ourselves that we aren't proud of.
On September 15, 2016 Kollin and I celebrated our four year anniversary and it was perfect. We always hear from family how much of an example of love we are and I'm always asked by readers and friends how we managed to get where we are after years of being in different parts of the country.
To be honest, I don't have a solid answer I give everyone. I thought it would be helpful for other people reading to hear the perspective from both of us about what we have done successfully and unsuccessfully as a couple that had to adapt to change often - everyone, welcome Kollin to The Creative Brief!
The most important lesson I've learned from our relationship:
Since our relationship started at such a young age, it took me a long time to understand that we were both growing up and that believe it or not we wouldn't end up the same person we were at age 14 (who knew?!). There were times where I just needed to let Kollin grow and be himself even if I disagreed or didn't understand and he did the same with me. Letting your partner become who they want in the way that they want is so important.
I would say taking the time to show affection. A lot of couples are in a rush, us included, and I think it is important to really cherish those moments and let other things wait.
What I've learned about myself in this relationship:
My expectations aren't always realistic or fair. I remember reading an article a few years ago about how the way you love someone is not always the expectation that person has. Understanding each other's needs and how to best adapt and communicate my expectations was a learning curve for me.
Being cognsant about the little things. Those little things can go a lot further than what you actually think is important. Being a law student, there are a lot of assignments and time commitments that I have after school, but making a point to spend time with Amanda before I begin my studies creates a balanced environment.
How long distance made me a better partner:
I wanted to talk all the time and would be upset if there was something else that took time away from us. It then dawned on me that I had to choose Kollin over other things, even my own wants so that he could be the person he wanted. His soccer games, studying, fraternity commitments, etc. took away from our time together, but those things are what made him Kollin. Understanding the importance of choosing your partner everyday puts into perspective what is most important. Once I had this perspective, the small things about our relationships became the best parts.
Long distance made me more confident about our relationship because I knew that if we could last long-distance, we could last anything. Having that confidence allowed me to focus on the positive aspects of our relationship rather than the stress of worrying about what the other is doing. Not worrying about negative things made our relationship an easier and happier one.
How I overcame the hardest part of our relationship:
Kollin and I agree that being apart was the hardest part of our relationship. Personally, it was difficult to overcome the feeling that I was missing out on experiences with Kollin because we were separated. Having separate college experiences really shaped us into who we are and I am thankful for that today. When I would feel down about it I would focus on the amazing experiences we would have once we were together again.
Amanda and I created an "agenda" that allowed us to focus more on time together and communicating regularly. Our plan was hard to stick to at times and was often pushed back or cancelled for our various commitments. I realized I needed to just commit and understand that if we both tried hard to fulfill our plan, our hard work would be worth it in the end.
What I would tell myself four years ago:
Everything will work out, have faith in our love. There weren't many times where I would feel discouraged, but all the hardships came with feelings of sadness. I would tell myself not to worry and that everything I dreamed of would happen and it would be even better than I imagined.
The long distance that we went through before was just practice for where we are now. The effort put in back then taught us time management, which is still important today. Learning the importance of quality time early on was difficult, but something I am thankful for today.
My advice for other couples:
Don't let other relationships or even friends and family members define your relationship. Go at your pace, focus on what is important to you and your partner and communicate constantly about your goals and desires. If you think this person is the person, ask the hard questions and be upfront about what you expect from each other - it makes the actual hard times easier.
There is one thing that good relationships come down to... an open line of communication. If you can communicate well with each other you can get through any bump in the road. Don't be afraid to express your thoughts and desires with each other.
I hope this was helpful for my fellow long-distance couples and those of you looking for some insight. Every couple is different and in no way do we want to imply that these are rules to follow. Do what makes you and your partner happy! Thanks so much for reading!