I’ve experienced both sides of being in a long-distance relationship living in and out of New York City. Leaving and returning to the city has definitely made me appreciate it in a different way, but it also taught me how to be more honest and communicative in my relationship.

When I first moved to Venice a year ago for a short-term job opportunity, my partner, Denise*, and I had been dating for almost four years and had just moved in together. We met during our last years in college in NYC and since Denise had been in investment banking for two years and two years in private equity, the time we’d always had together was limited. Typically, we chatted for half an hour before bed and hung out on the weekends. Realistically, she’d have to work on many projects during the weekend, so it was mostly Saturday night or part of Sundays.

When we started living together, it was really nice to see each other more. But, after a while, we realized we were no longer spending quality time together. We had to start scheduling dates to really catch up. I always thought when you start living with someone, you’d spend more personal time with them. Yet, it is easy to take the relationship for granted since that person is always present. Scheduling quality time for each other really helped us communicate and build the foundation for when we went long-distance. It’s not like we didn’t care for each other, but more so we needed to be open in managing realistic expectations given our different schedules.

We also learned that we needed to be open with our pet peeves. In the beginning of a relationship, you don’t want to bring certain things up. You try to be easy going. Over time, you either blow up or you learn to talk about. There are times we blew up and now we learn to talk about it before it gets to that point. We needed to come to a certain medium since we are both living in a shared space. Even if it’s small and random like “stop taking my pillows” or “don’t leave the toothbrush there!”

When I first moved to Italy a year ago, it was really sad. But, what made it easy was Denise visiting me the first month and then again the second. The times she stayed were also really long both during the holidays. Spending those long amounts of quality time never really made me feel like we were never apart. And when I returned back to NYC, we resumed the cadence of scheduling date nights and making time for each other.

Now, Denise has moved abroad for grad school and it has been tough. Yet, we still manage to keep in touch with Whatsapp and Google Voice. We try our best to be mindful of each other’s schedules given the six-hour time difference. Normally, I wake up at 6 AM and go to bed at 10 PM. So, I’ll do a half run in the morning, come home, shower, catch her on the phone, but then go to work. We occasionally message during the day but we understand it is hard since I’m working full-time and she’s settling in a new city.

Now being on the other side of the long-distance relationship, I can empathize more of how Denise felt when I first left NYC. I remember the first time I slept in our bed there was all this empty space and it felt odd. When I told her how I felt, she mentioned that’s how she felt the first night I wasn’t there. I never realized what she was experiencing when I moved to Italy since my first night there was a flood and all I could think about was how to carry my luggage in knee deep water when Venice flooded the first night I was there.

My mind was pre-occupied with a lot and it was a distraction to feeling lonely. Being back in New York has helped me be more thankful to my friend group and support system to get me through this period. Being able to count on a group of people who’ve known you for 7+ years is truly invaluable. I also realize what it takes to be communicative in a relationship being on both sides of the distance.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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