So Long, Long-Distance

Sometimes the only way to preserve a relationship that spans the globe is to break up

The boyfriend and I just celebrated our sixth-month anniversary. Candlelight dinner, champagne, the works. To some, that may seem a bit much for just a sixth month anniversary. But that night, we both knew that our relationship wasn’t going to make it to a year. By the end of the night, it would be over.

He’s relocating to the other side of the world for work. I’m staying in Singapore. It will be a year, maybe more, before we’ll be able to reconnect again. He found out he was moving a month ago, and it took a month’s worth of deliberation to find our answer to the question, “Should we do long-distance?” At five months, there was no clear-cut answer. I thought about how we got to this point — it took time (nearly a year of being “just friends”!), patience, and more than a little courage. Losing him, even just as a friend, seemed unthinkable.

But after scouring the Internet for guidance, one line really stuck with me: A long-distance relationship isn’t a relationship — it’s the promise of one. Did I really want to be stuck in a promise for a year?

I thought, there are two possible ways this could go. Option 1: We could stick it out. We could persevere through the distance. After all, modern-day modes of communication like Skype, Facebook, and WhatsApp hold together so many people’s long-distance relationships nowadays. We could join that club. We could send messages into space, and receive replies 12 hours later, long having forgotten what our original intent was, lost somewhere in a dream. We could chat over constantly-freezing Skype calls and have conversations that are 50 per cent “Can you say that again? I didn’t hear you.” What fun.

Aside from the challenges of distance, there’s the uglier side of the equation. We’re both starting our careers, our lives. In different cities, with different people. Who knows what opportunities may arise? Chances are, we would eventually break up. On bad terms. We might never be friends again.

Or… the second option. We could break up amiably now, and save ourselves the months of struggling with maintaining a long distance relationship.

Some optimists may believe there’s the third option: Make it work. But taking the time difference, actual distance, and a whole year into account, I can’t help but take the realist’s perspective. Are we meant for each other? Maybe. Are we meant for each other now? No. Our lives are just beginning.

So what’s our plan? When couples break up, the most common thing to say is “Let’s stay friends.” It’s a sentiment infamous for its insincerity, sure. But that’s the plan. And that’s a promise that I can keep.

So here we are, just friends. And after all, we were friends for far longer than we’ve been dating. Making the transition backwards can’t be that difficult, can it? Can exes ever be friends again? Has this decision sealed away this relationship for good? Or left an open possibility to pursue later, to be re-opened at a better time, by better people?

Maybe, after a year of friendship, we could continue dating, our romantic relationship made stronger, having stood through this trial. I can’t help thinking that this is the ultimate test. Our future relies on whether our friendship was just a frustrated prelude to our romantic relationship or actually something lasting and golden. And that’s something we’ll inevitably find out very soon — for better or for worse.

By Katharine Chua

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