I've been with my boyfriend for two years and in that time, we've lived in three different cities on two continents.
The reaction I almost always get when I tell people that my boyfriend lives in Milan is, "I'm so sorry. How do you do it?"
My response usually merits uncomfortable laughter and disbelief, but it's true: "I like it that way."
I couldn't be happier or more confident in our relationship and despite being an ocean apart, we grow more and more in love every day.
We were both in graduate school when we met and began dating.
At first, he didn't believe in making a long-distance relationship work. The plan was to follow our careers, wherever they may take us after school.
It felt like expiration dating - the Sex and the City-coined term used to define a relationship with a set end date.
But when the time came, we decided to stay together and give it a shot and we're so thankful we did.
To be clear, I'm not a relationship expert.
I've had a long-distance relationship that ended in heartbreak and tears due to communication issues and lack of trust and my current relationship only works so well now because of our openness with one another and constant communication.
Despite the 4,000 miles between us, his endless support fuels my ability to be confident and selfish in my career, grow my relationships with family and friends, take care of my health, and get my priorities straight.
Here are some of the ways my long distance relationship has made me happier than I ever thought I could or deserved to be.
1. I feel more confident
Anyone who's in a long-distance relationship knows it's not a relationship of convenience — it's (literally) far from that.
We're both making the active effort every single day to reach out and communicate with each other to feel as though we're as close as we were when we lived a block apart in school.
To know that someone thousands of miles away is making that decision and effort to talk to me every day is powerful and that sense of confidence carries me through life — whether I'm getting ready for an important meeting at work or at a bar where my six-foot-tall model friends keep getting hit on.
I'll keep sipping my tequila soda in the corner with a smile on my face knowing that someone already loves me.
2. I focus more on my career
We've all seen relationships where one person focuses on their career and the other becomes resentful.
Of course, not many people mean to do this at the expense of their partner and relationship, but it often happens organically.
In a long-distance relationship, that doesn't happen.
I feel no guilt whenever I decide to stay late at work and my evenings and weekends are free to plan networking meetings and tackle big projects if I need to.
3. I can dedicate a lot of my free time to my friends and family
My family is Indian and any fellow child of immigrants can relate to having to make the time to call their family abroad at obscure times of day.
Now, nothing stops me from doing so.
Saturday isn't just about date night — it's about calling my tri-continental relatives in India, Australia, and the Philippines.
4. I can put my health first
Working out and eating healthy have always been a big part of my life, but they've become even more of a priority since I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), which affects my hormone levels, last year.
I would be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes I chose to skip a morning workout in turn for spending more time in bed with my boyfriend when we were living in the same city.
Not only do I not have that excuse anymore, but now we see each other so little that when we do, I want to look my absolute best.
5. I feel better about my priorities
Long distance has enabled me to be selfish and prioritize myself and my needs over anyone else's, which is something you can't always do in a relationship.
Whether or not this relationship ends in "happily ever after," I'll never regret having spent most of my energy on my career, friends, and family with all the support of my boyfriend every step of the way.
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