Grunge Queen

I have had two long-term romantic relationships. Both of them have been long-distance. Either I really enjoy the challenge of a complicated life, or the saying rings true: you can’t help who you fall in love with (I’m betting on the latter).

The second of these relationships I’m still happily in, but I won’t pretend the distance isn’t fucking hard, and it’s certainly not as wistful and passionate as portrayed in literature. It can be shit.

But the struggles and demands are what make the good moments so precious, and I believe ultimately if you can fight the odds to stay together, you can get through pretty much anything. Reuniting in person after spending weeks apart is what makes the difficult times worth it.

I practically live on the M4, flitting back to Wales every chance I get to savour the magic of my boyfriend’s company (in-keeping with the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special services debate, Leigh Delamere really is the best of a bad bunch). The knowledge that we are in this together is encouragement to persevere, and the fact I still get butterflies on meeting again is reassurance that this is the right decision.

There are occasions where I’m tempted to sack it all off: quit my job, pack up all my stuff from my Nan’s spare room, and lug it back home to follow a more conventional route and let our lives intwine more naturally. But I feel no pressure to do this and am grateful for the support Josh gives me in pursuing my career, as I know this is where my efforts are mainly required currently.

Dreams and goals are flexible, however. They can change. Love is harder to achieve in my opinion, and it seems rare to be granted another shot if you fail to take what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity with the person you connect with. Individual lives are so flimsy, messy and unpredictable; you never know where the person you could have fallen for’s path will take them if you don’t intercept it.

A year ago I was living at home with my parents, working in a local pub and spending all my spare time applying for jobs and dreaming of moving to London. Fast forward a month to last December and two parts of my world collided as I discovered I had been offered the marketing job I applied for, whilst simultaneously unexpectedly falling for someone who had no intention of moving to the city.

Being so preoccupied with leaving Wales I had no desire to meet anyone – besides, I’d lived there for ten years, left for uni and returned, and met every potential love interest (or so I thought) and none had worked out. So the spontaneous connection and chance meetings with Josh knocked me for six.

I’m a sucker for blaming events on fate, and it seemed too obvious that as soon as I was about to go and chase my dreams, the man of my dreams mysteriously appeared. Typical. Perspective is a funny thing; the grass is always greener (as I shamelessly repeat more often than the eternally grateful aliens in Toy Story) and despite firmly believing I’d never be the girl that jeopardised work for a boy, it’s not always so straightforward.

On reflection I would argue there’s actually no better way to begin a relationship than at a time when you are focused on other goals; I had no agenda and no expectations (like they say, it comes along as soon as you stop looking for it), which made the whole process easy and natural.

We spent the week prior to my departure going on various dates (the pub, playing pool, a roast) and figuring out whether we enjoyed the companionship. The absence of pressure left us smitten, but the fact was, even after beginning to make a start on understanding the unique, complex encryption of someone else’s mind, we barely knew each other.

About halfway through that blissful, hazy week we had to make the decision whether or not to pursue the relationship, and obviously I went with my gut. It’s undoubtably guided my reassurance that following your initial instinct will always serve you best. Even if something eventually doesn’t work out to plan, you never betrayed what you truly believed at that crucial point in time, so it’s easier to forgive yourself for any mistakes.

The evidence is written in the score of our status now: we took a risk and have excelled together, like two weeds tenderly entangling themselves, gradually getting to know the pace and rhythm and needs of the other. Our once so separate lives have endured the same pattern: our families and friendship group has merged and the ease of this transformation again reiterates my assurance that my choices in this respect are valid.

The lows can be crushing. Planning when we will meet next and realising our schedules clash is often heart-wrenching, as we dread having to cope with an extra stretch of separation. We try to arrange to see each other twice a month, and it’s a luxury to be able to commit 90% of our time at a weekend purely to being together while many couples can only factor in a few stolen hours throughout the week; but this creates an environment that isn’t reflective of real-life.

There is no indicator from this setup of how we will cope in the future, moulding our relationship around structures and formalities like living together, paying bills and dealing with the nasty, mundane necessities. But compared to the sinking feeling I get every time I drive away from Josh and back towards Watford and the clockwork of the 9-5, I think sorting out chores and fighting pettily over who should buy the shopping would be a welcome replacement.

We don’t get the privilege of popping over for a cuddle if one of us has a shit day. We take advantage of FaceTime (which many modern relationships genuinely rely on to remain sane) and try to meet on the platform once daily; as well as speaking through regular Whatsapps, which isn’t the most accurate or responsible as meaning can often be misconstrued and cause even more friction.

Emotions are heightened, so keeping the balance is a constant discipline. One dodgy drunken message can tip it over, and as we don’t want to fight over the phone, tension builds and it can be tricky to maintain some kind of normality. Honesty is key in any relationship, but for us we need 100% transparency to guarantee trust and peace of mind while we’re out navigating our individual lives. This has been a lesson over the last year – not something we conquered first time – but after much trial and error we are improving our versatility to unpredicted situations and our bond consequently strengthens.

Reading a sentence differently to how it was implied, often due to a spelling error or confusing grammar when one of us was in a hurry, can be awkward and distressing. One positive counteracting this though is the resilience I have built up to freaking out over the smallest things; now I tend to wait until we have a phone call to discuss how we feel, and we raise issues as soon as possible to talk them through, rather than let them spill over into toxic resentment.

It’s not all negativity, however. Living 3 hours apart in two completely polarised societies allows us the space we need to do our own thing. We appreciate the ease of hanging out with friends and family separately and I can practice self-care and maintain hobbies without distraction.

One of the mistakes with my previous boyfriend was that I started to rely so heavily on us as a pair, I lost my own identity in the process. Josh and I embrace and compliment each other’s personalities, so I have no fear of mine being overpowered, and I have come to recognise the benefits and importance of investing energy in myself as well as putting effort into our joint endeavour.

The starvation of physical contact and lack of face-to-face conversations is the most frustrating disadvantage, although it reminds me to cherish these simple affections rather than take them for granted, which in itself is a beautiful gift. Not being able to visit each other regularly throughout the week helps us devote blocks of uninterrupted time to reconnecting when our diaries do link up. I crave the sweet laziness of hanging out in bed watching films with a bottle of wine, and these are the exact kinds of instances we incorporate.

We are both Leos (and very stereotypically matched ones at that) and while this should spell a recipe for disaster because of our big characters, stubbornness and feisty attitudes, we are more suited than I could ever have predicted. It’s always the easier option to choose what’s best for you in the short-term, but we have to look past that to decide how we can move through this patch and cement the building-blocks of our future together, and keep this at the forefront of our communication.

The most fun part is knowing over the last year we have already grown together to become better people and better partners, so this can hopefully only improve as our journey continues. Sometimes one of us will mess up, but we work through each mistake to try and figure out how we can better approach or prevent it the next time.

My eternal worry that you can only have one or the other, a career or love, has been smashed to pieces. The two can live in harmony – you adapt and compromise when it’s the right person as they change the way you see the world and reassess how to strive for your ambitions through other routes. I feel more encouragement now than I ever have, and this has given me the confidence to rekindle my love of writing for more than just my blog and reconnect with where I really want to be.

DRESS Boden (gifted) | BOOTS Dr Martens (similar here) | HAIR SLIDES Boden (gifted) | BAG Topshop (gifted, similar here)

The pride Josh shows when reading my blogs is a great motivator for me, and I’m thankful for the commitment he offers to helping take photos and the patience he shows while I write (right now I’m typing this up as he’s reading slyly over my shoulder).

He even loyally stood by as my friend shot these photos on a tactically-planned pub trip; the regal aura of this dress deserved a fitting castle as the backdrop. Velvet is my favourite material of all, especially for winter, as it’s not only warm and flexible (ideal for accommodating the seasonal increase of cheese and wine) but also mysterious and alluring.

Sparkly accessories complete the royal look, with Dr Martens giving it a grungy impression to align with my style. These embellished Boden clips have forced me to get creative with my hair for a change, as I’m so used to leaving it natural.

While the classic Docs are so sturdy I could probably walk to Wales in them to see Josh, I’ve heard the Megabus is introducing a ‘Sweetheart Saver’ ride to keep long-distance love alive. And if that’s not modern day romance I don’t know what is!

Lily x

ph. Megan Dolphin

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