1. How do I keep my long distance boyfriend feeling like he’s a priority and part of my life without spending all of my time on my phone talking to him?
While shared expectations of communication are crucial in any relationship, they become make-or-break in a long distance one. In a long distance relationship, communication is what holds your relationship together. So unfortunately, varied communication styles — like being with someone who’s “bad at texting” — become more of a cause for conflict. You may have to adapt your communication styles in order to stay close during your time apart.
Let’s establish some do’s and don’ts that might help you do so.
DO be cognizant of establishing healthy habits. Because of your distance, there’s more opportunity for distrust to arise. If there’s a toxic trope or recurring issues in the relationship, they might become magnified with distance, so you will need to be even more conscious and vigilant of what’s working and what’s not. With that in mind, DO have check-ins on your relationship and how each of you are adjusting to this distance. DON’T be passive aggressive or mysterious with your emotions. Mean what you say, and say what you mean.
DO find a consistent time that aligns with both of your schedules when you can FaceTime. That virtual face-to-face communication is crucial for seeing their real-time reactions. If you can establish a consistent time to talk, you’ll avoid conflict that occurs when one person can make time, but the other can’t. To help establish this as a routine, you can try to make this a non-negotiable time reserved for the two of you. You might also want to consider becoming familiar with each other’s schedules in order to avoid becoming ansty over long response times or distracting each other in times each of you need to focus.
In regards to a long distance relationship, someone once gave me great advice — “be where your feet are.” This mentality applies to single people as well, whether you’re traveling abroad or just going about your average day. With that in mind, do be present with the people in front of you, not just with your boyfriend. Don’t leave parties early to go home and FaceTime him, and Don’t let future-tripping about the next time you’ll reunite take you away from appreciating the joys of your present moment.
Finally, circling back to your question, consider outright expressing to him what you have already expressed to us — that he “is a priority and part of your life,” even when you are not in constant communication. In order for your relationship to be sustainable, you’ll both need to accept that as truth.
2. How do I voice my frustrations with my roommate about his noise level without causing tension in our relationship? He’s one of my best friends, but his music and general lifestyle keeps me up at night.
Having tension with a friend can be one of the most emotionally draining and stress-inducing experiences, let alone when it’s a friend you live with. It’s possible for someone to be both your best friend but the worst roommate. It is a difficult but important task to separate conflict as a roommate from conflict as a friend. You don’t want the frustration you have for the dishes piling in the sink to seep into how you interact with them outside of your living situation.
But the worst tension is the one that’s unspoken, the passive aggressive, yet wholly palpable, frustration that’s not properly expressed. The best thing you could do for your happiness — and your roommate's — is express and articulate those feelings. It is better to have someone address you in a respectful way than make passive aggressive remarks, which will be inevitable if you let your feelings fester.
As a non-confrontational person, I understand the anxiety in going about this, and my advice in addressing your roommate, at least for the first time, is to say it in as casual and polite a way as possible. Put thought into your wording, but you don’t need to convey that this is something you’ve thought extensively about. Keep the tone lighthearted. Smile, laugh, make a joke — be brief. You can try qualifying your statement with, “I love your music, but not …” or “I love you, but the noise …”
Try and be as specific as possible with the reasons why your living situation, as it stands now, isn't sustainable. You don’t want to seem like you’re complaining just to complain. Paint a picture of how this affects you in order to garner the most empathy. For example, perhaps it prevents you from getting up early to study for your exams or you don’t feel like you can have a chill Saturday night even when you’ve made the brave choice to stay in.
Having one awkward conversation, in which you tell your roommate their noise level has become a real issue for your wellbeing, will save you many sleepless nights and resentful mornings. The reality is, if you don’t address this now, your roommate will end up complaining about your grumpy attitude later. If tension is inevitable, you might as well get a potential resolution out of it than have it be in vain.
Heart to Heart is a regular column written by Life columnists Katherine Schwartz and Jenna Onetto. To submit a question, fill out this form and our columnists will do their best to address it in an upcoming issue.