Relationships are hard. Long distance relationships are harder. Long distance relationships with someone who also works in Athletics are some of the hardest.
I fall into that third category. My boyfriend, Ryan, and I have spent 75% of our relationship in that third category, in fact. Granted, we have only been together for just over a year. But in that year, we’ve grown tremendously, both individually and as a team. And a lot of this growth would not have happened if it were not for us being in a long distance relationship.
We met at Penn State when I started my gig in Athletics and while he was a graduate assistant coach for the football team. For that entire fall, we were inseparable. Any free nights that coincided for the two of us – which were few and far between – we made it a point to enjoy that freedom together. Those few months that we got to spend in the same zip code were great. We grinded out late nights and long weekends together. We worked and celebrated a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl appearance together. We built the foundation for our relationship.
And then, mid-January arrived. For those who work in the coaching world or are a significant other of someone who does, you know that this is a tumultuous, chaotic time for job turnover. This was the case for Ryan when the 2016-17 season ended and it was time for him to step into a full-time coaching role. One Sunday, we were scrambling to prepare him for an interview the next day. By Thursday of that same week, he was 442 miles away in Burlington, North Carolina for his first day on the job as the Cornerbacks Coach for Elon Football.
Since he moved away, we’ve each had a crazy ten months. Between covering 31 sports (me) and managing all that comes with being a Division I coach (him), it is extremely challenging to find time to dedicate to a relationship.
There are other challenges we face as an “Athletics couple” in a long distance relationship, too.
Coupling the distance with our schedules makes it difficult to find time for each other. A 16-hour round trip on the weekend is not exactly ideal when the busiest days of my week fall on the weekend. Thankfully, a job in social media allows me to be flexible with work location. On weekends that I’m able to shoot down to North Carolina, I work remotely to make up for lost time on the road. If you are in a similar situation – balancing a demanding digital role with a long distance relationship – then I highly recommend discussing a remote schedule with your boss.
Another challenge we face is our mindset. We often look ahead and daydream about our *perfect* future together, as we imagine it. “I can’t wait until we’re in the same city.” “I’m counting down the days until we no longer have to say goodnight over the phone.” It’s easy to look ahead and assign The Future as the solution to our struggles. But we have to remind ourselves that relationships can – and will – continue to be difficult, no matter how far or close we are in distance. Putting too much weight on a future together only sets us up for disappointment when that future does not meet our unrealistic expectations. We need to learn to appreciate where we are before we can love where we will be–a lesson that can be applied to all aspects of life, not just relationships.
It’s not all trials and tribulations though.
Given that we both work in Athletics, we have a certain understanding for each other’s careers that someone unfamiliar with this world simply does not. We respect each other’s grind and understand that this industry can demand a lot of you–and that’s when we support each other the most.
Long distance also gives us time to ourselves that is essential for any healthy relationship. I’m able to focus on personal growth and care that can often get pushed to the backburner when “we” gets prioritized over “me.”
Juggling a career in sports and a long distance relationship with someone who also works in sports is tricky; it takes the right combination of trust, passion, and drive to make it work. At the end of the day though, there is nobody that I’d rather share this crazy lifestyle with.