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12 Bittersweet Experiences Of a Long Distance Relationship That No One But You And I Can Understand

12 Bittersweet Experiences Of a Long Distance Relationship That No One But You And I Can Understand

Years ago, I did what many choose not to: I got involved in a long distance relationship. This brilliant, handsome, beguiling man didn’t reside in another city, county, or state—he lived in another country.

My friends thought I was crazy. My mother believed I was setting myself up for heartbreak. My father, I’m certain, was just glad he didn’t have to meet the man. I, however, was doggedly determined to Make It Work, despite the ocean (trust me, it’s not a pond) and most of the continental United States between us. We were, after all, Meant to Be.

Before I made the radical decision to move from my home in Italy to his in San Francisco, we subsisted on the powers of communication and rendezvouses marked in my memory as some of the loveliest and most passionate moments of my life. People marveled at our ability to remain deeply connected regardless of the time difference, the language barrier, and the miles and miles between us. I always argued that we survived and thrived precisely because we were worlds apart. While bittersweet, here are twelve experiences that only those who are engaged in a long-distance relationship can understand:

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1. The old adage is true: Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

There are few moments as memorable and sensational than reuniting with your loved one. While a long-distance relationship involves its share of lonely nights and forlorn weekends, being apart fosters a greater appreciation for the time you do have together—and greater appreciation for the one you love. Not seeing your partner on a daily basis makes you miss them in an entirely good way—for when you do, you hold on to them like you’ll never let go.

2. You have the time, space, and energy to focus on your own life.

Let’s face it: Relationships –at least the ones that last—require a not-so-insignificant amount of selflessness. You compromise in myriad ways, from turning down a job promotion that necessitates travel to stay close to them and spending time with his friends instead of yours to taking up golfing when you’d rather be playing tennis. In a long-distance relationship, you often have the opportunity to focus on you—and only you. You can work late hours without feeling that twinge of guilt. You can have a weekend away with your niece without hurting his feelings. You can spend your evenings on your novel. You can embrace your own passions wholeheartedly. And these experiences are all the richer because you know you’ll be wholly, completely you when you do see your partner again.

3. You embrace the magic of the moment.

Long-term domestic partnerships come with a litany of mundane activities that would probably make your younger, freer self cry: Trips to Ikea. Grocery shopping. Picking up her dry-cleaning; pairing his socks. In a long-distance relationship, you learn to plan reunions that rarely involve the routine necessities of daily life. My long-distance boyfriend and I relished what time we had together, and filled nearly every waking hour with romance and adventure. We went rock climbing. We slept under the stars. We talked until two o’clock in the morning in front of a fire while it blazed snow outside. Without the distractions of chores and alarm clocks, we were able to concentrate solely on each other.

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4. You learn independence with a capital I.

Friends of mine who have been in committed, domestic relationships have a tendency to forget how to do things on their own—and some have never learned at all. During the years in which I was in a long-distance relationship, I gained a number of lifelong skills that have rewarded me to this day, from changing a flat tire and balancing my checking account to fixing a clogged sink and managing emotional woes on my own. The self-sufficiency I gained led to immense courage and considerable growth. Moreover, those qualities I inadvertently adopted and nurtured while alone have served me well in more way than I can count.

 5. You sharpen your communication skills.

I envy modern couples in long-distance relationships. Technology today—from Skype and texting to Whatsapp and Facetime—allows couples who are physically separated to stay closer and better connected than ever. And yet I don’t regret a minute of the time my boyfriend and I spent communicating when we were apart. Since every second on the phone was valuable, we didn’t waste it on small talk or trivial matters. Rather, we spent that time together discovering each other in deep, lasting ways and discussing weighty issues—politics, religion, our pasts, our dreams. Our letters to each other were filled with specific, telling details as we tried to paint for the other an image of our lives across the proverbial pond. Our communication, harkening back centuries, led to a bond that was so much more intimate than the purely physical. It was intensely emotional, mentally provocative, and spiritually satisfying.

6. You learn patience.

Patience had never been one of my virtues. Until I met this man from San Francisco, that is. During our relationship, I learned that not every desire can or should be instantly gratified; that days and hours and sometimes months of waiting come equipped with marvelous rewards. What’s more, anticipation builds, which can often be delicious.

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7. You acquire trust.

It takes a leap of faith to trust your non-live-in lover who lives in the same town. Trusting a partner who is three time zones away is another story entirely. But my partner and I, early on, made a commitment to be loyal to each other, no matter how lonely we got. It takes courage to trust someone on that bone-deep level, and yet, if you’re with the right person? It will be wholly natural. Moreover, it will instill in you persistence and faith—which is right up there with patience in terms of lifelong gifts.

8. You realize that geography is just a construct.

If you have a magnetic, unbreakable bond, the distance between you becomes just that—distance. You may be interstate or oceans apart, but narrowing that distance when you can has never been easier. And when you can’t be in each other’s physical presence? You realize you can be in their mental, physical, and spiritual sphere. With this, you start to see the world in a larger, more encompassing and enlightening way. The moon you’re looking at is the very moon that he too is seeing, after all. It’s just a matter of perspective.

9. Your passport becomes brag-worthy.

When possible, my boyfriend would make the fourteen hour trip to meet me in Italy, even if it was only for a week. I had a blast showing him my favorite haunts. When time permitted, I would meet him in San Francisco, where we did everything from taking a tour of Alcatraz to spending a tender, lovely weekend in wine country. Other times we met halfway—or out of the way: New York City. London. Greece. Together, we experienced places and people and cuisines and attractions that few couples have the chance to do in an entire lifetime together. Exhilarating? Oh, yes.

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Which brings me to my next point…

 10. You get creative.

Each date feels like a first date when you’re in a long-distance relationship. From the outfit you wear to the venue you choose, the hopeful expectation your separation builds also grants you the time and creativity to put real thought into your outings. Gifts also become symbolic and not mere necessities—a painting that brings to mind your first weekend at the ocean together, a necklace that captures the color of her eyes, a book that you loved and want to share with him. Because each interaction is undeniably precious, you put imagination and energy into each gesture and every plan.

 11. You choose your battles wisely.

Domestic relationships are often prone to disagreements both large and small, with disputes ranging from household responsibilities to issues as petty as who left the light on in the living room. The boon of a long-distance relationship is that your arguments are few and far between. And when you do have them? They’re based on meatier issues, and are resolved with the thoughtfulness and deliberation that comes with having the time and space alone to think things through.

12. You learn the power and beauty of being comfortable and content alone.

Reflecting back on this time in my life, I realize that my long-distance relationship was, in many ways, a primer for my future when my husband and I decided to separate. When I was with my San Francisco beau, I learned at a relatively young age how to be relaxed and satisfied in my own company. I had no one to please; I had no one else to please—and in that space, I discovered what stimulated me, what disappointed me, what warmed me, what enthralled me. I walked for miles in the woods alone on a regular basis—a hobby I do this day. I found pleasure in dining solo; a special thrill in seeing a play or film by myself. I learned to navigate emotional turmoil alone. Without the diversions and responsibilities of being with someone on a day to day basis, I started to know myself in a way I never had before. And through this, I gleaned what it meant to enjoy and appreciate myself. Which is, of course, the most rewarding experience of all in both life and love.

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Last Updated on September 23, 2020

6 Qualities of a Charismatic Leader

6 Qualities of a Charismatic Leader

We all know a person with a charismatic personality when we see one. They seem to radiate a certain magnetism that turns heads when they speak. They know how to command attention with not just their words, but the cadence of their voice and their body language. From celebrities to titans of industry and world leaders, charismatic people just have a certain something that draws others in.

For a long time, conventional wisdom held onto the belief that you were either born with charisma or you weren’t. Psychologists believe that charisma is a mix of nature and nurture.[1] Yes, some people are simply hardwired with more of a charismatic personality than others. The good news though is that, yes, you can learn to be more charismatic and develop the qualities of a charismatic leader.

Before we jump into what those qualities are exactly, it would help to define first what exactly charisma is.

The word is derived from Greek and means “divine gift.” (Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like something that can be learned, but let’s hold out hope.)

Charisma is steeped in a certain amount of mystery, but to boil it down, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure.”

It’s easy to see how “a personal magic of leadership” could be so appealing for a leader and give them a cutting edge over the competition. Having that certain “It” factor might come more innately for some than others, but all successful leaders have at least some of it—even if they learned it along the way.

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Here are the characteristics of a charismatic personality and why they’re so beneficial.

1. Adaptability

Psychology professor William von Hippel, from the University of Queensland in Australia, believes that adaptability is the number one trait that all charismatic leaders possess.

“There are clearly many qualities that enable people to be socially successful, but the fact that what works in one situation often does not work in another suggests that behavioral flexibility may be the single most important attribute for social functioning.”[2]

-von Hippel

There’s nothing charismatic about sulking when plans don’t work out exactly as expected. Instead, charismatic leaders find a way to make lemonade with the lemons they’ve been given.

This adaptability was further broken down by von Hippel into several offshoots of adaptability:

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  • Being quick-witted
  • Knowing how to handle subtle changes
  • Staying cool amid distraction

According to von Hippel, charismatic people may not always know the right answer to a tough question, but they can come up with alternative answers and choose the one that best works for the situation. They’re also in tune with what’s going on around them in a situation and can quickly modify their behavior to subtle changes to handle any conflicts that may have arisen.

Moreover, charismatic leaders are cool as cucumbers—or at least project that confidence—regardless of whatever distractions there may be. It’s this sort of adaptability that allows them to close business deals and push ahead, even when things don’t go according to plan.

2. Confidence

Trust is one of the most important things for leaders to establish with their teams. When a leader is confident and not afraid to take a bold stance, it allows others to relax a little bit and stand behind that leader because they trust them. Charismatic leaders exude confidence almost without falter.

When it’s a celebrity like Bono or Lady Gaga, they call this confidence swagger as it allows them to strut across the stage like they haven’t got a sliver of self-doubt in them. They have a certain confidence about them that can be felt throughout an entire arena.

Showing confidence isn’t always easy, but it can certainly be learned and is paramount for success. Confident leaders are always going to be those who see the glass as half-full, and this sort of optimism can be a powerful motivating tool for those they lead.

3. Vision

Charismatic leaders may have a respect for the past, but they’re not going to be stuck in it. They have a mindset for innovation and are almost always looking for ways of how things could be better. It’s this sort of forward-thinking that made somebody like Martin Luther King Jr. such a charismatic leader. He had a clear vision that he was passionate about and knew how to communicate it (more on that in a second).

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Charismatic leaders have clearly defined goals that they’re looking to achieve and combined with confidence, that can be incredibly intoxicating to people. Next to adaptability, this may be the second most important quality of a charismatic leader, and how they go about sharing their vision often results in a strong emotional response from those listening.

4. Determination

If the vision is the far off summit on the horizon, determination is that drive that keeps charismatic leaders pushing forward. If that vision is ever going to be achieved, then milestones will have to be accomplished along the way.

Take Amazon’s vision of having a zero carbon footprint by 2040, for example. To make that happen, Jeff Bezos and his team are going to need unwavering determination and hit certain goals at certain points in this timeline.

Determined leaders don’t give up when they hit roadblocks. Instead, they put their head down, adapt, and push forward. This drive to keep pushing ahead can trickle down and motivate those they’re leading to work harder at accomplishing whatever the collective goal might be.

5. Clear Communication

There’s a reason why crowds will show up in droves to hear a politician speak—the most captivating politicians know how to communicate their vision effectively in a clear manner. Those with an especially charismatic personality often have strong beliefs and can be incredibly persuasive both with their words and body language. To put it rather simply—they’re good storytellers.

Charismatic leaders draw listeners in with good posture, eye contact, and hand gestures that work to help connect their words to the audience. They articulate their words to help convey their vision and deliver their message with the same confidence, whether they’re speaking to a single individual or an audience of 10,000 people.

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This sort of clear communication is key for the formulation of new goals and in gaining the trust of those around them to follow.

6. Creativity

The economy is changing faster than ever before, and you don’t have to look very far to realize how creativity and adaptability will drive the successes of tomorrow. So, what’s this have to do with charisma?

Well, charismatic people tend to think outside the box and look for new ways of doing things. This, of course, ties into having a passion and a vision. Not only do charismatic thinkers tend to be creative people, but they also challenge the status quo and take risks to make those visions a reality.

The best managers not only think outside the box but also encourage those around them to tap into their creativity and look for better ways of doing things. A charismatic leader rises to meet the challenges that face them and view problems as opportunities for innovation.

To put into perspective just how important this quality is, a global survey of more than 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries found creativity was the most sought after attribute in a leader.[3] When leaders show that they have a creative spirit, they come across as incredibly charismatic and inspire others to follow that creative lead as well.

In Conclusion

The most charismatic leaders don’t just have a vision and know-how to effectively communicate it—they know how to adapt to the sudden changes thrown their way and still be persuasive and motivating.

The truth is, some people may be born with a little more natural charisma than others. Make no mistake about it, though—the traits of a charismatic leader can all be learned and developed.

More Tips on How to Develop a Charismatic Personality

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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