At long last my guy is visiting from Ireland, and thus comes temporary relief from long distance.

When I was here for all of 2013, he visited four times while I only returned home once. This time, the plan is to meet a little closer to halfway. Seems only fair, after all.

For the first round of long distance, any time a visit was around the corner I would be in freak-out mode planning every minute to perfection. Spending all that money to fly all the way over here, the pressure was on to make sure it would be worth his while. Naturally, I couldn’t possibly have thought that the pleasure of my company in the greatest city on earth would be enough, because I was being a psycho. Naturally, my psycho plans never went as perfectly as I hoped, and that often led to a total meltdown.

Round two, and I haven’t planned a thing besides a couple days off work. I don’t even have enough pillows on my bed for two people. There is no food in my apartment.

And I have never been more relaxed, and subsequently, more excited for him to get here.

Long distance is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I’m sure I am not alone there. The first attempt was pretty much a total disaster.

We made every error that a pair of young rookies can make. We had only been seeing each other a few months, and sure, we were best friends, but we were so unprepared for the whole living-on-different-continents thing it was borderline comical.

We planned nothing in advance, booked flights last minute, left gaps of three and four months in between seeing each other because we had no money and no clue. We didn’t make enough time to call each other, we got lazy with communication across the board and when it got too hard, we bailed.

Now, a little older and – in my personal opinion – a hell of a lot wiser, we are positively nailing long distance.

It is still hard, but comparative to the first initial shock of separation, this is a breeze. Of course a big part of that is because we had an entire year together in Ireland which made for a much more solid foundation from which to launch into round two.

Phone calls are scheduled, and appointments are courteously upheld. Dates for visitation are planned months in advance, and no longer than eight weeks is to be spent apart. And we are to alternate which one of us travels each time.

The pressure is off, no need for perfection, and suddenly it seems far more doable than ever before.

When I was working in a restaurant in 2013, I met a truly remarkable long distance couple on New Year’s Eve. They were sharing a bottle of champagne because he had just proposed.

She was based in Jordan, and he in LA – they couldn’t have been further away from each other – and had decided to meet halfway in New York. They had been doing that distance for years.

At that point, I had only been in New York for two months and was already struggling with long distance. I was starting to feel insane, losing my mind every time he didn’t text back immediately, picking fights when I was too tired or too busy to call him, panicking about when we would have the time or money to even see each other.

I looked at this couple, 10 years older than me, and asked how the hell they were doing it.

They both said – almost in unison – to never leave it go beyond eight weeks. They said to scrimp, save and even starve yourself if you have to in order to afford it, but after eight weeks you start to go crazy.

They said that had to be the limit on time you spent apart. That was definitely one of the biggest mistakes we made.

Interestingly, when wife-to-be excused herself to powder her nose, husband-to-be beckoned me over and gave me another key piece of free advice which I vowed to adopt, but was too young and too inexperienced to actually execute correctly.

He said to never let my guy know how crazy, insane, paranoid, jealous, doubtful or generally mentally unhinged I was feeling. He said that all of those feelings come with the territory, and you have to normalize them.

You have to attribute those moments of complete and utter lunacy to the very specific and difficult nature of your relationship, and to try and remember that vocalizing the obvious will not help the situation.

I lapped up their advice and went on my merry way thinking that I could be just like them. I could plan a trip every eight weeks, I could keep my cool. I could be chilled out, I could hide my constant sense of impending doom.

But I couldn’t. I had rushed into long distance and I would spend the next year trying to catch up with myself.

I have had friends break up rather than go into long distance, and I have never hesitated to support that decision. It is not one to be made lightly, but to willingly enter into this kind of relationship, you have to be sure of so many things: you have to be sure of so much more than the relationship itself.

You have to be sure of yourself, to be sure that you can handle it. Because if you think you can’t, if you doubt yourself, then they will begin to doubt you too.

Now, thinking back on that New Year’s Eve night, I smile to myself because if I met a girl like me who so clearly wanted it to work, I would tell her the same thing.

Now, thinking back on that New Year’s Eve night, I realize that the only reason they could give me that advice, is because they had made the same mistakes that we did. Because that is how this works.

You get it wrong, you make it worse, and you continue to get it wrong until finally, one day, it clicks. Until, one day, you are strong enough that you can truly get it right.

The reward of every visit is much more than a holiday, or excitement to see the person you love. It’s another milestone, another hurdle cleared, another period of time spent making you stronger than you were before.

It’s the realization that you don’t have to plan things to be special or perfect, because they already are.