My girlfriend and I have been together for 20 months. Of that time, 10 months have been spent apart, in separate states, often with limited communication and having wildly different (and often intense) experiences.
By the time she returns, we’ll have been apart 11 out of 21 months, or more than half of our time as a couple. Only half or so of the together months were spent actually living together. In truth, we haven’t had all that much time with each other yet. It’s no wonder we’re awkward sometimes — we have nearly two years’ worth of expectations and feelings but considerably less than a years’ worth of togetherness or mutual experience.
Add to that all of the jealousy issues, distance issues, loneliness issues, etc. that come with separate, extended travel, and it begins to look rather like a victory for us that we are still together at all.