We’re breaking away from our travel-content-only mantra to write an article near to our hearts. Christian and I were in a transatlantic long distance relationship for two and a half years before we got married and finally, finally, finally, got to live together with no “end date” in sight. I was living in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, for my graduate degree in Social Psychology. He was in Bremen doing his degree in Finance and International Management. And even before that, just three months into our relationship, he moved to Greece for work, while I was living in Germany. As frequent travelers, let me tell you, it’s an incredible feeling to go to an airport now and not see it as the inevitable venue of long goodbyes and tears as we separated till our next visit. I hated airports for a while because of this.
I used to Google “How to survive a long distance relationship” when times got really tough – and they will, no matter how strong your relationship may be. The good news is that we learned that you don’t necessarily have to just survive a long distance relationship – you can work with it, not only to make your relationship stronger, but to enrich your experiences together. And take it from us – a couple who didn’t necessarily have an “end to the distance” in sight – you can survive it, and when you do, it’ll all be worth it. We’ve made our own share of mistakes when we did long-distance and here’s how you can hopefully avoid the issues we had. No sugar-coated promises here – there’s nothing like saying “We did long distance for 2.5 years, we can do this!”
Most of us need to travel and explore international study and job opportunities to make the best of, and get ahead in, today’s competitive world. Here’s how you can thrive given that opportunity – and maintain your relationship with your partner across the world.
Don’t Give Up On That Opportunity
If you’re contemplating giving up an opportunity so that you don’t have to do long distance, don’t. There’s no way to know if you’re in a relationship of convenience if you don’t test yourselves by moving away for a bit. Most importantly, you don’t want to end up resenting your partner 10 years down the line for keeping you from a life-changing opportunity.
Now this is different if you’ve done long distance for a year or two and have the opportunity to move in together versus move further away. You may have to compromise somewhere, depending on your situation. Whatever you do, make sure you have your own plan, your own goals, your own safety net, before you compromise on an opportunity.
Make Each Other A Priority
This is a key to making any relationship work, but becomes especially salient when you are doing long distance. Envision your priorities, and make a mental note of your partner topping the list. None of our tips below to making long distance work will be relevant if you don’t make your partner a priority first. Made a Skype date with your partner and now your co-workers invite you out for a drink? If your partner is a priority, you’d a) promise to join for drinks the next time and keep the date, informing your partner of possible drinks with friends the next time or b) discuss Skyping with your partner later in the evening after a drink with your co-workers if it works time-zone-wise. Either way, you should discuss any changes in plans with your partner before you make other plans with friends etc.
Don’t Cancel Dates
It’s pretty inevitable that certain one-time meetings/meet-ups/social events crop up that may disrupt long-distance dates with your partner. You don’t want to be the office party pooper every time your colleagues ask you out for spontaneous drinks, or have to tell your boss “I can’t stay late tonight, I have to call my boyfriend.” When changes to plans come your way, make sure you touch base at some point during the day, whether it be a small phone call or a few texts. Make sure you then reschedule a longer call/the original date planned for a specific time later in the evening or the next day at the latest. Avoid cancelling dates/calls; make sure you reschedule them for a specific time instead.
Understand That Sometimes People Get Busy
This is especially true of when your partner has an upcoming deadline or project. If you know that you have a hectic job/busy times ahead, inform your partner of it. Your partner in turn should respect the fact that you have a lot on your plate and curb the communication to a minimum until the hectic times have passed. This doesn’t apply to the entire time you are apart of course, but there are times when everyone gets especially busy at work!
A good rule of thumb is to schedule in at least one weekend call/date after a busy week at work.
Share, Share, Share (With Each Other)
Share the most boring, mundane details about your day with your partner. Don’t skip over the good stuff, but don’t skip over the small stuff either. You may find yourself at a loss about what to share about your day because you’re looking for the “big” things, but remember, sharing about what you even had for lunch can make your partner that much more connected with you.
The digital age has made long distance relationships so much easier to bear than it was before! We used the Avocado App to keep goals, upcoming dates, and lists in check (the app is now shutting down, but you can search the App Store for alternatives to fit your needs!) Video call, send care packages, cupcakes, flowers, and even snail mail as surprises. You can now even send cases of beer to your partner! Your partner will never forget the feeling of coming home to a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a book/care package/beer after a long day at the office (take it from us!)
Hide cards and notes around his/her apartment/home for them to find, either with your instructions or on their own. Cards for when they’re down, and notes to remind them of good times, can help develop that feeling of intimacy across distance.
Use Social Media
The degree to which you use social media will vary between couples, but you can use social media to maintain a bond of intimacy across the miles. Tag pictures of yourselves on Facebook, comment on travel videos that can inspire your next adventure together, share pictures of yourselves on Instagram: whatever social medium you use, you can occasionally include your partner in there to keep them in your (virtual) life as well!
Communicate Regularly: Set Up A Minimum Rule
I’m terrible with keeping in contact. I’ve lived abroad for 9 years now and still haven’t gotten used to calling my loved ones regularly, unless I’m specifically reminded to do so. So maintaining regular contact with Christian was especially difficult – but definitely do-able if you keep in mind that your partner is a priority and you need to do it to make it work! What helped us was setting up a ground rule of at least a text an hour. This may seem like a lot to some people, and very little to others. Find the balance that works for both of you. Make sure though that it’s regular – and that you text more than once a day! For me, a quick text an hour in the beginning forced me to keep Christian in the loop on a regularly basis that wasn’t too excessive and vice versa. It also helps you set up a rhythm and after a while, regular communication becomes the norm.
Communicate Honestly: Discuss Misgivings
You may question your relationship at some point. You may have misgivings: is it all worth it? We suggest sharing these feelings, and communicating clearly with your partner. They may have the words to make you feel better, and remind you of why you are doing this in the first place. Maybe you need to schedule in a few more dates and activities together. Whatever happens, keep your partner in the loop.
Use Desktop Apps
I’m not a big phone person when I work. I’m used to leaving my phone in my bag for hours on end when I’m on my office computer. If your work rules allow for it, use Whatsapp/Facebook Chat etc. on your desktop to keep each other in the loop, especially if you work long hours!
Do One Or Two Activities A Month That Are The Same As Your Partner
This can range from reading the same book, watching the same TV show, to cooking the same recipes. Christian and I got a subscription to Netflix and would watch the same TV shows together, and read the same news articles. Doing the same activities keeps you in sync with each other, and gives you more things to talk and relate to each other about.
Have A Date Schedule And Stick To It
Christian and I skyped almost everyday at 5.30pm EST. This was a good time for me to leave the office (usually) and he’d be getting ready for bed in Germany. This schedule allowed us to plan other activities around our time to talk without any issues.
Make The Best Of Your Time Apart!
Now I know you’ve seen this elsewhere and sometimes, it’s easier said than done. But doing long distance can mean that you have more time to focus on your job, or read, or start a project (like I did with A Couple On A Budget!) Think about something you’ve always wanted to take up, and do it.
Be Creative About Where You Meet
Spice up your experiences by deciding to meet in another city (if possible) when you’re scheduled to meet next! Take trips together, and make memories that will last until the next time you see each other. Doing long distance between Europe and the US? Meet in Iceland! You live in Asia and he lives in the US? Meet in Germany/Italy/Dubai!
Sometimes it doesn’t even need to get that exotic. Frankfurt was a cheaper airport for me to fly into than Bremen, Germany, so we’d sometimes meet in Frankfurt and take the time to explore the city from there for short trips. Get creative!
Use The Time Apart to Plan Your Next Meeting Together
Make the best of your next meeting together! Get creative and plan possible activities to do together when you next meet. Scout restaurants to try, and even cruises to take!
Spend The Holidays Together
This should be a no-brainer but ensure that you spend whatever holidays you celebrate: Christmas/Hanukkah/Vesak/New Years together, preferably with your families. The sense of integration and intimacy you’ll develop during the holidays is important to hold onto when times get hard!
Book Flights For The Next Time You’ll Meet When You Leave
Try to book a flight for the next time you’ll see each other when you part. This’ll make saying goodbye much easier, and strengthen your resolve when times get rough in between.
Keep In Touch With Their Friends
This is a good practice whether you do long distance or not: keep in contact with his/her friends. This can help you feel included in your partner’s life, and can help you ease any worries when times get tough. Try to meet them when you’re visiting!
Trust Each Other
Easier said than done, but definitely do your best to trust each other when you’re apart. Think about it this way: if something does happen, the relationship wasn’t meant to work out anyway. Surviving the tests of long distance can solidify your faith in your partner for a lifetime. You can be sure that you’re not in a relationship of convenience!
When You’re Upset, Discuss It. When S/He’s Upset, Listen
We all make mistakes. The worst thing you can do if you messed up is to shut out your partner. Try to understand where s/he is coming from, thousands of miles away, and listen to their misgivings. If you’re upset, share this with your partner. You can’t use physical intimacy to make problems go away in long distance relationships, so communication becomes paramount. Don’t shut out your partner at any cost.
Don’t Say Things In Anger
You may say things you regret in the heat of the moment. Try to take a minute to compose yourself before speaking during an argument (count to three if you must!) Share your feelings, but choose your words carefully. Shouting at each other isn’t going to help anyone (trust me – I tried it. It doesn’t work! ;))
Know That You’re Not Alone
There are going to be times when you feel extremely alone. Try to remember that a) the good times are coming b) there are others going through the same thing as you are. You’d be surprised at how many people around the world are now trying long distance: this article was actually requested by a few of our followers on Instagram, who are currently doing long-distance!
Don’t Do Something You Know/Think Your Partner Wouldn’t Like
“Do unto others what you’d want them to do to you.” Every relationship is different, and the healthiest of relationships have certain taboos that both partners should be aware of. Don’t try it just because they’re not around.
Spend Time With Your Girlfriends/Guys
Use the time apart from your better half to catch up with your crews/tribes/posses/FRIENDS! Feeling lonely and your partner is busy? Give your friend a call!
Don’t Be Ashamed/Annoyed When Talking About Your Long Distance Relationship
Talk about your partner to your friends, as you would any other topic/relationship! If you find yourself annoyed or ashamed to talk about the relationship to others, you may want to think about why this is.
We once asked a friend of ours “How long have you been in [the] relationship?” He sighed and said, “Three long years.” They broke up a few months later.
Long distance can be arduous, but you should still get excited (or at least happy!) talking about your partner, even years down the line!
You’re going to have to save and you’re going to have to forego a few meetings among other things. Remember to compromise for, and with, your partner, on a regular basis. Maybe you want to call your partner everyday and your partner wants to call twice a week only. Try meeting in the middle and calling each other three or four times a week. It may be annoying, but you’re going to need to compromise to make both of you happy to make it work!
The Grass Is Not Always Greener Because It’s Close-By
Remember that the grass is not always greener because it’s close-by. You may be tempted by the advances of another because it’s so much easier than long distance but remember the good times you’ve had, and the characteristics you appreciate about your partner. They should be worth the time apart.
Know That You’re Doing It For A Good Reason
Remind yourself that you’re braving the long distance to be with your partner, and the qualities that you appreciate about them.
Make Sure That You’re Apart For A Good Reason
If you’re both in great schools that happen to be across the country or world, you have a good reason to do long distance. If you both got jobs across the world and can’t relocate, you have a good reason to do long distance. If you have a job that you may be able to do where your partner is located, you may want to try moving closer to them. Always know that there is a good reason keeping you apart – not that you yourself aren’t that interested in being together.
Make Long-Term Plans
Whether you have an end-point for the long distance in sight or not, try to make long-term plans for what you’d like to do when you’re finally done with long-distance. Where would you like to live? Where would you like to travel? How many kids do you want to have? The questions can vary based on the length of the relationship, but envisioning your future together can remind you that you’re doing long-distance for a good reason.
Every relationship is different, so find the tips and balance that can help you make the best of your long distance relationship. Long distance is not for everyone but that’s the beauty of it: once you make it through, you’ll be able to make it through most other challenges in your journey!
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