Surviving Your Long Distance Relationship
I've done the research and the results are in: long distance relationships are a SERIOUS CHALLENGE, I don't care how in love you are! However, sometimes they are unavoidable (if this is the case, you may even consider yourself lucky!) - and while compromise is a valuable key to success in any relationship, you shouldn't have to totally ditch your own plans for school/work/travel etc. just because your partner's situation doesn't exactly mesh with yours right now.
The good news is LDRs have literally never been more maintainable and while it's never going to be simple, if you're with the right person and you're both willing to try and make it work, you'll realize why you put the effort in as soon as you're reunited. I've been lucky enough to have found a partner-in-crime that considers my wants and needs to be of equal importance to his own (#blessed) and I encourage you to find someone who feels the same about you! NOTE: These tips and tricks have materialized through extensive trial and error. Use this list as a reference but be prepared to work through your own road-blocks and just remember that we learn and grow as we go :).
- Ask Yourself, Is it Worth It? - Before you embark on this emotional roller coaster of an adventure the first thing you need to ask yourself is: Would I consider 'settling down' with this person? I know this sounds intense! But the truth of the matter is, if this is a casual relationship or a fairly new relationship - my advice is to either say goodbye or at least put it on hold until you find yourselves in similar area codes again. Harsh, I know - but to make this thing work you are going to need trust and confidence in your partnership. To have trust and confidence you need to have a strong base. To have a strong base you need to have spent some serious time together. I know this situation is never going to be black and white, but basically - you should go with your gut feeling on the current status of the relationship and act accordingly. There is far too much heartache involved in this long distance business for it to be wasted on someone you're pretty sure isn't going to work out anyway.
- Do Things Together - Like I said before, long distance relationships have literally never been more do-able. Technology is your friend and with the help of Facetime/Messenger/Skype/literally everything else, things can feel at least a little like normal. Turn on your video chat of choice and watch a movie together on Netflix; choose a series to watch or a book to read at the same time so you can chat about the latest character drama; go for a walk together and FaceTime each other along the way. If you're into fitness you can challenge each other to workout goals and track each other's progress through apps like Nike+ and Under Armour Record. With a little imagination you really can do all the things ‘normal’ couples do, just with a little distance in between. Also, keep #3 in mind.
- Treat Skype Dates Like Real Dates - When you set up an internet date with your guy or girl, act like it’s the real thing! In real life you wouldn’t blow off a Friday night dinner with bae because your friends want to go get ice-cream, you would stick to the plan! I won’t lie, it’s difficult to separate yourself when you’re on the road - you’re constantly meeting new people and everyday is a new experience, but when your online dates are your only dates, you’ve got to make them work. They don’t have to be hours long, but make a schedule (especially if you're dealing with a time difference), stick to it and (this is so important) give your partner your undivided attention. Go to a separate room and chat if you have to, but be disciplined and make their company your main priority in that moment. This was one of the most difficult things I had to learn while trying to maintain a relationship overseas - it's hard to pull yourself away, especially when you're travelling and there are so many new things going on around you ALL THE TIME. But, it's impossible to have a meaningful conversation when you're distracted and your connection suffers because of it. So, separate yourself and make your internet dates COUNT! Maybe even get a little dressed up, fix your hair - it is a date after all ;).
- Communicate Frequently (*In A Meaningful Way) - This is probably the most important part of maintaining a successful LDR. It's nice to stay in touch on-and-off all day, even a simple smiley face here and there will do - at least it lets your partner know you're thinking about them and it's cute, whatever. BUT, don’t be afraid to come up with some creative content as well (my favourites are some 'would you rather' scenarios) and the reason is that it’s so easy to fall into the “'hey'… 'whats up'… 'nothing, you?'” routine. Sadly, you're going to start to realize how much you relied on shared experiences for conversation topics and when you're no longer sharing the same experiences, your topics start to dwindle. To make things worse, when your partner has never met the people you are now sharing new experiences with (and vice versa) it sort of starts to feel like you're slowly slipping into two different lives and as a result have less and less to chat about. Avoid repeating dead-end conversations and start dreaming up some content my friend. Again, a little effort goes a long way.
- Stay Honest With One Another - It is so important in any relationship to be open and honest with one another, but this is especially true in a long distance relationship. When there’s no face-to-face communication it’s difficult to tell what the other person is thinking and nothing gets resolved if no one's willing to talk about it. If you feel like your SO (significant other) isn’t setting aside enough time for you or you feel like they’ve been a bit distant etc., say something! Chances are if they’re in a situation like I mentioned before where everything’s new, they're meeting a ton of new people and generally being overwhelmed by change, they may not even realize what they’re doing. If you handle it in a calm and mature way, you can work on it together and things will get better. Letting these feelings simmer inside you until they eventually boil-over tends to end in a far less calm and mature conversation than you would have liked, which almost always leads to bigger problems. Whatever you're thinking, speak up! Share ALL the feelings! (Also, see # 6)
- Put Yourself in Your Partner’s Shoes - Patience and understanding - I would say these are the two most important qualities needed to make this crazy thing work. In most cases, as I’ve mentioned above, whether it’s you or your partner that has moved away, one or both of you are probably going through some life changes and some seriously new experiences. It’s easy to get wrapped up in these experiences and to push your relationship aside, sometimes without even realizing it. It's so important that both parties take a moment to try and understand exactly what each partner is going through. One of you may need some time to adjust to new surroundings and the other may need reassurance that they haven't been forgotten about or become second in-line to these new circumstances. If you can both simply be aware of how your behaviour, good or bad, effects one another then you're both going to be just fine.
- Send Mail - Sure, emails and instant messages are great but there’s just something special about seeing a letter addressed to you in your SO’s handwriting. It doesn’t even have to be a love letter, it can be a simple hello, a knock knock joke, or just a summary of your day. Add something nifty in there as well to make it tangible - a polaroid you snapped on the beach, a leaf from the hike you went on, a lock of your hair to remember you by… (LOL I AM KIDDING. Do NOT do that. Or do, test the boundaries of your relationship - and please report back.) Seriously though, getting mail is so fun. Get creative; be romantic, it keeps the spark going even from afar :)
- Know Your Partner’s Schedule - This seems like a small detail, but when you’re living apart your lives tend to feel separate as well. If you make an effort to remember when your SO is working, or if they have plans that weekend etc., make a point to bring it up in conversation. Even just a quick mention like, “are you looking forward to 'so and so’s' party this weekend?” can make it feel like you’re still involved in what’s happening in their lives, which makes all the difference.
- Keep Positive - The reality of the situation is that this is NOT going to be easy. But, if you keep your chin up and realize that whatever it is that’s keeping you apart, whether it’s travel, work, school etc., it’s for a reason and it won’t last forever. When your heart hurts because you miss someone it only means you care about them. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder and if you can make it through this still intact - you can probably make it through anything.
- Be Honest With Yourself - If you've given it a try and you're unsure - you need to ask yourself if this relationship is still benefiting you or if it's causing more pain than prosper. It’s totally normal to miss someone so much you feel like your heart might fall out. It's also normal to have feelings of jealousy when they talk about new friends, because those new friends get to see your boo more than you do! (So unfair.) But, if you’re constantly feeling sad or guilty, or maybe you feel yourself drifting apart more and more - don’t be afraid to make a change. We maintain relationships with people because that person adds quality to your life that you don’t have when they're not around. The harsh reality is if the person you're with is no longer adding anything to your quality of life or WORSE is taking away from it, then it’s time to say goodbye. (Hint: I’d say this is true for any relationship, not just a long distance one!)
Have a tip to share with those working through a LDR? Share it in the comments below!