Looking for advice on how to survive that monster, long-distance? Look no further, 'cause you're with a professional. 4 different partners, a total of 2 years of expensive phone calls and lonely nights. My current boyfriend of 3 years and I survived over a year of trans-Atlantic love. What works? What doesn't work? I swear by now I have seen it all.
Restless feet and hunger for adventures come with a cost. Sometimes, in the midst of all this rambling, we fall in love - and always with the wrong person, right? No, really. It's always the person who lives the furthest or is about to leave for Abu Dhabi in a month. But you're in love, and a few panicky and tearful nights later you've made the decision to try long-distance. Moments later you find yourself aggressively googling the cheapest flight tickets to the other side of the world. Congratulations. You have now officially entered the purgatory of your relationship.
I'm going to be honest here: not everyone can do it, and not every relationship can take it. My long-distance relationships have failed, but at times they have also had happy endings - I know both stories. I know how it feels to stare at someone's back disappear behind the security check point, knowing you will never see them again. But more than those painful goodbyes I have seen them appear from behind the sliding doors of the arrivals gate, smiling from ear to ear, knowing your patience paid off and you will never ever have to be apart again. (Or so you wish...)
This is why I wanted to divide my Long-Distance Relationship 101 into two parts: DOs and DON'Ts. Before we start, however, I want to point out a few extremely fundamentally absolutely necessary important points:
- Long-Distance Relationship is not a normal relationship - Stop treating it as such. I have heard countless of people tell me "I couldn't talk to my boyfriend every day even if we were in long-distance". Well, bad news: when you literally can't see each other for 4 months, suddenly those 30 minutes of casual chatting a day become more important than you think.
- Long-Distance Relationship needs extra effort - Be ready to commit to that. It's not easy, it was never about to be, so give it the extra push it needs and take time to maintain your relationship. Every time I got asked "How are you guys doing it?" the answer was pretty much "Hard work and patience." It's work. It can get tiring and frustrating, but if you want to succeed, stay strong.
- Long-Distance Relationship is still a relationship - Give it the dignity it deserves. I have been treated as single both by my friends and people interested in me because "he's away so you're practically single, right?" No. No. No. Being in a long-distance relationship might mean you can't fall asleep on each other's arms every night, but it should not resonate back to other people as me wanting to fall asleep on anyone else's arms in the meantime.
Now that these three things are clear and memorised, we're good to go!
Disclaimer: these are my personal observations based on my own experiences. Everybody works differently, and every couple is unique. Please don't throw rocks at me if something I said didn't work for you.
DO: KEEP IN FREQUENT CONTACT WITH A CONSISTENT SCHEDULEAs I mentioned above, long-distance relationship is not like a normal one. The rules of this game are different. As someone who's been to a few completely ordinary relationships myself I'm aware it's possible to stay together without putting much effort into daily texting sessions - and if something urgent comes up and your date night is cancelled, no big deal. There's always tomorrow. Especially with a decent time-zone issue you should always schedule your skype sessions in advance. Make them if not daily, at least frequent. It's surprisingly easy to drift apart when you have no idea what they've been up to lately, and your status in their everyday life fades. Alex and I skyped almost every day, and if it was absolutely impossible for me to stay up until 2am or for him to wake up at 6am to skype, we at least sent a ton of Facebook-messages. We sent each other a bunch of completely ordinary photos every day, just to maintain the feeling of sharing a life together.
DON'T: CHAT WHEN YOU BOTH HAPPEN TO BE ONLINE
I admit making this mistake in my failed long-distance relationships in the past: I just kind of expected us to end up on MSN Messenger (yes I'm that old) or skype at the same time, despite the 9-hour time difference, which resulted in us basically not talking, ever. Something else always came up and I didn't make it to my computer on time. Needless to say, I lost the connection and we broke up.
DO: HAVE A FORESEEABLE SHORT-TERM PLAN TO SEE EACH OTHER
It's not always possible to have flight tickets ready for the next time on the moment of parting, but it's a comforting thought to know approximately how long it will take for the next hug. I used to have a calendar where I'd cross out days for our next moments together, and there was surely something soothing in this habit. Visuals helped me cope with time passing so slow.
Long-distance relationships are relationships of uncertainty. When will we meet again? Can I afford flying to him two times in six months? Will this work out? This is why it's important to have something to look forward to as it makes the relationship feel more consistent. Being in a long-distance relationship without a plan for the future may feel like driving in a tunnel without seeing the light at the end, and in the long run the uncertainty of what's happening to you can get tiring.
(Personal touch: Alex and I once parted after Christmas, planning to meet up again in 6 weeks. Later on it turned out Alex couldn't afford flying back to Europe so soon, and our 6 weeks turned into 4,5 months. That sucked.)
DON'T: LEAVE THE RELATIONSHIP HANGING
It won't manage itself. It takes two to tango and to fall in love again every day from thousand miles apart. Long-distance relationships are all about practicality and rationality, as paradoxic as it may sound - I mean, talking about 'rationality' in the same sentence with 'let's live 5000 kilometres apart and see each other every 4 months while still staying vigorously in love' seems a little off for me too. But hear me out, it's all true. A machine this big needs someone with organisational skills to pull the levers. Plan your next meet-up. Stare at your calendar a lot. Don't expect your long-distance monster to magically figure itself out while you're busy having fun.
DO: TRUST EACH OTHER
This comes without saying. "Trust" is probably one of the most important words of any long-distance relationship. Don't get me wrong here: it's completely acceptable to be scared at times, since with time your affection or feeling of closeness might dry out and the temptation of physical comfort lures in. What helped me in the past was to ask myself the same question: Would I cheat on him/her? I figured my partner was probably having similar fears about me, and trying to put myself in his position made me feel more comfortable. But I guarantee you this whole long-distance thing of yours is gonna hit the rocks if you don't think your partner can stay faithful!
DON'T: DEMAND TO KNOW THEIR EVERY MOVE AND EXACT LOCATION
But please, please, please don't overdo this. Yes, he/she is far, you can't see them, you can't always even hear them. As pointed out in the first tip up there at the top, I prefer to keep in frequent contact throughout the day/week/month/year, but that doesn't mean you should be texting them every 20 minutes to ask what they're up to right at this frigging moment. As painful as it sounds, long-distance also needs space. Let your partner have their night out without feeling guilty for not sitting alone in the booth, texting you, while the rest of the gang is getting loose on the dance floor. That will only make your relationship feel like a burden. Or a buzzkill.
DO: LET THEM GO
Did you discuss your long-distance relationship with your partner before deciding to jump into it? Did they tell you about their plans to move abroad? Were you ok with all this? Good. In my experience the most important part of a long-distance relationship is to let your partner pursue their dreams, and for them to let you pursue yours. This is, above all, the reason why both of my successful long-distance relationships worked out in the end. My ex was about to do a 3-month internship in Russia when we met, and I gave him space to go and enjoy it, with the condition of seeing him every 2 or 3 weeks. That passed fast and later on we moved in together. However, 2 years later we hit a dead-end when he was about to leave for an exchange semester in Turkey, and I wouldn't let him. Long story short, he's out of the picture now.
He wants to do it. Don't stop him. I have been asked to drop everything I do or am to move on the other side of the world to be with someone. That didn't turn out well. You guys need to have your own lives, and stopping someone from pursuing their dreams for the sake of seeing each other every day will leave your partner forever linger with the question "what if I had done it?"
DON'T: GUILT TRIP ANYONE FOR THE SITUATION
You need to discuss where you're at in your relationship before any decisions about long-distance are made. Both of you need to be 100% ready for it. After you've shaken hands and accepted what's to come, you have officially lost your right to complain about the situation. "I wouldn't have to aaaalways stay up super late to skype with you if you hadn't decided to go volunteer in Colombia!" In normal, healthy circumstances this should be no one's fault. Compromises have to be made, both from your and their side, but making your partner feel like they're a pile of shite for deciding to take that job will not fix what's broken.
Last words: it may seem like the end of the world right now, but it's completely realistic to get used to living in a long-distance relationship. All you need is a routine, a handful of trust and a lot of faith. Hear from the veteran: After one year of long-distance relationship Alex and I managed to live in the same place for a year until we ended up in a situation where we would again have to be apart for two months. Neither one of us ever even considered these two months to be "long-distance relationship" as we were so accustomed to being apart in the past that such a short sprint was basically a joke!
Have you been in a long-distance relationship? What helped you through it? Share your tips in the comments below!