5 Tips to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work
Long-distance relationships are the worst. Relationships are already tough enough without the added strain of the large distances and time-differences. You may only be a two-hour-drive or a twelve-hour-flight away from each other, but either way, being alone and separated is not fun! I should know – I have been in a long-distance relationship for over five years (say what?!).
My boyfriend (otherwise known as Leon) and I are “high-school sweethearts” and we had already been together for two years before Leon had to leave Bahrain to go to boarding school in the UK. It was a very sudden, painful turn-around and it felt like we were no where near prepared enough for a long-distance relationship (who really is?). However, I don’t think we thought about doing anything else. It was tough. The constant underlying uncertainty, the long days and lonely nights, the feeling that things would never be “normal” for us. We heavily relied on technology and counted down the days and hours until we would see each other again... but we managed it. We have lived 6,946km apart, between three places and two time zones, and have travelled by bus, train and airplane to see each other.
If you are in a long-distance relationship or going into one, you have probably heard the quote:
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”
Though many people would sadly be wondering how long your relationship will actually last, there is no doubt that a long-distance relationship will give you a whole new perspective on your relationship, on your partner and on yourself. When it comes to surviving the distance, here’s what I would have loved to have known before starting a long-distance relationship:
Technology is your New Best Friend
Ideally, a teleportation device would be the greatest thing for a long-distance relationship. It would mean no airplanes, trains, spending lots of money on phone credit and the countless days waiting to see each other…
The Internet Age has made communication easier. Instant messaging, face-to-face calls and GPS so you always know where your other half is… (not creepy!). Without it, I’m not sure how we would have coped! Since the day Leon left five years ago, we have been glued to our phones (which is by no means the only way to stay connected but it was the best way for us). I remember buying my very first “smart” phone, a Blackberry, and using BBM almost all the time - even during class (as a goody-two-shoes this was very rebellious of me!). Nowadays, technology has developed with faster connections, improved apps like Whatsapp and Skype, as well as better devices. Look at the iWatch which lets you animate texts so you can ‘feel’ what that person is trying to tell you. Now imagine what will be possible in the next 5 years!
We used technology to distract ourselves from the ache of being apart. With the added pressure of leaving home for university, living in a whole new country, all the while being apart, was tough! When I didn’t feel like socialising with my friends (who really are a life-saver in a long-distance relationship) I would loose myself in the vast void known as the Internet. Ice-cream, Netflix and funny cat videos on YouTube really helped forget about my loneliness (long-distance relationships are a lot like breakups… without the breaking up).
The best thing we came up with was to do all these things, together… while apart. I know what you are thinking. How is that possible? Well, you both buy the same movie and you watch it together while on Skype. For those who hate talking through movies, this wouldn’t work well for you, but this was a time for us to feel like we were right there with each other without being there physically. It sounds strange writing it down, but it really helped us!
Communication Is Key
Communication is possibly the bedrock of every good relationship but it is even more important in a long-distance relationship. It’s hard enough to really know what the other is thinking about when you are face-to-face, let alone thousands of miles apart. Most long-distance couples have to try harder in communicating affection and intimacy in ways that other couples don’t have to. This is where modern technology comes in handy. Due to technology, our world is 'shrinking' and nothing really feels as far away as it used to. If you want to speak to someone across the world it takes under 3 minutes rather than over 3 months as it has in the past! Set a schedule for when you are going to call, send messages out of the blue or even get romantic and write handwritten letters. It may sound a bit suffocating for some, but the constant reminder that your other half is thinking of you really does lessen the ache. It won't change the fact that you haven’t seen each other, but it will be comforting at a time when every comfort matters.
Communication is something that needs constant work and attention. You won’t be an expert at ‘reading’ your other half or communicating what you want to say straight away. You may not even feel comfortable with exposing yourself. Find out how much you want from each other mutually and don’t let your expectations cloud your judgements!
Spending time together is said to be the key to keeping a relationship alive... which doesn’t help when you are separated by thousands of miles. We all know you aren’t going to be in your room, listening to sad music and stuffing your face all the time (just most of the time.) You have to get out there, find a hobby and chill with your friends. However, when you are the one at home with nothing to do while your other half is out having fun, there is always this small part of you deep down that gets a teensy bit jealous. It will almost always feel just a little bit like rejection.
Letting go of jealousy is one of the hardest parts of any relationship… it’s just a little bit harder when you are across the world as well. This is why communication, combined with trust, is such a crucial part of a long-distance relationship. If you don’t trust one another to go out, have a good time and, you know, go home without someone else, then you aren’t going to have a very good relationship (long-distance or otherwise). Its perfectly normal to be over-protective, but don’t let it consume you and feed into paranoia.
Make Every Moment Count
This may sound a bit obvious, but the time you spend together is the most important. Save those pesky coins and put them in a travel jar, plan the year and see where your free time lines up, visit each other or just meet up somewhere in the middle. Set a day in the future where you are sure to see each other. By having a target to look forward to can help the pain of seeing your loved one go.
When you are actually, physically with each other, make sure you spend quality time. You will want to do as many things together as you can, but you need to remember to have chill-out time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. About two years into our long-distance relationship, we were both at university and we were lucky enough to be able to see each other more often, sometimes every two weeks! It still wasn’t ideal, but the freedom to see each other whenever we could made things so much better. At the beginning, we would spend a lot of our time out and about (mainly filming for our YouTube channel), but we would get home and be so exhausted. The lazy-days, full of movies in bed with tea and chocolate, however, were some of the best for our relationship because we were just us, together, at our most relaxed…
The biggest thing I learnt from a long-distance relationship is that it will make you stronger. Not only does it test your relationship, but it also makes you tougher as a person. Many people are concerned when I tell them how long Leon and I have been together. They worry that I haven’t been able to be my own person without him being there, but because of the long-distances, I have been able to grow as an individual in many different ways while having the love and support that comes with a relationship (this is pretty much the only upside to a long-distance relationship).
If you survive the distance, your relationship can survive anything.
Relationships are hard but you should always manage to find a way to make the relationships that are most important to you work.