I recently had the opportunity to catch up with a friend of mine who had been in a long distance relationship that ended poorly. Many of my close friends always ask me how Blake and I made our relationship work across countries, and at times, in opposite hemispheres. I’m also often asked how we managed to do it without wanting to kill each other. There is no short answer for this, so I’ve decided to break it down into the ten things to keep in mind when you’re considering, or are already in a long distance relationship.
You might think this sounds like an obvious, lackluster way to start. Were you expecting me to say something friskier about long distance relationships, or were you romanticizing the idea of being hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of miles away from the person you love? Let me make one thing clear before you continue, if you get to the end of #1 and you already doubt your entire long distance relationship, take some time and reflect on your needs. Trust is the foundation of every relationship. Hacking into your significant other’s email account, reading all of their text messages, and interrogating them unremittingly doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend your time. I mean, you might as well be serving a subpoena. I’m not just talking to ladies here, this for men too. If you think trusting your significant other is hard when you’re in the same town, then you’re in for a real treat when you can’t see what they are doing all hours of the day. Save your sanity, and your wallet, and don’t hire a private investigator. Blake has so many female friends at home, some of which are supermodels. No, not just really pretty chicks, ACTUAL Ford supermodels. I don’t know what they put in the water in Australia, but I wouldn’t mind some of it in a Nalgene bottle (recycling for the win, y’all). What’s important is that they were in his life long before I was. I respect and trust his friendships with his close friends, because he has never given me reason not to. Your distrust may be 100% justified based on past experiences with this person, but if that is the case, why are you still in this relationship? A long distance relationship will only become harder if you do not make a dedicated effort to trust each other.
#2) Be honest about your expectations with your significant other, and yourself.
This goes hand in hand with trust. You have to take care of your needs, while respecting somebody else’s needs. Before you even begin an LDR, be honest with your significant other, and with yourself. Here are a few questions to think about:
-Is this really what I want?
-Do I have the time to make this commitment?
-Am I being fair to the person I’m dating if I’ve said no to either of those questions?
-If Ryan Gosling or Megan Fox came to town would I be able to resist? No? Okay, well not many people would so I’ll let that slide.
#3) Have a sense of humor
Having a sense of humor totally makes the miles more bearable. There were times where Blake and I would Skype, and when the image came on the screen, he’d be making a goofy face. Sometimes if we were having a conversation, and he was trying to get my attention, I’d cross my eyes every time he started talking to me. He couldn’t help cracking up. Once, while he was in Ireland, I answered his Skype call to see him wearing a leprechaun hat with a red beard attached. Actually, I think I have a picture of this.
#4) Stay connected to each other’s passions
Two years ago, Blake and I were just friends. Both groups of our own friends will dispute this statement to the grave, but we swear on our lives that we just enjoyed each other’s company. For a year and a half we were completely platonic. One of the first things we talked about, long ago in the land of “just friends we swear”, was music. After discovering that we loved the same music, we began sending each other songs every day. This trait of our friendship eventually carried over into our relationship. When we were faced with distance, we calculated the fourteen hour time difference, and made sure that the person waking up on the other side of the world would have a song in their inbox when they woke up.
Aside from music, Blake and I each have our own passions. They are very different passions, but we did what we could to support each other. Blake is a rugby player, and travelled to Ireland for 6 months to play. I am a writer, and I can’t count the number of times I sent Blake rough drafts to read. The poor boy probably thought he was in high school again. During one of Blake’s particularly important rugby tournaments, I was waitressing in NH and snuck into the basement of the restaurant I worked at to strea his game on my phone.
I know, Employee of the Year!
The point is, while we were far apart, we did as much as we could to stay connected and updated on what the other person felt passionate about.
#5) Communicate and coordinate
This is where making sure that you have the time for an LDR plays in. Long distance relationships take a lot of communication and coordination. Early on, you should both sit down and figure out a time frame that works for your schedules. Blake and I had an extreme time difference on our hands. Australia is 14 hours ahead of New Hampshire, which is cool if you’re traveling, because it feels like you’re going into the future. It wasn’t cool in the sense that we had coordinate times that we would both be awake for just to get some face time. There were times that one of us had to wake up at 6am, or stay up until 3am, but having an hour to see each other uninterrupted was worth it. Try not to get in the habit of rescheduling. Understandably, things come up. Realize that if you start getting used to rescheduling Skype dates and phone calls, before you know it, you’re going on day five of no contact and you’re wondering if your significant other is in a ditch somewhere
6) Keep Living Your Life
Instead of sitting around the house in your pajamas all day (or your pajama jeans if you value comfort AND fashion…) watching reruns of Hawaii 5-0, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. Go for a run, grab a drink with friends after work, learn the cupid shuffle, take some time to discover a new hobby, but for the love of all that is holy DO NOT sit by your phone. Not only will it make time crawl by at a speed which can only be related to watching Curling on the Olympics, but by the time your significant other calls, you will already be in a bored state of mind. I’m not telling you to be something you’re not. Don’t feel like you need to go bungee jumping just so you’ll have something to exciting to talk about. I’m telling you that the busier you keep yourself, the less time you’ll have to be sad.
#7) Learn to accept, reflect, and connect with your emotions
(Are you confused because I just made it sound like being sad is a bad thing? I’ll explain.)
I’m going to be completely vulnerable to a bunch of strangers in the blogosphere for a moment: During the nine months that Blake and I lived in different countries, we made trips to see each other three times. The stretch after the last visit before Blake moved here was the hardest, and there were times that I didn’t think I could handle it. Nobody could understand why I was frustrated with my “fairy tale” relationship. I travelled to a foreign land, fell in love, and lived happily ever after, so why was I complaining? The thing is, whether you are a hundred miles away, or 10,000 miles away, exchanging face to face interaction and the chance to create real life memories, for computer screen and telephone conversations is not a fairy tale. It’s hard.
I had been holding it in for weeks, pretending that everything was breezy. One day, at work, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. After putting the girls I nannied for down for a nap, I went into the bathroom, buried my head in a pile of folded pillows, and cried hysterically for ten minutes. Does that sound like a healthy way of handling emotions? Of course not. The next night, Meg and I grabbed a drink and split a strawberry shortcake after work. Without judging me, she let me spill out all of my mixed up feelings until I had a solid grip on them. I felt SO much better.
Moral of the story: Locking yourself in your room, while wearing pajama jeans and crying for ten hours straight is bad for your health. It is equally detrimental to your health if you pretend like your emotions don’t exist. Find a healthy way to create balance between the times that it’s hard, because it WILL be hard, and the times that you feel great.
DISCLAIMER: Pajama Jeans are probably never a good thing.
#8) Send Mail!!!
This deserves three exclamation points. Living in a time where technology trumps a paper and pen, the value of sending packages is often forgotten. You can send an email in two minutes, but putting together a package takes time and careful consideration. It also keeps things exciting, because you have something to look forward to. Each week, Blake and I would put together a package, including a CD with new music, pictures, one or two little presents, and hand written letters. Even if you send just one of those items along, it is exciting to think about how the other person is going to react to what you’ve picked out. It is just as exciting receiving a package and discovering what the other person thought you would like, and it’s a hell of a lot more exciting than opening your mail box to find a pile of bills.
#9) Make Plans to See Each Other
Long Distance Relationships are always more bearable if you have a date set in mind of when you will see each other next, because it gives you both something to count down to. If you’re close enough, find a way to set aside a weekend that works for both of you, and take a little trip. The street runs both ways, so make sure you take turns visiting. It’s not fair if you are always expecting them to come to you, or if you are the person who is always making the trip. To make things more exciting, find somewhere in the middle that is new to both of you and experience it together. Turn it into an adventure! Blake and I were so far away from each other, but we managed to take turns visiting each other over in various countries. Blake came to America for Christmas, and we experienced New York City together. Three months later I visited Blake while he was abroad in Ireland.
#10) Come to a conclusion, and CELEBRATE when it’s over!
At some point, you have to decide how the distance will come to a close. For example, one person moving home after being away for school is simpler than the predicament that arises when one person has to leave their home and move across the country, or world. After discussing the pros and cons of both options, Blake came to the conclusion that he wanted to move to America on his own. Allow each other to take time deciding what the best fit for your relationship will be. The worst thing you can do is rush the decision.
Naturally, the BEST part of a LDR, after months of being apart, is celebrating your success. Long Distance Relationships are challenging, and they take an immense amount of trust and patience. If you’ve successfully managed to stay faithful and honest, it will only make your relationship stronger. When Blake and I look back on the nine months that we spent apart, we realize there really isn’t anything that we can’t accomplish together. I’ll never forget pulling up to the airport in June and seeing Blake standing there with his suitcases. The elation of knowing that he wouldn’t be leaving again, and that he wanted to be here, was overwhelming.