In September my husband left to do a six-month research fellowship in the UK. We’ve done long-distance before. Less than a year into our relationship he studied abroad (which is how both of us met editor-in-chief Katie, but that’s another story). Later on, actually a few weeks after we got engaged, we spent the summer apart—I headed to Serbia to do research and he headed to Peru to volunteer at a shelter for men with HIV. I’m not going to lie. The distance can be overwhelming. I’ve spent many an evening curled up in front of Netflix with Chinese food for one (the $10 minimum is a royal pain when it’s just you). The distance also does take a toll on the relationship particularly when you’re dealing with a time difference. The looming danger is that you will grow apart. The longer the time you’re away the less your lives will overlap. That’s the danger of the long distance relationship. But the reality of the matter is that sometimes, particularly in a tough economy, it’s necessary to do long distance. So what do you do?
Here are a few tips and tricks that my husband and I have put together over the years. The key is staying involved in each other’s lives as much as is possible and to keep the communication going.
1. Stay in touch
It’s easier and easier to keep each other in your life. You can post on each other’s Facebook walls, use messaging apps (I’m a huge fan of iMessage!), Skype or FaceTime each other (if you don’t have a webcam this is the time to buy one) and, of course, email. If you are dealing with a time difference it will make the realtime apps a bit harder to use. Those 2 a.m. Skype calls can take their toll. If you set aside a time to talk make sure you stick to it! If you have to cancel then let the other person know. There’s nothing worse than counting down the hours to a call and then having the other person say that a dinner or party went long.
2. Be honest
Did something hurt your feelings? Are you feeling jealous of a new friend that your significant other has made? Is there something you’re stressed about? Confront it head-on. Otherwise it will eat at you and come out sideways which is never a good thing.
3. Ask how the other person’s day went
Whether you’ve had a good or a bad day it’s easy to jump on the phone and start monopolizing the conversation. When you have the whole evening together that’s fine but when your together time consists of a 30-minute phone call each day this is a recipe for hurt feelings. If your significant other is making new friends while you slog through the typical day-to-day hearing all about how great they are and the fun times they’re having, it can pour salt on the wound. Similarly if one of you has had a bad day while it’s important to talk about it you need to make sure to talk about other things as well otherwise you can drain the life out of the conversation. One tactic my husband and I developed is to be blunt: “I had a really bad day and need to talk about it right now.” The key is to be aware that you’ll both be extra sensitive in these conversations.
4. Making hanging up on each other a cardinal sin
You don’t have the luxury of knocking on the door until your significant other reluctantly opens it. It’s essential to work through all of your crap no matter how hard the conversation. If things get heated and you feel like you need to end the conversation then say so. Don’t just hang up. One idea is to set a time for a follow-up call after you both have cooled off. Another is to resume the conversation through instant messaging. Bottom line—keep the communication going.
5. Try to visit
Travel is expensive but, particularly if the trip is more than two months long, it’s important to get a peek at your significant other’s day-to-day life. From their bedroom to his or her new friends to the local coffeshop it will make both of you feel more involved in each other’s lives. Those memories of being together in the new location are important for both of you.
A long-distance relationship takes work. But as long as you keep the communication lines open and stay dedicated to working through the issues that arise, you will get through it.
Have you been in a long-distance relationship? What tips and tricks have you pick up along the way? Tweet them to @litdarling