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.
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 SCHEDULE
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
DO: HAVE A FORESEEABLE SHORT-TERM PLAN TO SEE EACH OTHER
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
DO: TRUST EACH OTHER
DON'T: DEMAND TO KNOW THEIR EVERY MOVE AND EXACT LOCATION
DO: LET THEM GO
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
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!