Whenever I tell people I’m in a long distance relationship, I prepare myself for the inevitable bombardment of questions. How do you stay in touch? When will you see each other again? Don’t you worry that he’ll find someone else, or that you will? How are you going to be together?
Seeing as how my boyfriend and I recently celebrated our one year anniversary – most of that year being apart – I think it’s time to address some of these (totally valid) concerns. Yes, long distance sucks. No, it’s not doomed to fail. As someone who went through one failed long distance relationship and currently finds herself in the happiest period of her life, here are what I consider the six most important things a couple must do to successfully maintain a LDR.
1. Have an end plan.
I cannot stress enough how vital this is. If you don’t know when you’re going to be together for good, or at least for an extended period of time, the relationship simply is not going to work. Being away from your partner is hard enough. Not having a life together to look forward to is even harder. Mentally, long distance is much easier to cope with knowing that you’ll be together in x number of years/months/weeks/days.
2. Ensure you and your partner are equally committed to the relationship.
This is how my first LDR failed. Our expectations for the relationship were totally different, but I was too emotionally invested at the time to end things. Before you take the step to go long-distance, ask yourselves: Are you going to see other people or be faithful to one another? How often do you plan on talking? Are you going to see each other while you’re apart?
Setting boundaries is important. You should be very clear about what you expect from your partner and what your partner expects from you. This will be different for every couple. Some might choose to pursue an open relationship. I know this is not a possibility for me due to my own personality. Make sure that both you and your partner are equally comfortable with the expectations. If you’re not on the same page about something as important as the degree of exclusivity of your relationship, things are bound to go awry.
3. Be willing to make sacrifices.
Depending on the situation, there are a number of things that could get in the way of being with your partner long-term. (Trust me, I know what a headache immigration laws can be.) However, there’s almost always a solution if you’re willing to put in the effort. This might mean leaving your job and living off of your savings because you can’t work in his country, or taking a study abroad year so that you can be with her. Sometimes, you may actually have several options but each one requires a different kind of sacrifice. In my case, I know that I’ll be taking a huge pay cut if I go teach English in Spain for a year, but I’ve prepared for that by saving ahead of time. I also know that it’s totally worth it if I can spend a year in a country I adore with the person I love. While it requires that I sacrifice more than he does, it is the best option for both of us right now because it will open the door to us being together long-term. Remember that both of you should be making sacrifices. If one person is always giving up considerably more than the other, it might be time to re-evaluate the relationship.
4. Communication is key.
So simple, yet so true. How often you talk is up to you. My boyfriend and I talk everyday, pretty much all day until one of us goes to bed. We generally Skype once every 2 weeks or so. We never explicitly stated that we must talk everyday and Skype every other weekend; it developed naturally. We simply enjoy filling each other in on our day and anything exciting or stressful we have coming up. Communicating as often as we do helps build the closeness that each of us needs.
One of the most difficult aspects of any LDR is doubt. Because you’re so far apart, because you haven’t seen each other in months, because you can’t actually talk face-to-face, you may begin to doubt how your partner feels. That’s why it’s so crucial that each of you is very clear about your feelings. If you are concerned about something, tell her. If you’re feeling lonely, talk about it. If you need a gentle reminder that your partner is still as committed as always, ask him. I find that any negative emotions that emerge in a LDR are generally the result of a lack of communication.
5. Make an extra effort to love.
Having no physical contact with your partner can take a toll on the connection you have. You can’t go on dates. You can’t kiss goodnight. You can’t rest your head on his chest as you binge watch your favourite Netflix series. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love as completely as you did when you were together. Keeping the spark alive might consist of a good morning text everyday, sending silly selfies, or watching a movie together over Skype. I know that with every birthday, anniversary, and Christmas present, I can expect a handwritten letter. My friends would probably vomit if they saw the number of kissy-face emojis Joaquín and I exchange on a daily basis. These are just some of the things that keep us feeling loved and needed.
I alluded earlier to the question about whether I worry that he’ll find someone else, or that I will. Honestly, the thought has never even crossed my mind. Why? Because he demonstrates day in and day out that what he wants more than anything else is to be with me, and I do the same.
6. Pursue your own interests.
A long distance relationship doesn’t have to be all bad! In fact, the attitude you have going into the relationship can significantly influence how it’s going to turn out. Think of this period apart as a time to work on yourself. Enrol in that photography class you’ve been dying to try out. Make a routine of going to the gym everyday after work. Catch up with friends you haven’t seen in awhile. Your time is 100% yours. Use it. Not only will pursuing your own interests keep your mind off how much you miss your partner and give you two more things to talk about, but you’ll be making a positive impact on your mind and body. Win-win!
A long distance relationship is hard work, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.