I’ve done enough long distance stuff to know that it’s no picnic! Oftentimes travelers find themselves pushed into this imperfect situation. That’s why I wanted to share this guest post on how to survive a long distance relationship.
People ask me all the time, “So what’s the secret?” They are, of course, referring to the secret to making a long distance relationship work. While I don’t think I’m an expert, nor do I think I’m perfect in any relationship, I have logged over 15 months of long distance, and I know a handful of successful long distance relationships. I have learned a lot from my experience and from watching those around me. I will share with you what I think is “the secret.”
I will preface this by saying that if a long distance relationship is to survive at all, it has to be a good relationship, just as a non-long distance relationship should be. If you can’t trust each other, you constantly keep secrets from one another, and you don’t genuinely care about the other person, the relationship won’t last, whether it is long distance or not.
Lots of people are LD relationship doubters, and I have heard countless people say they never work or can’t work; well, I’m here to say that doesn’t need to be the case!
As a traveler, love, just like the rest of life, is transplanted on the road. It’s almost impossible not to meet someone special while on the road, or leave someone special at home when traveling summons us. So how do you make it work when you really (really) want it to work?
1. It’s Going to be Hard
If you want to survive your long distance relationship then you have to accept that it is going to be hard from the start, and you will be better prepared right away. Know that you won’t get to hold your partner’s hand when you are sad, you won’t get to kiss him or her when you need it most, you won’t have your favourite spooning partner on speed dial and you won’t be able to share knowing glances at inside jokes. It’s hard, but there are ways to get by.
We live in an incredible world where the possibilities for communication are endless. Get a skype account. If you both have an account, talking via Skype is free. If only one person has an account, long distance calls are inexpensive. If you both have iPhones or iPads, you can chat using facetime. Both of these options allow you to see your significant other through video. If these aren’t options, texting and calling never fail, and there are great apps like WhatsApp that allow you to text from anywhere in the world for free as long as both partners have the app. In a world where short text messages are becoming more of a norm, I know I love getting a nice long email (from anyone), but there is nothing more romantic than a lovely and long handwritten letter sent by post. It takes a little longer to arrive, but I think it’s just that much more meaningful, especially if you don’t know it’s coming.
3. Be Real.
All relationships face conflict at some point. Not everyone agrees on everything (not even the best of friends), and this can be hard to deal with in a short distance relationship, not to mention a long distance relationship. Know that disagreements and working through them are a healthy and normal part of being in a relationship, and just because you don’t live in the same city doesn’t mean you can pause the reality of your relationship. Both partners should feel comfortable telling the other if they are unhappy, worried, concerned or stressed out about something, if they need emotional support, or if something the other person did upset them if you are to survive a long distance relationship. These things should never be swept aside. And I don’t think I need to say this, but please don’t pick fights for the sake of picking a fight or trying to get attention. Try to keep a rational head on when discussing these sources of conflict.
4. Stay Busy.
Keep doing what you love, whatever that may be. Stay physically active, spend lots of time with friends, and don’t change who you are. Staying true to yourself will help you avoid falling into a long distance relationship funk. Plus, your boyfriend or girlfriend fell in love with you, and you should stay proactive in being your best self, even when you might just want to stay in for days on end eating ice cream out of a tub. Don’t do that.
5. Have an End Point in Mind.
Do you ultimately want to end up together? Sometimes, this is hard to visualize if you are a Canadian and you just met an Australian while traveling through Scandinavia, and you are both headed home in a month. It is hard to visualize when you are an Australian living in England and met an American while traveling through Colombia. And what happens when you are traveling somewhere and meet a local, but never thought you’d be going back and they had never thought of leaving?
Rarely, permanently long distant relationships succeed. It happens, but it is rare. I believe that if a long distance relationship is going to stand a chance, there should be an end point in mind.
To survive a long distance relationship at first, these end points will likely be in the form of visits. One visits the other at Christmas. One surprises the other for her birthday. Both partners take turns visiting on weekends. Or perhaps you meet on an island in the Caribbean for a week. Depending on the distance you are faced with, the possibilities of the types and duration of visits will vary. You will know what works best with your relationship and budget. Having these end points will provide you both with something positive to look forward to and plan for together.
As a relationship progresses, one partner may choose to move temporarily to be with the other. Or perhaps you could both meet somewhere in the middle with working visas to start somewhere new together. If you travel well together, a round-the-world trip may be a short-term fix for seeing each other. Regardless, these choices have to be met with a sense of flexibility and sacrifice. You never planned to meet that dreamboat in Vietnam, so how could you possibly have ever imagined moving to Australia to be with him?
What does “ending up together” mean to you? Perhaps it is a life of nomadic travel, travel can even make your relationship stronger. Perhaps you want to open a guest house together in Thailand. Or maybe what you really want is a nice home together in Connecticut with lots of little round babies. Regardless of where you are both from, make sure you are working toward the same end point, understanding that this may change many times over the course of the relationship.
What is your experience with long distance relationships? Have I missed any tips on how to survive a long distance relationship?
Colleen Brynn is a travel addict and optometry student. She blogs at Colleen Brynn Travels.