Making It Work (Long Distance Relationship Advice)
When we dream of traveling the world, we don’t just think of taking a vacation, we envision a marvelous adventure: adrenaline rushes, exotic marketplaces, mouth-watering delicacies, romantic languages, breathtaking landscapes, and of course, passionate encounters with foreign strangers 😉
But what happens when that lustful exchange turns into a romance? And what happens when the travel comes to an end, but you refuse to let go of that romance? Introducing: THE LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP (LDR) dun dun dunnn!!
Yes, it happens to a lot of us world-travelers. Inevitably, chasing our dreams puts us into contact with people who have similar dreams. So, it’s no surprise when we find ourselves desperately in love with a fellow traveler who just so happens to live on the other side of the planet. This happened to me three years ago when I met my current boyfriend while we were both working on a cruise ship.
Over the past three years, we’ve been fortunate enough to work on a few more ships together, but we’ve also spent plenty of time apart in our home countries where we are an ocean (and a five hour time difference) apart. And RIGHT NOW is one of those times. It’s been over a month since I’ve last seen him, and our next visit probably won’t be for another month or two. People often ask me how we manage to make it work, so tonight I thought I’d share a few tricks of the LDR trade 😉
1. Communication is KEY: This one may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve realized that the times when my relationship felt rocky were the times when my bf and I weren’t communicating enough. Part of communicating means keeping in touch every day. This can be difficult when you are living in different time zones; but even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, those messages or Skype calls help to maintain a sense of normalcy. The other part of communication is what your talking about. Since you don’t see each other often, it can be tempting to spend your entire Skype or phone call chatting about fun, silly things and what you did over the weekend, but you have to make a sincere effort to get a little deeper than that. That’s right, I’m talking about feelings (ugh!). Joys, sorrows, worries, insecurities, fears – all of that hard to talk about stuff – well, it’s a lot harder to address these things when you can’t do it face-to-face, but it’s all the more important because it’s what is going to keep you emotionally connected when you are missing a physical connection.
2. Trust: ALL relationships depend upon a solid foundation of trust, but this can be an especially difficult obstacle for Long Distancers. You don’t see each other every day. You don’t know who your significant other is spending time with (you may not even have met any of their friends yet!). Not knowing automatically creates an atmosphere of doubt and suspicion. DON’T LET IT! And don’t make it worse for yourself by Facebook stalking your partner or demanding to know where they are every minute of every day. You have to trust. Not just for the sake of the relationship, but for your own sake (you’ll drive yourself crazy thinking of all the possible things your partner could be up to!). At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself how well you know the person. Do you think they would go through all the effort of maintaining contact with you if they were fooling around? Have they ever done anything in the past to warrant your suspicions? Can you accept that you aren’t going to know what they are doing every minute of every day? If you’re having difficulty, here is another tip: make an effort to meet your partner’s friends and family. This can provide a huge sense of comfort! Meeting their friends and family not only gives you a better sense of who they are as a person, but also helps you to feel more integrated into their life. And think of it this way: if her best friend thinks you’re great, or his mom really loves you, than you have more people on your side encouraging your partner to make it work!
3. Get Creative: Keeping the romance alive can sometimes prove difficult when you are missing an entire aspect of your relationship (the physical stuff!). Talking on the phone, Video Chatting, and sexting can be fun for a bit, but can get tedious (especially if the network is slow and your conversation keeps pausing!). It’s important to look for other ways to keep in touch and keep things exciting. For example, my bf and I write letters or send cute packages to remind each other that we care. Starting projects together can also be a nice way of staying connected (My boyfriend and I opened an Etsy shop to sell these bookfolds that we make: www.etsy.com/show/nickandjackie). I know some couples who send puzzles or projects back and forth to one another, completing a little bit at a time. The BEST resource for people in LDRs is technology! There are dozens of great apps and websites available. Sites like watch2gether and synaptop allow you to watch TV and movies together online which can make for a nice date night. My boyfriend and I aren’t big gamers, but I think playing video games together online could be a great connection as well, if that’s your thing. Also, I recently found an app called Couple (used to be called Pair) that’s basically a social connection for just TWO people – it has features like private sharing of messages (and photos and videos *wink*), creating drawings together in real time, and even something called a Kiss where you press your thumb to the screen and it vibrates the other person’s phone! So cheesy, I know, but again, every little bit helps to make up for that missing physical connection!
4. Patience: One of the most frustrating aspects of long distance is that your relationship can’t always happen in real time (especially if you are living in different time zones!). Sometimes you might have a disagreement, but because you are fighting via text message, the other person might take their time to respond. You can try resolving things on a phone call, but then you remember it’s 7:00pm here so it’s almost midnight where he is! The worst thing ever is trying to resolve things via Skype (do you know how awkward it is to rant for ten minutes only to realize that the screen froze five minutes ago and they haven’t heard a word of it!?) So, patience. Waiting to see each other, waiting for responses, waiting for phone calls and messages, waiting waiting waiting. But, as the saying goes: “The best things in life are worth waiting for,” right?
5. Make a Plan: I think the most important part of a LDR is to always know when is the next time you’ll be seeing each other. Even if you plan a visit and it falls through, you should immediately plan another visit. Having a date gives you both something to work towards and look forward to and provides that light at the end of the tunnel. Once, when my boyfriend and I were apart for three months, I kept like five different calendars just so I could feel the satisfaction of checking off each passing day – bringing me closer to him. I’ve seen really great relationships fall apart on cruise ships because the couple had no idea when or how they would see each other again. Make the effort. Set the date. Buy the plane ticket. It matters!
So, there are a few ways to make it work when you’ve found that special person but can’t be with them right now. And these tips are not just for romantic relationships, they apply to long distance friendships and family as well!
How do you make your LDRs work? I’d love to hear your stories and get some more tips!!