Thursday, 11 September 2014

How to get through a long distance relationship

For the past three years I've been in a long distance relationship which can be quite challenging at times. Since I had no previous experience with long distance it took me some time to adapt to the challenges that come along. Over time though I got used to the situation and developed my own coping mechanisms. 

Today I want to share my top tips with you and hope that I can help some of you who might be in a similar situation.

So here goes in no particular order:

1. Communicate as much as possible

This one kind of goes without saying but for me it was important to make communication with my boyfriend a priority. In our case this is fairly easy as we live only one time zone apart so there's not too much stress about finding the right time for both of us to chat. My boyfriend and I usually chat on Skype every night and sometimes email each other during the day. If one of us can't make it at our usual time we try and chat earlier that day even if it is just a short Skype call to see each other briefly. We don't do this because we feel obliged in any way but because we want to and there are also days when one of us may not be in the best of moods or just hasn't much to say and we agree to not chat that day but leave it until the next day.

But it's not just important for the sake of being in contact with each other. Make sure you keep each other in the loop about what's happening in your life. Tell your partner about your day and make him/her part of your life just like you would if he or she would live down the street.

2. Get to know each other 

 Since all we can do is talking to each other on Skype it is a great opportunity to really get to know each other. Ever since the beginning of our relationship we've been talking about so many different topics. Some of them are fairly easy to discuss such as 'Whats your favourite place to travel to?' Other topics including politics, ambitions and other things that take more time to talk about.

What I'm trying to say is that my boyfriend and I know each other very very well which is mainly thanks to all of our conversations and discussions that we might not have had if we were together permanently. I'm fairly sure that we know each other better than some of the couples I know who spend most of their time together or even live together as they don't tend to have hour long conversations on a regular basis because they obviously have other ways of spending time together.

3. Be honest and create trust

Although I'd like to think that honesty and trust are important in any relationship I find that it is particularly important if your partner isn't around. Since he isn't just around the corner and only knows what you're up to because of what you're telling him, it is important that he can trust what you say. No one likes feeling unsure about whether their partner is faithful or not. Once the trust is lost it is difficult to get back.

4. "Do" things together

Ok you might now think 'What can I do with my boyfriend when he's at the other end of the world?' It's actually quite easy. You can do some of the  things that you would do if you were together. Amongst the "activities" my boyfriend and I sometimes do are:

  • Watching football together while we're both on Skype
  • Eating dinner in front of the computer and have a chat
  • Teach each other something ( e.g. I teach him some German)
Some people might find this rather sad and pathetic but we actually enjoy it and thats all that counts. :-)

5. "Celebrate" birthdays, holidays and anniversaries

I think it is very nice to try and celebrate important days together even if you are not in the same country. My boyfriend and I usually send each other cards and sometimes parcels with a little present to mark certain occasions. We both enjoy it very much and always make an effort to make things special by choosing a funny or romantic card and making the effort of writing a nice message. I sometimes even make my own cards that usually feature one of our inside jokes. I also like to spray them with my perfume (I know incredibly cheesy :P) to make it a bit more like I was actually present when my boyfriend opens it. I also really like that we always make a point of opening our letters and parcels in front of Skype so we can see each others reactions which makes it a bit more real.

6. See it as an opportunity to improve yourself

One of the positives of long distance for me is that I get the chance to improve myself and my life without my partner seeing all of my flaws and shortcomings all of the time. For example I know that I'm really not the best housewife or cook at the moment and that I can be incredibly messy at times but I really want to get better at these things (mainly for myself and not for some sexist reason) because I think that it will make living together one day much more stress and argument free.

7.  Don't let other people put you off

Throughout my relationship I have come across people who were very negative about long distance relationships in general. They've been telling me that it won't last and that there is NO way that two people can stay faithful for such a long period of time without any intimacy. At first I felt like I needed to convince them that this wasn't true but these days I don't even bother with that anymore and accept that they won't understand my situation and that they don't really need to.
Of course there is no guarantee for anything but you don't get that in normal relationships either. So don't listen to negative people.

8.  Make plans for the future

One thing that keeps me going through those difficult phases of being apart is making plans for the future with my partner. Talking about eventually moving in together or going on holiday makes me feel like the relationship is going somewhere and there's something  to look forward to.

9. Have reasonable expectations

Just like in any other relationship there are going to be times when there will be arguments, misunderstandings or you might not have that much to say to your partner. Being apart doesn't make these situations any easier.
Whenever there is a bump in the road it is important to not let communication break down which is all too easy in a long distance relationship. 
Talk to your partner, voice your concerns and be willing to compromise. In most cases that will sort things out.
 Expect the occasional bump in the road and be prepared to deal with them.

10. See the positives

Although not being with the one you love sometimes really sucks (sorry but thats the truth...) for me being in a long distance relationship has lots of positives too:

  • Every time you get together again there's that excitement of being in love that most couples usually lose after some time of being together. Long distance couples get those nice feelings everytime they see each other again after being apart. (I know I do <3 ) Thats what I like to call the "extended honeymoon period".
  • Once you're permanently together you'll probably remember what being apart was like and appreciate finally being together even more.
  • It's a valuable lesson in effective communication because communication is what the relationship consists of when you can't be together. You usually learn to have interesting conversations and also to solve problems when it would be easier to just close Skype and not deal with it.
  • You get to know your partner really well. Since you are more or less forced to talk to your partner ( unless you choose to just stare at each other on Skype) you probably have longer and maybe more meaningful conversations than other couples.
  • You can be fairly sure that both of you are commited to the relationship because most people who aren't serious wouldn't  put up with long distance when all they get most of the time is chats.

So these were my 10 top tips for surviving a long distance relationship. I hope the post wasn't too long. Please let me know in the comments whether you are or have been in a long distance relationship and share some of your own tips :-)

Julie xx