When my now husband and I met, we were in a long distance relationship for almost four years before we got engaged and eventually married. Once we were married, he relocated to Canada from the U.K. but eventual that fairy tale did not come without its challenges. Below are some of the things we did and experienced that helped with making our long distance relationship work.
Though those four years were the most exciting years of my life, they were equally the toughest and loneliest. Prior to meeting, neither of us had ever been in a long distance relationship so it was safe to say that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and the adventures (bad and good) that lay ahead of us. Needless to say, we knew two things were certain: we were head over heels in love and we wanted to make it work.
The next four years were a combination of trial and error, lonely nights, amazing trips, tears, fights and a whole lot of love in between. We quickly learned that long distance relationships were not for the weak hearted but they were more than worth it if you hung on for the ride.
Making A Long Distance Relationship Work
Have a Plan for the Future
During the course of our dating relationship, we missed countless birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. We soon realized that we needed to have a plan to figure out where we were going as a couple. We had to be honest off the bat about what we each wanted from the relationship and figure out if we wanted to take the next step to giving it a fair chance. We approached the “what are we” stage very early on in our relationship.
I know that we probably went against all the cliches of millennial dating and courtship that encourage women to not ask for what they want or to be straight forward in relationships. I’m here to say ignore that backwards way of thinking. Let’s erase that toxic relationship narrative. Knowing what you want and where you want your relationship to go is important and knowing early on if you are on the same page about the future is key.
Set a Goal Together
That may sometimes mean making sacrifices in your day to day life to help with saving money to contribute to your partner’s move (or yours) or to buy plane tickets or to take time away from work. The list is endless. Having something to work towards will give you both something to look forward to as well as something to keep you fighting for your relationship. It’s difficult to keep pushing for something that you don’t see an end goal for.
So whether the goal is to move in one year or two, set it. Have that discussion. You may find that you don’t agree on the same things but this allows for those moments of reality that are necessary in a long distance relationship and you realize that you have very little time to be uncertain and not know what you want as as individuals and as a couple.
Communicate and Be Transparent
This may seem like a no brainer but there is no path to making a long distance relationship work without establishing a foundation of open communication. With that being said, I think it’s very easy to mistaken “talking” for “communicating” because they are NOT the same thing. Talking is merely having dialogue and conversation but that could easily be small talk and catching up about your day.
Communication requires you to open about how you feel internally- good or bad, it is about going below the surface and discussing things that may be uncomfortable. Until those pain points are touched on, it can be difficult to truly be transparent with your partner. Since you are not living in close proximity to one another, you will need to be intentional about the information you share with your partner and be willing to be an open book.
Allow Yourself to be Vulnerable
There were days when I would get really down about not being able to spend my weekends off with my boyfriend, not have the opportunity to go for impromptu lunch dates or just seeing other couples in public doing “normal” things like holding hands. Rather than keeping that sadness inside and crying myself to sleep (which I still did at times!) I would take that an as opportunity to call or text my partner and let him know that I was having one of “those days” and we’d bond over it.
This allowed us to both feel reassured that we weren’t alone in what we were going through emotionally. These moments really helped us to build an emotional connection that we otherwise may not have had the opportunity to endure had we dated the traditional way. We learned not to take the moments we shared together for granted and without realizing it, it forced us to be more in tune with our own feelings and address the “elephant in the room” about a lot of things. We developed a deep level of emotional intimacy.
Send Each Other Handwritten Letters
Other than seeing each other every few months, there is nothing I looked forward to more than receiving his handwritten letters. They always make me feel like I was reliving a Nick Spark’s novel, where the two characters were separated by thousands of miles and the only way they kept in touch was by writing letters in the dark under the dim light of an oil lamp. I’m total a sucker for romantic movies.
Though we spoke every day, we really enjoyed spilling out our love and adoration for one another on paper, daydreaming about what our life together would be like once we finally had the opportunity to live in the same time zone. By taking time to yourself to reflect and think deep, it allows you to verbalize on paper the things that don’t always come to mind when you’re on the phone.
I found a lot of really creative ideas on Pinterest for sending letters, notes and long distance gift ideas! It’s always a fun way to keep you in the spirit of thinking about your next project, letter or gift idea. Looking back now, we often read the cards and letters we wrote to each other over the years and they’re such beautiful memories to have. It’s an amazing way to relive your relationship through the first hand accounts years later. Text messages disappear with phone updates but letters are forever.
Long Distance Relationships Can Work if You Don't Treat Them Like Traditional Relationship
To sum it all up, in order to make your long distance relationship work, it requires a lot of planning and intention. It isn’t always as whimsical and The Notebook-esque as it appears in movies. I dare even say that it often requires more work that the traditional relationship.
Having a plan for the future is not always a method for approaching the normal dating scene because it tends to make sense to “go with the flow” and see what happens. It makes sense and the circumstances allow for that. On the other hand, going with the same “flow” can be financially and emotionally costly when you’re dating long distance.