I get asked all the time how I make my long distance relationship work with my man-friend. I’ve been asked twice this week! Then, just yesterday, I received a message from a friend asking for advice on the subject. She wanted to know basically what our best practices were since we’ve been together this long… so I thought I’d write about it.
I live in Kentucky and my man-friend lives in Canada. It’s a two hour time difference, 6 hours worth of flights with a border crossing, or a 30 hour drive. So we’re legit long-distance. The good news? We have been making it work for about 2 and half years now.
This isn’t my first long-distance relationship. I’ve had a few before this one, all ending for different reasons. When people wonder how their relationship will weather the distance if somebody has to move or they meet somebody that lives somewhere else, I think you just have to look at the relationship by itself first. Is it really good so far? If so, it’ll be able to handle anything. If it’s just so-so, you could try it out and see how it goes. If things are already rocky, then abort mission! It’ll never work. You could force it, but both of you will be miserable so I’d let it go and let the distance be the excuse.
When my friend asked for my biggest tips, here are the ones that stick out the most:
1: Communication. COMMUNICATION!!
In any relationship, being able to talk to your partner about anything is imperative and vital to its success. When you add distance to the mix though, it’s even more important. I’ve always been horrible at talking about the hard things. In the past, I’d always hold things in, not wanting to rock the boat. I’ve had to work really hard at this over the years, but having a partner that I feel completely safe talking to has helped immensely. If there’s even the slightest issue, we discuss it right away, before it has the chance to grow into a huge ordeal. The best thing you can do is provide an environment where nothing is off-limits when it comes to conversations. If you scream, if you don’t let your partner talk, or if you criticize or down-play what they have to say, they won’t feel safe talking to you and eventually they’ll stop. So talk it out! Encourage the talking! Even if it’s hard every now and then…
2: Be Supportive. Genuinely.
You can say you support your partner and you can go along with what they’re doing, but if don’t genuinely like what they’re doing, the distance will soon become your weapon to use against them anytime you’re upset. I have to travel a lot of weekends. I have to get up at 5am most days of the week, which means I go to bed early most nights. If my partner scolded me for any of these things, it’d leave me questioning if they really supported me or not. Sure, it’s not the most convenient schedule, but running my own business and calling my own shots is what allows me to have a job I love and a flexible vacation schedule, which is crucial for me. Sometimes work comes first and that’s ok. If I bitched my man out every time he told me he had to leave the country for work, he’d probably be on his way out. I feel so lucky to have somebody that understands my travel schedule, supports my work choices, and encourages me to invest in the things that make me thrive. And I’m happy to do the same for him.
3: Schedule Regular Date Nights
With awesome technology like FaceTime and Skype, we get to talk to and SEE each other every morning and every night. But just doing the day-to-day conversations isn’t enough. Dates night are in order! Sure these date nights might not happen as frequently as they would if your partner lived in the same city, but they have to be scheduled regardless. My man-friend and I have crazy schedules. We live in different time zones, we both travel for work, I run my own business, he has two little boys, etc. It’s all crazy, but we make it a point to schedule a date night every other week or so. We’ll rent the same movie and FaceTime while we watch it. We’ll sit and have dinner together while we chat. We’ll read the same book and then talk about it (this has only happened once and we’re still only halfway through it, but we’ll pick it up again later when things aren’t so hectic). It doesn’t matter what the “date” actually is, it matters that we’ve got uninterrupted time together. Usually these only last about an hour and a half or two hours, (because I wake up at 5am every day and I’m lucky to be awake past 10pm during the week) but it’s better than nothing. Just like any other relationship, if you don’t tend to it, it’ll suffer.
“Just Because” flowers are always a hit too… Big points were earned when these bad boys were delivered:
4: Have a life of your own.
If I didn’t have my work, my hobbies, my family, or my social network, I’d be miserable sitting around all the time and waiting for him to call. He’s got a long work day during the week, and he’s busy with his kids at night and on the weekends. He also loves to be outside so when he doesn’t have his boys he’s out climbing, biking, or skiing. All of that is perfectly fine because I have a lot of similar things that take up my time and energy as well. We are each happy in our own lives so we’re not looking for somebody to “make us whole” or “fill that gap” in our lives. If you think having a relationship will fix everything that’s wrong in your life, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.
5: Have a limit.
We make it a point to never go more than 4 weeks in between visits. Now sometimes this can’t be avoided and it goes over a little, but for the most part, we see each other once a month. I will travel to him, he will travel to me, or we get lucky and both have to be at the same fitness event. Either way, we knew this had to be part of the plan. There were some really long periods between visits when we first started and that made things difficult. It didn’t make us fight, it just made us really sad because it was emotionally draining not to be together. Once we realized how much it affected us, we made the 4 week rule.
6: Budget for it.
Now that I’m a little older, paying for visits has become easier than it was in college. Back then, it was saving to pay for calling cards and scrounging every penny to buy a plane ticket every few months, which made things way more stressful. Traveling so often can get expensive so I’ve just made it part of my budget and cut out non-necessities from my monthly spending. I also have a United Airlines credit card that I use for almost everything (bills, gas, groceries, business trips, etc) so that I can get the airline miles to help fund trips. If you know you’re gonna have to do the long distance thing for a while, you’ve got to find a way to make it happen, but without breaking the bank.
7: Have a plan.
Hopefully, there’s an end in sight. Whether one of you had to move to finish school, do an internship, complete a work contract, or wait for immigration, you should have some sort of ultimate plan to be together in the future. If you don’t… then why are you spending all your time and energy on this person? My man-friend and I will live together one day, but since the immigration process for me to move to Canada is a big, huge beast of a process, we’ll go with the flow until we get the green light. Until then, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing. Since it’s working. : )
Being desperately in love doesn’t hurt either…
Are any of you guys in a LDR?
Any distance tips you’d like to add?