Wifeys & Gentlemen,
Honestly, I’m shocked I can keep up with anything at this point, let alone a blog. It isn’t so much that my life is hard, but what is hard is the concept of trying to balance all the most important parts of my it and give attention and time to each.
I don’t know how this intro directly relates to today’s topic, but if I can stretch, I’d say that balance and prioritizing are both MAJOR KEYS (hehe) in all kinds of romantic relationships, especially the long distance ones.
You might be surprised to find that long distance relationships are not as common as some might make you think. Nowadays, with the ability to order a human (for a date or sex) as easily as you’d order a pizza, many are walking away from the notion of long distance love, in favor of something more immediate. Please readers, feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but I would argue that in our modern times, if you know someone in a long-distance relationship (or if you are in one yourself) it is likely because both partners have already made a serious commitment to each other that they believe is truly worth the hardships of an (often temporary) separation.
For example, I know of two people who met in college and began dating in their sophomore year. As their relationship developed, they decided they were serious enough about each other to go make plans to go to medical school in the same area. While they didn’t go to the same school, they moved into an apartment (where one of them had a REALLY long commute) and made the 4 years of that stress work for them. Eventually, they got engaged and got married shortly after med-school graduation. However, when it was time for residency, each partner matched with a different program (one on the east coast and one on the west)! They knew that their love was strong enough to survive being married cross-country, knowing that it was temporary and doing whatever it took to make sure their marriage stayed healthy while they both pursued their dreams. It has been 2 years and they are still married and happy.
Frankly, if I can be vulnerable for a moment here, this is one of the most inspiring love stories I know of personally. There is no glamour in it; no epic heartbreak that lead to an impassioned speech at an airport gate; no aggressive kiss in the pouring rain; no one kidding themselves into thinking that every moment was going to be easy (or, for that matter, that every moment was going to be awful or hard). They are just two people committed to their relationship, two people to be admired for their efforts over the last several years.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Mrs. Renai, this is an exception! Not the rule! It isn’t the “norm”. Most people just aren’t capable of making that kind of relationship work.
& To that I say, “you’re (mostly) right”. The long distance game is not for 7 out of 10 couples. It is not for the faint of heart and it should not be attempted unless you’re serious about the person(s) you’re with! While I haven’t exactly been “successful” in this area, my most serious relationship (before my fiancé) was long(ish) distance and managed to go on for over 5 years. That relationship was a problem for so many reasons (read my “Maybe he doesn’t hit you post” for context), but I wish that I would have had some tips for making the best of our situation and keeping our “love” alive and well through all the time spent apart.
To those of you who might be torn about what a long-distance relationship might take. Here are some of my top tips:
- Be committed and stay focused.
It isn’t enough to simply say to your partner “I’m serious about you” before you jet off to Siberia for the next 10 years! What makes LDRs (Long Distance Relationships) work is when two people are actively serious about their commitment and want to remain focused on their shared goals. Create something visual that anchors you to your partner. If you’re married, this could be as simple as your wedding rings, a picture from your wedding day that you carry around with you, or a framed copy of your vows. Unmarried couples might consider creating a “love letter” that details their commitment to each other or some kind of symbol or “logo” they can create that offers a constant reminder of their bond. This anchor can go a long way when the stress of missing your love is harder to handle than normal.
- Plan ahead & think long term.
What does a future look like for you and your partner after the long-distance ends? Do you want to move in together? Will one of you consider relocating permanently? Do you see yourselves getting married? Having children?
Planning for the future contributes to anchoring your relationship (as mentioned above) and helps ease the feelings of helplessness when you want to give up. Remember, this should be relevant to whatever stage of the relationship you’re in! Don’t make plans for marriage if you’re still young and not ready to take that kind of leap. Do what feels comfortable for you, but make it a point to keep making plans and thinking ahead while you’re apart.
Hey, even couples that live together have to make long-term plans and goals for their future. So, in theory, why should you proceed any differently?
I believe, if you act like you’re a regular, functional couple, then you WILL BE a regular, functional couple, regardless of obstacles. Sometimes, it’s just that simple.
- Come up with fun activities to do together
Part of surviving the long and (sometimes) lonely nights without your lover means getting creative with how you spend time together even when you’re away. Little, silly things like watching a show simultaneously over the phone/online will make you feel a sense of closeness that you might otherwise worry you’re missing. My ex and I used to watch Law & Order: SVU together all the time, it was the best. This link lists 100 great ideas for long distance couples and includes all sorts of creative activities (the tv/movie thing being #1)! Check it out:
- Respect each others (separate) lives
Aside from the fear of infidelity, I would say that one of the hardest parts of being in an LDR is the fact that your partner has a whole life that you don’t get to be a part of (in realtime). In my previous example about the married couple on opposite coasts, imagine how weird it must have been for them to move to different states and watch as the other person made new friends, tried new restaurants, and went on new adventures without them. Please don’t get me wrong: In a healthy relationship, you both will be happy for each other when this happens and hopefully take comfort in knowing that your S/O isn’t spending all of his or her time alone at home, missing you. But it is downright frustrating when we realize that our partner is going to be out there living a life that we can’t immediately share with them. I got sad when I had to go away for a week and I knew my (then) fiance would be going to a party without me, for goodness sake! 😉
This might sound silly now, but trust me, there will likely come a time when you’re having the worst, most miserable day and all you want to do is talk on the phone with your love. Well, what if your love is at a party? What if he’s working late or having drinks with coworkers? What if she had a meeting that ran way over or a deadline she can’t get out of? What if you’re both in different time zones and your partner has already fallen asleep?
Will you get upset? Will you turn your feelings into fear, anger, and resentment? Or, will you adapt and adjust?
Wifeys, get used to the idea of your partner having a new life and new schedule. Guess what? You’ll have one too! & you’ll both be much happier if you spend your time planning how you will both fit each other into that new life rather than developing unnecessary resentment. This becomes especially important for BOTH partners if and when one of you isn’t having an easy time transitioning. Sometimes things are going to suck. You’ll have a coworker you hate, something important will get lost or stolen, you’ll have a bad night out, you’ll be in a fight with your mom. You must remember that your partner WANTS to be there for you as much as they can. Put yourselves in each others shoes and be mindful of each other. Know when to jump in and demand attention and when to back off and let your partner have their personal space/time.
- Develop intimacy outside of sex
Intimacy looks different for different couples. We all speak different love languages and have preferences that change from partner to partner or as we get older and get to know who we are. When in an LDR, think of ways to be intimate with your partner that have nothing to do with sex but are very unique to your special relationship! Sure, phone sex, video chat, and sexting will likely be on the menu fairly often (you’re human and in love), but what else is going to keep you intimately connected to each other when the sexy texting or nude photos get stale? Maybe you guys send each other long love letters each week? Maybe you make each other love playlists or send each other detailed stories about any major/important things that happen while you’re apart? However this works for you, make sure it is something tangible and meaningful for your relationship and remember to come back to it when you need to feel close, safe, and loved from far away.
- Be Honest. Be the most honest you have ever been. Share everything. Seriously
This is the MOST important piece of advice I can give; wifeys, you must be honest with your partner. This is true ALL THE TIME, no matter what kind of relationship you’re in, but it is absolutely crucial to an LDR and can make or break even the of best couples. My loves, I am telling you from personal experience, even one small stupid lie can be your undoing.
Think of it this way; the one thing you need when you decide to be in an LDR, literally, the one most critical element in that type of a relationship is T R U S T. You must trust that your partner can handle being many many miles away from you while making new friends and meeting new people, all while remaining faithful to you and making room for you in their life. The second that trust is broken you lose everything. If he/she does anything to make you question their sincerity, how will you ever be able to trust them when they’re out of your site again?
Some might disagree, but I almost think that you have to choose to be a little unhealthy in an LDR. You have to tell your love everything you’re doing and when you’re doing it.When did you eat? What was it? How much? How many hours did you sleep last night? TELL THEM EVERYTHING!
Okay, okay…I’m exaggerating! You don’t have to do all that, but you better come darn close. 😉
Share your schedule with your partner so they know when you wake up, when you’ll be at work, and what you’ll be up to on the weekends. I don’t mean in a creepy controlling way either. Something as simple as “I gotta be at work by 7 but I usually get home around 5 if you want to Facetime then” or “this weekend I’m going to a huge music festival so I won’t be able to chat until Sunday, but I’ll snapchat you” is a great effort!
It might seem really stupid and unnecessary now, but you’ll really appreciate how open your communication is once you make the choice to just share as much as you can. It’s a good step toward making your S/O feel like they are included and important, even when they aren’t there.
Please, don’t tell your partner you are doing something if you aren’t actually going to be doing it. Please, don’t say you’re going to be in one location when you plan on being somewhere else.
If you need some “downtime” for yourself, if you don’t feel like talking on the phone one night, if you’re tired and need extra sleep, or if you just want to go out and do your own thing…tell your partner this upfront! Having them be annoyed or upset with you because you told them something they don’t like is 1000x better than losing the trust built in your relationship over a stupid lie. Has anyone ever seen the movie “Knocked Up”? You know when Paul Rudd’s wife suspects he’s cheating on her and catches him at a friend’s house playing fantasy baseball? Remember how sad and upset she was?
DON’T BE PAUL RUDD! It’s not worth it.
Moreover, please be honest with your partner if you ever begin to develop feelings for someone else or if you start questioning whether your relationship is working. These conversations can be tough, but they honor the effort and time you’ve spent maintaining your long distance connection.
- Make the most of your time
If you are able, plan all your visits at the beginning of the year. Know where you will be spending holidays, know when you’re taking vacation, and try to surprise visit each other as much as you can! A failure to plan is a plan for failure. Having a tangible idea of when you will see your partner next is a huge help in keeping your relationship strong. This way, no one has to wonder if/when they’ll see you again. Make a travel/visitation plan that makes sense for both of you and when you are together, make the most of your experiences! Treat each encounter like you’re on limited time…because honestly, you are.
I know these items might be easier said than done and might not work for every long-distance couple that is trying to make it work. However, if you choose to take this journey with someone else, it should be done with decisive planning, an open mind/heart, and careful consideration. Remember the kind of relationship you had before the distance became a factor. Remember the kind of relationship you want to have in the future when you’re back together full time. Go into it with confidence and come out with the love of your life!
Until Next time,
Carry on Wifeys!