Is your one true love getting ready to pack their bags and sail the seas to a land far, far away? Or are you gearing up to pursue your studies overseas? In the midst of all the excitement, you may be apprehensive about leaving your friends, family and most importantly — your boyfriend or girlfriend at home.
If you’re not ready to end the relationship but have heard nightmare stories about long-distance relationships (LDR), we’re here to tell you that distance shouldn’t mean the end of the road for you and your beloved.
Here are our suggestions on how you can survive and thrive in a long-distance relationship.
#1. Schedule your cyber dates
We know communication is key in a relationship, but calling and texting may seem near impossible with an 8-hour time difference! With bae already so far away, it’s little consolation when they text you good morning as you’re getting ready for bed.
Mallini Kannan was studying in Scotland whilst in a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, based in the United States of America (USA). After 6 years of being in a long-distance relationship, she’s become a pro at communicating across time zones.
We worked out a schedule and talked it out. It wasn’t set in stone, but it allowed us to keep track to ensure that we were talking at least a few nights a week. — Mallini Kannan, 25
Working your call times into your schedule means you get to talk to your loved one and avoid blowing off your uni mates to stay bundled up in your room, manoeuvring poor Skype connections every night instead.
#2. Set some ground rules
Being away from each other for months on end can cause feelings of distrust, jealousy and suspicion to manifest. It helps to define the limits of your relationship. For example, are you both exclusive? If not, what are the boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed in other relationships?
This will act as a set of guiding principles when you navigate in your new environment.
However, be reasonable about the ground rules you set. While jealousy is normal in a relationship, it’s important that you draw the line at being possessive. Allow your partner the freedom to go out and live their life (e.g. to spend time with their close friends) but try to accommodate their feelings when you think you’re doing something they might not like.
#3. Focus on short-term goals
Get married, have kids and live happily ever after.
While these are great long-term goals for some, they can also seem like a wistful and unattainable dream, set in the far future for couples in a long-distance relationship.
Instead of lamenting the fact that you’ll only be together in 5 years or longer (i.e. after graduation), focus on some short-term goals that are easier to achieve instead. For example, you can start by making plans to visit each other during an upcoming term break or by deciding when your next Skype date should be.
This will give you something to look forward to and keep you excited about the relationship.
#4. Make a virtual date
Plan your date nights just as you used to back home to keep things fresh and exciting between the two of you. Keep it classic with a good ol’ Skype date and chat about the crazy things that happened on campus or spice things up with a virtual Netflix-night-in where you can watch TV shows together and react to all the juicy plot twists in real time.
When asked how to keep things fresh in a long-distance relationship, Kate Ng, currently in a 5-year relationship with her boyfriend based in London, England suggests:
My significant other and I like sending each other small surprises when we can afford to. It’s not a regular thing, so when you do send something, it’s a really sweet physical reminder that you’re thinking of them. — Kate Ng, 25
Can’t afford to send a care package but still missing your boo? Make a playlist of their favourite songs and reminisce about when you last spent time together.
#5. Relish your “space”
Being in a “regular” relationship (read: non-LDR) may sometimes involve you projecting all your dreams and desires on one person. For example, you might find yourself spending time with your beau instead of studying or giving up once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as studying abroad if it conflicts with your partner’s plans.
Conversely, being away from your boyfriend or girlfriend affords you the time and energy to focus on the things that you’ve always wanted to do, whether it’s hitting the gym, picking up a language or pursuing a hobby that you may otherwise not make time for if your significant other was around.
The beauty of an LDR is that you get the support of another person in your life (and you get to support them too) while going out and living independently. — Mallini Kannan, 25
#6. Practice open communication
When in a long-distance relationship, it’s important to voice out your problems to your other half and to be open about your feelings of love, sadness or even jealousy as your partner will not be able to rely on body language to indicate that something is wrong.
Being in an LDR can be really lonely. You might doubt yourself or the relationship a lot. Hence, it’s important to talk about this with your partner and work towards making each other feel cherished and thought of even when you’re not physically together. — Kate Ng, 25
Bonus: Know when to call it quits
Perhaps the hardest part about being in a relationship is knowing when to end it.
If you find your partner resenting you for maintaining your relationship with your friends or causing you to neglect your priorities, such as your studies, to spend more time with them online, you might want to consider if this is a relationship that you can maintain in the long term.
Fighting is normal (and even healthy) in a relationship, but if your arguments are focused on the past and your expectations for the future don’t align, perhaps it’s a sign that the two of you aren’t as compatible as you thought.
After all, your relationship should complement your life choices, not hold you back.
A long-distance relationship is by no means a walk in the park, but it is possible to have a fulfilling connection with your other half, even while being apart. Brace yourself for the ups and downs and prepare to put in the effort to make things work — but when it does, it will be all the more rewarding.