When my husband and I first started dating we were in a long distance relationship for over two years. We met in the spring before my fourth year of university when I was a student in Ottawa, Canada. I was a dreamer who was finally able to become a planner and wanted to move abroad after I graduated. A working holiday visa in New Zealand and teaching English in Korea were my top two choices.
Little did I know that at 21 I would fall totally in love with the man I would eventually marry, and I can especially tell you that I didn’t expect him to be a US Marine who was stationed in North Carolina. The distance from Ottawa to Camp Lejeune proved to be a challenge, but one that we were able to overcome. I juggled a co-op placement and full course load while M was training full-time, but he would fly me down every month or so and we would hang out like a “normal” couple, both of us trying to enjoy the present and push away that gnawing feeling of a looming departure date. Airports were our best and worst friends.Soon it was time to make post-graduation plans, and though we’d been in a relationship for almost a year and I loved my boyfriend, I wasn’t willing to put my travel dreams aside. M found out he was going to be deployed later that spring on a seven month anti-piracy mission. I decided to move to Korea then travel around South East Asia.
Fast forward to today: after living together for four years (and being married for two of them) somehow my husband and I find ourselves again in a long distance relationship as we wait for my US immigration visa to be approved. This time we have it easy compared to before, something I try to remind myself whenever I get discouraged – we both have access to cell phones, cheap long distance plans, reliable internet, similar timezones, and the luxury of an occasional visit.
In all of this time of being apart from the one I love, I’ve grown to consider myself an unwilling expert in doing the long distance thing. It really does take time, effort, money, and a deep sense of partnership to nurture LDRs, but the kind of communication skills you develop are invaluable in getting to truly know your partner and building a solid foundation of trust for your relationship.
So, what can you do to help your long distance relationship survive long distance?
1. DEVELOP A HABIT OF TALKING REGULARLY
Text messages are cute and emails are great, but ideally these should supplement, not replace, your Skype/FaceTime/phone conversations. Just as you would in a “normal” relationship, connecting regularly about your day, your feelings, your plans, etc. is an important part of involving each other in your lives. If your partner is deployed, for example, and not able to interact this way, consider writing letters for him to open at a later date. I have a stack of envelopes comparable to Allie’s in The Notebook from when M was deployed. The excitement you get when you receive letters in the mail is pretty amazing, not to mention all those love notes are adorable to flip through in later years.
2. SCHEDULE DATE NIGHTS
The same way you’d schedule one in person, put aside a block of time for a virtual date night. For some, this means syncing up your favourite TV shows and “watching” them together, for others it’s hanging out on Skype while cooking dinner and drinking wine. If you usually talk on the phone, try to turn your video on for date night so you can actually see your partner’s cute face, funny mannerisms, etc. It’s a nice treat :)
3. WORK TOWARDS A GOAL OF WHEN YOU’LL BE TOGETHER
This goal, to me, is imperative to figure out before you even agree to be in a long distance relationship because what’s the point if you can’t be together in the end? On the second day that M met me he told me he’d move to Canada when his contract with the Marines ended... I just needed to wait two years. I told him he was batshit crazy. He replied that we had something special that was worth pursuing and he would do everything in his power to make that happen. Sometimes when you know, you know.
What about you – have you ever been in a long distance relationship? What advice do you have for couples who are living apart?
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