How to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Last
Are you or your partner currently looking to travel overseas and facing the prospect of spending time apart? Long-distance relationships can be tough but there are lots of things you can do to keep the romance alive. One of our featured travel writers Amelia Conrad has shared some top tips and advice which should help if you or your partner are going to travel, study, work or live abroad...
I first want to make it clear that I am no expert on long-distance relationships - just an expert on one long-distance relationship in particular. I was fifteen when I started dating Andy and already wanderlust was embedded deep within my soul. In fact, just a week after we became “official” I headed to rural Mexico for a service trip and no regular contact with my new beau. It was the first in what would become a long line of separations as I traveled 800 miles away to New Orleans for college and then spent a semester abroad in Peru, in addition many shorter trips away from one another.
As I write this, I am sitting on the opposite side of the Atlantic in Portugal where I am spending a month traveling and studying the language while Andy finishes up school. So we’ve done the long-distance thing and sometimes it has been unbelievably hard. Despite the naysayers, though, sometimes it has also been unbelievably awesome and, one way or another, we’ve made it work. Now that we are engaged (he proposed atop a mountain in Peru no less!) and reaching the end of our long-distance days, I thought I’d share a little wisdom that I wish I’d had six years ago.
1. Take advantage of Technology to Facilitate Regular Communication
Modern technology is a godsend for long-distance couples. Make use of the many technologies available to you to stay in regular contact and help one another feel like you’re still a part of the other’s life. Personally, Andy and I are big fans of Skype, but if FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or another service are more your style then use those tools to get some semi-frequent face-time with your significant other.
Texting can be a great way to keep each other posted on the day-to-day happenings and a good old-fashioned email can allow for lengthier or more serious conversations. Apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and a zillion others I’m not hip enough to know about can make staying in touch feel more like fun and less like work. Whatever method (or, better yet, methods) you choose, just make sure that you reach out and connect with your partner on a near-daily basis.
2. Give Each Other Space
All that being said, don’t smother your partner either. Allow each of you the room to grow, explore, learn, and have fun. There is a reason you’re traveling after all and you’re not going to achieve your goals if you’re glued to your smartphone or computer. It’s completely natural to miss your partner and to miss feeling included in their daily routines and experiences, but don’t let that lead you to nagging, prying, or over-connectivity. Long-distance is going to be different, no doubt, but you will both be richer, more interesting people with new perspectives, attitudes, and experiences to share by spending some time apart.
3. Surprise Each Other
Surprises can come in many forms. While big surprises are great, little surprises are just as good at letting our partners know we’re thinking about them from afar. Care packages can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose and are especially sweet when your significant other has a big test, presentation for work, or medical procedure coming up—those times when, were you there, you’d provide him or her with a little extra TLC.
When you don’t have the funds, time, or ability to put together a full-blown care package, something as simple as a postcard from a town you’re passing through can brighten a lonely boyfriend or girlfriend’s day. And flowers? Flowers are always okay. Don’t save your surprises for the times you need to apologize or a holiday—instead let them be tokens of love throughout your relationship.
4. Find Things to Look Forward to
Long-distance can sometimes feel unending and those moments can lead to you questioning the worth of your relationship. To spare yourself, and your better half, some of that misery, find milestones that will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully you’re each able to visit the other occasionally and, if so, a visual reminder of that approaching date can sometimes help—a calendar, tick marks in your journal, or a paper chain wrapped around your room!
If visits are less frequent and you have to go many months or even years without seeing one another, break your “things to look forward to” into two categories: short-term and long-term. In the short term, make plans ahead of time for a special Skype date or a movie you’ll watch “together; give yourselves something to be exciting about that doesn’t require six months of anticipation.
In the long-term, even if a visit date isn’t set in stone, start discussing what activities you’d like to do, restaurants you’d like to visit, or recipes you want to try when you do see each other. This will get you both excited and help that eventual visit feel more like a reality and less like a hazy possibility on a calendar page you haven’t even turned to yet!
5. Dig Deep
From personal experience, I know that communication is ten times tougher when it can’t be done in person. Often, once-a-week Skype dates and occasional texts can lead to simply rehashing the events of your day. While it’s good to keep your partner in the loop, try to dig deeper and have more meaningful conversations at least a couple of times a week. If you have a tough time with this, Andy and I have always enjoyed playing our own version of “twenty questions”—take turns asking or texting one another thought-provoking questions.
It’s a great way to discuss some weightier issues—What are your thoughts on kids? What do you consider cheating?—and also to mix in some fun ones—Where would you most like to travel? What would we be doing if I were there right now? If you get stumped, there are lists all over the internet with question suggestions, but I always find that one thought leads to another and our “twenty questions” usually turns into about a hundred questions!
6. Focus on What You Can Control
This is the one that I have the toughest time with and feel like I am finally getting a grasp on. Like it or not, you can only control you. You may wish that your partner was a better communicator, that he had the funds to come visit you, or that she didn’t get jealous so easily, but the reality is that those things are out of your control. Let go of them (easier said than done, I know!)
Focus on your own contributions to the relationship: How could you encourage your partner’s talking? By asking more questions? Talking about his interests? What do you do that causes her to be jealous? Can you reasonably minimize those actions?
Focus on self-improvement and, chances are, your relationship will improve as well—you may even motivate your partner to make some positive changes! However, sometimes relationships aren’t meant to be and if you realize that it simply isn’t going to work out, you are going to leave the relationship a less bitter and much better person by focusing on making yourself the best you can be and enjoying your travel experiences.
By Amelia Conrad
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