Science says distance does actually make the heart grow fonder. But it does not tell you how hard it is to keep a long distance relationship alive. How you will miss your partner every day, feeling lonely and sad. The long distance makes so many things unachievable and complicated, but at the same time it also turns the simplest things into something very special.
Being in a long distance relationship for many years now, I thought it is time to share my experience. It is a successful story, as we made it work. When we started dating, friends would advise us to take it slowly, it might not work out over the distance and someone could get hurt. My mother was totally against the relationship from the start, dooming it to fail. But here we are. Happily married, and still in a long distance relationship; though we managed to reduce the distance from over 9000 kilometers to ‘just’ about 600 kilometers.
Here are a few things that helped us to keep a healthy relationship going even though separated by thousands of kilometers and living in different time zones.
1. Have a goal in mind.
This might be the most important of all things. No matter how great your communication is, no matter how much you love each other, if you don’t have a future goal together, the relationship will fail. We all need a specific goal to work for in life, especially if it comes to a relationship. It can be a small goal, like when you will see each other again, but you should also keep the big picture in mind. There has to be an end to the long distance. No one can live in a long distance relationship forever. We all need our partner at our side one day. We all need to settle down. That’s just human nature. My husband and I always set a timeline. We booked flights early in advance to have something to look forward to when it was time to say goodbye again (plus it helps to save a lot of money to book trips well in advance). But we never kept our final goal out of sight: To live together one day. Not just in the same time zone, but in the same house, sharing the same bed day by day. This thought gave us hope and strength.
2. Communication: Always say what’s on your mind!
Yes, the key is communication. It is nothing new. We all know that communication is paramount in any kind of relationship. However, for a long distance relationship it is essential! It is important to tell your partner anything that is on your mind – no matter how dumb it might seem to you. There are many ways to communicate. We are living in the 21st century, technology is so developed, if you want to you can see and hear your partner every day – use Skype or other chat programs. Unfortunately, they haven’t developed a chat program where you can feel the touch of your partner (I am sure they are working on it).
Now, if you are in a cross-cultural long distance relationship, communication is critical. If you don’t speak the same language, it is important to never take thing too personally. Always ask how your partner meant something to avoid misunderstandings. Sometimes, even if you both speak the same language, you might still run into cultural traps, and end up arguing. We always managed to avoid it after a few trials and errors in our first few months apart. Especially with Chinese guys who in general don’t really like to talk much, you have to work on it together. No matter how hard it is for him to say words out loud, no matter how much he would actually prefer to use gestures, living apart thousands of miles this just won’t work. My husband had to work on it. And we managed to find a way. When we are apart he tries very hard to tell me what’s on his mind. When we are together, he turns nearly mute and prefers to show me how much he loves me by getting me strawberries in the middle of the night.
3. Do something together while you are apart.
This might sound weird, but you can actually do things together while living apart. It helps to keep you relationship alive, and avoid growing apart. There are many ways: You could schedule to watch a movie at the same time and talk about it afterwards. Or you could go out to a specific restaurant they have in both countries. Or if you like gaming, you can play an online game together. There are hundreds of possibilities to do something together.
We started watching a TV show together (yeah, Arrow!) and every Saturday night (well his night, my afternoon), we watch one episode. It is nice to talk about something simple as a TV show for changes and not insert an ‘I miss you’ in every sentence.
4. Trust each other
Last but not least: you have to trust your partner with your whole heart. No relationship will work for long if you are always overly suspicious about every move your partner makes. This is especially important if you cannot see each other and your partner decides to go out with his friends. Excessive jealousy has killed every relationship. You chose to be together and you have to trust your partner. It is also important to avoid ‘dangerous’ situations. If your partner doesn’t like you going to the club with those five dudes he has never met, you can chose not to go, or explain to him why it is ok and why he can trust you. But you have to tell him, otherwise it will end up in a huge argument and give reasons not to trust you anymore.
We never had any trust issues. Actually, this question never ever came to my mind until a friend asked me, if I am not afraid he finds someone else. I am not a very jealous type of person, but he also never gave me any reason to be jealous or not to trust him (neither did I for that matter). Personally, I would not go out partying if I knew he would feel uncomfortable. We have this unspoken rule, and we both know it. So in the trust section, we never had any problems.
Long distance relationships can be very difficult, but they are doable. And they actually come with a lot of benefits. I did never regret my decision to try this long distance relationship. It was very hard at times, when you were all alone in your room, but luckily, you always have the time when you meet again to look forwards to.
And now I am looking forward to an end of this long distance and turn it into a very close-by, shoulder-on-shoulder, same house, same bed; relationship.
Do you have experiences with a long distance relationship? How did you make it work or did it fail?
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