How to survive a long distance relationship

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve gone to an airport, said goodbye to my partner, and then either watched him get on a plane or got on a plane myself.

Today I did it again, and he flew away. I’ll hopefully be joining him in 3-6 months or so.

We’ve been married for over five years, and it gets harder each time to say goodbye. We do, however, have a pretty good track record for surviving the distance. Here are some tips:

1. Realise that it will always be more difficult than a short-distance relationship

Even when you hit that magical day where you are both living in one country, you are still going to be dealing with issues that other couples won’t be dealing with. One of you will have given up being near to family and friends, and that is tricky. On top of that, family and friends will have health problems or disasters and you won’t be around to help. At some point you’ll have to make decisions – you can’t just drive down to see your ailing grandfather (or grandfather-in-law) for a weekend. It’s a long-haul flight, plus vacation time. It’s not just the bad times you will miss either: new family members will get born, grow up, and you’ll just be their distant relative they never met.

None of these issues are unconquerable, but if you’re thinking that when you finally get together everything will magically be ‘perfect’… it won’t. And the shock of that might be harder than the original separation.

2. Spend time together

Play video games together, watch the same TV show at the same time, have dinner/lunch/breakfast dates, cook together on skype. Relationships are built on time spent together and sharing experiences. Talking (whilst important!) is not enough.

Book out ‘date’ time in advance, and stick to it.

3. Tell each other the mundane details of your day

As an extension of the above, if you don’t work at sharing the details of your lives with each other, it’s easy to grow apart. Yes, talking about your day of sharpening pencils may seem boring, but it’s these insignificant facts that build your lives towards each other. It’s much easier to feel close to someone if you can picture what they are doing, even if it is sharpening pencils!

4. Explain your emotions

When you are face-to-face it is easy to tell when your other half is upset. Sighing, throwing themselves onto the sofa with a groan, swearing as they chuck the keys down as they come through the door. Over skype, it’s much harder. So don’t expect the other person to be a mind-reader, just flat out say: I’m unhappy today, or I’m enthusiastic today.

The flip-side of that is to also ask your other half to explain their emotions. You might be happily chattering away about your exciting day of sharpening red and green pencils, and they might be silently thinking about how their Dad has just been diagnosed with cancer.

5. Plan your next meeting

Not being sure of when you will next see each other is horrible. It makes you anxious and tense. The way to beat that is to plan your next face-to-face meeting, even if you have to do it a year in advance. If you have a firm and solid date in your calendar you can anticipate it and make plans together. Otherwise it’s just a ‘someday’ dream, and those rarely work out.

6. Always have enough for a long-haul plane ticket in your savings account

Look, emergencies happen. Sometimes, if you love someone, you have to just go and be with them. Knowing that you can, that you have the money to do that, is a big help in getting through tough times.

What are your tips for surviving a long distance relationship?

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