How We Made Our Long- Distance Relationship Work
My now-husband and I were in a long distance relationship for all but three months out of the almost five years that we dated. And for about 3.5 of those years we lived in different states and had to fly to each other. My husband went to college at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. I went to The University of Texas at Austin. After he graduated, he was in Florida, and finally in Corpus Christi, Texas for flight school. I lived in Austin and Houston during this time. Only three months before our wedding did I move to live with him. So we’ve had a good amount of time in a distance relationship (and it isn’t over yet, with deployments in our future).
While maintaining a distance relationship is by no means easy, it is possible. It takes equal effort from both sides of the relationship. We learned a lot by trial and error, had a lot of fights and arguments, and even had some almost-breakups. Distance was extremely difficult, but it taught us a lot. Here’s some things we did to make it work and some things we learned:
Communication is crucial:
I cannot harp enough on how important it is to have a constant stream of communication with your significant other. This does not mean constantly texting or facetiming each other, as it is important you maintain your own lives when you are apart. But I do mean being open with your plans for the week, letting your partner know that you’ll be gone this time and that time so he/she knows not to expect to hear from you then. Talking about anything and everything going on in your lives, always carving out at least five minutes a day to actually talk on the phone. For the first year or so that we dated, sometimes we would get so caught up in our own day-to-day that suddenly it would be a week since we had last communicated in some way other than a text. I believe it’s important to not let your lives entirely circle around each other, but it is of utmost importance to make even just a little bit of time to talk with no distractions. Short, daily phone calls or facetimes are great. An intentional, focused five or ten minutes can go a long way.
Listen to each other’s concerns:
This one goes along with the importance of communication and listening to your partner. Some of our arguments spawned from one of us not listening to the concerns or requests of the other person. For example, if one of us felt like we were not making enough time to talk to the other person and no changes were made, this would lead to a fight about not feeling prioritized. Or if one of us brings up something that is bothering us and it is brushed off by the other partner, this leads to feeling neglected and that our concerns do not matter. Truly listening and taking into consideration issues that your partner brings up is so important in all relationships, but especially in distance ones where communication is your only source of connection.
The very beginning of our non-dating relationship was founded on letters. My husband was at a six-week indoctrination period at USNA before his freshman year, and had no phone. We were just friends at this point in time and I NEVER would have thought we would end up married one day. But we wrote a lot of back and forth letters during those 6 weeks. This habit carried on a few years into our relationship and I really enjoyed it. It is so nice to get personalized mail, and not just bills or generic advertisements. Opening up a letter from a loved one and seeing their handwriting is comforting. It takes a small amount of time to write and mail a letter, but it really means a lot to the recipient.
Send Random Gifts
We would send the occasional Amazon order or a picture or some home-baked goods to each other. My husband received five-pound bags of Hi-Chews on more than one occasion, a box of his favorite baked items, and pictures of us. I once had two pounds of beef jerky arrive on my doorstep, a picture of us mailed to my roommate to give to me when I was sad, and 52 individually mailed hand-made playing cards with our pictures on them sent to me.
See each other as much as possible
This one should go without saying, but if you are in a distance relationship, try and see your partner! Now I definitely don’t mean spend every holiday with him/her, and blow off family and friends for this person. No. Bad idea. But ideally, seeing the other person once a month or once every six weeks was what really worked best for us. Of course seeing him more often would have been nice, but considering we had to fly to visit each other, that 4-6-week visitation schedule worked out fairly well. The hardest times for me were when we went more than two months apart.
Live your own lives when you are apart
I don’t mean keep secrets and completely do your own thing. But I do mean not spending all your time apart being sad and lonely, waiting to see your significant other again. I was guilty of doing just that, and it made it so much harder. Having your own group of friends, activities, hobbies to keep you busy and fulfilled when you’re apart from each other is good and healthy. It makes you maintain your individuality within the relationship. Relying solely on your partner, or solely on any one person for that matter, to bring you happiness is dangerous. It was so easy to rely entirely on my best friend to provide all of my joy, and this was not fair to him or me. Have your own friends, your own identity. Take advantage of the time apart to spend it with your friends, being focused on them and giving them your full attention. Focus on school, your job, whatever it is that brings you joy. Work on your own happiness and fulfillment, and on being your own person. Do not be dependent upon your partner to complete your life.
Make the most of the time you do have together
Lastly, make the most of your time together. It is okay to spend some of it with friends, and it is good to spend time with your partner’s family and your family, but make sure to have good quality time with just each other. Do not spend all of your time watching movies, or staring at your phones. Pay attention to each other. Do fun activities, or even mundane everyday activities like grocery shopping and laundry.
Those are some of the ways we made the seemingly unbearable distance a little bit more bearable. Distance isn’t for everyone, and I surely thought it wasn’t for me, but if it’s the right person it might just be doable.