I'd consider myself to be a little bit of an expert on long distance relationships by now. I've had two of them in my 28 years here on Earth, one of which didn't end up so great and one that turned out pretty well (I mean, I did marry the guy) so I feel like I know a thing or two about the right and wrong ways to go about them.
Ironically, as I write this blog I'm sitting on hold with the National Visa Centre for the fifth time this week. They're only open five days a week and today is Friday, so that gives you some idea of how much I call this bloody place. Take this as fair warning if you decide to fall in love with and marry someone from another country; Make sure you're ready for the process of getting a visa because it's long, laborious and very irritating!
Aside from what it takes to put you and your love in the same place, long distance relationships aren't all bad. There are plenty of success stories from couples that are hundreds, or even thousands (like Ty and I) of miles away from each other, so don't be discouraged if you're thinking about taking the plunge with a special someone. These romances do take a bit more work than the average partnership, but it doesn't have to be as hard you might anticipate.
Of course, keeping in touch in this day and age is so much easier with FaceTime and messaging apps but it takes a lot more than some nudes and good morning texts to keep a long distance relationship afloat. With that in mind, here are some of the less obvious but highly important things I've learnt about navigating a happy relationship with a love that's far away...
You'll need patience... And lots of it!
At times, a long distance relationship can start to feel like an endurance exercise. It's like after every meeting you're just back to waiting for the next time you see each other, if you're in different time zones you're waiting for the other person to wake up so you can tell them that really important thing you've been dying to talk about, and ultimately you're waiting until the day that you'll both be in the same place for good. It's a constant waiting game and if you're not a naturally patient person, you'll soon become one from all the practice you're going to get.
It's funny because I've always been very impatient and wanted to change that about myself, so I was definitely put into a situation that made that happen. It's safe to say that I can wait for things quite well now!
You WILL argue
Arguments happen with the best of couples, but having an argument when you're not going to see that person for a while afterwards can make things feel a lot worse than they would if you could just kiss and make up on the same day. Ty and I find that we argue more when we're apart because the constant FaceTiming and the stress of waiting to see each other can make things escalate quicker when one of us is annoyed. Disagreements are more than likely going to happen, so I find that trying to take it with a pinch of salt and an 'it's not the end of the world' attitude can ease the worry that comes after a big blow out.
Having strong communication skills is really useful for these situations because the words you use with each other mean so much more when it's all you have between you. I'm still learning this myself, but I've realised that unless it's absolutely necessary to bring an issue up, sometimes it helps to just bite your tongue and save it for another time. More often than not, it won't even be a big deal tomorrow.
It's harder if you're broke
Mate, being in a long distance relationship is expensive! Most couples worry about spending money on an expensive date or gift but when you're doing the long distance thing, you have to budget for all of that PLUS travelling regularly to see each other, and travel isn't cheap (especially if it's international!). You'll also probably have to use up most of your holiday days from work on trips to see your other half and if you decide to get married and move like Ty and I did, a visa is pretty damn pricey, too.
I'm not saying it's impossible to have a successful long distance love if you're not able to see each other often because of the cost, but keeping things exciting and staying positive about what you have is a lot harder when you're not able to spend much time together in person.
Prepare for the lonely moments
Simply put, you're going to feel lonely quite a lot. There'll be parties and weddings and even nights at home on the sofa that you'll have to brave solo because your partner can't be there. Its usually the nights at home that feel the most solitary and sometimes even a video chat or a phone call can't take the feeling away because all you want is a cuddle. All I can tell you is that those moments always pass and you will get that cuddle soon enough.
For me, keeping myself busy and making sure that I'm around friends and family as much as I can be helps to keep the loneliness at bay. I wasn't so great at this part in my first long distance relationship and I feel like I isolated myself more because I missed the person rather than trying to be more social so I wasn't alone. I learnt my lesson with that one and when the time came for Ty and I to do the distance thing too, being away from him felt much more balanced because in between making time for us to talk and connect, I made sure I was interacting with other people and making fun plans.
I will say that the first 2-3 weeks after you see your partner are the hardest. You'll miss them more because the memory of them is fresh and you'll feel a bit at a loss without them by your side. Happily, it gets much easier once you're over that hump and life returns back to your familiar 'normal'. While you'll obviously always miss them, the ache isn't so raw once you've got used to being by yourself again.
Always have a day to count down to
Long distance relationships really are a series of countdowns. When you're apart, you're counting down the days until you see each other. When you're together, you're counting down the days you have left together. FYI, I don't recommend doing the latter at all. I used to do it every time Ty and I were together and that feeling of dread would settle more in my stomach as each day passed. It really wasn't pleasant so I made a conscious effort not to focus on how quickly the time was going and surprisingly, it made our goodbyes a lot easier.
What you definitely should do is always have your next trip in the diary. Whether you've booked your journey or not, at least agree on a location and rough date so that you both have something to look forward to and you know you'll see each other again. Any kind of uncertainty is an enemy of progress in a love like this, so having a plan in place will strengthen your bond.
Discuss your future
There's no harder thing in a long distance relationship than not knowing where it's going. When you're enduring this much time apart from the person you want to spend your life with, you need to know if your 'forever' is going to happen or not. Both of you being on the same page about what you want for your future is the key to making the distance work for you so you can't be afraid to bring up the subject. If you feel uncomfortable talking about it, chances are things might not be going in the direction you'd hoped.
I know that I had started to feel somewhat insecure about mine and Ty's relationship a little while before he proposed. We had talked about marriage a lot (probably a bit too much for Ty's liking) but until the commitment was made I definitely felt uncertain about how long I could carry on with the stress of a long distance situation. Getting engaged or married isn't a quick fix by any means; We got married almost 9 months ago and we're still not in the same place because of how long the visa process is taking, but at least the wait feels more purposeful when the end is actually in sight.
Trust issues and long distance don't mix
This one might seem like a no brainer but you'd be surprised at how many dormant insecurities rear their ugly heads once you're in love with someone that's far away and maybe in another time zone. It's impossible to know what the other person is doing all day, or where they are or who they're with so it's all too easy to either miss important signs or overthink situations when there's no need (I've done both in each of my long distance relationships).
Hopefully your partner never gives you reason to question their behaviour but it's worth accepting that even the most trusting and open person might get a little suspicious or jealous in this situation.
You're not alone
It's important to know that, even in the hardest moments, someone else has been and is currently going through exactly the same thing. If you're in a long distance relationship, you'll be familiar with the shocked gasps or curious questions that come from friends and family when you tell them that you have a boyfriend/girlfriend but they live in another country or area. To many, being in love with someone so far away is unfathomable but in reality, it's done by more people than you think.
Because Ty's in the military, we're lucky to know quite a few couples that have been through deployments or separations, sometimes for up to a year at a time. Knowing a community where being married to someone that isn't around is understood and accepted helps you to feel like your choice isn't something crazy or irrational - because it isn't!
Relationships like this can and do work and really, I think they make a couple's bond so much stronger. If you can endure months apart from each other and still be very much in love with a person and make a commitment to them, that speaks volumes about your compatibility and the longevity of your partnership.
So, if the person you want to be with doesn't happen to live within a commutable distance of your home, who cares? Go for it! Love prevails.
Have you ever considered being in a long distance relationship, or are you in one now? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!