5000 Miles Apart: The Immutable Rules of a Long Distance Relationship

If you’re in a long distance relationship, you know the pain of an 8 AM class after an all-nighter on skype. Your friends have already felt awkward while you’ve spent the entire night out on your phone, and your browser history contains a shameful number of searches for “cheap flights to ___.” These are pretty unavoidable circumstances, however, there are certainly ways to manage your relationship and promote healthy habits. Here are 10 tips on how to help your LDR endure: 

1.     Have a long term goal, but do not rely on it

            My boyfriend lives 9223.15 kilometers away from me, which is a quite problematic situation for most people, who are always asking me when we’re going to “close the distance.” There’s no easy answer to this question, because neither of us know, but we certainly have at least two years to wait. Some think that such a long term long distance relationship is completely unsustainable, which very well may be true. However, the important thing is to have an end in sight, even if that end is terrifyingly distant. On hard days, which are, admittedly, most days, having a goal can be uplifting and helpful. But most people don’t seem to realize that our time apart is still time in the relationship. If we didn’t enjoy it, even if it might be difficult, we wouldn’t be doing it. A relationship that’s holding out for an end-goal without anything in the meantime isn’t a relationship;  it’s a contract. If the wait isn’t enjoyable, the wait isn’t worth it.


2.     Have a schedule

Schedules are imperative to busy couples in different time zones. With a nine hour time difference, coordinating his wake up messages, goodnight messages, an (ideally) daily skype, and longer weekend calls would not be possible without being mapped out. Setting up a schedule also forces you to discuss how much attention each person really needs in the relationship. Daily skypes might be totally overkill for some, or the bare minimum for others. Be honest about what you want and what you physically can accomplish in one day. Don’t agree to text every day if you know you don’t have time for it-- your partner will only feel abandoned and disappointed.


3.     Tailor to text

While Skype and Facetime are beautiful things, the reality of an LDR means that most of your communication will be by messaging and texting apps. Arguments are facilitated by distance and lack of communication, and are 10x harder to solve via message. As one friend told me, “A long distance relationship fight is just like a normal one, except you have to wait 12 hours to sort it out, and you don’t even get makeup sex afterwards.” Sometimes fights are productive to talking about issues within the relationship, but avoid pettiness and pointless battles at all costs. So before you tell your SO about that crazy drinking game or the sleepover you had with your most attractive friend, be sure to censor sensitive topics and save them for video chats or phone calls.


4.     Support your partner’s “real” life

Understanding that your partner has a life outside of your relationship bubble might be the most crucial aspect of any LDR. Sometimes he will cancel a skype to study, sometimes she’ll decide to go out on a Friday night after all, and you have to be okay with that. Being supportive of your partner’s social life, work schedule, hobbies, and interests is an integral part of any relationship, and it must be respected tenfold at long distance. Similarly, when you’re the one cancelling plans, be sure to be sensitive about your partner’s feelings. Even a quick “wish you were here” text can be the extra step to make you SO feel valued.


5.     Schedule visits thoughtfully and honestly

This is the hardest aspect of any long distance relationship and the one that never really gets easier. The greater the distance between you, the more difficult it is. Be mindful about inequality. For example, my boyfriend, whom I’ve been together with for a year (and 6+ months long distance) has never seen where I’m from, whereas I know everything about his city. If he tells me that after class today he went to the grocery store to run some errands, got a kebab for dinner, and then went out for a drink with friends, I can imagine exactly where he was and what his day looked like. But if I were to say the same thing, he would have absolutely no idea of what I’m talking about. To combat this, we’ve done skypes with my friends to help him get to know them, filmed video tours, and sent lots and lots of pictures so that he has an idea of what my life looks like. Visit each other’s homes often and as soon as possible, but be sensitive to your partner’s needs in the meantime.

As for planning visits, you have to be honest with your partner about your plans for the future. A plane ticket from San Francisco to Paris is over 1,000 euro, and we have to wait 6 months in between seeing each other. After every visit, we have to reevaluate our relationship. Is it worth another 6 month wait? Neither of us can afford a 1,000 euro mistake. Be wary of planning trips too far in advance, because in a breakup situation it will only be awkward for everyone involved.


6.     Prioritize properly

Your relationship, while it is incredibly valuable, is not your entire life. Know when to turn off your phone. Understand when your friends and family need quality time with you. Learn to disconnect when you need study time. Think critically about how many hours you need to spend per day on your SO and how you should spend them. Like any relationship, you can’t let it consume you.


7.     Compromise

My partner has almost exclusively attractive female friends, and my best friend is my ex, so we’ve learned to pick our battles. However, when your partner does put their foot down, respect it. Sometimes their emotional security is more important than your wants or desires, and recognizing those tricky situations is half of the battle. At the end of the day, it’s more important to be kind than right. Treat your SO with as much empathy and respect as you can muster, because without any physical presence, it becomes that much harder to feel appreciated and loved.


8.     Avoid comparison

PSA: Looking at other couples in public will make you sad. Seeing photos of couples on the internet, in magazines, and in advertisements will make you sad. Reading online stories about others’ long distance relationships will make you sad. Avoid comparing your love to others because it will only breed resentment towards someone who wasn’t even with you to understand its origin.


9.     Have an emergency letter/package

There will be many moments when it is so incredibly difficult, you’ll want to give in no matter how much you care about your partner. There will be lots of tears, lonely nights, and exhaustion. Sometimes you’ll just feel like you want out for no particular reason, not because you don’t love the person, but because the distance is overwhelming. Prepare for this feeling by writing your SO a letter in advance to keep them calm and thinking positively. Remind them how you feel, why you decided to do this as a couple, and what you’re both striving for.


10.  Know when to let go

And, if in the end, after reading a last resort letter and really discussing the issues at hand, respect your partner’s choice to back out. If they say that you are not the problem, but the distance is, believe them. If you feel like the sadness associated with the distance is too overwhelming, or that triggers depression, be honest with your partner. Sometimes you just have to let go.