How to make long distance relationships work
I’ve decided to share this post with you as Michael and I celebrated our eighth anniversary this weekend just gone. The first four years of our relationship were long distance so with eight years now under our belts, we want to share our advice on making it work when you’re apart.
You may, or may not, know that we started our relationship just four months before heading off to university in different counties to each other. Then after making it through the three years of our degree, Michael moved to Paris and it was a few months before I could join him. In addition to this, I have traveled a fair amount without him which has put us into wildly different time zones.
In my honest opinion, it really only comes down to two factors that will successfully make a long distance relationship work: having regularly scheduled visits and equally sharing the effort to stay in contact. They don’t scream romance though, so I’ve shared all the other little ways we both put in effort that kept us going until the next time we would be together.
Always have at least one planned visit booked in advance. This is for two reasons: so you don’t fluster over trying to get a date in the diary and so you have something to look forward to.
One of the hardest times when we were doing long distance was whilst we were living in Paris and I had taken a month long trip to Mauritius to see family. Michael had come to stay there for 2 weeks but when he left we were uncertain of whether I would come straight back to Paris, or if I would spend some time back at home in England after returning to the UK (I was flying into London from Mauritius). It was the not knowing, not having a set date for my return, that was so difficult for us. We had always known when we would see each other again. Eventually I booked my train back to Paris, but until then, it was so difficult not having a day to count down to.
For this reason I always suggest, to anyone who asks, you have the next visit in the diary. The first two years we took it in turn to see each other every fortnight, but on our third and final year of our degrees, we made the mutual decision to focus on our work, so we cut down the amount of travel and visits to once every 3-4 weeks. We never regretted this decision because we both came out with first class degrees. It was definitely one the most mature moments of our relationship and a very good example of how you must make sure your life is equally balanced. Long distance relationships need to be worked into your life but not become your life.
It is highly unlikely that a relationship will pull through if all the effort and expense is one sided.
When we were at university, train tickets were expensive and it took about 3.5 hours to get from door to door, so we decided right from the beginning that we would take it in turns to visit each other. Despite making this decision, we still had some problems because although the travel was being split equally, time spent together wasn’t, so we had to work on that.
It doesn’t matter if you are living together or apart, no relationship succeeds if all the effort is one sided, undoubtedly that person will begin to resent the other and it might not end well.
Scheduling is definitely the key factor in making a long distance relationship work, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t sneak in a few surprise visits*.
I remember one Friday evening, I came out of uni about 6pm and sitting on the bench outside was Michael. He had been waiting patiently for an hour and I had no idea! He didn’t even text to say he was waiting because he wanted to see my face when I saw him. How sweet is that?
*Just make sure you know the other person is free so you don’t go all that way for nothing.
Give each other space
You’re probably thinking how does this make any sense, you already live apart so how much more space do you need? What I mean by this is, don’t let the need to be in contact take over your lives, your life doesn’t stop because you’re apart. You still need to make time for work, socialising and binging on box sets, so don’t feel like you need to spend every moment updating each other.
Michael and I actually had a lover’s spat over this in our second year of our relationship. We were texting each other throughout the whole day, but then we were also making time to talk to each other on the phone in the evenings. Our squabble came out of frustration over the fact that we had nothing much to talk about on the phone, because we had already text every detail down to what we had eaten during the day. We then decided not to text each other so much during the day which was good for two reasons: We could have a lengthy conversation at the end of the day and secondly, it was far less distracting and we could get on with our days without checking our phones every five minutes.
Telephone, video calls, text, email, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Instagram and Snapchat - there is so much choice for staying in contact these days that you can mix it up for every day of the week. My ultimate favourite way to stay in contact though is good ol’ snail mail! There is something so special and uplifting about receiving physical mail from a loved one.
Of course this wasn’t our only method of contact, but we used to send mail back and forth because none of the others are more personal than hand written messages. We sent mostly letters but sometimes they would be full blown care packages.
My two favourite care packages that I sent were:
Before going to stay with him in London around Christmas, I sent him a package that had one present for every day leading up to me arriving. They were all silly items that I had picked up from poundland (the life of a poor student) and I had written a note explaining each one. From what I remember there was a lot of foil decorations for his room , fairy lights and chocolate.
Valentine’s Day 2014 - I had gone back to England to celebrate my birthday whilst Michael stayed in Paris. We couldn’t spend the day together because he was working, so I wanted to send him something special that cheered him up. I made a drawstring bag and on it I embroidered a section of the map of Europe with a line linking love hearts from Norfolk to Paris. I then filled it with heart shaped chocolates and sweets, cold and flu tablets and tissues (because he had caught a cold) and of course, a card.
Traditions, no matter how big or small are a lovely way to celebrate your relationship, here are some of ours:
We started every morning with a text that said “Morning Beautiful/Handsome” and ended every day with a text that said “Night Beautiful/Handsome”. I understand that in some circumstances, talking every day isn’t possible so I really don’t think it’s necessary in making long distance work, but it’s just something we always did.
Every text ends with “I love you x” - if it doesn’t one of us is extremely pissed off!
Whilst at uni, during the first week of the Christmas break, I would go to London and we would spend the whole week doing Christmassy things. This usually included ice-skating at Somerset House, baking cookies, Christmas present shopping down Oxford street and/or Westfield (both of which usually involved celebrity spotting), drinking seasonal coffees while strolling in Hyde Park and of course Winter Wonderland.
As our relationship began in Paris in 2010 on a school trip, we have made it a tradition to go back to Paris every year. We always stroll in Jardin Tuileries, get macrons from Ladurée, gorge ourselves on charcuterie boards and take a ridiculous amount of photos of the Eiffel Tower.
The little things
Big gestures such as surprise visits are nice, but the little things make a big difference. Here are some of ours:
Whenever I was leaving him, just before going I would spray some of my perfume onto his pillow so he would be reminded of me when he went to bed.
When he was leaving me, he used to give me a t-shirt that he had worn and sprayed his Eau de toilette on.
We both used to leave little notes under each other’s pillows.
We made mix-tapes for each other - which were really just playlists we put together on iTunes.
This post is geared up towards being in a romantic relationship but some of these apply to any kind of long distance relationship for example:
Some of my closest cousins live in New Zealand, so we hardly see each other but we make the effort to schedule regular Skype calls, have a group chat on messenger and we send care packages back and forth all the time!
One of my best friends has been living in Australia for almost five years now, we have been fortunate enough to see each other a few times since she moved but aside from that we WhatsApp all the time.
We also met two beautiful people from Canada whilst we were in Hawaii a couple of years ago, we hit it off so well that we have been in contact ever since. We have scheduled monthly Skype calls ever since we left Hawaii, and despite not seeing each other in person since we met, we are incredibly close and currently planning a trip to meet their newest family addition!
I truly believe succeeding at long distance all comes down to scheduling and equal effort. With these two pointers you can make it work no matter how far apart you are or how long it’s been since you saw each other in person.
Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by any of the communication apps or companies mentioned. I just personally recommend them as they have proven to be great ways to stay in contact with people you love.