When I met David, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. Why would I have been? I was only planning to be in Scotland for the summer, right before my semester abroad in Caen, France. This was no time to fall in love.
But… fall in love we did, and I couldn’t be happier about it. That said, we haven’t had an easy journey. David was a Scottish lad, I was a Canadian gal, and there were some 6,500 kilometres between us. You know, just a quick commute!
The beauty of travel is that you get to experience new countries, new cultures and new people. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you fall in love. I know so many couples that have met while travelling or working abroad, and I’ve noticed there are some common factors for those whose relationships have worked out, compared to the couples that didn’t.
A Solid Foundation
We were lucky enough to have four months together before we began our long distance relationship. In that time, we really got to know each other. The ticking time bomb of my departure date really helped prioritize things and speed up certain conversations. We had to make a decision early on whether or not we wanted to make a go of it, but we had friendship and a reasonable amount of time to figure that out.
This is not to say that couples who meet for a few days on the road can’t also make it work, but time makes a difference. Travel time, however, is not to be underestimated. Have you ever seen the 90s movie, Before Sunrise, with Ethan Hawke? It does such a beautiful job of conveying the difference between travel time and regular time. When you meet someone on the road, you might be more likely to open up more quickly, to be vulnerable, to share your hopes and dreams, because… who knows if you’ll ever see them again, right?
A solid foundation, shared goals or visions of your life can help support the tough road ahead.
Verbal communication is key. Texts and emails are great, but we all know that tone can be misinterpreted in the written word, and let’s face it, not all of us are Shakespeare. Being able to talk to your partner and even see them makes a huge difference.
There is a reason we named our cat Skype. Skype kept our relationship alive, even if we had to swap who woke up at the ungodly hour to make a call.
I honestly believe that because we talked daily, it made a huge difference to our relationship. We weren’t just chilling out next to each other watching TV (though I do enjoy that now!), we had to invest time and energy into phone calls to stay connected. Communication skills will stand you in good stead for the future, helping you work through tough issues, arguments and hard times.
This trait is probably universal to any healthy relationship. One of you will ultimately have to compromise on location. A lot of factors will have to be taken into consideration when deciding who is moving: current job, job availability, quality of life, affordability, weather (no joke!), etc. Even though I have a British passport and could have moved to the UK immediately, we made the difficult decision – ultimately the right one – to live in Canada. In Canada we could afford a house, have well-paying jobs and live close to my family. It was a huge compromise on David’s part, but I think he’s now quite happy to call Canada home.
Make a Commitment
You want to know that you’re working towards something together. It doesn’t have to be marriage, I’m not saying that, but you should be committed to each other in a meaningful way. I don’t care how you do it, Meredith-Derek post-it-note will do, but decide what your mutual hope or goal is and commit to it together.
Make Time Together Extra Special
Here’s the thing – your time together is limited. If that’s the case, shouldn’t it be spectacular? I’m not saying blow all your money on first-class experiences (though if you can afford it, wouldn’t that be cool?), but put some effort into planning your visits with one another. Do a day-trip you’ve never done before. Have a picnic in a romantic park. See a concert together. Whatever you like doing together, make time for it.
Know When Your Next Visit Is
We learned very early on that time apart was always harder when we didn’t know when we’d next see one another. The trick, for us at least, was to book your next visit before you leave for your current one. That way when you say goodbye, you’re really just saying, “see you soon.”
Now, I’m not saying that every long-distance relationship was meant to last. They’re not built to last anymore than domestic relationships, but if you’re meant to be together, there’s extra work that needs to be put into it.
These are the things that helped make our long distance relationship work. Do you know couples that have survived long distance? What made it work for them (or you!)?
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