I’m not a dating specialist, those who know me personally could confirm, but there’s something I managed to accomplish lately (I should say “we” because my wife did 50% of the job): having a long-distance relationship that works.
I met Vilma in the US seven years ago and we were just friends for a while. Then we decided to start something together, but shortly after I had to leave and find a job in France.
France-US, talking about long distance! These countries are thousands of miles apart geographically and culturally. Still, against all odds we stuck it out for 5 years before finally living together.
In short: it worked out.
The process was tough, we tried, failed, tried again, but through that mess we also built a solid relationship made of love and mutual understanding, and we eventually got married.
Successful long-distance relationships are not a myth: it is possible to be in a couple with a person living faaaaaaaaar away without going nuts. And even if this type of commitment takes guts, it can work if you apply the right habits.
Below are my conclusions on 5 years of frustration and love, I made them practical so you can apply them to your own situation :)
The main perk
Before saying “OK, let’s try”, you’re probably curious to know what’s in it for you and your newly met Sudanese NGO worker. After all, you already suspect what’s NOT FUN about being away from each other: no sex, no cuddling, no eye contact (Skype is not a valid substitute). Fair enough, I understand.
According to my experience, the main perk of long distance relationships is just that: you get tested, your limits are tested and you get to understand what’s under the hood of your couple, because let’s be honest: it’s going to be challenged all the time.
- By friends who tell you that it’ll never work (especially true if you’re a girl taking advice from other girls)
- By predators who chance to be physically close to your partner
- By…distance and the cold sensation of losing track of one another at times
Now, because of all that crap, you’ll verify your partner’s level of commitment and you’ll be forced to feed the root that makes relationships possible: communication. By the time you finally come to live together, you’ll more advanced than a lot of settled couples.
For the people who want to make sure they’re dealing with a serious partner, I’m pretty sure long-distance is the best field test to avoid pre-mature commitments.
Below, a list of the DO’s and DONT’s to go safely about a long-distance relationship:
No goddamn start up has invented a cheap international phone plan that works, so all you’ll have is broken up online calls and missed voicemails, but you need to hang in there and make it a must to call each other every day.
If you’re a guy, go out of your way to share the daily news of your life (including mishaps). If you’re a girl, share and listen as well, you’ll learn to understand the undertones of each others voices and mood. In any case, make sure you confirm what you understood with your partner!
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”
― Henry Winkler
Always remember: the other’s voice is all you have so pay extra attention to details. That part is crucial, it saved Vilma and I from disaster.
2-Make it clear to others
State your status publicly: you’re in a relationship. Whether it’s long distance or not is your business and nobody should assume that they have clearance to try their move on you. Your relationship is only going to be as real as you make it.
It’s one thing to make an appointment for drinks when your lover lives in the neighborhood and another to buy a plane ticket to see each other for a week-end.
Obstacles will show up and you might not get a chance to spend intimate time for a few months.
Patience will be your only friend, and during those long stretches of loneliness all sorts of Demons will try and convince you to graze somewhere else. Be strong.
4-Don’t forget what brought you here
Keep in mind what made you chose him/her in the first place, there are probably a set of solid reasons that keep you interested, refresh them in your head on a regular basis.
Why do that? Because you probably have other options right now, the girl next door being one, is that what you really want? Think twice, develop discernment, if you learn how to tell apart a short-lived impulsion from a life-project your ride will be much smoother.
What is she doing? With who? Who’s that f***ing “Ernesto” she had dinner with last night?
Classify jealousy among the unavoidable side-effects of long-distance relationships. Unless you KNOW something’s happening, take a look at your own insecurities, they’re the ones messing around with your head, so save your distant partner from that burden.
Vilma was particularly good at avoiding dramas on the phone when she felt anxious and we always ended up clearing the air.
6-Create a common vision
Some say that being in a couple is not about looking each other in the eyes, but looking together in the same direction.
Applied to a long distance relationship, it means that you need a common blueprint.
That’s what we did, Vilma and I. Months after months we tried to define how we wanted to live together and by what time. The plan was badly mistreated by life events, but we survived thanks to this dream and it’s on that basis that things eventually manifested.
- What do you want to do together?
- What are your career plans?
- Do you want to have kids, or you’d rather travel and discover the world?
- When do you want to settle together?
- Where would you like to live?
Those questions are no romance killers, but something you can leverage to make the changes that will bring you together…in the same place :)
Conclusion: I don’t think there’s a magic rule to succeed in a long-distance relationship and I’m not posing as an example since my path was riddled with mistakes, but if you’re walking that bumpy road I want to reassure you: it is doable.
And if you’re afraid to fail, keep in mind that whatever the outcome, if you do it right you won’t feel like a fool, you’ll end up smarter than you’ve ever been.
Your questions and comments are more than welcome, add them below I’ll respond asap :)