So you have a significant other, and you find out one of you has to move — for a job, grad school, what have you. Whatever the case, you now must decide whether or not to stay together in the face of an unexpected physical distance coming between you. Well, as one-half of a long distance relationships that's survived two years of us living hundreds of miles apart, I am here to be your cheerleader. Yes, you can! You can live in separate cities and be in love and it can work! It's a scary prospect, but if you really love each other, trust each other and are willing to put some work into this, totally worth trying. Here's a handy starter's guide to long-distance loving.
1. Eff the haters.
When I tell people I’m just getting to know that my significant other (S.O.) lives in another city, about 30 to 40 percent of them react by furrowing their brows and recoiling in badly hidden bafflement. I guess they’re thinking, loser, she can’t find a man where she lives now. Or, why bother with all that unnecessary nonsense when she can find someone here? They can’t possibly understand why I would go through the extra effort it takes to be with someone who lives elsewhere. Well, you know what? Fuck them. Fuck those people. They are HATERS. Maybe they they have S.O.s and wish they had the bed to themselves a few nights a week, like me. Maybe they’re single and don’t know what love is, like me, and that it climbs mountains and rides buses for hours and hours and hours on end (like me, again). Well, what I learned is: FUCK. THOSE PEOPLE. Don’t talk to them. Don’t justify your choice. Just smile smugly and say, “We love each other. I’m so happy.” Let them think what they will, but don’t let that kind of shit cloud your positive thinking because if you’re going to get through this, you will need a lot of it!
2. Have an idea of when the distance will end.
This is one of the most important parts of this: if one of you moves somewhere forever and there’s no end in sight to your time apart, it’s probably not going to work because you have nothing to work toward. So decide if there can be an end to the distance in what feels like a reasonable amount of time for both of you (bearing in mind that yes, much of the time apart will feel like eternity anyway).
3. Talk about it before one of you moves away.
This is so, so, so important. I know a woman whose boyfriend moved away for school after they'd been dating for under a year and she didn’t know if they were staying together. Years later, they did and are living happily ever after, but oh God I can’t even imagine the torture she went through in his first few weeks away before they had The Talk. So goodness please, have that conversation. As soon as my S.O. started applying for grad school we started talking about it since (jerk — I mean, LOVE YOU, HONEY) his top choices were not in the same city as me. This didn’t prevent me from freaking out entirely about the whole ordeal, but communicating helps.
4. Make a plan for how often you will talk and when.
This is also incredibly crucial to LDR success. Many LDR survivors I talked to suggest trying to talk on the phone every day. Even if it’s just for two minutes so you can each say, “Good night my peaches [or whatever gross things you you call each other], I love you and miss you terribly.” Just make it part of your routine. Once again, TALK ABOUT THIS BEFORE THE MOVE. The more you can plan it all out the better it will all be.
5. HAVE A LIFE.
Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT sit at home while your S.O. is out getting drunk and partying. (Which is something you have to be okay with — it’s called trust and is so obviously necessary I didn’t even make it its own numbered item.) See this time as an opportunity to do whatever you want before you two are back in the same city or living in the same place together. If you don’t have friends, make friends. Spend a lot of time with them, work on your career, adopt a kitten, take up karate. If things get rocky (which they inevitably will on multiple occasions) you’ll want to remember that your S.O. is NOT your only source of happiness. You can create a rich, fulfilling life for yourself with lots of things that will be there for you in it doesn't work out.
6. Use technology.
Video chat. Gchat. Skype. More than one LDR survivor suggesting video chatting without talking. Like, keep your windows of each other doing work (or watching TV or reading a book) open, and you don’t have to talk but it will be like hanging out with each other!
7. Plan a visitation schedule. Alternate visits.
At the beginning of every month, sit down and plan the weekends you will see each other. Every other weekend is a good amount of time together, and if you alternate you won’t have to travel a gross amount, really. But make sure this is a fair schedule and financially feasible for both of you. If one person feels they’re doing an unfair amount of the traveling, they will resent the other person, and if there's one thing a long distance relationship doesn't need it's resentment and its cousin, passive aggressiveness.
8. Figure out your fight patterns.
An LDR survivor told me she and her boyfriend would always fight the night before they saw each other, every other Thursday, which she took to mean that they really couldn’t last longer than two weeks without seeing each other. And in time she learned that when they ran out of things to talk about, it was time to get off the phone because they would just end up fighting. First, get comfortable with the fact that you can have a healthy relationship while fighting and being mad at each other. That’s normal — if you didn’t ever fight you’d be super creepy people. But it’s draining so if you can avoid it by just hanging up the phone before it happens, do.
9. Refrain from freaking the fuck out.
You don’t have to end up lying face down on the bathroom floor in a puddle of your own snot, Elizabeth Gilbert-style. Have some self-control, and if you can stop yourself from freaking out about ZOMG HE’S CHEATING I HAVE TO END THIS WTF WAS I THINKING and crying and flailing and being a huge MESS, then do. If it’s a ghost freak out — meaning, stemming from something your brain made up rather than an actual thing that happened — it’s really not worth deepening your frown lines over.
10. Miss each other.
THIS IS THE BEST THING ABOUT LDRS! All those couples who live together and don’t want to have sex with each other and are totally sick of each other’s asses? Not you!
11. Send each other things.
Such as: “I’m so sorry you had a 10-hour layover in that dirty airport” flowers. Or: “I should have never said/done that dumb thing” teddy bear. Also recommended: “This song reminds me of you” MP3/YouTube link (that one’s done via email! So easy!).
12. Surprise your significant other at least once.
When this happens it is the best. Just don’t scare their pants off them when you do it. Make a sign saying “W<3LCOME HOME CUPCAKE!! [or whatever gross things you call each other]” in highlighter and tape it to the door. Or leave a trail of glitter behind you. Do something to hint that a surprise is in store if you’re letting yourself into your S.O.’s place.