I met my partner when I was 21 years old. It was at the very beginning of my big European trip that I had embarked on with my best friend. I’d never been particularly interested in dating or boys — I was always more interested in hanging out with friends, family, working and travelling. Josh and his best friend were also embarking on a big European trip together, and as fate would have it, they were in the same 3-week tour group as us.
I’ll skip all the lovey-dovey details — that’s an article for another time. But after 5 weeks of travelling Europe together, I just knew he was the one for me. I’d never felt this way about a person before. When I was around him, I felt happy and safe.
The bad news was that although we were both from the same country (Australia), he lived in a completely different state. Fortunately, as far as long distance goes, it wasn’t the biggest geographical distance. Specifically, it was a 9–10 hour drive between our homes, or a 1 hour flight (plus a 1 hour trip to airport). Short enough to make it less daunting, long enough to go weeks without seeing one another.
The prospect of a long-distance relationship terrified me, because I’d never even had a relationship before. How was I going to make something so complex work?
But we made it work. We were in a long distance relationship for two and half years before he got a job in my city. Come this August, we will have been together for seven years.
Long distance relationships can work. I know there are bigger hurdles for those in relationships across countries, but they can work too. Below are the tips I’ve learnt throughout the years.
Long distance is tough, but love is tougher.
1. You’ll need to invest.
I wouldn’t be able to tell you how much money I spent on travelling back and forth to visit Josh because I lost count… but it was a lot. A LOT.
Same goes for him.
And I didn’t have a job at the time — I’d just come back from Europe (obviously) and was looking for full-time employment. I’d graduated from university with my Bachelor’s degree prior to travelling and was always planning on starting my career post-Europe. So at the start of our relationship, I was utterly cashless.
In order to pay for my taxis to the airport, and then the flights to his city, I started buying clothes from second-hand shops and re-selling them on eBay. This venture paid for all of my flights (approx. $300–400 per flight plus $100 taxi). He would often pay for my flights if I was struggling. It was a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of money, but I didn’t even flinch. We just wanted to see each other.
For the most part, we would see each other at least once a month. There were even some months when we would see each other twice a month. There were also times when we didn’t see each other for 3–4 months, but that was rare.
You are likely going to spend a lot of money on flights and travel but obviously, it may well be worth it in the end. It was for us. Plus, think about all the money you’re saving on dates when you’re not together!
2. You should discuss the future.
A long distance relationship will need to become a short distance relationship eventually. One of you will have to move, or you can both move somewhere else together. The important thing to do whilst you’re in your long distance relationship is to keep these discussions going.
Are you both willing to move? Is one person’s career more able to thrive in a particular city? Does someone have kids? Is someone closer to their family? These are rarely simple questions, and these discussions aren’t particularly easy.
Both of us are very close to our family and friends. Someone was going to have to sacrifice a hell of a lot more. After 2 and a half years of long distance, Josh’s job offered him a role in my city because they knew about our relationship. And he took it. At that point, I’d started my career in advertising and was in the best city to do so. From a career standpoint, it worked for both of us.
Keep discussing the future together, both so you can envision it (which brings comfort) and plan for it (which leads to action).
3. You have to be willing to compromise.
I told my partner that if he ever missed his friends and family too much, and wanted to try our life in his own state, we could. I wanted him to know that any decision we made was on a trial basis, and could be undone.
He has now been in my city for 5 years. We have an apartment and great friends, and he is a solid part of my family (if not the favourite family member). He’s sacrificed a lot for me, and never complained once. It makes me love him even more.
A lot of people will find it easy to up and leave their homes, and that’s awesome. But it’s difficult to do for many. You have to be willing to make one another happy, as well as being able to compromise some of your own happiness. Discuss the pros and cons for each decision, and agree to one. Then create a back-up plan. Never make the other feel locked in.
Make a choice about where you want to live, and tell yourselves that you’re just going to try it for a year or two.
Remember that you’re never going to be ‘stuck’ somewhere — you can always move, always change it up. Life’s too short to be miserable, and no one wants to see someone they love miserable. You never want your partner to feel trapped, or like they’ve made a decision that can’t be reversed. There’s enough pressure on a long distance relationship as is.
4. Communicate every single day.
The most important thing you can do in a long distance relationship is to communicate every single day. Josh and I were fortunate enough to be in jobs where we could text hourly. It always felt as though he was with me every step of the day, and it was bliss.
We would call each other every night, occasionally FaceTime, but we always knew what the other one was doing.
When you can’t physically be together, it’s important to still feel apart of each other’s lives. You need to build trust and create a sense of closeness.
5. Know it will be hard.
I shed many, many tears during the long distance part of our relationship.
Whenever it hit the weekend and the weather was beautiful, I wanted to be able to hang out with my partner — to go for a picnic or a stroll in the balmy evening. Whenever I had an important event, I wanted him to be my date.
I just wanted things to be easier. I wanted them to be normal. I wanted to be able to see him whenever I could. But I simply couldn’t.
I became very jealous of those who found relationships with people in their own city — did they know how lucky they had it?! Their lives could join so smoothly. Their friends could hang out with each other. Their parents could easily meet. They could drive to their house on a whim. Everything was simple.
Long distance is HARD. But it is worth it, and you can do it if you really love one another.
Whenever you are feeling down in your long distance relationship, try and practice a sense of gratitude towards even having your partner in your life at all. Yes, you might not see them as much as you want to, but you still have them. They are still present in your life. Find the silver linings.
6. Document it.
One of the main things that eased the pain of not being with my partner was to document the times that we were.
Every time we saw each other, I would write about it once he left. I’d journal our dates and important discussions and re-live our time together. It was super cathartic. I still have a huge box of journals, tickets, brochures and other souvenirs from events and activities that we did during long distance. I’m sure our future kids will be thrilled to delve into it.
One of the perks of a long distance relationship is that every time you see each other, it’s incredibly exciting. Each meet up in full of anticipation and romance. Each second you spend together is more special. You’re more grateful for ever moment you get with one other and rarely waste a second of it.
7. Know it will be worth it.
I’m so glad I never gave up when it got too tough.
I know we will end up married in the next few years, and have kids if possible. All because we dedicated ourselves to the heartache and pleasures of long distance.
If you’re embarking on a long distance relationship, know that it will be bloody hard, but also amazing. If you are meant for each other, you can withstand anything. Don’t listen to the naysayers. You’ll spend a lot of hours in trains, cars, taxis and airports — but it’s all apart of your story and your adventure together.
Communicate daily, appreciate every moment you get with each other and remember that one day the heartache of long distance will be but a distant memory.
“I exist in two places, here and where you are.”
- Margaret Atwood