Falling in love (in this case with a person, not a place) can be one of the many awesome side effects of traveling and studying abroad. But after coming back, not letting the physical distance turn into an emotional one can be challenging. Sure, you don’t have to shave your legs every day or clean up your apartment all the time, but it will take determination, optimism, and effort to turn the temporary long-distance into a permanent long-term love story.
Nothing is impossible, however, and these tips should help your romance blossom, no matter how many miles separate you. (Take it from a long-distance pro – a little effort really does go a long way.)
1. Find the best time to communicate (regularly)
Even though texting and emailing work 24/7, sometimes you just need to talk and get immediate feedback. Depending on the distance, it might take some time to find out the best times to chat, but practice makes perfect and funny voicemails can make up for missed connections and bad timing. And no, it doesn’t matter if you can only call on Sunday mornings – just making that time for each other is the key thing here.
2. Find the best channels to stay in touch
Once you have figured out the timing, it’s also important to find the perfect channels. Luckily, it has never been easier or cheaper to be in touch with the world: A Wi-Fi connection is usually all you need to Skype, chat and text. Make sure your main tool of communication is easily accessible for both of you, and don’t forget that a mix of different channels will make communicating much more exciting.
3. Be creative
Record an audio message during the night, write a letter, send a postcard or put together a care package or a mix tape. Use your imagination and find new and surprising ways to let the other person know you’re thinking about them. This doesn’t mean that you have to clean out your bank account: Instead of hiring a plane to write poems in the sky, why not hide post-its with cute notes during your next visit?
4. Do not avoid fights
If you only see each other every few weeks or months, and maybe even speak a different language, it’s easy to ignore problems or concerns. Nobody wants to spend any time arguing when you only have 48 hours together, but avoiding fights and staying away from arguments can be damaging in the long run. The more you talk about things that bother you before they become huge obstacles in your relationship, the better. However, don’t fight via text or email (too much reading between the lines), but try to discuss it in person or over the phone as soon as it comes up. Having said that…
5. Talk it out
Always try to be open and honest about your feelings. Not knowing where the other person is at the moment or whom they spent Saturday evening with can lead to overthinking and unnecessary panic. The fact that social media makes it easy to see (or imagine) how much fun someone had, doesn’t make it any easier. It’s important to trust each other enough to share your thoughts and feelings and find ways to cope with jealousy, anxiety, or doubts together.
6. See the glass as half full
The fact that you will basically live your usual life while being in a long-distance relationship can be both a blessing and a curse: You might feel like you’re missing out because it’s more difficult to do “normal couple stuff,” like picking each other up from work or having lunch together. However, it can also be a huge advantage to be able to do your thing: If you’re studying or working long hours, you will not have to disappoint your significant other and cancel dinner plans or movie nights, for example.
7. Do boring things together
When you only see each other a few times a year, everything feels like a vacation. Heck, it probably is a vacation because you’ll take time off work or school. There’s nothing wrong with taking it easy and sleeping in, having brunch, and sightseeing, but it’s also important to throw in some boring activities – you know, everyday things like folding laundry, running errands, or mowing the lawn. Trying to make mundane activities fun and exciting together is a true test of any relationship, isn’t it?
8. Know when you’ll see each other again
Depending on how much time and money it takes to meet up, it can be quite the operation to see each other. Not knowing when this will happen again only messes with your feelings and general life plan. So it’s best when you try to set a new date as early as possible after your return home. That way, you can both plan ahead and take advantage of early bird tickets and special promotions, not to mention have something to look forward to! (Spontaneous surprise visits are awesome as well, of course, so add those into the mix if you can.)
9. Do things together
Desperate times call for creative ways to spend time with each other: Even if you’re not in the same place at the same time, you can still do stuff together: Thank you, video call features. These days, you don’t really have any excuses not to share screen time and cook, eat, shop, or go for walks together via video chat. Don’t forget that you can also watch the same movie while talking or chatting with each other.
10. Have a keepsake
Sometimes, no call or text will make up for the fact that the other person is not there. What might help is wearing their favorite shirt or drink out of their favorite mug. Keepsakes might be cheesy, but they can sure do the trick. A sample of their favorite perfume or laundry detergent can make time zones disappear for a moment – don’t be shy about going down that route if you’re in desperate need of a little closeness to your significant other.
11. Meet the people and visit the places
The more you talk and get to know each other, the more you’ll mention places or people the other person might not know. Whenever there’s a chance, introduce each other – either with a photo or a real-life introduction – to your most frequented places and the people you hang out with or mention most often. That way, everyday conversations become much more meaningful, and you’ll have more of a feeling that you’re part of each other’s lives, despite the distance.