After I graduated from college I got a job teaching English in China. I was so excited to take on this adventure… except for the part where I had to leave my boyfriend of nine years behind.
For us, it was never a question of, “should we stay together?” Instead, the questions were; “How are we going to adjust make this work?” and “When will we meet up again?”
My teaching contract in China was for a year. So, we both downloaded video chatting apps, gave each other a big loooong kiss, and cried for the next couple of days.
A year is significant, but we survived and our relationship thrived. We are still together now (and back in the same city) and going stronger than ever. So here are my top six tips on saving your long-term relationship when it becomes long-distance.
1. Make a Future Plan That Involves Each Other
The day I found out that I was going to China (for more on why I decided to teach in China, check out this article) was the day that we started planning what would happen when my contract ended.
We had both wanted to backpack southeast Asia, so we made that our end-of-contract plan and we stuck to it.
Whether you want to travel, get married, buy a house, or start a business together, make a plan for what happens after the long distance period and talk about it throughout your long-distance relationship.
Focusing on your future together can give you a whole new perspective on the long-distance part of your relationship.
2. Check in Every Day
We didn’t hassle, stalk, or obsess over each other, but we did do a quick check-in every day. Just a quick check-in helped us feel involved in each other’s lives and reminded us that our other half was thinking about us.
Sometimes our check-in was just a few text messages, while other times it was a long phone call. Getting the balance right on this can be tricky—especially if one partner wants more contact than the other. This issue can really strain the relationship, so also remember to talk regularly about how much you’re talking and how connected (or disconnected) you’re both feeling.
3. Get Involved in Each Other’s Lives
If you can’t physically get involved, you can do so virtually. This is actually a lot different than just video chatting and sending messages.
Getting involved means meeting each other’s new friends, sharing videos and pictures of your day, and showing your partner around your new home.
I used to pop on the video chat at parties so that my boyfriend could see my friends and what my apartment looked like. It made us feel close even though we were far apart.
4. Keep Things Sexual
I will spare you my personal details. However, this is really important for a long-distance relationship.
Through video chat and text, you can get pretty creative with your sex life. And, you totally should. If you’d like more on how to do that, here’s a free resource (not written by me, fyi) on phone sex
Since a big worry about long-distance relationships is cheating, this is a good way to help prevent any mishaps.
You may have a strong relationship, but you’re both human and you both have needs. Try to satisfy those needs over the phone or with pictures. You’ll both be grateful that you did.
5. Send Gifts
Getting actual mail is exciting. And, if you happen to be in an exotic destination, even more so.
I had a ton of fun sending my boyfriend gifts from China. I would load up boxes of strange candies, bags of loose tea, colorful postcards, and little trinkets to send him.
It made us feel even more connected. And, it felt great to introduce him to a new culture that I was exploring and falling in love with.
Even if you’re staying in your hometown, you can still find gifts to send. Did a new coffee roastery pop up in your city? Send your partner some beans. Did you see a t-shirt that you know he’ll love? Buy it and send it on over. Or load up a box with their favorite local treats—you can bet they’ll LOVE a taste of home and love you for sending it.
6. Focus on WHY You’re Doing This
If you’ve been in a committed long-term relationship, there’s probably a reason that you’ve decided to do long-distance. And, most likely, it’s a pretty darn good one.
Whatever that reason may be, try to focus on it, talk about it, and keep it in mind when times get rough.
I went to China to expand my career, satisfy my craving for travel, and connect with myself. All of these things were important to me and my personal development, but also for the development of my relationship.
My boyfriend understood that this was something I NEEDED to do, and that if I didn’t take this opportunity I would come to resent him in the long run.
Whatever your reasons may be, if you’re the one who wants to move make sure to explain these reasons fully to your partner, and listen to how they feel. If you’re the one staying behind, take some time to process and be open and honest about your feelings. It will help you both keep your eye on the prize when you can see what the benefits will be.
If you’ve been together long-term, there’s probably a good reason for it. Don’t let spending some time apart break up your relationship.
Life and relationships are always growing and evolving. Let this long-distance stint just be part of that. Allow it to be a gateway for an even stronger relationship in the future.
Was your relationship long term before it was long distance?
What other tips and tricks would you share?
Shannon travels to better her life and want to help others do the same. For more inspiration and tips for how to improve your life with travel, visit her at Livesabroad.com