On Friday, Shannon will be sharing a post on Moving Abroad for a Partner. Before that, however, we thought you’d like to learn a little more about her LDR story …
How did you meet your partner?
We met at a fencing club in London. I was an American student on a semester abroad and he was in grad school there. He’s half British and half Chinese, and he’d spent half his life in the UK and half his life in Hong Kong. We talked about nothing but fencing for the first month, even traveling to Germany and Switzerland for competitions. Eventually we started talking about other things too. We’d known each other for three months when I went back to the US and we decided to try a long distance relationship. The original plan was for me to get a job in London after graduation.
What is your current situation?
I graduated from university in 2009, which was a decidedly poor time to be inexperienced in the job market, especially without a working visa. We ended up moving to our respective hometowns in Arizona and Hong Kong. I spent a year working in Arizona and looking for jobs abroad. I moved to Hong Kong in 2010, two and a half years after our long distance relationship had begun. One month later, his company sent him to work in London. I stayed in Hong Kong alone for one more year. In 2011, he took a new job in Hong Kong. After three and half years of long distance, we’ve now lived in the same country for a year and a half, and we’re getting married in July.
Communication. When all you can do is call and email, you learn to talk through any issues that can’t be fixed with a hug and a smile. You often can’t rely on body language and tone of voice, so you learn to be very clear with each other about what you are thinking and how you are feeling. These skills last beyond the long distance time.
What are some things you’ve found most difficult about being in a long distance relationship?
Our relationship was long distance for a very long time, which wasn’t our original intention at all. Each time a setback forced us to be apart for longer, I worried that we were getting deeper and deeper into the relationship without knowing for certain that we would still like each other when we got to see each other on a daily basis. We spent so much time visiting each other in exciting countries and taking vacations together, but we weren’t sure what it would be like when we were going to work and living normal lives.
Tell us about a romantic or happy moment in your relationship.
My happiest memory is of a grand road trip we took around the western United States one summer. We borrowed my sister’s car and made a big loop from Phoenix through San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Battle Mountain (a dusty town in Nevada where our car broke down for two days), Idaho, Salt Lake City, and the red rock canyons of Utah. Nothing helps you find out whether you actually get along with a person like spending ten days together in a car with no air conditioning and no radio.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself from being in a long distance relationship?
I’m definitely more selfish than I realized. In a long distance relationship, you actually get a lot of time to yourself to do whatever you want. When you’re back together, you have to figure out how to balance what you want to do with what the other person wants. “In person” couples get that sorted out a lot sooner. I also learned I’m a risk-taker. I treated moving to another country for a man rather matter-of-factly, and it took other people to point out that it all could have gone horribly wrong. Fortunately, I also learned just how flexible and patient I can be, and it all worked out in the end.
Do you have any word of advice for other people in long distance relationships?
You have to figure out how to communicate with each other. You can’t rely on the other person guessing what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling, especially when you can’t give them physical clues. Get used to talking (or writing) things out until the problem is fixed, even when you just want to drop it. If you can’t communicate, it isn’t worth it.
See you back here on Friday for Moving Abroad For A Partner