If we all started our long distance relationships by signing up online, this is how the confirmation email would begin:
Congratulations! You’ve just entered one of the hardest and most frustrating stages of your life!
If you’ve just started a long distance relationship (or think you could soon find yourself in one,) you might be feeling a little freaked out right now. You might be wondering what on earth you’ve gotten yourself into.
That’s good! It means you’re taking your new relationship seriously. It means you know it’s going to be hard at times, but you want it to work. It means you’re ready to think about hard truths, learn from other people’s stories, and plan for how you’ll tackle your own hard times. It means you want some hardcore honesty about what lies ahead.
Well, my partner and I are here to share some of that hardcore honesty about long distance relationships with you.
And who are we?
I’m Nate. My partner Lolo and I were in a long distance relationship (really long, Australia to Canada long) for 18 months. It was totally worth it. It was also totally hard. So now we’ve been through the ups and downs of starting a long distance relationship, we want to share some of the lessons we learned along the way so that you are better prepared than we were when you encounter some of these hardcore truths.
So without further ado, here is our first hardcore truth…
1. Your Long Distance Relationship Will Be An Emotional Journey
To be honest it will feel like a roller coaster!
One day you’ll be feeling like everything’s coming together. Work is going great, time with family and friends is amazing, online date nights with your partner leave you feeling fuzzy inside knowing you’re with an amazing person. It’s just clicking!
The next day it can feel as though nothing is working. The weather sucks, you’re going through a tough time with your job, and not having your partner there to confide in just makes it that much worse. To top it off they’re not visiting for another 32 days, 17 hours and 54 minutes… (guilty of the countdown).
These sorts of ups and downs can give you emotional whiplash, and they can feel scary. They can make you doubt yourself and the relationship. When you’re feeling low, you can be tempted towards one of two extremes. You can lash out at them, taking your frustration out on the person you love the most because you are miserable they’re so far away. Alternatively, you can start blocking them out or holding them at arms length. You can try to pretend everything is fine because you don’t want to burden them.
What we did
Lolo and I really tried hard to talk to one another about any issues we were facing in and out of our relationship. Being too reserved or holding things back from your partner (especially when in a long distance relationship) is never a good idea. When one of us knew the other was having a hard time we tried to ask questions and reassure them that the “low points” were a normal part of the journey. If you make an effort to create a comfortable environment for one another when trying to work through a tough situation it will make it that much easier to work through it together.
- Communicate often.
- Be open and upfront with each other.
- Holding things back will hurt your relationship moving forward.
2. Fights Are Inevitable
Because long distance relationships are prone to so many ups and downs, you will run into differences and conflict points just like any other couples (maybe more than other couples). You will misunderstand each other. You will sometimes take your frustration and longing out on your partner.
What we did
We tried hard not to dwell on how much we wanted to be together and how much the situation sucked. We also tried hard to remember that the distance is only temporary! When we forgot what we were fighting about in the first place (believe me, this happened more than once) we tried to find the funny side of things! It is hard to be mad at someone when you’re smiling. It also helped us to calm down and work out our differences. And when we could figure out what had led to the tension in the first place we would really try hard to take a step back to see how it affected one another.
- Fights happen in all relationships. You’re not that special! 😀
- If you do fight, take a step back. Try to figure out why you’re fighting and move on to searching for a solution.
3. Sleepless Nights Are Coming
We’ve all done it. You’re chatting away on Skype and look at the time, 6:05pm, no worries we have plenty of time before I need to go to bed. You look back at the time, 1:45am… WTF!?
The worst part is that it’s the fifth night in a row that you’ve done it!
Whether you’re just talking late or your partner is on the other side of the world, you’re going to lose some sleep.
Sometimes coffee is the answer on weary mornings at work after a long Skype session. But for the sake of your mind, body, and relationship you need to try and build a sustainable schedule that benefits both of you, rather than just foster a caffeine dependency!
What we did
As my partner and I were in opposite time zones it made it that much more difficult to set times that suited both of us. We had to make some sacrifices, but one area we tried to keep in check was getting to bed a reasonable hour!
- Get as much sleep as possible!
- Creating a schedule (and sticking to it) will help reduce those long and sleepless nights.
4. Your Social Life Will Take A Hit
As we set up a schedule to talk at more appropriate times, some sacrifices had to be made. One thing that took a hit in the process was our social lives.
This is OK—even necessary—to a certain extent. It is inevitable that you’ll start to spend more time with your partner. However, the best thing you can to keep you both healthy in the long run is to strike a balance.
What we did
Couples in long distance relationships can tend to go ‘all in’ quite quickly, which can put a strain on your other relationships and commitments. Lolo and I made a special effort to keep up with our regular routine around sport and other social activities as much as possible by prioritising. Prioritizng helped us see what was really worth hanging onto and what was worth letting go of so we could be connecting on Skype.
- Don’t completely cut out social activities when in a LDR.
- Make small sacrifices to accommodate for both (just like any regular relationship would).
- Prioritising what is most to least important will help to set up a great routine.
5. Support Can Be Hard To Come By
While my partner and I were apart, a good friend of mine would jokingly ask: “Is she even real!?”. I’d laugh it off, but it did really start to irritate me over time. I did my best to make sure conversations with these friends wouldn’t move towards my relationship.
You will have to deal with this sort of stuff on some level. Your relationship will become the topic of choice numerous times, whether you like it or not. Some friends and family will be supportive while others will be second guessing your decision. Over time you’ll realise that you need to be selective about who you talk to. Or, rather, that you need to be selective about whose input you pay attention to.
What we did
Personally I believe your partner should meet the important people in your life as soon as comfortably possible after starting a long distance relationship, whether it be in person or even over Skype. Lolo was introduced to some of my family quite early, which gave us the opportunity to show them we were serious and that the connection we had was real.
If those important to you haven’t had the opportunity to meet your partner yet I suggest you give it some thought! It definitely had a positive impact for us.
- Limit talking to people about your relationship if they don’t support it (and vice versa).
- Have your partner meet the important people in your life as early as possible in the relationship. As long as they are comfortable doing so!
6. Jealousy Will Strike
And at anytime…
Two of the most frequent forms of jealousy in a LDR you’re likely to encounter are:
- Seeing a loved up couple showing each other affection leaving you feeling envious that they can just BE with their partner.
- When your partner goes out enjoying drinks with friends and all you can think about is they’re having fun without you and the people they ‘could’ encounter.
When it comes to the first situation…You’re going to encounter other couples whether you like it or not. The best thing you can do is be glad for them and hope that once you and your partner close the distance you’ll be just as happy as they look.
The second situation I listed above is by far the hardest to overcome. The real issue here is trust. Without trust and some level of emotional generosity on your part, these feelings of jealousy will continue to pop up and will start to poison you over time! Lack of trust in a long distance relationship will not only impact your relationships but also your personal life.
What we did
Lolo and I were in opposite time zones, which made it really tough when it came to the weekend. One of us would be going to bed while the other was up and about. This sort of situation allows the mind to race, and frankly get out of control sometimes!
What is she doing? Who is she with? Is she going out tonight? What if she meets someone?
These questions and more will pop up from time to time and the best way we found to deal with them was by being honest and having trust in each another. We’d communicate what we were doing or what we did and this made it a lot easier to deal with the separation when we’d know each other was out having fun. If there were times that we couldn’t deal with it, we’d also talk about that too rather than bottling it up inside.
- Jealousy is inevitable.
- You need to be able to trust each other, otherwise it will continue to impact negatively on your relationship.
7. You Need To Keep Your Spending In Check
Just like your lifestyle will need to adapt when you start a long distance relationship, so will your spending habits. Being separated by distance means there is going to be travel involved at some point, and potentially a lot of it. And travel…? Well that’s going to cost you!
Lolo and I were literally on other sides of the world. It was tough. Visits and closing the distance came at a hefty cost. I won’t even get into Spouse VISA costs (all worth it, of course, but expensive!)
What we did
We saved. It was really hard at first, but one simple thing helped us immensely.
Together we figured out when our visits would be and what it would take to make them happen. This gave us financial goals to achieve. As we kept up with our goals well before our trips it was one less thing to worry about while we would be together, which just meant we could focus on US.
Money (or lack thereof,) can have a huge impact on all relationships. So any chance to remove it as an obstacle needs to be taken!
- Save wherever and whenever possible.
- Can reduce stress if removed as an obstacle.
8. Tough Decisions Will Need to be Made
At different times in your relationship you’re going to be confronted with questions like:
- Where is our relationship headed?
- Are we going to visit? If so, when?
- Who will uproot their life to move?
They’re all very hard to answer and there will be plenty more. These questions take time to answer, and often need to be revisited over multiple conversations. They raise complicated emotions, and you will both need time to really explore the practical and emotional implications of different scenarios.
What we did
Lolo and I had to answer all of these questions over time, and some were harder than others. Once we identified these as questions that we needed to answer, we really tried to answer them together as soon as possible (without rushing or pressure). Moving is stressful, but so it uncertainty. The longer it takes you to resolve some of these questions, the more unneeded stress you’ll be putting on each other.
- Don’t dwell on decisions for longer than you need to.
- Talking and working them out together will strengthen your relationship.
9. It Will Be Hard But It’s All Worth It
At the start of this article I wrote about how starting a long distance relationship can lead to one of the hardest and most frustrating stages of your life. After going through these points I’m sure you’ve come to realise I wasn’t joking!
But here is what I didn’t say at the start of this post… It can totally be worth it. If you’re meant to be together you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you see it through. That perseverance, that determination, and that love you share will make it all worth it.
We’d love to hear what hardcore truths you’d offer to someone who is just starting a long distance relationship. And how you dealt with them.
Nate is an Aussie blogger who is using his experience to help other couples strengthen their long distance relationships. You can catch his, & his partner Lolo’s, latest informative posts (and take part in the 7 Day LDR Challenge) over on the blog LastingTheDistance.com.
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