Long distance relationships suck – whether you’re a city, a country or a continent apart. Me and Guy have spent a few different periods apart over the years; some a few weeks and some a few months. For the first 8 years of our relationship we (proudly) hadn’t spent more than two weeks apart. But then after Guy graduated he moved a two hour drive away to Whangarei. The following year he moved to Wellington – an eight hour drive/one hour flight away. The next year I spent six weeks in Samoa while he remained in New Zealand. And last year I went to live in Laos for six months while he lived in Wellington.
Here are some truths we’ve learned along the way:
You feel isolated because no one else seems to get it (they don’t)
You get really close to some of your friends
Even when you miss them all day when you talk to them they still make you mad and you still fight with them
You feel lonely a lot of the time even when you’re around other people
You find yourself thinking “(name) would love that!” and then feeling sad
It’s never going to be easy
If you want to make it work you will
Breaking the time into chunks makes it more bearable
Keeping busy really does help
It does ultimately make you stronger as a couple and (I think) more complete as an individual because you know you can stand on your own two feet no matter how hard it was
I noticed that the people who gave me advice (the times going to go so fast!) were the ones who had never experienced a long distance relationship, and often were single themselves. Meanwhile the people who didn’t try to console me or perk me up were those who had or were going through it themselves. So I’m not going to offer advice or quick fixes – I can’t tell you anything that you can’t tell yourself, but I will share what’s worked for us over the years.
I wrote Guy an email each night I was in Laos except for a couple of occasions when I had no internet left (and all the shops were closed because it was raining). For me it was a nice way to debrief and share my day with him. I told him about everything; how my students were, what I ate for lunch, how humid the weather was. For him, it was a glimpse into my strange new life and a way to feel like he wasn’t missing out. It became akin to his morning newspaper. Occasionally he wrote back but not very often.
We created a blog on tumblr where we uploaded photos and videos. This was actually much more fun than we initially expected because we’d forget about it for a few days and then when we’d jump on to take a look there would nearly always be some new posts to look at. It was also the easiest (and most fun) way of sharing visual messages quickly. Sometimes we made video messages and other times we just posted photos of things we’d come across in our week.
Thank god for Skype – I can’t imagine travelling without it. We tried to skype twice a week – sometimes we didn’t manage it at all and occasionally we fit in more than two. The connections were often sketchy and we frequently had to drop our video link but nothing beats talking in real time.
I love to write – I always have a notebook and pen in my handbag, and I can happily spend a morning or afternoon in a cafe/bar writing and sipping on coffee or beer. While I was in Laos I wrote Guy a letter every month. It was just a nice change from the emails, and I find that I talk about different things when I’m using a pen rather than a keyboard – and who doesn’t love getting post!
Like I said above it’s not easy – but I firmly believe that if you want to make it work you will find a way – and yes it does ultimately make you stronger. And if it doesn’t work out, then you’re probably better off because you’ll find someone who you can make it work with.
I’d love to hear any other methods of keeping in touch that you have used!