The Truth About Surviving Love Over Distance

What 5 years of love across the ocean have taught me

Photo by British Library on Unsplash

There are a lot of pieces written about long-distance relationships and how to make them work — I know because I used to read them all. So I imagine you might be wondering ‘Why should I care about what this person has to say?’ Well, I’ve been successfully and happily dating a man who lives across the Atlantic for nearly five years. It hasn’t been easy but we’ve figured out how to make it work after some hard lessons. I want to share my experience as proof that long-distance relationships can, and do, work. Here are the most important things I’ve learned when it comes to creating a long-distance relationship that can endure the challenges and bring you joy.

Communicate

Communication is incredibly important because it will create a healthy and enduring foundation for your relationship. Open and honest conversation with each other is key when it comes to building trust. Without physical cues, things can get really messy and miscommunication will only complicate any emotional situation. If you’re serious about building a relationship from a distance then you need to be prepared to express your feelings with directness and honesty. And there’s going to be a lot of feelings — trust me.

Communication is often a lesson in patience, especially when you live in different time zones. The other person might not always be free to talk or offer you support. Sometimes work takes precedence over personal problems and you have to learn to be okay with that. When you find yourself unable to drop everything to listen to your SO imploding over Season 8 of Game Of Thrones (him), let them know when you will be free to give them the ear they need. Stick to it. When you call your SO at 8.50 am on a busy Monday, crying because of family drama (me), understand that they might struggle to give you all the attention and support you need right there and then.

Tell each other how you feel about the little things that bug you. Even just admitting them to your loved one can relieve some of the anxiety and frustration that builds up within a long-distance relationship. Open a dialogue based on trust and listen to each other.

Not every problem or issue can be fixed, but very often just being heard is what we need.

When the hard conversations come, and they will, they’re easier to face with a foundation of honest and respectful communication. Don’t play games. This applies to any relationship of course, but long-distance dating demands it if you want to build a love that lasts.

Make time for each other

Life is hectic, time zones suck, and sometimes it’s difficult to carve out time to focus on each other. Living lives apart is rarely spontaneous but you can achieve fulfillment with a little planning. Look at your schedules and see where your free time overlaps, or where you can make some adjustments. Could one of you stay up later for an evening movie? Maybe one of you can get up an hour earlier so you can watch an episode of something together? It’s not possible to dedicate every free minute to a relationship, but it should be feasible to find an hour for each other in most days.

It doesn’t matter what you decide on as a schedule, only that you stick to it. Respect the time you have set aside for each other. Let people know that this time is allocated if you’re concerned that work or family may interrupt. Make plans to watch things, have a video call, play games, or anything you enjoy and share as a couple. Making a commitment to dedicate that time to each other will help build trust and stability in your long-distance relationship.

Share something

So you’ve made time for each other, now what do you do with it? I have no doubt that it’s easy for some people to fill the time, especially during the early stages of a relationship when you’re both eager to share what you love with each other. However, as things move forward it might not be as simple as pulling out your favorite costume drama (me). There comes a point when the fascinating allure of discovering each other’s tastes will fade as the relationship begins to mature. Now it’s time to make discoveries together. Make a list of shows that neither of you has seen and try them out. Do the same for movies. Create your own rating system and rank them. So you can’t go to the movies together? Make popcorn and video call while you watch a new release.

One of the greatest tools for long-distance relationships is video games. I know not everyone will be enthusiastic about this one, but I can say for certain that my relationship wouldn’t even exist without video games. Not only is it how we met, but it’s a huge shared interest that we maintain to this day. The world of video games is more varied and diverse than ever, and the options are endless. Build a new world with your SO. Explore foreign lands together. Conquer planets. Share stories with role-playing games. If you’re concerned that games require expensive subscriptions, fees, or computer equipment, you can find free online games or MMORPG’s that should run on most devices. If you find something you both love it can be fun and creative, as well as a great bonding experience.

Photo by Corren York — Our Fantasy World

If games are really not your thing you might consider writing stories together, which can be a creative and engaging way to get to know each other’s imaginations.

It could open the door for interesting, and potentially erotic, discoveries.

You might use the time to sit and eat a meal together over video chat. Get dressed up and treat it like a real date. Perhaps you can learn a new skill together. Find tutorials and resources and spend your time with each other learning how to knit or draw. Get creative and use technology to your advantage. Spending time together while apart may lack physical contact, but that doesn’t prevent you from building intimacy through shared experiences.

Trust

It’s fundamental to any healthy relationship but crucial to the survival of love over distance. If opening your heart to someone is a leap of faith then pursuing something real over distance is BASE jumping in one of those flying squirrel suits. Sometimes you might begin your relationship before you meet in person, which removes many of the social situations where we form our perceptions of trust. You need to be prepared to overcome this. It might mean fighting your instinct to withhold trust until it’s earned, or an impulse to analyze every detail of the relationship.

You have to allow trust to build over the distance by offering it upfront.

Take the risk together. Be open and honest about the situation with each other and talk about your fears. Sharing the experience of vulnerability and uncertainty can strengthen your relationship and help to create a safe environment for future conversations. And when it comes to conversations, be mindful of communicating effectively to minimize crossed wires. As I mentioned above, figuring out how to teach each other to communicate with clarity and honesty is an invaluable tool for your relationship. Mutual respect and sincerity will give you a head start in dealing with future problems.

Get ready to give the benefit of the doubt. When the bad thoughts creep in it’s easy to spiral but it’s important to not let it be the downfall of your relationship. Focus on what you do know rather than what you don’t. Any relationship will struggle under the weight of false accusations and assumptions. Stop thinking ‘but what if I’m right?’ and start thinking about what it means to be wrong. Attacking the person you love over a conclusion you jumped to can mean lasting and irreversible damage to your relationship. Set aside your doubts and give your SO the opportunity to show you they’re worthy of your trust.

Overcoming separation will take work and dedication. There will be good days and hard days, and days you don’t have the strength to romanticize your situation. A long-distance relationship can present extra obstacles and challenges but, as with every relationship, they’re worth working through when you’re with the right person.

Tea addict. Gamer. History nerd. I write about relationships, life, British stuff and current issues.

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