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1. Schedule regular check-ins.
It seems kinda obvious, but if you can’t have dates because one of you is in Chiang Mai and the other one is in Cincinnati, you’re going to have to be proactive about scheduling time to see each other’s faces. Nothing makes someone feel important and part of your life like showing them they’re not “out of sight, out of mind.”
Build a Google calendar you can share to schedule dates, or have regular weekly or daily Skype calls. I met a girl at a magazine launch whose boyfriend was in the Peace Corps in Moldova, and she napped in late afternoon so she could get up at 3am and videochat him as he ate breakfast. That’s a little extreme, but you get the idea.
2. The internet is your friend.
Aside from the joys of Skype, you can also send emails, use Google Voice to send text messages to someone’s phone if you’re separated by international distance, and have a bouquet of flowers delivered long-distance on your partner’s birthday.
There’s a lot of talk these days about whether or not relationships that are built or maintained over the internet are as valid or “real” as in-person relationships: of course they are! People said the same thing about letter-writing once upon a time…the internet is just another way to keep in touch with your sweetie.
3. Share a Dropbox.
Dropbox is an online file repository that has both a web version and an app that can be installed on your phone or laptop. A shared Dropbox folder is a really easy way to send files back and forth: all one person has to do is stick a file in Dropbox and the other person can take it out. It’s good for large file transfers…like video. It’s a nice surprise to find a little gift from your honey in Dropbox, whether it be a photo of them waving in front of a tree full of monkeys, or a personal video message that you probably shouldn’t watch in an internet cafe.
4. Send mail.
Yep, actual mail. Postcards, letters, little knickknacks. Real mail is getting more and more expensive, but everybody still gets a thrill at receiving something tangible with their lover’s handwriting on it. Send sketches of the things you see every day, beer coasters from your favorite local pub, or a list of things that remind you of your partner folded into an origami heart.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk about feelings.
It’s easy (and cozy) to just snuggle up to your sweetie and feel a nice glow of affection. If you’re across the globe, snuggles are out of the question, so you’re going to have to make more of an effort to let them know you love and miss them. That means being in touch with your feelings, so you can put your partner in touch with them. Then writing ridiculously mushy love notes (or, if you’re feeling sad or missing them, sappy sad emails).
6. Be clear about boundaries.
Hopefully you negotiated whether or not either of you were allowed to snuggle with other people already. If you didn’t, it’s probably a good idea to clarify what behaviours you’re okay with your partner doing, and what you’re not. This can include things like “please don’t watch the new season of Girls without me” as much as “you can kiss other people but that’s as far as it goes.”
7. Plan for the future.
Nobody wants to be in a long-distance relationship with absolutely no idea of when you’ll see your honey again. Whether it’s planning a solid end to your round-the-world trip so you can say when you’ll be back, encouraging your partner to join you on a trip somewhere, or just booking tickets to spend a weekend in their hometown — whether your long distance is temporary or more permanent, make seeing each other a priority.
I had a boyfriend once who claimed he really really wanted to come visit me in Australia, but he couldn’t afford the ticket…right before he spent $4,000 in specialized repairs to his vintage 1968 Fiat. Valuing time with your partner shows you value THEM.
8. Do things together.
My current boyfriend suggested that we both read the same book, then talk about it. I’ve heard of people watching movies together on Skype, and I once Skyped my mom in for the opening of Christmas presents when I lived in California and she lived in Canada. I know someone who writes stories with her partner, where they edit the shared files and brainstorm plot outlines through instant messenger. Be creative!
9. But also do things apart.
If your long distanceness is more permanent (as opposed to because you’re traveling for two months), don’t just sit at home because your partner can’t be with you. Your partner loves you because you do things they think are interesting…so go out and do them! Spend time with friends, go to karaoke, join a swim team. Your partner will like hearing about the things you’re doing as much as you like hearing about what they’re up to.
10. Long distance is not terrible.
I once got berated for bothering to be in a long-distance relationship, because it was “too hard.” Any relationship takes work, and being long distance just means you have to do a lot more overt discussion about things…which can actually improve your relationship overall. Also, there’s a lot of evidence that being long distance can extend the “honeymoon period” almost indefinitely!
It’s important to find ways to make your relationship work in the day to day, instead of always being sad that you’re not together. It’s okay to miss someone, but also love the things that long distance can give you.