I first met Jaz at a wedding. She was the bride’s sister and maid of honour. I was one of the groomsmen, although her wedding party status was higher than mine, she lowered herself to talk to me.
We bonded over our mutual love of small animals, pygmy goats to be exact, and laughed at unlikely scenarios, like training a team of parkour pygmy goats to become burglars. Despite there being a connection we were both seeing other people, at the end of the wedding we said our goodbyes and that was it, or so I thought.
One year later we were both single and decided to catch up for a coffee, I wasn’t after anything serious, and it turned out neither was she. Our coffee date was just like our first meeting, plenty of laughs, easy flowing conversation, and a whole lot of jitters, either from nerves or the 3 cups of coffee I had consumed.
All was going well, and I became interested in seeing her again until she dropped a bombshell.
“I am moving to Canada for a year.” She said
To put this into perspective, we live in Australia, Canada is roughly 11,850 kilometres, a whole other timezone, and season away.
Despite this declaration to abandon Australia, we continued to have a fun date. As I watched her drive away, all I could think was
“shit, I am in trouble.”
Despite her declaration to abandon Australia, we decided to start dating. As for her upcoming departure, we did what any sane, rational couple would do. We ignored it.
Eventually, the day arrived, we had ignored it for as long as we could, but we were at the airport, we couldn’t put it off any longer. We had to decide if we wanted to try long-distance, or if we put our relationship on hold, and see if we still felt the same when she returned a year later.
We chose long-distance.
It was hell, everyone told us the odds were against us, and by the time she left, we had only been together for four months. But, we managed to get through it relatively unscathed.
Read on my friend. Here are my tips for surviving a Long Distance Relationship (LDR)
Although it might seem obvious, this has to be said. If commitment to the relationship is only coming from one person, then it won’t work. Think of it like a hot dog, if you want to make a hot dog, but you don’t have any bread, then all you are left with is a limp, soggy sausage. You both need to commit to working through any issues that come up, there will be issues, and remind yourselves, that is it not you vs your partner, it is both of you against the distance.
Behind both being 100% committed. The most critical factor for long-distance relationships is trust. Having trust in any relationship is essential, but in LDRs it can literally make or break your relationship.
If you don’t trust each other, you will not last.
Trust is the glue that holds together your paper mache relationship, without the glue, the first hint of tension will cause it to all fall apart.
You need to be able to trust that your partner won’t do anything you wouldn’t like, and they need to trust you in the same way. Without that bond, doubt will start to permeate your thoughts, which will result in your behaviour changing. You may not think it is obvious, but your partner will notice, it will cause issues.
This isn’t to say you can’t ask questions or voice concerns. There was a couple of times where I would ask my partner questions because I was feeling uneasy, or worried about a situation, she answered me honestly, and I trusted her enough to know she was telling the truth.
While she was away, Jaz saw a lot of LDRs fail; when she asked what happened, the answer was usually the same “we just drifted apart” they would say. Eventually, it would come out that the couple had not been making an effort to talk regularly, one couple even went a month without speaking, and were shocked when they realised they had grown apart.
We spoke every day, most of the time it was by video chat, but sometimes it was phone calls, in between that we would also send each other texts.
I always looked forward to talking to her. Our talks were never anything earth-shattering, we talked about our days, what was going on, any gossip we had, it helped us both stay connected to each other’s lives. Some conversations were long, others short, but what was important is that we spoke, we connected.
Not everyone needs to or wants to talk as much as we did. You might want to talk every second day, or only on weekends, whatever works for you both is fine as long as you both ensure you are talking to each other at regular intervals not just by text, video or voice call makes a huge difference.
Most people try to avoid drama when in LDRs, they might bottle up certain emotions or feelings because they are worried it will start an argument, or make the other person angry. The last thing anyone wants to do is make their partner angry when they are in another part of the world. But the more you bottle it up; the more damage when it explodes.
Imagine you are a bottle of Coke, and your feelings are Mentos, instead of airing out your Mentos, you put them inside your Coke-y body, they start to cause a reaction, but you don’t want to react, so every time you have a Mentos feeling you don’t want to share, you swallow it. Eventually, the pressure from the Mentos feelings is too much, and you explode in a mess of Coke bubbles and overreactions, which creates a more significant issue, than if you had just dealt with the first Mentos emotion quickly.
To avoid this sticky drama, Jaz and I had an “air out” chat every Sunday. The “air out” chat was a time where we could put all our cards on the table, there was no judgement, and if an issue or an argument arose, we wouldn’t hang up until we fixed the problem, or we had a plan to fix it.
We laid down some guidelines before our first “air out” chat and after that every Sunday, after we spoke about the usual stuff, one of us would say
“Is there anything we need to discuss this week?”
That was our cue, to bring up anything we felt needed to be cleared or clarified. We also ensured we didn’t use words to project blame. We came from a position of how we felt, “When this happened, I felt.” This reminded us it was not me vs her; it was us against the problem.
Just because we were separated by a few thousand kilometres didn’t mean we couldn’t have dates. We tried to do a date night at least once every two weeks. Date nights were special because we did our best to make them feel like a regular date. We would eat together or have a coffee together via Skype, or we would watch the same movie at the same time. With the time zone difference, it wasn’t always easy, but we made it work. It helped us feel connected when we were doing something that normal couples do.
Admittedly not everyone may be able to get their schedules right for these “dates” but try and be creative with things you could do together. It only takes a little bit of thought to come up with something unique and fun.
I should mention sexy time here. Sex is part of a healthy relationship. If you are both into it, there is nothing wrong with some cheeky video chat or sexting. It isn’t the same as the real thing, but it does still help you both blow of some steam.
Word of caution, make sure no one is home, or you can lock your door when you do this… Trust me.
I know this may not be an option for everyone, but if you can, try and visit your significant other at least once or twice, depending on how long they are away. I saw Jaz twice while she was in Canada, once two months after she left, and another time over Christmas and New Years.
Knowing those visits were coming up helped us get through the days when it felt like we would be apart forever. Sure it was 12 months before Jaz would be home, but only two months before I could see her again. The first couple of weeks of her being away hurt the most, because it felt so long till she would be home, but only having to wait two months to see her, helped soften the blow.
The other bonus is, I got to see another beautiful country, Canada is incredibly beautiful, and she was able to show me around, introduce me to her friends, show me her work and the places she frequented. When I went home, and she spoke about places or her friends, I could picture them; I knew who or where she was talking about, it made us closer.
Those are my six tips for surviving an LDR, it may not be an exhaustive list, but it worked for us, we have been together now for three and a half years, and we got married on the 15th of August 2020.