We met on a boat. She was a first-class passenger, forced by her family into a loveless engagement with a wealthy tycoon. I was a brazen dreamer looking for a fresh start, a hopeless romantic and hopelessly broke. Seeing no other way out of the marriage, she was moments from throwing herself from the ship’s stern when I caught her and held her back . . .
. . . At least, that’s how we tell it.
We didn’t actually meet on a boat. In fact, if that story was sounding vaguely familiar it’s because it’s the romantic plot of the hit film Titanic.
Here’s the truth. My wife and I met online. (Cue The Price Is Right sad trombone.)
Our love story is not nearly as exciting nor as romantic as Jack and Rose’s story. But despite their whole iceberg ordeal, our situation was a lot harder, way more stressful, and up against tougher odds. Why? Because after meeting online, we dated long-distance . . . for a year. And then we spent another eight months planning our wedding—also long-distance—before tying the knot. It was nearly two years before we shared the same zip code.
“All you need is love . . . and patience and Skype and texting and humility and boundaries and regular in-person meetings and . . .”
But we made it work! And with a lot of patience, practice, and practicality, so can you. Here’s how.
1. CROSSING THE DIVIDE: TIPS FOR LONG-DISTANCE COMMUNICATION
God Bless You, Skype
Technology has made long-distance dating much easier than it used to be (and much more common as well). Thanks to video conferencing software, like FaceTime and Skype, thousands of miles are practically erased. Technology will never be able to replace a great big hug from someone you love, but being able to see their smile is the next best thing!
TIP: Try to ensure you have things to talk about. Read the same book together, at the same pace, and discuss it as you go. And learn to be okay with awkward silences—they happen! In fact, a strong and mature relationship doesn’t need to fill every gap with chatter.
Nothing Good Happens After Midnight
This common motherly advice has never been truer than with long-distance dating.
I’ve seen it happen a hundred times. One or both of you are tired. You are afraid to cancel because “it’s the only time we get to see or talk to each other.” So, you try to power through. And then all it takes is one little misinterpreted comment and boom! You’re single again, watching Sleepless in Seattle, and sucking down a bottle of wine.
TIP: Try to schedule your FaceTime, Skype, or phone call sessions for earlier in the evening, or try waking up earlier to do them in the morning instead. Don’t force a chat session if either of you are overly tired.
<3 txting OMG lol ;-P
When I was in college, you could tell whether a guy had a girlfriend or not by checking his cell phone bill. In those days, texts were $0.10 each—sending and receiving. It adds up.
Carefree timelessness is the key to establishing true intimacy.
Now, with the advent of unlimited text messaging, texting has become the preferred form of communication. I wouldn’t be surprised if people exchanged wedding vows via text—with plenty of emojis!
Texting is great for long-distance relationships—there’s nothing better than a quick and unexpected “Thinking about you!” But be advised: overuse and misuse can lead to problems. Just because you can stay in constant communication, doesn’t mean you should, or that it’s healthy. (Emotional space is important, regardless of how much physical space is between you.) And try not to expect (or demand) that your significant other will dutifully reply within seconds of you sending your text.
TIP: Steer clear of using sarcasm in a text. Refrain from arguing over text messages. Resist the temptation to text while drunk. Avoid passive aggressive punctuation (yes, it’s a thing). Save big news/conversations/arguments for Skype. And when in doubt, call!
Stamps? What Are Stamps?
Technology is the best friend of the long-distance relationship, but there is just something about getting a letter in the mail. There’s the thrill of discovery that a notification on a phone will never quite capture. The anticipation of tearing open the envelope. The joy of reading a handwritten note from your beloved. The tactile bliss of holding that letter, keeping it safe, reading it whenever you are particularly feeling the distance—the heart-pounding, head-swooning permanence of it in this ephemeral world. Gals, maybe try kissing the letter with freshly applied lipstick; guys, give the letter a spritz of your cologne.
TIP: Roses are red; violets are blue; write each other poems even if you’re terrible at writing poems. Because: 1) You will get a kick out of each other’s poetic attempts; 2) You are probably not as bad as you think; and 3) You will get better!
2. SEEING EYE-TO-EYE: TIPS FOR IN-PERSON TRIPS
Revel in the Mundane
When you are finally able to enjoy a wonderful weekend together in person, there is an impulse to make every single moment amazing. It’s a lot of pressure, especially on newer relationships. But you are dating, not vacationing. Every visit doesn’t have to be a grand tour of your respective cities. You are allowed to just . . . do nothing.
This kind of carefree timelessness is the key to establishing true intimacy, lasting friendship, and a deeply personal relationship.
TIP: Don’t eat out for every meal when you’re together. Have a picnic. Go for walks. If you’re hosting your significant other, try not to schedule every minute. Relationships don’t need an itinerary.
Travel Is a Two-Way Flight
Unless he or she lives in Los Angeles and you live in Nowheresville (population: you) . . . it’s a good idea to make it a priority to alternate who visits whom. It doesn’t have to be exactly 50/50, but it shouldn’t be 100/0 either. Not only does sharing travel prevent any chances of resentment, it will help both of you better see how the other lives. Having these tangible reference points means later conversations can be more meaningful, as both of you will understand references to places, people, and things. It truly allows you to really enter into each other’s lives, instead of just experience it secondhand.
Be mindful of your significant other’s perspective.
TIP: Long-distance relationships can get expensive. Discuss the financial burden that so much travel can place on you, individually, and on your significant other. Sharing the burden also means potentially sharing the cost.
Just the Two of Us?
Again, because your time together in person is so limited, you will feel the impulse to spend every waking minute together, just the two of you, soaking each other in before the trip is over.
The Seven Levels of Intimacy (CD)
by Matthew Kelly
While this kind of carefree timelessness is great for a relationship, it’s also important to meet and see other people during your in-person trips—more specifically, your significant other’s family and friends. These people are huge influences on his or her life, and they’re just as eager to get to know you, too! After all, if and when you marry, those people will become a part of your life, often forever. It’s good to get to know them and understand them early on.
TIP: Take your significant other out with a group of friends when he or she is visiting, or stop by your place of work on a weekday so he or she can meet your coworkers (and see where you spend eight hours per day!).
3. GOING THE DISTANCE: FINAL TIPS FOR LASTING LOVE
Jealousy is tricky to navigate even when you both live in the same city. Put a few hundred miles between you, and all bets are off. There are a lot of unique ways to create jealousy in a long distance relationship. And all it takes is one innocent thing—maybe it’s a comment about a male coworker who said the funniest joke today, or maybe it’s not answering your phone because it’s on silent.
The worst thing you can do is avoid this conversation just because it’s difficult.
It’s easy to let your mind run wild with speculation, to stalk social media for signs of infidelity. But you have to have trust. Which means, you have to not only trust your significant other, but you also have to work hard to establish trust with him or her.
TIP: Be mindful of your significant other’s perspective. If you’re joyfully radiant after going out with friends and your significant other had a miserable day, try not to rub that in (read: undersell how you’re feeling; or better yet, keep the conversation focused on him or her instead of yourself).
Discuss Your Future Openly, Often
You both love your jobs. You are near family; he or she has a great apartment and a wonderful group of friends. Bottom line: neither wants to be the one to move—when that time comes.
The worst thing you can do is avoid this conversation just because it’s difficult. Making a pros and cons list can help—considering cost of living, career goals, shared interests, etc.—but there’s no escaping it: you will need to talk about it. Discussing it early and often allows it to be a discussion and an exploration rather than an argument or an ultimatum.
TIP: Discuss your plans beyond the initial move. Do you want a family? Are you both going to still work when you do have kids? Can either of you more readily work remotely? Also, there's always the option of both of you moving to a new city for your fun new adventure together!
Contrary to the advice of John Lennon and The Beatles, you need more than love to keep your long-distance relationship thriving.
I guess “All you need is love . . . and patience and Skype and texting and humility and boundaries and regular in-person meetings and sweetness and kindness and emails and gifts and the United States Postal Service and commitment and dedication and phone calls and intimacy and a shared dream of one day not being long-distance” just wasn’t as catchy.