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May 2, 2012 by E.

As of October 1st, with barely more than 6 months of dating under our belt, A. and I became a long distance couple.  By that time, we both knew we were in it for the long haul, that our long distance status was temporary, and that we would be only 6 hours apart.  Our situation could be much more complicated, but that doesn’t mean we have it easy.  Even now, at the half way mark –  7 months down, 7 more to go – the goodbyes have not gotten less tearful.

Yet I do think we are settling down into a rhythm.  We’ve learned how to make the weeks in between visits go by faster, how to make the miles between us shrink considerably.  We’ve learned how to get past our cases of “The Wednesdays” – when we reach the 10 day mark of having not seen each other and both become considerably more grumpy.  We’ve learned a lot of things, about ourselves and about each other, and I believe we have grown stronger as a couple.

I’m certainly not recommending that every couple go through a long distance phase (honestly, it sucks), but if you do find yourself in this (awful) situation, here are my thoughts on how to make it easier.

  1. See each other as often as possible.  This sounds too obvious to even be mentioned.  However, I think it deserves the number one spot because this is the thing that will make you happiest.  Nothing else on the planet will be enough if you don’t get to see that person at some point.  I recognize that “as often as possible” is very broadly defined, and will be different for every couple.  But recognize that seeing the love of your life should take priority over everything else.  Work, friends, dentist appointments, front row tickets to your favorite band or sports team – cancel it, and make a trip instead. Devote as much money to travel as your budget will allow.  My Starbucks “addiction” didn’t seem nearly as necessary when I did the math and realized that a month’s worth of latte’s could instead buy me a train ticket to see my baby.
  2. Plan your visits in advance.  Again, this is obvious, but important.  Try to have your visits planned as far in advance as possible or reasonable, and definitely before you end the current visit.  Saying goodbye is immeasurably easier when you know the absence is not indefinite.
  3. Use Skype, but sparingly.  This may seem counterintuitive, especially in the 21st century when everyone has an iPhone and every iPhone has about 30 different ways to video chat.  You’re thinking, we want to see each other in person every day, why wouldn’t we want to Skype every day?  My personal experience has been that I like to keep Skype special.  We use it to have “dinner dates” – where we set aside a specific time to start cooking, then Skype as we prepare, and then as we eat, our dinner.  It nearly always turns into a 2 hour event where some or all of my clothing happens to disappear, but my point is that because we save Skype for more scheduled “dates”, I receive a higher level of emotional satisfaction than I would if I had to videochat every night, in my pajamas and no makeup.
  4. Establish communication traditions.  On a normal day, A. and I will speak on the phone three times, email while at work, and text in the afternoon.  But even on an abnormal day, when one (or both) of us is overwhelmingly busy, I know we will communicate at the following times: before bed (phone call), when I wake up (good morning text message), and around lunchtime (encouraging midday email).  Again, every rule has its exception – tonight when A. called before he went to bed, I was off folding laundry and received a voicemail instead.  Which meant that I was in charge of sending a sweet text for him to wake up to.  Having these prescribed routines is incredibly comforting to me, because no matter how busy/stressful/miserable our day has been, we are able to shut off the outside world and focus on our relationship.
  5. But also have surprises.  Stock up on stamps, and use them.  Nothing conveys a sense of thoughfulness and love as well as a handwritten card.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, or fancy.  You don’t need to write a poem or even more than a few sentences.  I’ve been known to send a postcard.  The point is that it’s an unexpected, visible reminder of your love (you can’t hang a text message up at your desk).
  6. Meet their friends.  If you’re anything like the typical couple, you and your honey are used to having the same circle of friends, but if you live in different cities, that has probably changed.  When you visit each other on the weekends, the temptation is to hole up and spend time exclusively as a couple.  I get it – when your visits are measured in hours, instead of days, you want to spend as much time as possible together.  However, try and carve out some time to at least meet his or her friends.  Putting names to faces will go a long way towards making you feel like you’re still a part of your significant other’s life while he/she is away from you.

These are the most important tips I could think of to share.  There are others, for sure, but I’ll add those on later.  Maybe in another few months I will have new ideas to add anyway.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep crossing days off my calendar until A. and I will be back in the same city.

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