LONG DISTANCE ROMANCE
fight the odds and make it work.
Teeffany, 27, and Marshall, 28, are living proof that longdistance relationships can succeed. After Marshall went off to Boston for college, they stayed together for 10 years and tied the knot last year. In the beginning, the decision was simple. However, it was a choice they had to make over and over. “And each time is just as important, if not more, than the last,” Teeffany says. “As we got older and started to grow into two separate individuals, we had to really think about our decision to stay together. And every single time, we decided that with effort and compromise, it’d all work out—and finally, it did!”
For Rina, 35, who spent three years in Munich for research, technology made it easier to take the leap. “It’s
hard to let go when the reason to end a relationship isn’t that you stopped loving each other. Since we were both willing to use the tech at hand, we decided to go for it. The internet gives couples a chance to see if their relationship has substance— and really tests if you trust your partner and yourself.”
Our takeaway? What’s important is that you and your boyfriend both have the conviction that an LDR is the best decision for the both of you. “You have to be in complete agreement,” relationship counselor Aileen Santos cautions. “If one of you is not convinced, there’s a huge chance it’s not going to work.” You also need to make sure you really have a future worth seeing through together. This was what convinced Therese, 37, to give an LDR a shot when she met her Swedish husband, Axel, while volunteering for an international foundation in 2009. “I was 30 and figured it was time to get serious, and so did he,” she says.
Before you or your partner leaves, talk about everything you want in life: your career plans, where you want to live, whether you want kids, whether you believe in religion, your dealbreakers, etc. After all, “you’ll need to save your stamina and strength for the ‘distance training,’” Therese says. “And even if you’re not talking about marriage yet, I think it’s important to be on the same page.”
putting in the WORK Before the LDR starts:
talk about your time frame. “It shouldn’t be an indefinite setup,” Aileen says. Let’s face it—being an ocean away from someone is hard enough. If you don’t know when it’s going to end, that’s just torture. “I don’t think it can go on forever,” Rina agrees. “You also have to know how to be in the same place with the other person.” She also suggests planning when you’ll see each other next, whether it’s going home for a visit or meeting up in a different country.
When you’re in a new LDR:
Know your love language. Everyone has different ways of expressing and experiencing love, and according to Dr. Gary
Chapman, author of The5 Love Languages: The Secret
to Love That Lasts, they fall under five types: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. For people who speak the first four love languages, it’s still easy to express affection through the internet or by sending gifts. But if your love language is touch, that poses a slight problem. “Even if you know your partner loves you, when you feel lonely, it’s so easy to mistake someone
“The internet gives couples a chance to see if their relationship has substance.”
who’s just there to give you a pat on the back or a hug as someone who loves you more, because it’s your love language,” Aileen explains. “So you have to spend time with your partner at least every six months, so that you don’t forget your love for each other.” Don’t know your love language yet? Take the quiz at 5lovelanguages.com.
Master your communication skills
Figure out which platform works best for you, considering your time zones and schedules. Some couples are fine with texting, while others prefer phone calls or video chat. Therese and Axel Skyped every day for two hours for three years, while Teeffany texted Marshall throughout the day so he could read her messages when he woke up. But be careful with chat, which leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation, Aileen says. Before you react negatively to anything said over text, clarify what your partner meant first.
But even more important is to know your own self. After all, expressing yourself, especially in a fight, is harder when you’re not physically together. “You have to have higher EQ than others,” Aileen explains. “When you’re upset, you have to know why you feel that way, then clearly explain it to your partner, because they won’t be there to interpret it for you.” For example, Teeffany and Marshall told each other how they wanted issues to be addressed and how they wanted to be comforted if needed. “But before you can tell your significant other that, you need to figure it out on your own—which for me was the hard part. In LDRS, you learn a lot about your partner but also so much about yourself and your happiness in the process.”
Therese suggests setting ground rules for fighting, such as sticking to the classic “When you , I feel ”, and setting a time limit for how long you argue before you decide to cool off and continue talking later—while reassuring each other that you still love each other. Avoid stonewalling at all costs—it’s damaging enough when you’re in the same place, let alone in different countries.
When you’re starting to get the hang of it: Have a support system
For Therese, airport goodbyes were the worst. But it helped that her friends were there for her every time. “My girls had a drill whenever Axel would leave. It was like this relay— they’d take turns taking care of me. My friend Ina would bring me back to her house, and she always had food like chocolate cake and ice cream, and we’d watch
Rupaul’s Drag Race, or whatever we wanted to watch that boys wouldn’t appreciate.” So when you miss your guy, busy yourself with work and focus on all the girly things you can enjoy without him.
Anticipate and accept change
“It’s very important to discuss how different things will become, and how you will both be open to that and adjust accordingly,” Teeffany explains. “In a few months, instead of you two against the world, it will be more of your completely separate worlds coming together and functioning side by side.”
“The most difficult thing is giving each other the space to grow because there is so much physical space between you already,” Rina agrees. “It can be hard when you know there is a huge part of your partner’s life you aren’t really a part of— and it gets harder when the distance becomes a strain on the relationship (I think it’s inevitable).” Her solution? “Trust your partner and yourself. Remind yourself that you love each other, and trust in that love.”