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Now Reading: 3 Things You Need To Do Before Starting a Long-Distance Relationship
10 months ago
Two months after Renée and I started dating, I moved 600kms away from her. For the next 5 months, our relationship was long–distance. We connected mostly over video calls, saw each other in-person once a month, and missed each other a lot.
At the time, I didn’t really know what it meant to be starting a long-distance relationship, nor did I realise how common they were. One study suggests that as many as 75% of university students have been in a long-distance relationship.
Renée and I were one of the couples that made it through long-distance successfully and that wasn’t an accident. Looking back, there were 3 things we did before starting a long-distance relationship that gave us the best chance of success.
Long distance relationships are hard. Video calls freeze half-way through, you miss each other like crazy, and actually being able to hug each other can cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in travel.
Starting a long-distance relationship isn’t like deciding whether to go on a third date with someone. If I was enjoying getting to know someone, I’d probably go on a third date with them, even if I was uncertain about the possibility of committed romantic relationship with them.
When you decide to start a long-distance relationship, you’re deciding to enter a committed romantic relationship, and one that is a lot harder than an in-person relationship.
Long-distance isn’t all romantic love letters and running into each other’s arms at the airport. Video calls are nowhere near as fun as being together in person, miscommunication happens regularly, and you often feel disconnected from each other.
I’m not necessarily trying to discourage you. Long distance was really beneficial for Renée and me. It taught us an enormous amount about good communication and how to love each other in non-physical ways.
But this is a decision you need to seriously weigh up. Think through the potential challenges of a long-distance relationship, talk to couples who have done it before and read articles (like this one) to make sure you’re making an informed choice.
Two weeks before starting our long-distance relationship, Reneé and I came up with three standards for our long-distance relationship. I firmly believe these 3 things formed the foundation for our long-distance success.
The first was that we would say good morning and good night to each other every day. This usually took the form of a quick text or audio message, and it became an important constant in our relationship. No matter how busy we were, and even if there had been conflict between us, we would always have this little bit of communication at the start and end of each day.
The second standard was that we would have at least one decent catch up every week. This was usually a video call that lasted at least 30 minutes.
While Renée and I were in communication pretty much every day during long-distance, a lot of this was just instant messages. We learnt pretty quickly that it’s hard to have meaningful communication this way. You don’t have any body language or vocal cues to help understand where the other person is coming from and it takes so darn long to actually say anything!
Our weekly catch ups were about prioritising quality time together. We always looked forward to them as an opportunity to see each other and talk through anything noteworthy that was going on in our lives.
The final standard was that take turns flying to see each other every month. We recognised that there was no substitute for in-person time together and we prioritised this. It cost a lot of money and energy, but we knew it was crucial for the health of our relationship.
The particulars of this standard are going to be different for every couple. For Renee and I, it was an 8-hour drive or a 1-hour flight between our two cities. If you live 2-3 hours driving distance away, you might see each other once a fortnight. If you live on opposite sides of the world, it might be once every 6 months.
Whatever your situation, I recommend talking through how often you’ll see each other in person. These visits will be the glue that holds your relationship together; the thing that reminds you why long distance is worth it and something to look forward to when things are challenging.
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After a couple of years at university, it became very clear to me that the couples I knew who were in long-distance relationships with a clear end-date were a lot more likely to survive.
If a couple knew they were long-distance 6 months while one of them completed an overseas exchange, or for a year while one of them finished study, they usually made it through. But the couples who were long-distance for 2 years? 3 years? While they finished study? Until they got jobs in the same city? Maybe? They often didn’t last.
I’m no expert, I would give a couple of reasons for this. The first is that an end date gives the relationship a sense of direction. You have a sense of moving towards a goal, which will be the next big step forward for your relationship.
Without an end date, the relationship is in limbo. You follow the same drill week-after-week, with a vague hope that things will change eventually.
The second reason is a basic rule of human resilience – knowing that a hard thing is going to end and when it is going to end makes it a lot easier to endure the hard thing.
Renée and I decided that we didn’t want long distance to continue for more than 12 months. Assuming the relationship was going well, we agreed that around the 9-month mark we would have a serious conversation about the future and one of us would have to decide to move.
Remember that the end goal of long-distance is to no longer be long-distance. Someone eventually needs to move, and I don’t think it’s wise to commit to a long-distance relationship without talking that through.
Long-distance relationships are a common reality of our modern dating landscape. If you’re considering starting one, make sure you understand the challenges involved and you weigh them up. Set some standards around communication and how often you’ll spend time together in person. Have an end-date that you can both look forward to.
It won’t be easy, but if you follow these 3 steps, you’ll be much better equipped to go the distance.
If you’re thinking about starting a long-distance relationship at the moment, what’s one thing you’re concerned about? If you’ve been in a long-distance relationship before, what’s one tip you would share? I’d love to know in the comments section below!