For the first three years of our relationship my Husband and I didn’t live in the same city and, for one year, we lived in completely different countries. We made it (and then got married – wahey!) but it wasn’t always easy.
I’m going to share our top tips for the years spent apart. (This topic always makes me think of the song I Can Go the Distance from the Disney Movie Hercules, give it a listen while you read!)
Living in different cities is hard. You’re going about your lives meeting new people, having new experiences without the person you really care about there. This can lead you to feel increasingly disconnected and isolated from each other if you don’t work to make them feel a part of your life. Communication is key – talk regularly via all available means.
Skype them and introduce new friends; text them about the boringness of your lecture; WhatsApp photos of your burnt dinner, and phone the other person to give them regular life updates. Don’t just squeeze these catch ups in around your new separate life, but make the time to sit down and talk properly to your partner. A weekly or bi-weekly hour-long phone or Skype chat worked well for us.
Sometimes your conversations will be stilted, totally normal, so work hard to talk about things other than what you did yesterday, or what you ate, in minute detail. That might mean both watching a TV series together and talking about the latest episode, or asking their opinion on the latest new stories. It’s easy to forget to do this when you don’t see them regularly. We would even eat meals together over Skype when Stefan was in Singapore – he’d be eating dinner whilst I ate my lunch – to make us feel like more of a “normal” couple!
Try not to ignore problems in your relationship – be open and honest about how you are feeling and work together to find a solution to it. Do be careful of spending all precious Skype and phonecall time discussing these problems, completely negative conversations aren’t fun for either party.
2. Set out clear expectations
Talk openly about the likely difficulties of being apart from each other and plan solutions in advance. We were lucky that for the first two years the train between Cambridge and London was less than an hour, so we set fortnightly weekends we would visit alternating between the two locations. It worked really well and we could plan ahead to finish our essays before the visits to dedicate more time to each other. During Singapore we dedicated at least an hour every two days for a Skype, because we couldn’t ring or text regularly due to the time difference.
Be cautious of having heavy expectations for your partner and their ability to meet your needs. Specifically be cautious of putting strong demands on their time – remember that you love them and want them to have fun in their life too. They can’t always be at your beck and call!
3. Surprise each other!
Romance still needs to be kept alive when you’re apart, and you’ll have your own ways of doing this. Stefan turned up to surprise me complete with box of chocolates and flowers in hand (pretty cute) in Cambridge; when Stefan was in Singapore I sent him surprise care parcels with English foods in and on his birthday planned his day for him from afar!
There are a whole host of things you can do to remind your partner you care whilst you’re apart: send flowers; make a mixtape; pay their friends to buy gifts for them; send them a takeaway (imagine their face when they open the front door to their favourite pizza!). These little things remind the other that you care about them, and provides that boost of love we all need sometimes!
4. Live your life
When we live in the same cities as our partners we can easily integrate them into our lives, seeing them for regular evenings and weekend trips, and fitting them around those other important parts of life (work, friends, hobbies). When we’re apart it’s easy to wait in anticipation for the next time we see each other, spending our time waiting for their phonecalls and skypes, and forget that a relationship is always stronger when we are not wholly dependent on that person to make us happy.
Spend time making friends locally, seeing new things, developing old or new hobbies and throwing yourself into your separate lives. This gives your life a whole boost of happiness that will show in your relationship, provides conversation topics, and people to hug when you can’t hug your significant other! Stefan is now good friends with my University friends, and he’s got loads of friends from his time spent doing Jazz. Creating that balance allows you both to flourish.
Thanks for reading! Post your top tips or ask me some questions below!