Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How to Survive and Thrive in a Long Distance Relationship

3 Ways to Survive a Long Distance Relationship

I am a survivor- of a long distance relationship (LDR). Being young and in love is already hard, add a couple thousand miles and you have yourself a situation. Here are three tips that may help you out.

My amour and I spent from December 2008 until now with either the Pacific or Atlantic between us. I was trapped in Toronto and he was working in Tokyo or studying in France. Sure, we saw each other more than most LDR's but it was still hella hard not being able to curl up and watch The Office when school stress threatened to overwhelm or cooking glorious meals while listening to the Beatles together. But finally I have just moved to Paris and for the first time since I was on exchange at Sciences Po, we are being a normal couple! It is wonderful but that is not the point of this post. The promise land would have been impossible without managing a successful LDR.

Almost every single one of my close friends have had to manage a LDR. I have seen them end horribly with one party needing more freedom than the 1000s of kilometres already between them, and I have seen them finish well and they are still together but that time in between was filled with misery and insecurity. I cannot say that my own relationship didn't experience valleys of gloom, (who doesn't?) but here are some useful tricks I've picked up from watching friends or trying our own original recipes. They are not for everyone of course, it depends on the couple, but they have certainly helped me and hopefully at the minimum they will inspire you and your partner to try your own creative solutions!

1. Have Exotic Dates

 (Photo top and left: Greenland)
Yo, use your distance to become the most cultured person alive. The best part of long distance lovin' was the fact that it gave us a hella good reason to travel. Instead of meeting in just your city or their city, why not pick somewhere in the middle and explore it. For example, when I was living in Toronto, and my amour was living in Tokyo, we decided that we meet somewhere we had never been before, and so we ended up in Thailand for a three week trip of amazing and crazy backpacking in Thailand. If you use this tip, LDR's can actually improve your relationship. It adds adventure, discovery and newness and is perfect for relighting that cheesy puppy love spark that tends to fade with advanced relationships.  Be careful though. The undivided attention you have for each other on these magical trips can be addicting and can lead to problems of dissatisfaction once you and your partner return to the real world of stress, work and boringness. But hey, at least you'll be together permanently..

West coast road trip and camping with the stars as your ceiling and the ocean as your wall (and hobos to guide your fashion sense..)

Sunset in the mountains of Northern Thailand. This is beautiful but in fact we are screwed. We are on a motorbiking road trip through  mountainous roads on a mission to get to May Han Song, but we took too long to get there and now we are about to embark on these winding tiny and remote roads in the pitch darkness. It was mega scary and dangerous but such great memories.

Ninja training in Greenland. Apparently this was very dangerous because if one of the gigantic icesheets you see in the background fall into the water, it causes Tsunami like waves..

2. Play WoW

In the time between your exotic, worldly dates (they're expensive) do this. If you're not geeky enough to recognize the acronym, it stands for World of Warcraft. I know you probably think you're too cool to be wowed by the great powers of WoW, but hear me out before you dismiss it. By taking on a mutually engaging activity that ISN'T Skype (think Ted and Muffin lady's LDR conversations in HIMYM and how quickly that ended ) you are finally doing more than just yapping about boring shizzle. Hell, you are having the most ultimate date of all time! If you're one of those couples who love to spend ALL YOUR TIME SKYPING and find you are running out of interesting things to say, this is perfect for you. Screw backpacking, you are able to explore universes, solve mysteries and puzzles, and save each others lives, all while doing it together and talking to each other. You have a mission together and you're able to complete it together. Besides, isn't that part of dating anyway ? Yes, it is a video game and yes it is virtual reality, so it's not as good as exotic dating, but when you realize that when the only string that holds you two together is conversation, you will look for ways to add layers of depth. LDR's don't work so often because it gets boring spending most of your time just looking at your computer screen and you wish you could go off and have fun in your separate realities. Of course it doesn't have to be just WoW, you can find any online game. If you like adventure, this adds a fun way to stay connected, save money, diversify your conversations from the weather and your daily ingestion patterns.

 Ménage à WoW

This was how my good friend, Dean and his longtime girlfriend made it work while she studied in Scotland and he was in the Of course it wasn't easy to spend a year a part, but they made it work and I think this played a major part of it. However, given the addicting nature of WoW, it may be detrimental to other aspects of your life as discussed below.

3. Open your Relationship

This is the most controversial and can make certain conservative types poop stones at the thought of it.

Anyways, it allows you to live in the moment and feel like you're not going to have regrets in your life while keeping your heart reserved for the person you love the most. This can't work for everyone of course, jealousy and possessiveness often get the best of us, but if you can manage it you will see that you can get the best of all the worlds that mean the most to you. Long-term LDR's have the power to suck the youth out of you- you know what I'm talking about. While all your friends are drinking and flirting at a club, you take it easy on the drinks and go home early before you do something you regret while your friends have the most epic night of their lives. Or you are on exchange ready for the best year of your life but you are constantly, constantly refraining yourself from doing whatever debauchery comes with living with exchange students and sexy locals. By the time you know it your undergraduate has passed before you and you are re-united with your love but you have no idea what happened to the fun you were supposed to have as a Freshmen or international student. You say it's worth it because you do it for love, and of course it is worth it if you make love a zero sum between fun and your relationship. But why does love have to cost so much?

Porto Nights

So many relationships fail after one person begins to realize they want more than their skype conversations have to offer. They feel too young to be tied down to something that is not even there. In the end people feel they need to choose between one or the other: youth or love. I say eff that noise, you can have both. You should feel free and happy by life and love not stifled by it. Sure we sacrifice things for love, but if you are truly meant to be the sacrifices will manifest itself in other ways, it does not mean your youth. If the person is truly worth the trouble then you will probably have your whole life ahead to dedicate solely to them.  I know of one couple that lets anything fly in their LDR because they know they will be married and there will be plenty of time for monogamy then. For now, they are consultants in different cities and they are livin' the baller life, whatever that means to them in the moment. I think that's cool but of course much easier to preach than to practice. I mean, everyone gets jealous but 20 minutes of jealousy are totally worth the amounts of freedom and peace of mind that accompanies it. The first step however is an open mind and then anything is possible in an LDR.

Once you've established that you are open to the idea of openness, you need to experiment with what works for you and your partner. There are varying degrees of openness and it is imperative that you lay down the ground rules in order to avoid hurtful conversations later. Some people are down with complete openness because they are that secure with their emotions and compatibility for each other like the consultant couple I mentioned above. Some have a tiny degree of it, enough to feel they can still roll and strive amongst their friends but not too much where they might contract herpes. Amongst a whole plethora of rules that I will not get completely into, my amour and I's number one golden rule is honesty.

You might think it's crazy to tell each other everything but for us it was the only way our precarious and odd relationship could function. For us the betrayal is emphasized not in the act of engaging in physical acts with another person but the lying about it. Even though we are closed now, we would never break up over a kiss because we understand that we're human and when we're apart these things can happen. It doesn't mean our feelings are diminished for each other and thus there is not a feeling of betrayal (although hell, I would be mega pissed!). It is only when we cannot trust the other person to take responsibility for their mistakes does the deepest infraction ensue. Some people have a 'don't ask, don't tell rule' but if they ask you are honest. I think that's cool too. The one thing I've learned from this phase of my LDR was that when you are deeply in love and you know you are near perfect with someone, there isn't much that can take away what you feel. Personal insecurities might drive us to think otherwise, but you know on a certain level it's true. Like when you're heart broken over someone and you do every sleezy thing with your body in order to forget but no matter what they won't get out of your mind and it won't stop you from loving them. The heart and body are capable of being separated (to a certain point), so why not use that ability to maximize your LDR? As I said, it's hella hard and it can't work for everyone but if it comes down to breaking up from being suffocated, then why not give it a shot?

"I mean, everyone gets jealous but 20 minutes of jealousy are totally worth the amounts of freedom and peace of mind that accompanies an open relationship."

Anyways, these are just some things that have worked for me and others in the past couple of years. In a month my amour and I will be embarking on maybe one of the most difficult phases of our relationship, where I will be in Indonesia for 6 months and in that time we may only see each other once. I am actually quite nervous, but I try not to think about it. That being said, your feedback and tips for what has worked for you and your loves is welcome here!! Good luck, everyone..

Are you a survivor? Tell us about it! 


A dedication to everyone who is living away from the people they love. You should know this song already (I've posted it before), but it is the ultimate LDR song, and naturally one of "our" songs. 

Home-Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros.mp3

See also..
Find out how to have those exotic dates for cheap in:
How to Fly without Money

Maybe your LDR didn't work out. Don't screw up dating around the globe.
The Real International Relations: Hooking up with the World