If you haven’t read the primer of this guide click here.
It’s been a week since I wrote that, and this super long article has been a long way in the making. To wrap this LDR stage up (it’s just 5 weeks now everyone), I have gathered insights from my fellow friends in long-distance relationships to come up with guide on winning the LDR. Fear no distance my friends. The below guide is a collection of experience from 3 couples and so, I hope it will be useful for couples who are in or will be in ldrs. (I feel you!)
The Completely Clueless Couple’s Guide to Winning an LDR
(Special thanks to my collaborators Iris and May)
Before you part:
1. 3 words: Let It Go.
Just accept the fact that you have to get through this together. Suck it up. There isn’t any other way out. Embrace it young padawan.
Points of optimism: It does wonders for self-discovery and opens your eyes. Maybe it’s unique to us, but I think the distance gave us enough time and space to step back and appreciate the relationship even more. We also get a lot of time to think of what to do when we are back together, so every moment together is extra precious. Chant this: extended honeymoon period. Chant.
2. Take photos. Of everyone. Bonus if they are printed or on instant film. Everyone knows the frequency of looking at digital photos < physical prints. And you get to take photos with ‘them’. (If you’ve watched Amelie, you know what it looks like! The garden gnome travels the world.)
3. Serious stuff: sort out trust issues. Actually, sort out all issues. The last thing you want is to have unresolved doubt muddying the relationship. Besides, having a virtual fight over text or Skype is almost always either a) ineffective or b) awkward. No one likes that.
4. Check your expectations
Your expectations of LDR need to be realistic. It’s not going to be rainbows and donuts. In fact it’s more like bitter gourd and celery (ack) you’ll be wondering what you did to deserve to feel all the loneliness more often than you’d like. Big sigh. That is what you call ‘missing someone’. It’s so sad to have to imagine that your bunny was there next to you. I think I may have developed some sort of delusional condition through this. There’ll be sacrifices made – a necessary part of any LDR, and let’s not forget, you aren’t immune to disagreements and friction between the two of you either. It isn’t gna be easy, but knowing this fact before getting into an ldr will make you better prepared for any kind of shit that may happen. And shit always happens, friends. (Fact of life #1)
Bonus: Leave something behind with them. When E went to San Diego for school, he left 147 sweets (1 for each day) and a countdown calendar. It was a disaster because I wouldn’t stop at one sweet per day. Bad bad bad. Hahaha but we get points for trying don’t we? Countdown calendars are like the staple in our parting package now. (Caution: counting down does get depressing initially, but since that depressing part is over for me, hurray for countdowns!)
While apart, do:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Communication is the stem of every relationship, whether romantic or no. E and I use this really amazing app Couple. It’s a dedicated app for couples to text each other. Okay now that I typed it out, it sounds really cheesy, but I swear it’s super cute and fun. They should totally make us their ambassadors, come on. We introduce this to everyone. We use it instead of Whatsapp because there are some cool features in there like drawing boards, cute stickers, and all the usual photo and video sharing functions. There is also a list maker which is super useful. We have a whole list of lists now. That’s me, the list maker. And no one else texts you through that, it’s like a platform just for you two. (Thank me later)
Communication is really integral to any relationship, much less one with a whole lot of distance between you (cue the Rihanna song about the King bed and being 10 000 miles apart), let them know you’re thinking about them by updating them. Also, a lot of the time, someone isn’t going to have internet access – whether hiking in the wilderness, or just out and about without a data plan. That sucks. Haha, but we try to fill in these gaps by making those notes on our phones and sending them to each other when the wifi is available. I remember when I was in Shanghai without Facebook, E had to dig up (the now defunct) MSN Messenger so we could communicate. Maybe we were one of its last users. It was like reliving my high school days. And that time I was hiking in the wilderness for 5 days, I had notes so long that I had to email my essays to him. Maybe it’s just because I’m long-winded……..
Also, try to include details in your conversations. What may seem trivial to you means a whole other thing for someone miles away. Remember, they haven’t seen or eaten that yummy meal with you, so they’ll be glad to know what your experience was like. No one else is gna tell them what your day was like, don’t spare the details. Updating each other is key, because otherwise it’s easy to slip out of touch with each others’ lives. These few weeks have been really tough for E and I because we both have work schedules so the only real quality conversation time we have is during our weekend Skype sessions and we spill all the details there. I love Skype.
2. Put in some effort, make time for each other
Man, an ldr is still a relationship, it’s the 3rd word of the acronym. Just because you’re apart doesn’t mean you can ignore it. It isn’t a break from the relationship, it’s the same relationship, with added distance and effort. I’m not gna lie, it’ll take real work because time difference is a pain. So, manage your time well and once you get into the routine (be it weekend Skyping or early morning calls), it’ll be a breeze (just kidding, it’s anything but a breeze, but it will be easier!)
3. Celebrate stuff together!
His/her birthday is coming up soon but you guys are 239847 miles apart? No excuses. Plan something for him/her, with the help of mutual friends if you need, to let him/her know that you are dedicated to making it work. As mentioned, put in effort. It can be something as simple as getting flowers or sending snail mail.
4. Have a common activity
(GoT Season 4 SPOILER ALERT AHEAD, proceed with caution)
E is a huge fan of this. We make time to do stuff together, uhm, virtually. Most commonly, we watch shows together: Game of Thrones (ugh so sad that it’s over), Suits, White Collar, Sherlock, etc. We literally sync our videos so we press play together and pause together, so we can get each others’ reactions. I have to wait for 1 week to watch GoT with E because we’re working on the weekdays. No TV cheating. Never TV cheat. Rules of dating. This creates something physically common to the both of you, isn’t it a stroke of genius? (Why, thank you!)
5. Keep yourself occupied
Impatient people: keep yourself busy. Time flies when you’re having fun, like in barre class or sewing/designing or when you’re traveling and being an explorer! It’ll be over before you know it. E likes to play basketball a whole lot. So while we are apart, we are also developing our own interests. It’s a win-win situation really. Just make sure you don’t neglect your ldr. Never neglect it.
6. Send flowers, send cards, send food, send yourself – whatever.
I love receiving mail, and people and who doesn’t? Come on. Just do it, thank me later. (Okay, don’t go overboard, the postal service can be money-eating over time, everything in moderation. You’re welcome.) There’s something romantic about tearing an envelope and seeing your bunny’s handwriting (even if their penmanship is the creative equivalent of grass), add points for an attached photograph so that the other party can admire your beautiful face when they display it on the wall next to their beds. Remember in The Notebook when Ryan Gosling’s character wrote one letter to Rachel McAdam’s character for 1 year? Yeah. That’s why girls like letters. I just solved one of life mysteries for you.
7. Good mornings and goodnights.
Daily greetings are awesome pick-me-ups. Like when I’m working in the middle of the day and I receive a good morning text from E. It lights my heart up. Just let your SO know that you think of him/her first thing in the morning and the last thing before you sleep. This routine habit also makes you both a constant in each others’ lives, and it doesnt take up too much time either. It’s a positive mood boost and a good end to a day. It’s a cliche for a reason. It’s like reminding them that you exist. Just in case. If you miss a good morning or good night, you have only yourself to blame if they forget that you existed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
8. Be patient
I hate to say this because I really like to think of it as a process rather than something you want to get over. It’s true – there are so many things to explore in an ldr. But sometimes, the fact that the ldr is finite (nod to my engineering brain), you’ll feel ultra restless and impatient for reunion day to come. May quoted “anything worth having is definitely worth waiting for”. That pretty much sums it up. It’s a waiting game sometimes, but don’t forget to live while waiting. The best way to do it is to think of it as a process or a long train ride. It’s the best if you guys have a specific timeframe for your ldr, is it 1 year, half a year, 2 years? Minimizing uncertainty and giving you a fixed date to look forward to helps, because uncertainty scares people.
Bonus tip: Sometimes when you need encouragement, you can look for quotes like in #8 and keep yourself going (I haven’t really thought about that but May says it is encouraging and inspiring, so do it).
1. Forget to reply the other party/ Ignore texts
Nobody likes to be left hanging waiting for a reply. Sometimes it’s hard to reply immediately, because I just told you to live your life anyway, but at least update your bunny if you’re occupied or out or with friends. Keeping each other updated is pretty easy and you minimize a lot of frustration. It makes things a whole lot better because then he/she won’t be expecting an answer from you in a while. However, that being said…
2. Expect quick replies all the time
This is tricky. Because you want to talk to them… it’s not going to happen as often as you like because they have other things to do than keep checking their phones anyway. So you just have to suck it up and work out a suitable arrangement for your communication. Keep your expectations in check, no one is going to be so available and unoccupied to be texting you constantly. If all else fails, read #5 from the ‘do’ list.
3. Don’t send your ‘away’ lover photos of local delicacy.
I. Will. Gut. You. Just kidding. But if you dare.
I get that you just wna show them your food… Maybe because I’m Singaporean and I love food. One photo of that char kway teow makes me spiral into endless homesickness. No, I am not missing you anymore, I am missing food.
4. Lose trust
Being physically apart sometimes makes you doubt the other party. But as I said, Let it Go, because being possessive and doubtful saved no one’s relationship, ever. “Who’s that girl you’re with on Facebook?!” only builds unwanted tension. Everyone needs space, so give them a berth. On your part, don’t put yourself in situations you don’t wna catch your SO in either.
So there you have it, I’m pretty sure I haven’t exhausted all the Dos and Don’ts here but, I probably exhausted your eyes by writing such a long listicle. It was fun gathering ideas from my fellow friends in long ldrs and to see what helps them get by. So now you are armed with the ammunition to fight the distance and I really hope you find it useful.
I personally appreciate everything the ldr brings to the relationship: we live apart, but we’re never alone, and we have an extended honeymoon, and we have so much space Canada will be jealous. For me, I found it useful we learnt to live apart as a couple before we grew too reliant on each other. I can say that now that I am only 1 month away from returning home. (it’s very bittersweet) YAY. Positive thoughts.