It’s lonely being in a long distance relationship.
It’s not just because you’re apart from your SO. It’s also because you may find yourself surrounded by people who can’t relate to your situation.
Even though long distance relationships are more common than before, people still see them as unique or non-conventional, particularly by more “traditional” daters. As a result, others might find it hard to understand where you’re coming from. You might feel like you’re in this all alone.
However, with a bit of work, you can help educate others on how this long distance thing really works. Eventually, you may even have them in your corner cheering you on and supporting you in your long distance relationship.
Here are some things to keep in mind whenever you’re building a long distance relationship support network.
1. Putting in face time is critical
Communicating these days is easier than ever before. We have ready access to video call technology, high definition cameras in our pocket, and instant messaging.
However, there really is nothing like meeting someone in person face to face.
It’s not uncommon to see virtual teams at companies or students in virtual classrooms. Especially with the onset of COVID-19, people should already be familiar with interacting online. However, even virtual teams in business are not immune to the effects of lack of trust and minimal physical interaction.
Your friends and family may not have that base of trust established with your partner just yet, since they’ll only know of your partner whenever you’re messaging them or talking to them on your phone.
Inviting your long distance partner to come over and visit your home is a great step forward for your relationship. During that visit, definitely set aside some time for your partner to meet your family and friends.
That initial meeting will immediately help put a face to a name. It’ll remove any initial doubts or questions they might have, and make them seem like a “real person”.
After that initial first meeting, keep your partner fresh in their minds. Whenever you’re on a video call with them, ask if they want to say hi to your family and friends, if they’re around. Since that initial social connection has already been established, it’ll be easier for them to start chatting with each other.
A heads up
If your partner hasn’t met your family or friends yet, bringing them up can be more difficult. If you mention them around your friends, they may come back at you with unsolicited comments or thoughts on long distance relationships. You might even get some tired jokes like “Are they actually real?”
Your family may also treat your long distance partner differently until that first meeting.
Be selective with who you share your relationship with during that time.
2. Let your family ask questions
For me, the hardest relationship for me to manage back home was my family.
Coming from a Chinese household, the idea of a long distance relationship was out of the ordinary and uncomfortably different.
My mum in particular had some difficulty in wrapping her head around the idea that two people living in different countries could maintain a romantic relationship.
For the longest time, she would try and classify my relationship as a “friendship”. It took her a while to come around, but it happened in the end!
How I communicated with my family
The way I did that was by sitting down and spending plenty of time with her to address her concerns. And there were a lot of concerns. Her questions included:
- How do you know this is serious?
- What’s their personality like? Do you think it’s compatible with yours?
- What are your plans for the future?
- Is there anything stopping them from moving here?
- How does it feel to have a relationship like this?
A big part of normalizing this relationship was trying not to be defensive about my situation. I had to remind myself that this was as much an educational moment for her. It was also an opportunity to reassure her that, while I may not be feeling completely okay all the time, I couldn’t imagine my life without my partner.
Over time, she learned a few things about herself, as well as about me. It took several months and a couple of visits to each other’s cities, but she was able to understand why I was doing this. Over time, I could count on her support.
Her support was as simple as giving me time and space to talk to my wife, or listening to whatever problems I had at the time.
Depending on your relationship with your own family, you might already have some candidates in mind to open up to and share your relationship status. Even if they’ve gone through a long distance relationship themselves, don’t make any assumptions on what they know. Let them explore and learn more, and they’ll be better prepared to be there for you.
3. Pick and choose your friends to share things with
In your social network, you may have several “circles” of friends. This can include:
- Situational friends
- Casual friends
- Close friends
You may be very excited to talk about your long distance partner and share what they do and where they live. However, you should also be selective with this information.
Personally, I recommend sharing key details with your close friends only.
This is because a long distance relationship will inevitably draw questions, and it can also result in snap judgments. Unfortunately, it seems like almost everyone has an opinion about long distance relationships. Over the course of yours, you’ll likely hear a lot of them.
For the sake of your sanity, you should be selective with the details of your relationship when it comes to anyone outside of your very close friend circle.
Treat those in your close friend circle the same as your family. Let them ask questions, educate them, ask them to share their experiences (if they have any), and ask for their support.
Again, if you’ve already established a face to face meeting between your partner and your friends, it’ll make future conversations about them much easier. You may also get some sympathy from your friends afterwards, since they’ve now seen your partner in person and have a better understanding of what you’re both going through.
4. Seek out online forums
If you’re still looking for people to talk to about your relationship, there are plenty of forums out there.
If you use Reddit, the Long Distance subreddit is fairly active and supportive. You’ll find people sharing photos and posting questions on how to navigate certain issues.
Discord is also a good alternative if you’d prefer real time chat.
5. Consider counselling if you need professional help
Long distance is psychologically draining and difficult for anyone involved in one.
If you’re in a particularly difficult head space, and your family and friends aren’t what you need right now, consider seeking professional help.
I personally sought counselling before I established my support network. Even just a couple of sessions really helped me identify the issues I needed to focus on, and see things from a different perspective.
It’s not easy to be constantly apart from the one you love, especially if you’re both still trying to figure out how to close the distance. Don’t be afraid to seek out a trained counselor or therapist to help make sense of the emotions and troubles you’re going through.