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How To Start A Long Distance Relationship

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So, you’re in it for the long haul. You’re convinced that you can both see this through, and you’ve decided to stay together while you’re apart.

If you’ve never done this before, it can be terrifying. What do you need to do to keep the spark going? How will you date? How will you both connect, and how often?

Take it from us—the first few months are bound to be awkward as you figure out how to make this long distance relationship work for the both of you.

Here are some key pointers that will help you in your first few months apart:

  • Figure out time differences and schedules
  • Decide on your preferred communication methods
  • Get creative with your date ideas
  • Plan when you’ll visit each other
  • Have a talk about the future
  • Be prepared for loneliness and heartache
  • Remember to balance your relationship and social life
  • Build your support system

Figure out time differences and schedules

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If you’re both going to end up in different time zones, get used to the time conversions now.

You’ll need to figure out the best windows for doing video calls, since they’ll be a main form of communication. Audio calls are also nice, but nothing beats seeing your SO’s face in real time as you chat with them.

There might need to be some compromise so you can both get some screen time in. For me and my wife, we had a 15 to 17 hour time difference, depending on daylight savings time changes.

I had to call her late at night as she was waking up. We had to block out a day in our weekend so we could spend some more quality time together.

After a while, you’ll become very, very good at calculating the time difference. You’ll immediately know when you can expect a response from them if you contact them.

You should also keep each other’s schedules in mind. If one of you has to take classes during the day, or works a night shift, you’ll both need to keep that in mind and wait for the next available time you can talk together.

Decide on your preferred communication methods

In case you haven’t already figured it out, find out the best ways you prefer to communicate.

Before my wife and I started long distance dating, we were already using a messaging app called Couple. (Unfortunately it looks like it’s discontinued. I’ll share some info on good alternatives soon.) You might prefer using Apple iMessage, or Whatsapp, or whatever platform of your choice.

We also had to experiment with what video calling service offered the best performance given our geographical distance. For communicating between Australia and the U.S., we found that:

  • FaceTime offered the best performance, followed by Facebook video calls. WhatsApp video calling was also fairly good.
  • We didn’t have great luck with Google Hangouts. (Google Meet wasn’t around at the time, but I’ve since had good results with it recently.)
  • Skype was the worst performing of them all.

Your experiences may vary, though.

Get creative with your first few date ideas

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Sure, you won’t be able to visit cute restaurants together or hang out at your favorite bars. Don’t let that discourage you, though. You can still have a great time with your long distance partner.

A lot of your date ideas from now on will involve your phone or your PC, but technology can help you become closer than ever.

Some ideas you can explore include:

  • Movie and TV series marathons
  • Reading to each other
  • Cooking together
  • Having a candlelit dinner over video chat
  • Live performances for each other, like playing the piano or singing
  • Streaming events
  • Online games or game streaming
  • Doing online quizzes together
  • Working through relationship question lists together
  • Taking each other on virtual tours of each other’s home towns
  • Taking online classes together

Plan when you’ll visit each other

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It can be particularly rough during the first few months of a long distance relationship. Especially if you don’t have an end date in sight.

A great way to have a short term goal to strive for is to plan the next time you’re both going to see each other. This can be an exciting because one of you can play host to the other. You’ll both have a date to count down to.

Why not make it a date night? Plan out all the places you want to see, the people you want to visit, and if you want to take any day trips out of town for a romantic getaway.

If you live far apart, you may want to start saving early so you can reach your goal. For us, a return ticket could easily go north of $2,000, so we had to manage how often we would see each other.

There are plenty of sites out there you can use to find your perfect flight. When I was travelling, I would use Google Flights often. Apps like Hopper can offer some good deals as well, as long as you’re willing to take longer flights with layovers.

Have a talk about the future

If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to have a talk about where you’re going to end up at the end of all this.

It’s not an easy conversation to have. When you’re having it in the first few months of your long distance relationship, it can be especially difficult.

The problem can feel insurmountable. It certainly felt like that to us. We didn’t know where to begin, so we just went with what we knew we wanted out of the relationship and for us as a couple. What did we want to do with our lives? Would we want to get married someday? Have children? Start a family?

You’ll both likely uncover some major stumbling blocks during these conversations. It’s okay if you do. And it’s also okay if you don’t come up with an answer straight away. You’ll be aware of the problem, and you can subconsciously mull over it until you can come to a solution or a compromise.

So don’t be put off by the idea of talking about what-ifs, because that’s the first step to making it all a reality.

Be prepared for loneliness and heartache

The first couple of months away from your long distance partner will feel strange, and quite lonely.

It’ll hurt when you see other couples, or when you’re with your friends. You’ll feel that pang of loneliness when people ask about your partner, and they’re not there with you.

From my experience, the feeling never goes away, but it does sting a little less over time.

Visiting them in person can grant you a temporary high of happiness, but at the end of the trip you’ll feel it once again, stronger than ever, until it dulls over time.

I don’t mean to scare you, but it’s just part of the situation. It’s a side effect of missing the one you love. Make sure you have a good future plan in place!

Remember to balance your relationship and social life

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Tempting as it is, don’t throw yourself entirely into your relationship these first few months.

Your friends and family will wonder where you’ve gone, and then you’ll start getting comments about how you’re “still alive” and “how much you’ve changed”.

Even though you want to spend all your time with your partner, you need to remember to make time for your own life as well.

What are your goals? What are your dreams and ambitions? Share them with your partner, and chances are they’ll tell you to pursue them as best you can.

Finding time to tend to yourself and your other relationships enables you to have the confidence to be your own person and minimize your dependence on your SO. It’ll help you make it through the distance until you can be with them for good, and you’ll have a much healthier mindset by that time.

Build your support system

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Even today, long distance relationships are seen as a unique proposition.

Many people are quick to dismiss them. They may have had a bad experience in the past, or speak from their own ignorance and assumptions.

As a result, you’re probably going to get a lot of skeptics when it comes to your long distance relationship. You’ll notice this after a few months, and then learn to recognize the language and attitude from others as your LDR progresses.

Listening to all these offhand comments and snap judgements can be fatiguing, so make sure you have a good support system to help you out.

Keeping good communication with your partner, and having the courage to speak your mind and your problems out loud can help you get through this period.

It also helps to have some close friends and family understand why you’re doing this and what you want to achieve at the end of it all. This will help minimize most negativity from those around you.

Finally, online forums and communities of other separated souls can provide some empathy and commiseration.

Always remember: you’re not alone in your struggle! There are thousands of others like you doing the same thing, and the majority of them succeed, so don’t feel discouraged.