As graduation approaches, I’ve been thinking more and more about how I am going to manage long-distance for two years while I’m in California and my boyfriend is in graduate school on the other side of the country. I think back on when we first started dating about two years ago, when I was about to leave for a five-month study abroad trip in Italy, and he was still at school in Texas. Reflecting on this experience, I remember the seven biggest factors that kept us together:
1. Communication is key!
This is vital to any relationship, but especially ones that are long-distance. If you are apart from someone you are close to for a weekend, your nightly phone calls probably detail the 10 minute highlights of your day. Usually, you or your significant other are doing something fun or exciting, so there is a lot to talk about in that short time. However, when you are living far away from the person you’re dating, there are going to be days where it feels like there is nothing exciting enough to talk about over the phone. Don’t fall into this trap. Because you don’t have things like sitting on the couch doing homework together or playing board games on your nights off, it is vital that you talk about what you would be telling each other if you were just hanging out, so you both feel like you are still a part of the other person's life.
2. Spontaneous acts of love.
Some of my favorite memories of Florence had nothing to do with the city or country that I was in, but rather the warm, thoughtful surprises my boyfriend sent me that made me feel loved. Receiving flowers on Valentine’s Day may seem like a given when you’re together, but when it’s the only gift you receive from home all month, it is even more special.
3. Make time for each other.
Y’all, my nearly-perfect boyfriend woke up at 2 a.m. every day to call me and say good morning since our time difference was so wide. Life gets really hectic really fast, so making this time where you are guaranteed to talk to each other is crucial if both people are going to stay engaged in the relationship. There may be days where you have to miss out on fun nights with friends to take a phone call when your significant other is having a bad day, but over time those simple acts of commitment will add up to a stronger, more stable relationship.
4. Be a little too honest.
Trusting the person you’re with is hard for any couple, but it is especially difficult when the two of you are thousands of miles away and spend time every day with people that your signifcant other has never met. Because of this, even though my boyfriend would have trusted that I’d remain faithful to him anyway, I was sure to tell him about every person that I spent time with, especially if they were guys. I recognize that every relationship is different, so how this issue is addressed is going to be unique to each relationship. Nevertheless, it saves a lot of time and heartache if you have a discussion before whoever leaves about expectations when it comes to how you spend your time, who you spend it with, and what information is expected to be communicated.
5. Make plans to see each other.
The first time I got lonely, my boyfriend and I talked about what it was going to be like when we saw each other again. Having a light at the end of the tunnel is vital to maintaining a long-distance relationship; you don’t want to feel like the hard part is going to last forever. Planning these trips is a lot of fun, and you get to think about all of the fun dates that you’ve been on and have yet to experience!
6. Stay positive.
Little conflicts can feel big when you only have vocal inflections to show your feelings. When you have your first long-distance fight, you realize just how much body language and your typical, in-person methods of conflict resolution play a role in solving problems. With the added challenge of distance, it’s imperative that you cut more slack, give a little less attitude, and encourage your significant other a little extra every day.
7. If your relationship needs it, DO IT.
Sometimes the person you’re dating is going to need a little more love than other times. Some relationships need a little more visits and less phone calls. If you want your relationship to last, act like it. Go the extra mile; give and give and give until you’re finally together again.