Relationships are rarely a straight road that both individuals can follow in perfect unison. After all, our lives can be divided up into so many areas that demand our attention: our health, our families, our career, and so forth.
Often, one of these demands may cause a fork in the road, separating a couple on their relationship course temporarily, whilst a separate life mission is pursued.
Three years into my own relationship, my partner and I met a fork in the road. It was time for him to pursue his career further afield, before we could advance our relationship to the next level. For two years now, we have been spending weekdays apart and reconnecting at the weekends. It’s a bittersweet arrangement.
Pursuing his career will only lead to a better life for us both in the future, but it is hard to look past that when you are feeling alone on a Tuesday night with only a king-sized bag of Maltesers to console you. And to think some couples are separated for many more than five days at a time!
The further down the road we travel, the more I realize that although this isn’t the ideal arrangement, our relationship will benefit from it in the future. There are certain relationship lessons and habits that we are learning together that can only translate positively when our roads reconnect in the future. They are lessons that I believe every couple could benefit from, whether they’re apart for a year, a month, a week, a day or are never apart at all, for better lives as both individuals and in a relationship. [Read: Can long distance love survive the distance?]
How to successfully work through a long distance relationship
Out of all the tips and tricks people can do to withstand being apart from their loved one, here are the 10 survival tips that will ring true for any relationship.
#1 Allow yourselves time to explore your own individual interests. After being used to spending your time together as a couple a decent proportion of your time, it may seem strange that a large segment of your week is now spent as an individual as opposed to as a pair. The choices you make in terms of how you spend your time differ so greatly when alone. There’s nothing like going through life as a team, having a support system with someone by your side, but this is not to say you should not take advantage of your time as an individual.
Although you are not truly separating your lives when you are apart, and it is quite important for your relationship that this is not the case, you are in a situation where the choices you make are now completely free from compromise.
Depending on how long you have spent being in a relationship, this may be out of your comfort zone at first. Use the time to do things you might not be inclined to do as a couple. This may be focusing on your career, so that when it’s time to settle down, you can step back and focus time on life with your partner. You may also want to reconnect with friends whom you haven’t been able to make time for previously.
You may be surprised to find that there were a lot of things you haven’t done in a while, whilst spending time with your loved one. We often forget about the need for space in a relationship. Your individual endeavors should by no means be kept secret from your partner. [Read: How to give your partner space and improve your connection]
#2 Discover more ways to connect and communicate. How do you communicate with your partner when you are apart? Text, e-mail, instant messenger, facetime? As a couple, my boyfriend and I never really used to talk on the phone, other than a quick “do you need anything from the shop?” or “I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” because nine times out of ten, it’s easier to send a quick text. Since being apart, we’ve had some of our most heartfelt and soul searching conversations over the phone, and we are closer for it. This is purely due to the fact that, not only do we miss each other but, by definition, talking on the phone is time for talking and nothing else.
Ask yourself: when you are together as a couple, how much time do you spend communicating? Yes, you’re together, but how much quality conversation are you having? Do we need to fill time together with films, television and other distractions? Why shouldn’t we make more time for one to one communication in relationships?
Furthermore, just because we are in the age of technology, why abandon the first and possibly one of the most romantic forms of communication: the love letter? It can be heartfelt words of love, or simply wishing your partner a good week. In an age of instant communication, a letter is always an unexpected and romantic gesture.
#3 Be appreciative of your partner. This seems like such obvious advice, but it’s strange how often we forget these simple things. As a couple spending time together, you can often indirectly start to annoy each other, or little character traits appear that you never seemed to notice before. You inadvertently start taking the other for granted, and the things you found so special and so attractive are pushed to the back of your brain. But absence really does make the heart grow fonder. When you are forced to spend time apart from your partner, the times you reconnect are like revisiting your ‘honeymoon period.’ [Read: 16 easy-to-see examples if you’re being taken for granted already]
But why do you have to spend time apart to learn to re-appreciate your partner? After all, they are still the same person, and those special traits are still there! It’s you who has forgotten about them or filed them under ‘the norm.’
Next time you are with your partner, whether it be after a day at work or after a week apart, look for those unique features which set them apart from the rest. Why are you choosing to spend your life with this person? Because they showed you something that others didn’t, and what’s more, they chose you too! That’s pretty special. [Read: 25 ways to make your partner feel more appreciated]
#4 Be appreciative of the time you spend together. After spending time apart, even sitting and watching television together feels special. Every moment is precious and you learn not to take it for granted. It is important to make every moment count, even the ‘boring bits.’ After all, we often seem to forget how big a deal it is that not only are you committed to spending time with this one person, but they also want to invest their time in being with you.
Give each other a return on that investment by making that time as pleasant as it can possibly be, even if you’re not doing anything special at all.
#5 Show an interest in each other’s daily lives. It’s strange how much more you are inclined to ask questions and inquire about your partner’s daily life after being apart five or more days at a time, even the little things like their daily commute or what they had for lunch.
When you spend every moment together, you often neglect to ask about the smaller things in your partner’s daily life because you feel like a part of it. But, just as we have learnt to embrace our own individuality in a relationship, it is important to respect and show interest in your partner’s individual life as well. You may instinctively rely on your partner to tell you the highlights of their day, but there’s nothing like the feeling of a loved one inquiring about these simple things before you even think to tell them.
#6 Plan your time together. Go on dates together or make a trip! It’s all about cherishing the time that you have together and making it as special as it can be. This isn’t to say that you have to plan an elaborate outing every time you see each other, but its helpful to have something to look forward to whilst you are apart.
Furthermore, it’s also important to not be selfish with the time you do have together, after all, your partner may be leaving others behind as well! Accept that they need time to spend with friends and family, and they will appreciate you more for it. Why not plan to involve yourself with others who require your partner’s time, even if it puts you out of your comfort zone. If you share the time you have, it will save arguments and resentment.
It’s often tempting in normal relationships to rely on the fact that you live together or that you live in the same town as your partner to see each other. But is it always time well spent? Just because you see each other morning and night, doesn’t mean that you should forgo dates and trips. Why not book a week off to be together, even if all you do is relax!
#7 Be spontaneous and break your usual routine. The routine of weekdays without your partner and weekends spent together can get a little repetitive and tiresome. We live with routine in our jobs and so many aspects of our lives, and love is one thing that should be free of it. After all, spontaneity is one of the biggest sparks of romance.
Make last-minute surprise visits to break the routine. One surprise visit can break up both of your weeks and make it so much more bearable. And there is nothing to say you shouldn’t break your routine in your average relationship. Plan to leave work early and prepare a dinner for your partner, or meet them for lunch unexpectedly. You will make their day. [Read: 25 fun and unconventional date ideas to break your routine]
#8 Plan for the future. So, moving in together and settling down may have to be put on hold. There is no reason to lose sight of what you want from the future and what you want as a couple. Use the time to really decide on what you both want. Plan and compromise now and when the time comes, it will save time, decision making and arguments.
In any relationship, it is important to plan ahead. There is always a brighter future waiting for you and planning towards it makes life positive and motivating. Sharing that excitement with your partner makes for a stronger bond.
#9 Learn to resolve disagreements quickly. You’d be wrong for thinking that being apart would mean that you have fewer disagreements when you are together. Arguments will always happen. But arguing during your precious time together feels like a terrible waste of that time, or arguing over the phone and not knowing how the other person is truly feeling will leave you feeling helpless and raw.
Firstly, use this as an excuse not to argue at all. You have more control over it than you think. We argue because our first instinct to solve a disagreement is to, well, argue! It doesn’t have to be that way, but it takes work and it takes practice.
Learn to resolve your disagreements quickly to save yourself a prolonged “off” period, which is just a further waste of your time together. This is usually done by reminding yourself that you are not always right, and the issue isn’t that important.
Don’t forget that you can always agree to disagree, or cool down and revisit the conversation when you’ve both had time to reflect. These are all methods we can use in any relationship, because regardless of how much time you spend together, arguing is usually a waste of time. [Read: 23 do’s and don’ts of relationship arguments]
#10 Get over your jealousy and trust issues. It’s hard to trust your partner when they spend a lot of time in an environment that is alien to you and with new friends that you are unfamiliar with. Remind yourself that making new friends is one of the things that will make being away from home more bearable. Let your partner have fun, and don’t forget to make regular plans of your own.
Don’t obsess! No one likes a bunny boiler. If you are feeling insecure, it will only make you feel worse to text and check Facebook every two minutes. Take a step back from you phone and your computer. If you demand to know what your partner is doing all the time, they won’t thank you for it. What’s more, you will end up creating all sorts of stories in your head, if they don’t have time to reply to your messages! Let them be and ask about it later.