Long distance relationships. If you’re lucky, you’ve never had one. But let’s be real—people are traveling further and further for college, there are study abroad programs galore, and the international workplace is becoming much broader. Now you have to keep in contact with family, childhood friends, college roommates, foreign lovers and faraway host families.
It’s exhausting and normally one or both of you stops keeping up their end of the communication chain. But if you can make it work, long distance relationships have some hidden benefits! Here’s how to survive a long distance relationship without it being the absolute worst.
1. Call each other.
Don’t rely solely on sporadic emails and messages. There are a million ways to call for free or dirt cheap nowadays and it’s worth it to hear the sound of their voice. Plus, since you can’t actually hang out, it means a lot when you both take time out of your busy schedules to just sit and chat. Whether you’re two hours away or ten time zones apart, an hour spent talking is the same for both of you and makes a big difference.
2. Actually stick to your call dates.
Nothing—I repeat, nothing—is worse than waiting for hours by your computer for your virtual friend to come online when you could be out living it up with your real-in-the-flesh friends. Sure, sometimes there are connection problems or other things outside your control, but by showing up and being on time (or not) it’s clear to the other person how much you care. Hang on to those who respect your time and think about how much you can take before cutting loose the ones who don’t.
3. Plan fun reunions!
What better excuse to travel than to see your long distance loved one. Meet in the middle, go somewhere crazy together, or simply crash at each other’s apartments. What’s important is being there in person and making new, shared memories. You can only sustain a relationship based on nostalgia for so long. If you get to visit his hometown, it’s a chance to see his life and meet his friends. Plus, you can scope out any competition. (Just kidding…kind of.) And since your loved one is cool, he probably hangs out with cool people, so you may even meet a new cool friend in the process.
Bonus Tip: When you’re talking to each other, use the real names of the people in your life. Instead of saying “my roommate’s boyfriend” for the thousandth time, just call him Matt! Your long distance friends are not that dumb—they can remember your friends and family members, even if they’ve never met them. And when they finally do meet them, they can finally put a face and voice to the name. (Although, they probably already know the face after sufficient Facebook stalking.)
4. Send care packages.
Because whose day isn’t infinitely brighter when they receive a care package? This is way easier if you’re both in the States, but there are creative ways to send goodies to friends, even when they’re abroad. Piggyback with someone else you (or your friend!) know going to or near the same place. Ask someone going halfway to mail it for you—it’ll be cheaper and faster. Send it to another friend who is going to visit soon. Just know, the further the friend, the more the care package means. (Take it from a girl who lives in a Reese’s-less and Cheez-It-free land.)
5. Don’t forget that people change.
You may always be in each other’s lives, but it may not always feel the same. Sometimes your experiences will be so different that you just don’t have anything to say anymore. That’s fine. Maybe you’ll cross paths at a wedding sometime and reminisce about the good times. Perhaps the people your loved one surrounds herself with are vain or hippies or corporate sellouts—something you just can’t get on board with. Or worse, she becomes like her horrible new friends. That’s fine too. Just remember that someone who doesn’t make time for you or who no longer makes you feel the way you used to feel, may not be worth your time. It’s ok to cut your old ties and make space in your life for those who are present and make you happy.
Despite failing so often, sometimes those long distance relationships that you painstakingly kept up totally work out. You might end up living happily ever after as bi-coastal cousins turned roommates, summer camp co-counselors turned best friends and neighbors, or fleeting study abroad romance turned smiling married couple. So take a risk on that person you just met, even if you know you’ll soon be far apart. Hundreds of emails, dozens of care packages, and a few emotional reunions later, you may discover that this newfound long distance loved one was worth the wait.