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Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston

December 23, 2014

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Long Distance Relationships

It’s a common 21st-century love story: Boy meets girl. Boy or girl gets a job offer in another city. The other person already has a job they love and decides to stay put. Pretty soon, boy and girl are conducting their courtship through text messages, e-mails, and weekend rendezvous courtesy of JetBlue.

Sound familiar? If you’re contemplating a long-distance relationship (LDR) or if you’re already in one, then here’s what you need to know to go the distance, literally and figuratively.

Keep communicating. Whether you keep in touch using IM, e-mail, snail mail, text messaging, webcam, cell phone, carrier pigeon, or all the above, communication is key for any relationship. It becomes even more important when you can’t have regular face time with each other. When I was living in Boston and dating a guy in Philly, we had weekly phone chats every Sunday. We’d e-mail on weekdays, but I always looked forward to his calls on Sunday night so I could hear his voice and tell him about my week. If you’re dating someone in another country, Skype.com lets you make international calls for free through the Web.

Find unique ways to show your S.O. you care. The Internet is a fast and efficient way to communicate, but it’s not the most personal method. Laura Anderson lives near Boston and stays connected to her boyfriend in San Francisco by sending him funny cards. “I used to send chocolates, candy, cupcakes, muffins, and things to show I was thinking of him,” she says, “but I also found he loved when I sent a card showing humor and sentiment. We need that reassurance that one is thinking about the other.” Recording a mix CD of sappy romantic melodies or creating a collage of photos are other ideas to ease the separation.

Get creative in how you schedule. LDRs are notorious for eating up vacation days. To avoid this, Anderson says she’ll “leave around 7 p.m. on Friday night and arrive there around 11 p.m. Pacific time. Then come Sunday, I fly the red-eye back to Boston and into work, sometimes running on four hours of sleep and a Starbucks Venti skinny mocha.” Fortunately, her boyfriend takes business trips to the East Coast, so they sometimes meet up in New York City. If one of you is allowed to telecommute from the other’s city, that’s another possibility. Or you can plan to visit on holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Don’t ignore friends and activities in your home city. One of the nice things about LDRs is that they give you plenty of time to see your friends and get things done. But if you’re always skipping happy hour or Pilates class to chat with your boyfriend, then you’re missing out. Having a support system of friends and co-workers close by will take your mind off of missing him and help you stay balanced. “It’s really difficult to maintain a semblance of normalcy, but my academics and friends keep me busy,” says Nisha Venkatesan, a graduate student at Georgetown whose boyfriend lives in Germany. She manages to see him every four or five months thanks to her school schedule and a study-abroad program in Geneva. They use Skype to keep in touch in between.

Most importantly, savor your time together. “It’s nice when you don’t see the person,” Venkatesan says, “because when you do see them, you really appreciate the time that you have with them. [Missing] the person makes you realize how important they are.”