Today my boyfriend and I have officially been together for 3 years. With each year behind us, it’s an amazing reminder of how far we’ve come. Though our relationship might be a little different compared to what’s 'normal' (whatever that means), as we have an entire ocean between us.
This wasn't a 'one of us has to move away' situation, it's just that we were placed on the wrong sides of the world and have to make do with the hand we were dealt. So far, I'd say we're doing pretty dang well. We’ve learned how to make the most of our time, we’ve figured out how to solve problems (even through internet connectivity issues), and tend to value our time in person more than I think we would if it wasn’t a rare opportunity.
Through it all, the good and the bad, there are several things we’ve learned to do to help ease the pain and close that 9,000 mile gap, and today I'm going to share those things with you.
1. Stop, Communicate and Listen
While communication is key in all relationships, sometimes communication is the only thing you have in a LDR. Whether it's asking about their day, making sure they're okay and coping with the distance, or solving little problems before they get out of control, you must communicate at all times.
On the other hand, you must also listen. There's nothing worse than telling your partner all about your crazy day, and then finding out half-way through that they were distracted and you have to tell the story all over again - this time, with much less enthusiasm. It's something we're all guilty of doing at one point or another. Don't beat yourself up, it happens and it's understandable - but if your focus isn't in the right place, do what you need to do to change that.
I would recommend getting rid of all distractions during your time together. I know, our technology-filled world doesn't make it easy on us, with Facebook constantly reminding us of that dumb thing we said five years ago, but these things are up to us to control. Put away any electronic devices that aren't being used for communication or activities together. This is your time together - make it count.
2. Whenever There's a Chance, Be Positive
Being positive is pretty valuable advice for any part of your life, but you might find that you need it the most in your LDR - I know we do. It's easy to focus on something and have a poor outlook on it. For example, it could be nine months (give or take a little) until my boyfriend and I get to see each other again. It's easy to complain about how much longer we have to wait, but focusing on the negative isn't healthy.
Instead, we should look at the same situation, and mention that the past three months apart have flown by, so we shouldn't stress about it! With this, we're communicating the same thing, but with a greater outlook. It'll help keep your spirits up during the rough waiting period.
3. Do Your Favorite Things Together
If you both have similar interests, this will be easy to figure out. If you don’t, it will give you an opportunity to try the things that the other person enjoys. For example, if you both enjoy video games, multiplayer games are a no-brainer. There’s plenty of great multiplayer games to choose from depending on what genres you enjoy. Want a trading card game? There’s Hearthstone for that (and it’s free)! Collaborative puzzler with amusing dialog? Portal 2. A platformer where you get to screw over Player 2? Ultimate Chicken Horse, of course.
That said, multiplayer games aren’t the only ones you’re limited to. I’d argue that we have played just as many single player games, and it’s just as entertaining. Maybe a favorite game of yours, or one that you grew up playing. We'll say Fallout 4. Okay, now that you've picked a single player game, what do you do?
Well, there's two ways to play single player games together. With the first way, one of you will decide to play the selected game and use a screen sharing feature (Skype is capable) so that the other person can watch you play. Second way, you both play the single player game individually, starting your games at the same time, and talk to each other about what's going on in your playthrough.
With a huge, open-world game like Fallout 4, this can get interesting, as you’ll likely go in different directions - but sometimes that’s what makes it fun. Your partner might be talking to the townsfolk, while you are screaming that a Deathclaw (as deadly as the name implies) just invaded your settlement, and the only weapon you had on you was a 10mm pistol. And yes, I am definitely speaking from experience.
So while you may not be able to go on "real" adventures with each other, you'll be able to go on fictional ones, and laugh at each other's misfortune when it comes to random events in video games. Though in our relationship, I always seem to be the one with bad luck.
Of course, this isn't limited to video games. If you want to watch movies together, buy a Netflix account and share it. You can either do the classic "on the count of 3" and click play, or use a Chrome extension like Showgoers to sync up for you. Want to read together? Pick a book and pledge to read a chapter a day. Your options aren't as limited as you would initially think - be creative!
If worse comes to worst and you can't find something that you both enjoy doing, just sit together on Skype and do your own thing. Just being there, doing something you enjoy with the person you like being around, helps immensely.
4. Make a List of Activities
"We don't need to make a list," you might be thinking to yourself, but let me tell you a little story. Once upon a time, we began making a list of things to do in the city. After a while, we stopped adding things to the list, thinking: hey, there's plenty to do. We're a strong independent couple (that's an oxymoron, isn't it?) who don't need no list. We'll just walk along and when we see something we want to do, we'll do it!
Guess what we didn't do. Spoiler alert: new things. We fell into the trap of doing the same thing over and over again. And while we enjoyed going to Waffee for the tenth time (their waffles are pretty great), we could have done something new and exciting. Learn from our mistakes - make a list.
Not only will making a list make sure that you have something you can immediately fall back on when you want something to do, but the act of making it while you're away from each other will get you excited for the next time you're together again. It will give you something to look forward to, and you both might end up doing something you've never done before!
Whether it's exploring new parks, or eating at new restaurants, Google will be your friend to help you find the perfect activity. Searching for "Things to do in..." or "Best restaurants in..." will surely give you some ideas. And for those of you who live in the middle-of-nowhere, trust me: there's still a lot to do. Has your partner mentioned that they never made a blanket fort as a kid? Well, you better fix that.
To those of you who found this article, I hope that these things help you, or give you new ideas. I have definitely noticed a significant, positive change in our relationship when we're doing the things I've mentioned. Some of them may seem small or silly, but it's amazing how much even the little things can impact your relationship, especially when you're far away.
If you've been in the LDR game for a while and have some tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below for other couples to read! I'd certainly love to read them.