One of my biggest worries before going abroad was whether my long term boyfriend and I would survive living 13 hours away. We had lived together for the first two years in Manchester and had both decided to go abroad in our third year. He would be studying at the University of Vermont in Burlington and I would be studying at the University of Maryland in College Park. The Universities were both on the East Coast of America and looked fairly close on the map, how bad could it be right? However it wasn’t until we both got into our respective universities that we realised we were actually about a 13 hour drive away or a 2 hour flight away. The flying didn’t seem terrible until we looked at flight prices, with most of them being around $200 return to either city we knew we would probably have to see each other a lot less than expected. In the end we made it work and are still together today, however it didn’t come without sacrifices, arguments and sadness about missing each other. But in the end it was worth it. So in this blog I have decided to give everyone my top ten techniques on how to make a long distance relationship work whilst on a year abroad.
Firstly before reading my techniques I would say they should be taken with a pinch of salt for those people who are going abroad and leaving their partner back in Manchester or elsewhere in England. My boyfriend and I did have it a lot easier than most, in that we were in the same time zone and at least on the same continent, which definitely made communication and meet ups a lot easier. But with that said I hope that some of my advice can still be applied to people making it work across countries rather than just across states. So without further ado here we go.
- Always make time for your other half
This is extremely important when trying to survive a long distance relationship. While some couples may choose to have a certain day of the week to call/ facetime my boyfriend and I were fairly relaxed about that, we normally just facetimed when we were both free or just fancied a chat. We did however talk everyday. Some days it was basically just a good morning message and a good night message as we were busy with new friends, travelling or had deadlines for essays. But for me that was enough to know that we were doing ok and showed we at least thought about each other everyday. It is crucial to keep in contact when in a long distance relationship, especially because you don’t always know the next time you will see your other half.
2. Try and keep them as up to date with your life as possible
This was sometimes difficult for me while I was abroad. I often forgot that my boyfriend wasn’t just with me constantly, so I would talk about new friends, professors and places on campus that I just assumed he knew about. Then I would have to remember that he wasn’t here with me. Ergo make sure that when you’re catching up you talk about the somewhat mundane things like what classes your taking, the name of your professors, the type of food in the dining hall and where you like to go out. It might seem like common sense but these things can easily be forgotten, and to me knowing these things helped me picture where my boyfriend was and what we was doing in his new life in the USA.
3. Remember to ask them about their feelings/ how they are doing
I was sometimes not the best at doing this either… When you’re having the time of your life it is sometimes hard to remember that other people might be having a bad day or might be missing home or missing you. I can admit that sometimes I forgot to ask my boyfriend if he was stressed about finals, or what he was up to or if he missed home, because often I was hanging out with new friends or on trips or had my own issues. However, it is extremely critical to remember that in a relationship it is always about the both of you, so don’t neglect your partners feelings and emotions. Even if you’re having the best time or they are, you must remember that the other person might need you even if it’s just a five minute chat to know that you are always there for them.
4. Encourage them to meet your new friends (even if just over Facetime)
This point kind of links to the 2nd point on the list. When you’re abroad you will be surrounded by new people some of whom will become your friends for life. It is important to include your other half in your new life and introduce them to the new people that you are spending all your time with. I know I felt a lot better after I met my boyfriends roommate on Facetime and subsequently met him later. It makes you feel a lot more secure knowing that your partner is in good hands and has made a good group of solid trustworthy friends. As unfortunately sometimes a year abroad isn’t always fun and games, and if something did go wrong it is important to know that your other half has a good support network there to help.
5. Send each other presents, letters, postcards
I LOVED doing this whilst on my year abroad, sending and receiving gifts made my boyfriend and I feel loved and special. It didn’t have to be anything expensive or extravagant as lets face it both of us were practically broke for our entire year. But the small things just helped to remind us that the other person was thinking about them, especially when you’re so far away from each other and from home. I would definitely recommend this tip when trying to keep a long distance relationship work because even the smallest gift can make you feel closer to your other half.
6. Try not to be jealous
This is a CRITICAL point and I am telling you from experience it wasn’t always easy, on both parts. I can hand on heart say that normally my boyfriend and I are not the jealous type, but sometimes a year abroad can make you go a little insane. It is much easier to get jealous about people who you have never met who suddenly are in all your partners photos, it is easy to get jealous about people who get to go on trips, nights out and dinner dates with your partner (especially when you can’t). And it is definitely easy to get jealous when your partner seems to be having loads of fun while you might be writing an essay, going to a shift or feeling homesick or ill. But you can’t take your jealousy out on them because lets face it they are probably feeling the exact same way at times too. The way to make a long distance relationship work is to ALWAYS trust one another and to know that if they could they would be doing all these fun things with you. But for this time in their life you aren’t there. Therefore you need to encourage their happiness and involvement in their new life, because realistically we would rather be jealous sometimes that they are having a great time than be worried and sad if they hadn’t made friends or were having a terrible time. You just need to learn to be the bigger person.
7. Plan things in the future to look forward to
This point definitely made things easier. Again for my boyfriend and I it was normally only a matter of weeks before we got to see each other so we usually had something planned to look forward to. I would sometimes sit there and count up the days in my head when we would next see each other, particularly when I really missed him. This really helped.
8. Remember it is normal to change as a person when you do a year abroad
I didn’t expect to change as much as I did on my year abroad. Prior to going abroad like I mentioned earlier my boyfriend and I lived together, we study the same degree and we have most of the same friends. Therefore, we were together almost everyday. But when I went abroad I became extremely independent, I was used to just hanging out with my friends that he didn’t know and only really thinking about myself day to day. But you know what? THIS IS NORMAL. It is normal for you and your partner to change on a year abroad and to change when you don’t spend as much time together. It is even normal not to miss each other every second of the day. You shouldn’t feel guilty when you don’t always miss each other, because that shows you are living your own life and actually enjoying it. So you just need to learn to adapt to these new changes and hopefully like them rather than letting them get between you.
9. Find a private spot where you can talk to your other half (especially if you have a roommate)
This was essential for me while I was abroad due to the fact that I had roommates for both semesters of my exchange. Ultimately, even if you love your roommate (like I did), you still need a private spot to talk to your partner. Therefore, I would recommend knowing what your roommates schedule is and seeing if there is a time you can Facetime/ Call your other half when they aren’t around. Otherwise I would suggest asking your flatmates if you could use the communal space for a short period of time to speak to your other half at least once or twice a week.
10. Sometimes you will have to make sacrifices
While you might not always want to make sacrifices you have to in order to make a long distance relationship work. Sometimes you have to miss out on a pre drinks, or a movie night with your roommate or a house party on a weekend in order to speak, see and meet your partners needs. I’m not saying I had to do this a lot but sometimes I did have to sacrifice doing things with my friends to visit my boyfriend. However, I never for a second wished we weren’t together because of it. Which I guess shows that it worked for a reason. Ultimately though you must remember that sometimes you do have to put your other half first even if that does mean not always doing what you want to do, because I know for a fact my boyfriend sacrificed things for me too. Therefore, as long as it isn’t one sided then sacrifice is healthy whilst on a year abroad.
Anyway, those are my top ten tip for surviving a long distance relationship. Now WARNING cheesy pictures from some trips my boyfriend and I went on together.