Before I get into this post and start giving out any advice, I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself and Paul, my boyfriend. This is us:
From the dates above you can see that we've been together for quite a while (it'll be five years in October of this year - a big one!) and we've really grown to be best friends, so for us to go from living together in the same house to being separated by hundreds of miles was quite a difficult experience. There were a few people in France who were also going through the long-distance thing so I was able to talk to them when I saw them now and again, but here in Spain I'm the only one in my situation and it certainly feels that way. People are really supportive and I'd like to thank them for that (if they're reading), but it still doesn't detract from the fact that your better half is over a thousand miles away in a different country.
So, how have we managed almost nine months apart (it'll be ten by the time I go home!) and only seeing each other for a short while every eight weeks or so? Well, it hasn't been without its lows, but here are a few tips I can offer based on my personal experiences. (Remember though, every relationship is different and you know what works best for you, so when you're reading the following points try and think about them in terms of your relationship!)
- Have "the talk" - it's no use being in a relationship knowing that one of you is going abroad for a semester or two and just plain ignoring that fact. Talk about it as soon as you know you will be going abroad; you're both mature adults and can handle a heart-to-heart. If you start out strong, you'll stay strong.
- Plan your visits - 45 weeks apart sounds like a long time, doesn't it? I'll let you in on a secret: I only really said that for effect. Cut the big scary year up into tiny, non-terrifying, manageable chunks and you will be just fine. Like I said, Paul and I have seen each other periodically for a week or so (three at Christmas) every two months. There, it doesn't seem so bad now, does it? If you can't fully organise visits before you leave, at least try to hammer out a rough plan.
- Trust each other - A thousand miles between you can put bad ideas in your heads (like thinking the other is out pulling somebody new or generally just being jealous that others are spending time with them and you're not), but if you trust each other right from the outset, you won't have a problem. If you've had a bumpy past, you might have to work a bit harder, but always, always be truthful to one another.
- Skype a lot - Communication is key when in a long-distance relationship. Send morning texts or messages through facebook to let them know you're thinking about them and then make plans to Skype in the evenings or when you can. Just like if you were at home, if you were to stop communicating then the relationship would most likely breakdown. It is of even more importance when you're apart.
- Also don't Skype too much - Paul and I have been guilty of Skyping too much and ending up having four hour-long calls where we don't say much at all or end up having nothing to say to each other because we just Skyped the day before. Find a good balance; try to Skype once every couple or once every few days, it gives you a chance to miss them more. If you really can't stay away from Skype (like we can't), try watching a film or your favourite TV programme together online, or download Skype games like chess (like we did. Ahem).
When I asked Paul what his number one tip would be for doing long distance he said "just don't do it," because it is a very hard test to put yourselves through, but I think also because it's marginally harder for the person staying at home because at least you, the person going abroad, will have a lot of new experiences to take your mind off some of it (which for one minute does not make you a bad person, you just have a lot to think about when you move to a new country).
So then what would my number one piece of advice be? To quote Winston Churchill, it would probably be this:
"If you're going through hell, keep going."
This has always resonated with me in every aspect of my life, not just because my Granda Albert looks like Winston Churchill, but because I'm not the type of person who would ever let myself give up on something whether it be a project, a subject or degree choice or a relationship. I know I'd always be hard on myself for just letting myself give up so this is exactly what I do: I keep going. It doesn't matter how hard it seems at the time, if there is a goal you want to achieve and you're willing to work hard enough then there's no reason you should ever stop trying.
Looking back, I'm quite amazed but extremely proud of us because I remember how I felt when I was getting ready to leave for my year abroad; scared and anxious that we'd not make it the whole year (which is probably how you feel right now, am I right?) But I think if you follow the tips presented in this (now rather lengthy) blog post, then you'll set yourself up for success. If you ever need any questions answered from somebody who's done it all, you can hit the comment box or alternatively ask for my email and I will gladly help you.
Basically, things are never as hard as they first seem.
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