My long distance relationship was originally supposed to be only a year. We parted ways August 2014 as I headed out to Michigan to pursue further education, while he stayed in Toronto to pursue the next step in his education path. After one year, the plan was to complete our education and settle down in Toronto. But of course, life doesn’t always pan out the way you plan. He was offered an amazing opportunity to work for the City of Edmonton as an appraiser, which was on the other side of the country from where we both agreed to settle down. After discussing the opportunity at length, we decided it was best for his career and our future that he accept the opportunity. So, what was originally supposed to be a year of distance is quickly turning into two years and maybe more. (Someone in Edmonton.. please hire me already.)
Surprisingly, I think we can both admit that we’re somewhat grateful for the distance. Long distance relationships are no joke. It makes you realize whether or not you truly want to make the relationship work. Once you’ve decided that you do want to make it work, there’s really only one thing you need to focus on: communication. Our long distance relationship has pushed our communication to new heights.
I wanted to share some of the communication habits we’ve learned to incorporate in our long distance relationship. Of course, every relationship is different. These habits may work for us, but it may not necessarily work for you. But I thought it would be great to share something that can serve as a starting point for you and your faraway partner.
ROUTINE IS A GOOD THING.
During our first year of distance, we were both in school, taking an overload of classes. So, at first, things seemed manageable: we could call and text each other any time of the day. But then things started to pick up and it became a bit more complicated. Our schedules were no longer flexible: his free time was not my free time and my free time was not his free time. Eventually, it was just easier not to call or text because playing phone tag isn’t as fun as it sounds. After awhile of playing phone tag, feelings of neglect or indifference can begin to creep in. Fast forward to when he moved to Alberta in our second year of distance.. In addition to being busy, we were now in different time zones. He was two hours behind, meaning when I was ready to go to bed, he was in the middle of his evening activities.
When I was away at grad school, we made sure to set aside an hour every night to just talk to each other, whether it was on the phone (he got a long distance plan for me) or on Google hangouts (so we can see each other face to face). We put away everything: homework, laptops, television, other conversations, and anything else that would distract us from connecting and talking. No matter where I was or what I was doing, I knew there was a phone call coming through at 10 PM every night and I would have to stop what I was doing to talk to him. After he moved to Alberta, we stuck to our commitment to put aside an hour every night to talk. It prevents feelings of neglect and it helps us connect on what bothered us throughout the day or how we’re feeling and what we’re thinking.
Of course, there are nights when we don’t talk for the entire hour or we have to adjust our talking time because of well, life.. Also, we do text and call each other randomly throughout the day whenever we find the time. We don’t limit ourselves to the one hour at night, but the guaranteed one hour is focused attention with no distractions. It creates a reliable routine that pushes us to maintain communication.
SPELL IT OUT FOR EACH OTHER.
Body language is such a powerful tool and you won’t realize that until it’s no longer readily accessible to you. With the distance, we are left to the devices of technology, which doesn’t always reveal the nuances of body language. Seeing someone face to face, you can watch for the moments when they begin to feel turned off, when they begin to feel a twinge of annoyance, when they begin to get upset. You see how their body tenses up, how their eyebrows furrow, and how their eye contact wavers. All of these little nuances in body language can reveal the emotional state of a person. But over the phone, all you will hear is silence, while the person on the other line goes through all the motions.
In order to combat the miscommunication, my boyfriend and I have learned to simply spell everything out, to say what we’re feeling out loud, and to explain the thoughts that are racing through our minds on a moment-to-moment basis. It has forced us to evaluate the words we use that may trigger a reaction and the words we should use to calm the storm. We’ve learned to use our words a lot more often than not because we have nothing else left to rely on.
Whenever we get into a dispute or an argument, we always do a recap once things die down. We sit there and evaluate where things went sour, why things went bad, and how we could have handled the situation better. We identify the moments when it would have been helpful to spell it out. As much as possible, we leave very little to presumption and speculation. We spell it out for each other: how we feel, what triggered that feeling, and what each of us can do better in that type of situation.
SHARE EVERY LAST DETAIL.
This may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely been something that has worked out for my relationship. The issue with a long distance relationship is the fact that you are experiencing every aspect of your life without this person. There is no part of your day, your week, or even your month that you are literally experiencing with your significant other. They’re not going out to events with you; they’re not even watching the same news stories as you sometimes. So, you are both experiencing life in different ways. When you experience life in this way, it is possible for the two of you to grow in two different directions. Your life experiences are shaping you to become two very distinct and separate beings, which can affect your relationship.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every experience we go through shapes who we are in some way, shape, or form. How I react to something tomorrow may be a result of something that happened to me today. I want my significant other to understand that, so I strive to tell him everything that happens throughout my day, from my workout at the gym and the people I encountered there to my night out with my girls and the stories we shared. He even tells me about little food places he’s found at the corner of the street that serves the best chicken and rice he’s had in the city. These little things may seem so insignificant at first glance, but we share these little details because we want to grow together, despite being far apart.