Now going on 8 years strong, our relationship has definitely evolved over the years. Though for 1 out of the 8 years we’ve been together, we entered into a LDR or long distance relationship. We are often asked about the brief moment we were in a LDR and how to make a long distance relationship work.
That was in 2009! Years ago, when our relationship was still new and we were still exploring our own personal goals and interests, Albie decided to volunteer for 2 years in Bangladesh for the United Nations World Food Programme.
Although this was an amazing opportunity to not only help refugees who were deprived of human rights, it was also a great way for him to explore what he wanted to do with his life. At the time, we were both studying at university in Sydney and Albie decided to quit law school and volunteer instead.
It was at this moment that we decided to continue our relationship and see where it would lead us. For the next year, our love grew stronger in a long distance relationship. Looking back, we feel so grateful for the challenges that led us to where we are now. We’re strong believers that everything happens for a reason and being in a LDR meant we just had to work harder if we really wanted our relationship to last.
How to make a long distance relationship work
Let’s be clear- every relationship is different and some of these tips that we found very helpful may not be for your relationship. It’s important however to keep an open mind about how the relationship can work and putting in time and effort to make it work. Here are 5 tips that really helped us personally through our LDR moment.
1. Make time for your loved one
This sounds pretty straight forward but for a long distance relationship you need to consider each other’s busy life schedule as well as time difference. For us, we were 5 hours apart. I had three part time jobs and studied full time at university, while Albie worked long hours volunteering and commuting to the refugee camps.
For us, we tried to ease it all in as it can be overwhelming and demanding to all of a sudden go from living 10 minutes away from each other to being miles apart. We decided on a weekly basis to have a chat over the phone. This worked well for us and our schedule. Knowing that we seriously considered each other’s schedule and made time out of our busy lives for each other was comforting and often our weekly rituals would be something to look forward to at the end of the week.
2. Learn about relationships
For us, a big part of understanding each other needs and behaviors was to learn through relationship books. We looked into finding studies and expects that provided relationship advice on how to proceed with a LDR. There were two books that helped us the most in order to understand each other better. These were:
1. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate- Gary D. Chapman:
This book goes through 5 love languages that people express to one another and that people expect from their loved one. Basically we read the book separately and took a little time to determine what kind of love language we were projecting most and what we wanted our partner to give back to us. It was an interesting way to understand that everyone’s way of how showing love is different and you can’t expect a person to show you love a certain way without learning about those ‘love languages’. After we learnt each other’s love languages, it allowed us to show love to each other the best way we could.
2. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus- John Gray:
This book was definitely an interesting read. It goes through the unique differences between men and women and how we cannot expect our partners to react, say, feel or do as we would in any situation. The underlining point that really resonated with us is that men and women are different and should be considered to be different. Communication is also key in finding solutions to any issues or problems that arise.
3. Go online
With the ample of apps, programs and websites available to help you connect with your partner, there really is no excuse in making the time to spend with your partner online. Now with Skype, Facetime, Snapchat and more, there are very creative and interesting ways to keep the relationship exciting and fun.
Back in the day when Snapchat and some other super cool apps didn’t exist, we used Skype for our weekly chats as well as emails and international SMS text messages for ongoing communication. This was good as we were able to see each other and communicate in real time. It really felt like we were right next to each other. Being apart physically meant that we were somewhat forced to communicate to one another on more of a deeper level. The bonds we built were definitely stronger because of this and by the end of the LDR year, we felt like we knew each other inside out.
4. Letter writing
This is an old school method that works like a charm and it is also super romantic! We did in fact write physically letters to each other and mailed them. This included postcards while we traveled separately in different parts of the world. These letters are so personal, thoughtful and kind of time stamped to the relationship moving towards something more serious.
Understanding that the postal system in countries like Bangladesh were not that great and receiving letters would take forever, Albie came up with a great idea. He thought that creating a blog where each of us could write ‘posts’ (like a letter) to each other about their thoughts, feelings and what’s going on on their side of the world. That way we could still keep the connection going strong even when we couldn’t speak to each other.
Our blog was called Feelskies Island. It was a private blog only open to view by the users aka us. For that 1 year, it became the place to go whenever we missed each other. I remember looking forward to new posts each day. It was also a creative space for us to share what we were individually going through from work, family, friends, study etc. We uploaded videos and photos to make it more interactive.
5. Plan travel trips
It can be hard for anyone to be apart from their loved one particularly for periods longer than a week or two. If you and your partner end up being worlds apart, a great way to keep the relationship exciting is to plan travel trips to meet your partner. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore new places, foods and cultures and share them with your special someone.
Since I was still studying at university, I made it a point to visit every university break throughout the year. I would plan to visit other countries nearby and stop by to Bangladesh. I was studying social work at the time and choose to volunteer while on break in order to gain experience in the field. Albie would then take time off through leave and travel to the other countries with me.
Spending face to face time with your loved one is important and we came to realize for me this was particularly important as my love language was linked to spending quality time. In a span of 1 year, we traveled to India, Bangladesh (several times), Thailand and Australia. This was really the beginning of our passion to travel which led us living in Ecuador today.
Planning trips and making the effort to see each other also meant we had something to look forward to. A count down to when we would see each other next. What we learnt from this is that when you don’t see your partner often, it can mean the times you do are together even more special. You begin to appreciate the other person so much more and value then not only as your partner but as a best friend.
We don’t think anyone would willingly want to be in a long distance relationship. It just sort of happens and it’s a challenge in a relationship that can really make your bonds so much stronger. You gain a better outlook on what really matters and how to be with each other even if you are worlds apart. We hope that the 5 tips on how to make a long distance relationship work from our own personal experience really helps you on the next chapter of your relationship.