We know just how tough it is to be physically separated from your partner in an international long distance relationship.
Whether it’s struggling to plan a romantic FaceTime date when you’re in almost opposite timezones, navigating strong cultural differences, or breaking through language barriers.
These and other scenarios can leave you feeling frustrated, lonely, and completely disconnected from your partner…
…if they’re not handled properly.
We’re here to show you how to embrace these challenges and come out on top!
While the difficulties that come with an international long distance relationship may be unavoidable. There are ways you can overcome them in a positive way.
We have firsthand experience in not only what you’re currently going through, but in exactly what to do to strengthen your relationship and use the distance to your advantage to deepen your emotional connection!
Ready to level up your international LDR? Let’s get stuck in.
How to Make an International Long Distance Relationship Work in 2023
Have Realistic Expectations
No matter how committed you both are to communicating with and seeing each other as much as you can, factors such as time differences, amount of distance, and financial costs will require you to be reasonable about what is manageable and sustainable.
While those factors can be less than ideal. As long as you communicate about your needs, boundaries, and schedules, you will be able to overcome them.
When setting expectations together, consider the below questions:
How often, and when, can we communicate?
Having an honest discussion about your communication needs can help you avoid either of you feeling ignored or feeling pressured to respond to texts immediately.
It’s totally normal for couples to have different styles of communication.
You may find that one of you hates texting throughout the day while one of you may feel upset if hours go by without any contact.
Compromise is the name of the game here, but boundaries are still important!
It’s understandable to let your partner know that you won’t be able to text during the workday, but what can you do to make them feel special? Why not:
- Fire off a quick email when you get to work
- Send a “thinking of you” text at lunch, or
- Call them on your commute.
How often can we visit each other?
Depending on the distance between you this answer might range from every few months to every few weeks.
Both are okay and manageable as long as you are upfront about what is possible for you, both in terms of your schedules, responsibilities, and relationship needs.
Perhaps one of you is more restricted in terms of how often you are able to leave the country, but it also doesn’t seem sustainable for you to consistently not see each other for months at a time.
In cases like that, compromises such as one of you doing more of the traveling while the other covers half of the travel costs can help you find a balance that works.
Embrace Your Cultural Differences
Teaching each other about your different cultures, customs, and languages is a wonderful opportunity for you to understand each other on a deeper level.
Upbringing and lifestyle are two very informative pieces of a person, and maintaining an international relationship can give you a rare glimpse into how both of those things have shaped each of you into the people you are.
Not only can your cultural differences keep things interesting and add romance (“I love you” just hits differently in a foreign language, doesn’t it?). Being able to celebrate and learn from those differences will set you up for success in all aspects of your relationship!
These are some fun ways to share your culture with one another:
Tutoring session: One of you can (try to) teach the other a few phrases in their native language. If you both share the same language, quiz them on slang words.
Virtual cooking date: Pick a yummy recipe from one of your local cuisines, set up your laptop on the counter, pour a glass of wine, and make it together.
Foreign film screening: Pop on one of your childhood classics, or a new film from one of your countries, and watch it together while you video chat.
Plan For (& Combat) Post-Visit Blues
After weeks of anticipation building up for your visit, you experience a rush of serotonin and dopamine that comes with the emotional and physical benefits of being reunited.
The flood of such extreme emotions can make saying goodbye to your partner almost mimic the feeling of going through withdrawals.
You may experience increased anxiety, stress, sadness, and loneliness, which is completely normal, and your brain’s chemical reaction to being separated from someone you love.
As lonely as you may be feeling in the days after your visit, surrounding yourself with people and experiences that you love can help fill the void.
Jump back into your routine
As tempting as it may be to leave your clothes in your suitcase, give in to jet lag, and spend all day in bed texting your partner how much you miss them. Studies have shown the positive effects a routine has on our mental and physical health.
Lean on each other
Remember, they’re having the same experience as you! It’s reassuring and validating to open up about your feelings with someone who understands what you’re going through.
Expressing your frustrations to them, crying it out on the phone, or asking them to share how they’ve been feeling can help provide some relief.
Pick up a hobby
Whether you blow the dust off that old guitar or take an art class for the first time since high school, studies have proven that engaging in activities we enjoy positively affects our mood.
These scenarios also use a lot of mental energy and concentration. You’re putting yourself in a situation where you have to re-learn things or are trying to understand processes for the first time. This can have a major impact on those of us struggling with the distance as it leaves a lot less time to be thinking about missing your partner.
Has the distance got you down? Check out our research backed ways to combat long distance relationship depression.
Even if you spend the majority of the day messaging each other back and forth, it’s important to set aside specific times to have a phone or video date.
Texting is a great tool to stay connected in a consistent and casual way, and everyone enjoys sending memes back and forth. That said, we can agree that memes, no matter how funny they are, don’t fulfill the need for quality time and connection in the way that seeing each other’s faces and hearing each other’s voices can.
Especially if you are in different time zones, scheduling time that you can be totally present with each other will do wonders to help you feel closer, no matter how many countries or oceans are separating you.
Why not schedule quality time?! Here are some fun and exciting things to do in a long distance relationship that will help you connect on a deeper level.
Level Up Your Savings
Despite the undeniably romantic upsides that come with an international long distance relationship, there are some obvious downsides.
Airport embraces, exploring new cities together, and jet-setting off to a different country buzzing with excitement for your reunions can be very dreamy and sophisticated, but they also take a toll on your bank account.
Plane tickets, international visas, and other travel costs can be expensive and add up quickly.
Setting budgeting and saving goals with your partner and brainstorming different ways to help with your “LDR” fund can help keep you accountable and bring some fun and partnership into a usually stressful subject.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
Get calculating: Use our Closing the Distance Date Calculator to help you track how long it will take you to save for your next visit.
Work together: Keep each other accountable as you cut any unnecessary expenses (like that morning latte), and put the money you save towards your next trip.
Sell, sell, SELL! We all have items lying around that we don’t use anymore. Why not throw them on sites like Facebook Marketplace or eBay?
Flight Hacks: Sign up for flight deal sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights and get creative about where you decide to reunite for visits to save money.
Plan Visits Well In Advance
Beyond the benefits that planning visits in advance have on budgets and visa applications. Having something specific planned to look forward to, and a concrete date of when you’ll physically be together is a powerful motivational tool.
Once you have a date locked in, combat your impatience between visits by taking advantage of the interim and building excitement in productive, and cute, ways.
Create an itinerary
Ensure you are making the most of your time together by booking activities, making reservations or planning get-togethers.
Whether it’s asking them to take you on a tour of their favorite spots, securing a table at the new restaurant down the street, or organizing drinks with friends or family members, writing out an itinerary will remind you how much you have to look forward to.
Just make sure you don’t forget to also schedule some alone time. If you catch my drift!
Set goals for between visits
Challenge yourselves to accomplish goals during your time apart.
You could learn 5 new phrases in your partner’s language, download an app where you can both set and share fitness goals, or read a book that you can discuss together when you see each other.
This will help give purpose to the time you spend apart, and it adds a layer of excitement when you have something new to show or share with your partner.
Start a countdown
Download the app appropriately named Countdown (iOS & Android) or go old-school with a calendar on your wall.
Seeing the days tick down can be a comforting reminder that you’ll soon be back in each other’s arms.
Is your ‘next visit’ actually the first? Here are some important tips for long distance couples meeting for the first time.
Do Regular Relationship Things
You might not have the flexibility of traditional date nights like grabbing a drink together at a local bar or sharing popcorn at the movie theater.
But you do have the opportunity to get creative!
Here are some options that will result in a few memorable experiences:
FaceTime dinner: Light some candles, pop that champagne and dress up as if you were actually going out to a nice restaurant.
Do a virtual escape the room: Put your puzzle skills to work and make your way through a virtual escape room together at The Escape Game.
Take a class together: From DIY bath bombs to Tarot Readings, Uncommon Goods has a wide variety of unique virtual experiences and classes.
Take a virtual museum tour: Together you can virtually wander the halls of museums from all around the world, from Amsterdam to Seol.
Try a virtual date box: Take the planning off your hands with Box42’s virtual date night, from a food and drink shopping list to multiple interactive activities, they’ve got you covered!
FaceTime wine tasting: Order a collection of wine, buy some cheese, and tipsily suggest that the white has “hints of pear” even if neither of you knows what you’re talking about.
Looking for more ideas? Check out our post on long distance date ideas and activities you can try tonight!
Use Time Zone Differences to Your Advantage
Time differences can be frustrating, but they can only come between you and your partner if you let them!
Having a big difference in time zones can actually allow you to be more spontaneous and let your partner know they’re on your mind in thoughtful ways:
If your day is coming to an end as theirs begins, write them an email to wake up to! Share whatever comes to mind or was interesting about your day and send them positive encouragement for the day ahead of them.
Spoiler alert! This forms an important part of our 7 Day LDR Challenge. Find out more about how our challenge can help strengthen your international long distance relationship.
Who doesn’t love a good surprise?!
Koya is an app that allows you to schedule messages and gifts to send to your partner, so you can ensure they feel special even if you’re sleeping or busy at work.
If you know your partner’s go-to lunch spot, Koya can send your partner a gift card when they reach that location, surprising them with a personalized photo, message, and money for lunch!
Wake up calls
If your time difference allows it, one of you can call the other in place of setting an alarm.
Hearing the voice of the person you love is a much better way to start your day than hitting the snooze button!
Work on Yourself
Whether you live down the block or on the other side of the world from your partner, maintaining independence is a pivotal part of a healthy and balanced relationship.
While it may not seem like something you need to put much thought into when you spend so much time apart, being independent is different than just being alone.
Be purposeful with the time you have to yourself, and make sure you are making daily choices that help you grow and flourish as a person.
- Practice self-care daily
- Learning a new hobby
- Spending time with friends and family
- Volunteering in your community
Now It’s Your Turn
Share this with your partner, and ask yourselves:
What can we implement today to strengthen our international long distance relationship?
While being in different countries can add a layer of challenges, which most couples don’t have to think about. At the end of the day, distance or not, maintaining a relationship is a choice made by both you and your partner.
We hope these tips leave you feeling empowered to make choices every day to care for your relationships, regardless of your circumstances.
Want more? Join our LDR Support Group to meet with other like-minded and inclusive couples dealing with all the ups and downs that international LDRs have to offer.
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