It’s totally normal to question everything before starting a long distance relationship.
Is our relationship strong enough?
What if we start to grow apart?
What will our friends and family think?
How can we manage going months without seeing each other?
The answers? Most can only come from experience. You’ll never truly understand what it’s like until you’ve lived it.
We’ve lived it and we’re here for you!
But who are we?
We’re Lolo and Nate, the founders of this very website. We were in a long distance relationship (really long, Australia to Canada long) for over 18 months.
It was totally worth it but we were naive to the harsh realities that we’d encounter along the way.
We’ve since closed the distance, lived in each other’s home country and started a family together! You can read more about our LDR timeline here.
So, now that we’ve been through the ups and downs of starting a long distance relationship. We are sharing some of the lessons we learned along the way so that you are better prepared than we ever were.
Ready? Let’s get stuck in.
1. You Both Need to Go All In
We think the two most important ingredients in the recipe for an LDR success story are:
If one of you is trying to convince the other that a long distance relationship is doable, it creates an imbalance in the relationship before you’re even faced with being apart.
This can create feelings of resentment and frustration can easily bubble over when the person who suggested long distance feels they are trying harder to make things work to prove things will be okay or realizes the other isn’t doing enough.
If you or your partner are on the fence about having the ability to handle the distance, a serious conversation needs to be had to address all concerns.
You need to ask yourselves AND each other question like:
- Are we truly serious about making this work?
- What are we willing to do to work through the hard times together?
2. You’ll Have to Make Tough Decisions
Starting a long distance relationship will require you to make sacrifices, and not just the sacrifice of moving your sex life from the bedroom to Zoom (please don’t use Zoom, it just rhymes!).
If there is any awkwardness it’s temporary, we promise!
Both as a couple and on an individual level, there are difficult decisions that will need to be made.
Some decisions will be related to your day-to-day life, like missing out on plans with friends so you can video chat before bed. Other decisions will be much bigger and related to your future, like deciding which one of you will eventually make the move so you can be together again.
Every decision doesn’t need to be made right away, but you both must be open to the idea of AND be willing to make sacrifices.
Speaking of sex! Check out our post on the best sex toys for long distance couples to be intimate from afar.
3. Fights Will Be Inevitable
Because long distance relationships are prone to so many ups and downs, you will run into differences and conflict points (maybe more than other couples).
You will misunderstand each other and sometimes take your frustration out on your partner.
We tried hard not to dwell on how much we wanted to be together and how much the situation sucked. We also tried hard to remember that the distance is only temporary!
When we forgot what we were fighting about in the first place (believe me, this happened more than once) we tried to find the funny side of things.
It is hard to be mad at someone when you’re smiling.
It also helped us to calm down and work out our differences. And when we could figure out what had led to the tension in the first place we would really try hard to take a step back to see how it affected one another.
4. Everyone Won’t Support Your Choices
People in your life are going to share their opinion on your choices, wanted or not.
Whether it’s Linda at your work happy hour, sighing that she just doesn’t understand:
HOW are you okay with being apart?
Or your Uncle jokingly questioning:
Are they even real?
In the beginning, these and similar scenarios will eat away at you. Just know it’s OK, we’re human! We take our family and friends’ opinions personally because we care about them.
It’s also important to remember that, the majority of the time, they are sharing their opinions because they care about you too.
Regardless if they’re afraid of you getting hurt, have only heard about the negatives, or simply don’t understand how anyone could want to start a long distance relationship, keep in mind that they are sharing opinions without experience.
The only people who truly understand your relationship and what works for it are you and your partner.
5. Your Sleep Schedule Will Be Messed Up
It doesn’t matter if you’re on opposite sides of the world or in the same time zone, texting, video chats and phone calls are going to become more precious than ever, resulting in you talking at all hours of the day (and night).
In theory, the idea of video chatting into the early hours of the morning until you both fall asleep with your laptops still on is cute.
In reality, it usually ends with your laptop smashing onto the floor when you roll over in your sleep, and dozing off during your morning meeting.
Not so cute.
Some late nights and coffee-fueled mornings will be inevitable.
But, continuously allowing your distance to negatively impact your sleep schedule will negatively impact your everyday life, like your mood and your functionality at work or school.
This can then bleed into your relationship by causing sleep-deprived arguments or lapses of responsibility that could eventually delay or affect visits.
So, accept that your sleep schedule will change, but still prioritize getting enough of it.
6. Your Social Life Will Take A Hit
As we set up a schedule to talk at more appropriate times, some sacrifices had to be made. One thing that took a hit in the process was our social lives.
This is OK. Even necessary to a certain extent.
It is inevitable that you’ll start to spend more time with your partner. However, the best thing you can to keep you both healthy in the long run is to strike a balance.
Couples in long distance relationships can tend to go ‘all in’ quite quickly, which can put a strain on your other relationships and commitments.
We made a special effort to keep up with our regular routine around sport and other social activities as much as possible by prioritizing. This helped us see what was really worth hanging onto and what was worth letting go of so we could connect more.
7. Recognize That the Pain is a Positive
We’re not going to sugarcoat it, being in a long distance relationship can be extremely painful.
There will be:
- Feelings of jealousy when they answer your phone calls while having fun without you.
- Times when you’re struggling to fall asleep because you miss their physical presence.
- Moments of tearful goodbyes at airport gates when it feels like it’s all becoming too much.
As difficult as it can be to recognize while you’re riding the emotional LDR roller coaster, the fact that you both are experiencing it is a positive thing.
It shows how much you care for one another and what you’re willing to go through to make your relationship work.
That’s not only beautiful, but also powerful.
When it does come time to close the distance, you’ll both look back at everything you went through and accomplished together. Knowing that whatever is in store for your relationship, you are ready for it.
8. It Will Be Awkward When You Meet In Person
Expect things to feel exciting, stressful, and maybe weird the first time you meet.
You might second guess yourself and wonder what on earth you are thinking getting into this relationship.
Breathe through this time.
Try to be gentle with yourself (and them) during those first intense minutes and hours. And plan some activities that can help defuse the intensity during that first visit.
9. Always Be Planning Your Next Visit
A great way to manage the pain while apart is focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.
That light is being in each other’s arms!
The unknown can be terrifying, and we can gaurantee that saying goodbye at the end of a visit will be almost unbearable if you have no idea when you’ll be seeing each other again.
It’s no secret that some couples are better at planning than others and that’s ok!
You don’t need to plan out the next six months in advance. Just take some time before each reunion to look ahead and start talking about when the next visit should be.
Even if that “next time” is months away, simply having a timeframe to work towards will not only be reassuring but it also creates a common goal you’ll be working towards, together.
Is your ‘next visit’ actually the first? Here are some important tips for long distance couples meeting for the first time.
10. Set & Achieve Goals Together
If it so happens that your next visit is months away, it’s important to make an effort to maintain a routine in the meantime and continue to do things that ‘regular couples’ do despite the distance.
Don’t believe us?
Goal setting has shown to have many positive benefits on relationships, including strengthening the connection between partners, improving communication, and boosting happiness.
These are some ways you can incorporate goal-setting into your LDR lifestyle:
Cross off items from your travel bucket list together: Your visits don’t have to be back and forth to each other’s homes. Why not plan future trips to new countries and cities together.
Commit to taking turns planning a weekly date night: Whether you get to tune into each other’s interests by watching a soccer game or reality TV show finale, or both try something new together, this will help you both get creative with planning.
Be accountability buddies: Has your partner been trying to get into drawing? Are you trying to learn how to cook? Whatever your individual goals may be, have weekly check-ins to share your progress.
Work out together: Get your sweat on in a virtual class, get a fitness watch where you can set challenges with each other, or just turn on Zoom and do the same routine together!
11. Take Advantage of Alone Time
Maintaining your independence and having time to yourself is important in any healthy relationship.
When couples live in close proximity, friend groups, routines, and hobbies can blend together, and it can be difficult to preserve a sense of identity outside of the relationship.
Although that isn’t much of a concern for long distance couples, it can still require conscious effort to fully embrace the time you have to yourself, especially when you’re struggling with missing your partner.
Focusing on using the time apart to improve your mental and physical health and independence is a productive distraction from your separation.
Here are some examples:
- Practice a daily self-care routine.
- Journal to process your emotions.
- Start a new hobby or pick up an old one.
- Join a gym, at-home workout membership, or weekly workout class.
- Learn to cook new, nourishing meals.
- Take yourself out on a weekly date.
- Spend time outside.
- Challenge yourself with activities outside of your comfort zone.
- Invest time in your relationships with friends and family.
12. Don’t Leave Communication to Chance
When you’re living in the same place as your partner, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t text throughout the day when you know you’ll be seeing them soon.
You probably wouldn’t bat an eye if they couldn’t answer the phone because they’re at the gym, or had to cut your video chat short because they were about to catch up with friends.
But when you’re long distance, those things start to matter.
In the beginning, vague plans like “call you tonight” or “we’ll FaceTime tomorrow” might work, but you’ll soon realize that settling into a loose routine as early as possible can provide you both with comfort, security, and more meaningful interactions.
For example, agree on things like:
- A day for your weekly date night
- Calling each other during the commute home, or
- Agree to always check in over text when you wake up every morning
Even if it’s just for a few minutes, having an idea of when you can expect to hear from your partner will help you feel connected throughout the day.
13. Be Flexible With Each Other
It’s important to note that we said loose routine.
There are many benefits to having a consistent routine, but it’s also necessary to be understanding of the fact that sometimes plans will change.
In a normal relationship, we’ve all been guilty of unfairly getting frustrated with our partner over something out of their control, like having to reschedule dinner plans because their boss asked them to stay late at work.
Another thing that will be out of both of your control, but will still trigger frustration, is that a long distance relationship, and living in different time zones or countries, is going to make your schedules more different than ever before.
Recognize that last minute changes, whether it’s missing a phone call or needing to postpone a trip, are going to be a part of any relationship, regardless of distance.
14. Learn to Express Feelings & Emotions
Picture this: You have a trip coming up and are both super excited planning each day to the minute. It feels as though nothing can come in between you and the amazing time you’re about to have together.
Then, 💩 hits the fan as your partner’s boss revokes their time off request.
While this is completely out of their and your control, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to make you feel some type of way.
Whether it’s feelings of disappointment, frustration, sadness or completely breaking down in tears and getting angry.
Know that it’s completely normal and healthy to let yourself fully experience the depth of those emotions. It only becomes unhealthy when you hold back from sharing those emotions with your partner, and opening up to them about what’s going on with you.
In the moment, you might feel as though you’re doing your partner a favor by shielding them from the fact that you’re upset. No matter how well-intended your reasoning may be, it is always the right choice to express your feelings with your partner.
We’ve all been there!
If you aren’t able to share with your partner what is upsetting you, you are not only robbing them of the opportunity to be there for you but opening the door to miscommunication.
Just imagine them internalizing your frustrations and placing their own meaning on what’s going on with you. How often do you think they will get it right?
When you are with your partner in person, communication will naturally happen, and happen more effectively. But when you are long distance, communication becomes a conscious choice.
15. Know That Jealousy Will Strike
And at anytime…
Two of the most frequent forms of jealousy in a LDR you’re likely to encounter are:
- Seeing a loved up couple showing each other affection leaving you feeling envious that they can just BE with their partner.
- When your partner goes out enjoying drinks with friends and all you can think about is they’re having fun without you and the people they ‘could’ encounter.
When it comes to the first situation…You’re going to encounter other couples whether you like it or not. The best thing you can do is be glad for them and hope that once you and your partner close the distance you’ll be just as happy as they look.
The second situation is by far the hardest to overcome. The real issue here is trust. Without trust and some level of emotional generosity on your part, these feelings of jealousy will continue to pop up and will start to poison you over time!
Lack of trust in a long distance relationship will not only impact your relationships but also your personal life.
Being in opposite time zones made it really tough when it came to the weekend. One of us would be going to bed while the other was up and about. This sort of situation allows the mind to race, and frankly get out of control sometimes!
What is she doing? Who is she with? Is she going out tonight? What if she meets someone?
These questions and more will pop up from time to time and the best way we found to deal with them was by being honest and having trust in each another. We’d communicate what we were doing or what we did and this made it a lot easier to deal with the separation when we’d know each other was out having fun. If there were times that we couldn’t deal with it, we’d also talk about that too rather than bottling it up inside.
16. Gifts, Letters, & Thoughtful Gestures Mean More
You know that saying “a picture is worth a thousand words?” Well, when you’re in a long distance relationship, sometimes a gift is worth a thousand hugs.
When you’re far away from the person you love, gifts, presents, letters, and other thoughtful gestures become even more meaningful.
So even if giving gifts isn’t really your “thing”, make it more of your thing when you’re apart.
These gifts don’t have to be expensive (although, by all means, if you have the money and the love, go for it) but they should be thoughtful. If your partner can tell you put some thought into a present or a gesture, they will appreciate it more than you may ever know.
Want a few ideas? Check out our post on the best gifts to keep long distance couples connected.
17. Plan For Your Savings to Take a Hit
Starting a long distance relationship will have you dipping into your savings like it’s monopoly money.
You’ll likely come across expenses like:
- Plane tickets for visits (potentially visas and travel insurance)
- Airbnb’s for weekend getaways
- Extra data chargers for those late night video calls (guilty!)
- Gifts for occasions and just because!
- Plus many more unforeseen debit card swipes…
Money and finances can be a stressful topic to discuss, so make sure you and your partner have an honest conversation about your current financial situation, what concerns you have about additional expenses, and what you can both do to plan ahead.
Try these tips to navigate the finances and avoid breaking hearts AND bank accounts:
- Use our Closing the Distance Calculator to help you find the best time to visit based on how much you think it will cost, compared to how much you can save.
- Cut spending on unnecessary expenses like ordering takeout or buying that morning coffee.
- Gather belongings or clothing you no longer use and have a yard sale or sell them online.
These are all easy steps to take that can have a big impact in the long run.
Speaking of gifts! We’ve put together a list of epic long distance relationship gifts to help make the miles melt away.
You’re Ready to Start Your LDR!
While we thoroughly believe the points above will set you up for success. There are some questions to ask yourself first to find out where you both stand.
Questions to ask before starting a long distance relationship
What piece of advice hit home the hardest for you? Which one makes you feel most equipped to handle the distance? Which one do you think you would struggle with the most?
If you’re still feeling completely confused and overwhelmed, it’s ok!
This is a big decision, and it’s only natural that it would require a lot of thought and consideration. It’s time to share this with your partner so you can work together and take a deeper look at the realities of what’s to come.
Remember, you are not alone, join our LDR support group where you can get advice from people who have not only been in the same situation as you, but have seen it through to success!