Distance can actually make the heart grow fonder.
When I moved to Oxford almost two years ago, I dreamt of falling in love. The philosophy scholar, the village poet, the infamous YouTube star were all guys I met…but didn’t fall in love with. Instead I fell in love with a boy I’d met in New York who happened to live in L.A.—a whole 11 hours away by plane. Today, after 18 months of phone calls, FaceTime and texting, I finally live with my “abroad” boyfriend.
In celebration of the end of this time of my life (and because I’ve learned a hell of a lot), I’ve written a list of tips to get anyone through the long-distance phase. Whether it’s a summer fling turned cross-country heartache, or a hometown lover turned trans-Atlantic sweetheart, here are seven ways to keep you sane and satisfied while you’re apart.
1. “Hello, sanity, it’s me, speed dial”
Perhaps the biggest change that comes with long distance is your relationship with your phone. FaceTime, Skype, Snapchat, whatever it is, you’re on it to keep “in touch.” What’s challenging is how and when you speak. Some days, FaceTiming for more than 10 minutes feels straight-up tedious. Other days you’re too busy to talk before six. Figure out what times work. If you love the sound of their voice first thing in the morning, call them on your way to work. If you’d rather talk in bed, call your S.O. at the end of the day. And remember, avoid 4 AM on Sunday mornings. Their phone call should be a treat, not an alarm clock.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Not knowing when you’ll see your partner next is stressful. No ifs or buts with that one. Even if it’s in a week, a month, or a year, decide when you’re seeing them next. Maybe you can’t buy flights yet, or you might have an event that weekend, or—it doesn’t matter. Just take your planner, grab a pencil, and circle a potential weekend as a “goal.” Even if that timing doesn’t work out, it’ll feel better to know you have a potential date in the future.
3. Learn to love where they’re at
Everybody knows there’s nothing more annoying than babysitting a 27-year-old. So when it comes to visiting your long-distance love, make sure to treat it like your own vacation as well. You don’t want your whole weekend to depend on them, so make it your own escape. Be comfortable going out on your own to get a coffee or seeing other friends if they’re in town. Get to know the city like it’s your own. It’s important for both of you to feel at ease, and sometimes that means having an hour, 40 minutes, or an afternoon apart. That way it doesn’t feel like life stops when you’re in town. If they normally sleep until one and you’re an 8 AM riser, grab a book and go for a walk. No need to stress about time when you’re together.
4. Memorize these three words: How. Are. You?
It’s easy to treat your significant other like a therapist on the phone. And it’s even easier to feel like you have “nothing to talk about” when you’re miles away. So in order to avoid a. hurting their feelings and b. freaking out, learn these three little words: “How are you?” Practicing a pattern of asking how they are first shows how much you care, while also removing some of the pressure you might put on your on-the-phone charm. Trust me, how you answer the phone sets the tone for the rest of the conversation, and sometimes, the rest of the day.
5. Replace the BF with a BFF
One thing you’ll definitely gain in a long-distance relationship is free time. The late afternoons, weekend mornings, and late nights that you usually spent with your partner are suddenly just yours. During the week, why not use that time to read a book? When it comes to the weekend, develop a friendship. And when it comes to certain topics of conversation, tell it to your friend. Especially if it has to do with something they can relate to better than your partner right now. A psychotic intern at work? An overbearing boss? While it’s true that dealing with long distance does mean fewer weekends staying in bed, it also opens the space for stronger friendships, which we all know is just as important.
6. Choose your stories wisely
A common side effect of long distance is cravings. Sexual cravings, intimacy cravings, and sometimes straight-up emotional cravings. From my experience, it’s normal to crave strong feelings from your S.O. as a way of feeling close. And really, what stronger feeling is there than being angry? But before you pick up the phone, think twice. Do you really need to admit your best friend thinks there’s no point in you guys still being together? Or how drunk you got the other night and how you maybe flirted with your coworker? No. Learn to keep some stories for your roommate, and some for your partner.
7. Have fun.
Life is too short to stay in bed looking at Instagrams from last summer. Go out, cook dinner, see a concert. It’s okay to have fun on your own. In fact, it’ll only help your relationship if you’re comfortable in your own life. Don’t take it too seriously. If you love each other you’ll see each other soon. I promise.