Long-Distance Relationships – 5 Ways To Survive

long-distance relationships

This isn’t going to be something that we all haven’t heard thousands of times since March 2020, but Covid has made everything so much tougher. It’s made us realise how much we took everything for granted. Who among us ever thought we’d live in a time where we can’t sit in a park with friends without being stared at by passers-by like we’re bubonic plague victims?

This past year, we haven’t been able to shop, travel, go to pubs, visit family, or even say a friendly hello to your elderly neighbour while out walking without her running into traffic to avoid you. But look at us, we’ve all (mostly) managed to obey these restrictions without completely losing our minds. 

Basically, most things used to be so easy! But what about things that were difficult to start with? 

Long-distance relationships are a challenge at the best of times, but people’s reasons for doing them have always been work, study, or family-related. The pandemic has forced people apart, dealing with long-distance relationships is now less about “I need to live elsewhere to save up enough to emigrate” to “I’m literally not allowed to come see you due to this global health crisis”. It’s even less of a choice now than it was before.

If you’re reading this, you may be going through something similar. So, let’s talk about it.

  • Can these long-distance relationships work?
  • How will we know if they’re working?
  • Is it even worth it?
  • Here are some facts and tips to help you get your head straight.

Let’s start with some harsh (and not so harsh) truths

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Spoiler Alert: Dealing with long distance-relationships is hard. Hopefully you’re already aware of this. If not, it’s hard. We’re social beings; for most of us, physical intimacy is one of the most important things in a relationship. I’m not just talking about sex here (even though, obviously..), I’m talking about physical touch in general. A hand on the leg, arm, or back, for example, are simple, often subconscious, ways we all reassure our partners. Without that, it can be difficult to express ourselves and feel that connection.

So, you need to put in the work, it takes commitment and (oh, the horror) verbally expressing yourself.

Some positive news first

A survey conducted by KIIROO found that almost 60% of long-distance relationships actually last. This may not seem particularly high, but the “long-distance relationships never last” crowd would swear up and down that not a single one has ever worked. But, it is only just over half, so take it as you will.

LDR’s aren’t all doom and gloom! There is a whole list of positives:

  • You have more autonomy
  • You get better at communicating with your partner
  • The time that you spend together is even more precious
  • It’s a true test of your relationship. If you can survive a long time apart, it’s a testament to the strength of the relationship.

Aaand the bad news..

According to another study, the transition from long-distance to becoming geographically close is challenging, and only half of the couples make it to this point. However, I’m sorry to say that it isn’t all sunshine and roses, even for that lucky 50%. 

The same study states that, of the couples that make the transition to living together, one-third end up calling it quits after three months. This is because people tend to miss the LDR positives listed above (particularly the autonomy) and the uncovering of aspects of their partner’s personality that they may find unbearable. It’s like packing up and moving from Ireland to Canada only to find that your boyfriend explodes into a round of applause in the cinema when the credits roll. 

Other people are irritating

We all love our friends and family. Their understanding and support are what have helped us get through some of the most difficult times in our lives. However, long-distance relationships are a reasonably new phenomenon, and, unless people have been through it themselves, their attempts at empathy can start to feel a little disingenuous. 

Be prepared to hear some variation on the phrase: Jaysus, that must be tough going every time your partner is brought up.

Some of the other greatest hits include:

  • “I know how you feel; my girlfriend spent a month in America last summer”
  • “I don’t think I’d be able to do that myself”
  • “So, what do you guys even talk about for an hour a day?”
  • “Wow, so you two are still together?”
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You get to be Kim in this scenario

Here’s the thing, you just have to take it on the chin and keep going. Most people mean well and just want to know how you’re handling it. Be polite and you can vent about it to your partner later.

Final truth

This can be a difficult one for some people to take, but not every relationship is cut out for long-distance. Some couples need to be together for things to work and that’s fine. You’ll figure out pretty quickly whether or not it’s working. It is still worth the effort! 

How do I survive a long-distance relationship?

This is a tough situation. Hearing anyone say that you “just have to deal with it” not only doesn’t help, but may even make you feel worse. You might hear some advice from people who have been through a long-distance relationship pre-pandemic, but the fact is that it’s not quite the same. It is harder in the current climate for one major reason: The situation you’re in is not your choice.

From lockdowns, to travel bans, to employment and financial difficulties, everything is up in the air, and it’s hard to see light at the end of the tunnel.

So, what can you do to make this easier?

1. You need to commit

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This first one may seem obvious, but commitment really is key here. If you’re not fully committed to the relationship, then the whole thing will crash and burn very quickly. The only thing that will keep the relationship alive is communication – and I don’t mean a daily “I love you” text. You need to speak, like, with your voices, every day. Video calls are the best way to maintain a relationship long distance.

One Reddit user claims that he and his partner video chat for 1-2 hours every day. Even though this may feel like a lot, it is how many couples manage to keep their relationship alight. 

Try and schedule a rough time every day that suits both of you and, if you can’t call on any particular day, make sure you let your partner know. Don’t just ghost them. Emotions can run high in these situations and you need to be delicate.

2. Plan for the future

This one can be tough considering, you know, the world. But you need to keep making plans. If you’re in a long-distance relationship in a non-covid world, you need to have an end date. If you’re working or studying, it’s usually best to plan your reunion soon after your graduation or the end of your contract.

Once again, communication is the key to figuring this out. Would it make more sense for you to move to where your partner is or for them to come to you? Maybe it will even be necessary for both of you to move to a third location! Look up employment opportunities for both of you in all of these locations. Be sure to consider the cost of living (rent, bills, pints, etc.) too! 

If you’re in a long distance relationship during covid, things are a lot more difficult. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the separation is less likely to be a choice. Many couples around the world have been forced apart due to lockdown restrictions. This is not as big of an issue for couples from the same country, as you are both adhering (maybe) to the same set of rules and restrictions. For couples who are from different countries, or even continents, there are two different sets of rules to keep up with.

Because of this, these couples need to navigate changing visa restrictions, expensive mandatory quarantine, difficulties finding work in countries where you may not even speak the native language, and the added costs of moving your life so far away.

If you’re in this situation, you still need to plan, the only difference is that you need to have a plan A, B, C, D, E.. For example:

  • If you can’t enter a specific country due to lockdown, maybe consider looking for countries that will give visas to people from both of your home nations. Passport Index is a great resource for comparing visa requirements for all countries.
  • If employment is an issue, there are options on Workaway which, even though they are unpaid, do provide food and accommodation. 
  • If money is not a huge issue, you could look for volunteer opportunities in your country of choice. Sometimes just finding a way to get into a country opens up opportunities to make personal connections that may lead to employment.

Every case is different and there are a lot of options out there, so you will need to do some research to find out what suits you specifically.

It can be difficult to plan all of this, as there are a lot of variables to consider. Luckily, resources like Babylon have all of this hard to find information all in one place.

3. Mix things up with long distance activities

When it comes to keeping your interactions exciting, it can be tough keeping the blood pumping for an hour or two everyday. Even couples with the highest fluency in “shitetalk” will struggle to keep it fresh, so here are some things you can do.

Voice notes

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Voice notes are a function on any messaging app worth its salt that have seen increased usage over the last few years. They add a more personal touch when you don’t have time for a call and are too lazy to read or write. Just please don’t listen to them on a bus.

Letters

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Remember letters? It really does seem like letters haven’t been used since people stopped needing oil lamps to find their inkwells and quills during those moonless nights in Renaissance Europe, but some people really love the personal touch they provide. They’re something that you can hold onto and read when you feel particularly down, and they are something to look forward to during these long lockdown weeks.

They’re certainly not everyone’s style, but, if it works for you, go for it. Maybe you can even send a promise of engagement along with a perfumed handkerchief while you’re at it.

Sexting

This is another thing that isn’t everyone’s style, but don’t let that stop you if it helps keep things exciting. Just make sure it’s something you’re both into, and please only send pictures to someone you completely trust. 

Oh, and make sure you send it to the correct person. Most of us are dealing with enough awkward tension while living at home again.

Video sharing

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I think we can all assume that the Covid-19 pandemic is the best thing to happen to Netflix since the death of DVD rental outlets. The streaming platform has, like it’s competitors, seen a steep rise in subscriptions since early 2020, and it wasn’t exactly a small fish in the industry prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, the “Netflix and Chill” line doesn’t have the same allure as it once did and people tend to watch alone more often these days.

Thanks to the Teleparty browser extension, friends and couples can now stream movies and television simultaneously to their respective screens. This gives couples dealing with long-distance a way to enjoy some semblance of “movie night” while they’re separated.  Or, at the very least, you can pass the time by arguing over what to watch until you get tired and pass out on the couch.

For those of you that don’t have a subscription to any streaming services, apps like Kast and Discord offer a way to share whatever is streaming on your computer to other people in your private chat room.

Share Spotify playlists

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This is pretty straightforward and it’s a fun project you can work on together. If you enjoy doing virtual workouts together, for example, work on an exercise playlist. Not only is this a good way to learn more about each other, but it helps keep our music libraries fresh.

If you don’t have a Spotify account, playlists can also be made on YouTube. Hope constant ads are your thing.

Games

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Like Netflix, any company that even dabbles in video games has seen very few negatives with this whole global pandemic thing. If it’s something you can both be interested in, we’d highly recommend trying it out. It’s an incredibly fun way to spend time with your partner. 

If video games aren’t really your thing, or if they’re just a little too expensive for your tastes, there are other alternatives. Party games have seen a surge in popularity recently. Apps like Couch Party are a great way to connect with your partner while separated. It’s also a great way for you to introduce your better half to your friends, just so they’ll finally believe she exists.

Also, if you don’t mind spending a little money, Jackbox has a great range of party games that can be streamed on conference apps like Discord. Trust me, they’re a lot of fun.

Chat while going about your day

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Sometimes it’s better to be active while on the phone. Chatting while you’re going about your regular routine can make your conversation feel more natural, while giving your partner a glimpse into your everyday life. So don’t be afraid to chat while you’re cooking, studying, or even going for a walk, it will make you feel much more comfortable on the phone and help keep your relationship strong.

4. Be honest

Not to seem patronising, but your relationship is never going to survive if you’re not honest with each other. If you don’t feel like talking on any particular day, let your partner know and be clear as to why. If you’re annoyed with them, let them know. It’s hard enough for some of us (men) to read people’s emotions when they’re a foot away from us, never mind when they’re just a voice or pixelated face on a cheap iPhone.

I know this is not what any of you want to hear (especially if you’re Irish), but you need to be a lot more vocal with your feelings. Things really do get lost in translation over a video call, things get taken out of context, and the longer you leave things unsaid, the harder they are to deal with.

Many couples have difficulty bringing up issues with their partner over the phone – it just feels awkward and, when they get to enjoy a precious weekend together in person, they don’t want to ruin it by starting a fight. This leads to the issues festering and, eventually, someone is going to grow resentful. We’re not a telepathic species. You need to voice these issues and deal with them together, no matter how hard it might seem.

5. Don’t be too dependant

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Finally, no one can tell you that you don’t love your partner or that you don’t really want to be with them, and every couple has some level of dependency on each other, but don’t forget that you are your own person, with your own hopes and ambitions.

You need to do your own thing, focus some of your attention on your life apart from your relationship, you also have friends, family and a career to maintain. The “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” cliche springs to mind. If you lean too heavily on a tenuous relationship like this, it will hurt all the more if it comes crashing down.

If you are in a long-distance relationship, you already know how difficult it can be. There is no secret formula, because every relationship is different. You can do everything right – be committed, honest, independent, and organised – and it could still fail. 

That is the crux of the situation you’ve found yourself in. It really is just down to you and how you think you can handle it. Ask yourself the question: “Is this person worth risking getting hurt over?” If the answer is yes, don’t overthink, go all in.

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About the author

Thomas Cleary

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