Making Long Distance Work

Holding Hands
While visiting my friend Jodie in England during the hot summer month of July (2013), I was introduced to her friends and family during my stay abroad.  It was in my second week that I met Christopher. By the time I returned back home to America, it was about a week later On August 4th of 2013, that Chris properly asked me to be his girlfriend.
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We live 4,674 miles away from each other, in separate time zones, about a 10 hour flight, plus additional hours spent on a coach or in a car to get to our final destinations. In the beginning of our relationship I spent days wondering how we were going to do this, how were we going to make this work?
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We Are Proof It Can Work (And So Are You)

To this day, we are still in a long distance relationship with each other. Despite the distance, we are incredibly happy. Chris and I both agree that the distance between us has made our relationship even stronger. Nothing will ever prepare you for what to expect in a long distance relationship, not even a normal close proximity relationship can prepare you for this. It’s something you learn as you go along.
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So if you find yourself here, reading this post, then surely you want to find reasons and advice as to how you can make your LDR work. If you’re like me, you’ll find that for every 10 articles you read on why “LDR’s don’t work”, you’ll find one that will tell you why it can work! I’m here to let you know it’s not impossible. Just take my advice and apply it to your relationship in your own way.

A favourite photo.

A favourite photo.

Trust

A relationship without trust is turbulent, dissatisfying, and not capable of surviving for the long term. Understandably with a LDR, trust is one of the biggest reasons why many couples break up. Granted, in this day and age LDR’s are so much more easier to maintain and the internet & social media, cell phones, and emails allow us to keep in constant contact. There are still many hours in a day where you don’t speak with each other, and for those who lack trust, those hours without contact can cause anxiety & fear. Their mind can create thoughts and ideas that their partner is doing something harmful to their relationship, whether it be flirting with another person, or as obscene as infidelity.
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One of the benefits to having a relationship with someone in close proximity (CPR) is that you are able to see each other multiple times a day, and know what’s going on. Those who are in LDR’s don’t have the ability to see what’s going on and have to depend on the communication they shared to get a feel for what their partner is doing. Yes, not knowing what is going on in your partners life can still occur in CPR’s but most LDR’s downfalls stem from the lack of trust because of the distance. When you’re not texting each other or skyping each other, you have to trust that your partner is doing what they said they were going to do; sleeping, eating, studying, shopping, hanging out with friends, etc. We have to trust that our partners won’t lie, won’t flirt, won’t cheat, and so on. We also have to trust that our partners remain open about their feelings in regards to maintaining the relationship.
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In my opinion, LDR’s do not stand a chance without trust.  From the beginning I trusted Chris. I had no reason to not trust him. I felt he was being honest when told me that he was going to bed, that he was really going to bed. I am confident that when he goes for a night out with his friends that he’s not out flirting with other girls or trying to hook up with strangers.
A night out together, without the distance.

A fun night out together, joined by many of our friends.

Communication

In a LDR you need to be comfortable to talk about your feelings. This is the foundation of your relationship. No matter how you are feeling: sad, jealous, annoyed, angry, or frustrated. You need to be able to express yourself. Holding it all in is only going to make the problem worse, and it won’t set you up for success in your LDR. You need to have the open discussion of what is okay to do in your relationship, and what is considered inappropriate, on both perspectives. Without that communication, you may inadvertently cross the boundaries and upset your partner without even knowing it.
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Jealousy

I feel this kind of goes hand-in-hand with trust, and also has it’s own category. With the distance between LD couples it can often create jealousy between partners and their interactions with the opposite sex. Some people are very uncomfortable with the idea that their partner will hang out with anyone of the opposite sex, they view them all as a threat, and worry that this person is out to bed your partner or vice versa! Sometimes we are our own worst enemy and our imaginations lead us to over-think friendships that our partners have with the opposite sex. But that is where the trust has to come in.

You can trust that your partner won’t do anything inappropriate with a person in any given situation whether it’s on campus or at a party.  But jealousy can still arrive while knowing your partner is hanging out with the opposite sex, especially when you see pictures of them at a party with attractive girls and guys around. This is when you really need to evaluate how you’re feeling. Are you jealous because they are physically closer to your partner in that moment than you? Or is there a completely bonafide reason to be jealous?
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Is this person saying or doing something to your partner that is highly inappropriate, examples: asking your partner out on numerous occasions although they know you are in a relationship, making attempts to kiss or inappropriately touch your partner, etc. Those are definitely fair reasons to be jealous, but keep in mind it’s not your partner who is asking those questions! Life happens, and you or your partner may be asked out by someone in your hometown. How you and your partner respond to that attention is a different story.
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I know I have been jealous when Chris goes out with his friends, but I’m jealous because I can’t be there with them. I just envy the fact that they get to spend time with him physically and I can’t. So you are probably wondering how do I deal with it? I try and surround myself with my friends to keep my mind busy. If I allow myself to sit and think how I’m not the one spending time with him, I just get emotional and upset. I don’t like to spend my days sitting at home and sulking, so I make a point to hang out with my friends to pass the time in an entertaining way for myself. Having my friends around definitely help boost my mood. Otherwise I watch movies, play video games, or read a book.
Chris and I surrounded by our friends at a table, during a busy night out, without the distance.

Chris and I surrounded by our friends at a table, during a busy night out.

Physical Affection and Intimacy

Couples in CPR’s are fortunate enough to be able to hold hands, hug, and kiss each other whenever they want. Their partner is accessible to them on a more regular occurring basis, so they experience less frustrations than what LD couples go through. Loosing that sense of touch can be really difficult on a couple and for some, it’s not worth distance. To me, this has been the most difficult aspect of LDR’s. The lack of physical contact is so hard. Lack of sexual contact is infuriating too! Without actually saying this out loud to each other, or even to ourselves, by choosing to come into this LDR we choose to live a “more-than-too-often-temporary-celibate” lifestyle. No hugging, cuddling, kissing, holding hands, massaging, or intimately touching each other for several weeks (months) at a time.
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I know I have been asked a couple of times, how I resist the temptations around me. Just because we are in relationships doesn’t mean our brain stops noticing attractive people. It’s not human nature to turn that off. Because I think a person is attractive doesn’t mean I am going to run up to them, pull them into me, and passionately kiss them. I have said to those who asked me about that “Despite the distance, I am satisfied within our relationship which means I have no outside desires to be with anyone else, even if it’s just for a moment. He means everything to me and I am very happy being with him, even when we can’t physically be together”.
Not being able to go to bed with Chris at night is probably one of the areas I struggle with the most. This is the calmest part of my day, Chris isn’t even awake yet.
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I have nothing to do but to think and reminisce about him. To help myself over come these moments of sadness do a series of things: I read his letter he wrote to me and all the emails he has sent to me, look back at all of our pictures together (Sometimes some of them backfire and only make me more sad but there is almost always one that has cheered me up. If they make me more upset it’s only because of a memory reminding me how much more I miss him, not because I was ever offended in any way). But there is usually always an email or a picture that puts a smile back on my face, and oddly enough it’s not always the same one! And I cuddle with hoodies that Chris has sprayed for me with his cologne during previous visits.
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Ultimate Goal

Obviously nobody dates anyone LD for fun. There is nothing fun in spending thousands of dollars, spending more nights apart than you’ll spend together in a single year, and temporary celibate (boo). It’s really not worth it! You have to have the discussions, “Where is this going? What are we willing to do for each other? Who is going to do the big move?”. This is huge. Lots of couples in CPR don’t even have this conversation themselves. They mostly just go through the motions of the relationship, and may find themselves moving up.
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If your expectation is marriage, you need to be honest and say to your partner, that you are looking for something long term aka forever. You will never know just by looking at someone that you will marry them someday, but by telling your partner this, the expectations of what you are looking for are all laid out on the table. Most LDR won’t last 4 months if the couples do not share the same end goal for their relationship, which is what brings down the success rates on LDR’s. You don’t need to bring it up within the first couple of months, but before you spend loads of money on expensive airplane tickets and hotel accommodations, have this talk first.
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I told Chris from the beginning of our relationship that my intent for dating was to find the guy I would hopefully marry someday, and He was upfront and honest with me. This has definitely made our relationship’s foundation more stronger, because we both know exactly what we want. To live together in England, and get married after he graduates from University and obtains a career job.
Pre-drinks before our night out, quick kiss caught on camera by a friend.

Pre-drinks before our night out, quick kiss caught on camera.

Commitment

Being in a CPR having your partner near, and accessible whenever, you’re less likely to get away with inappropriate behaviours you exhibit onto others while being in a relationship. It’s not true %100, but you’re more likely to be caught, especially through the words of friends. In a LDR you can hold a catfish lifestyle, and your partner may never even know! Catfish: to pretend to be someone you’re not online by posting false information, such as someone else’s pictures, on social media sites, usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you.

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In my LDR with Chris, we have been open with each other about what we consider to be inappropriate and appropriate behaviours. Any time a guy has asked me out, I informed Chris about it, and told him what I said to that person. I don’t ever want him to feel inferior because he lives in another country, He always has been my main priority and the only person whose affections I seek.

Chris and I agreed in our LDR that we would treat this just like a normal CPR. Regardless if we can’t be together in person, we do not date others while we are apart. This is a conversation that needs to be had right away, as soon as you establish yourself as a LD couple. You cannot assume that your partner has the same perspective of commitment as you do.

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Plans to Visit

Unfortunately without money, you cannot maintain a LDR for long. SKype, and emails will only get you so far for a certain length of time, but it won’t keep you together forever. Because relationships with people we can see, hear, touch, and feel, are what we all want. Costs of fuel, airplane tickets, accommodations, sending gifts, and spending money for food & shopping while you are together, does add up! You need to see them on a regular basis if you can, even if it’s a couple times a year.
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Pre-arranging visits, weeks or months in advance, is the best way to relieve yourselves of the tension that builds during your time spent apart. It affirms why you both chose to stay in the relationship while you have too. It’s even better to arrange another visit to see each other again, while you’re together in person, because you’ll already have something to look forward too as you have to say goodbye.
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Miscommunication & Quarrels

In your LDR you cannot solely rely on texting, social media chats, or apps you downloaded on your cell phone to IM your partner, to be the only way you resolve a domestic or clear up any  miscommunications you’ve had with each other. No relationship comes with an instruction manual. We are human, and we are certainly  not perfect, so these issues will come across at any point in our relationships. How we resolve them is what sets the tone for how likely your LDR is going to last.
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When I’m upset, Chris will Skype me. He can see the emotions all over my face, my body language, and hear it in the tone of my voice. He is better able to help me resolve any quarrel we have, or talk me through a bad day via Skype, rather than relying on text alone. Sometimes we can misinterpret what people are saying because text cannot portray our feelings well enough. Maybe unless we were all professional writers, but we’re not! So if we’re in irritable mood, sometimes we read text from our partners in a more offensive manner than they were ever meant to be, or take the context completely wrong!
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LDR will bring on insecurities at times, so for the lack of ability you have to see each other in person, take advantage of your options to see each other via web cam to talk out your problems, It will help you out so much!
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All in all, no relationship is easy. I am here to give you the support and the motivation you need, to know that LDR’s can work. As long as you trust each other, keep communication open between each other, make it a point to always talk about your feelings, goals, & expectations, make plans to see each other, and share the same commitment, Your relationship can be successful. Don’t let anyone tell you that LDR’s won’t work, and that you’re wasting your time. Let that be a decision you make for yourself. If you find the person worth waiting for, the distance is always worth it.

-Chelsea
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Chelsea Martin

Chelsea Martin is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She has been training dogs professionally since 2007, and is the Head Coach for Dogs Trust Dog School Nottinghamshire. She met Chris on a trip to England in 2013, Married him on New Year's Eve - celebrating 2016 as husband and wife!