How can I be thoughtful and nice from long-range?
September 2, 2009 12:58 PM   Subscribe

What are some nice things I can do for my long-distance SO?

She's got one more year left at the college where we met. I'm on the other side of the country, soon to be moving to a city about 2 hours from campus. We're going to try the long-distance thing for a while to see how it goes, and I'm looking for some cool ideas of things I could have done for her that would brighten her day and remind her that I'm thinking of her. I have friends back at school who could help me with this from that end and am friends with her roommate and friends as well.

For example, I was thinking I could mail one of my buddies 20 bucks and ask him to go buy coffee, a muffin, and a newspaper and deliver them to her door on the morning of the first day of classes.

So, Hivemind, any other ideas in this vein? Things that you have done for your long-distance SO that s/he thought were cute? I'm trying to save money right now, so I'm looking for stuff that won't cost a lot but will still show her that I care.

Other miscellaneous advice on long-term relationships would also be welcome.

I may have missed some previously's on this topic, but searches for "long distance relationship" turned up a lot of EmoFilter and not much helpful advice.
posted by Aizkolari to Human Relations (22 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I was thinking I could mail one of my buddies 20 bucks and ask him to go buy coffee, a muffin, and a newspaper and deliver them to her door on the morning of the first day of classes.

Maybe I am a pessimist, but I think I've seen that movie. Don't do this.
posted by rokusan at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2009 [6 favorites]

Very few elaborate plans will ever beat an old-fashioned letter or postcard every day or two. That's very inexpensive, especially if you get clever and re-use 2-cent ones from the antique shop or otherwise get creative about what the "card" part is.

And it'll make checking the mail exciting again. I think we all need that.
posted by rokusan at 1:03 PM on September 2, 2009 [4 favorites]

I was thinking I could mail one of my buddies 20 bucks and ask him to go buy coffee, a muffin, and a newspaper and deliver them to her door on the morning of the first day of classes.

I hope this buddy is a girl :)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was thinking I could mail one of my buddies 20 bucks and ask him to go buy coffee, a muffin, and a newspaper and deliver them to her door on the morning of the first day of classes.

This is pretty close to the way that my grandparents met, and almost identical to the way that my in-laws met. So don't do it unless you're really hoping that, someday, your SO's grandkids will be telling the story of how your SO and their grandfather first met, and none of them have ever heard of you except that you're the poor sap in the story who didn't get the girl.
posted by The World Famous at 1:13 PM on September 2, 2009

I have had a cross country romance and I second cards and letters. We also texted like teenagers.

Having a lot of inside jokes is a good way to feel connected, too.

Best of luck! It can be done.
posted by kiwi-epitome at 1:14 PM on September 2, 2009

Response by poster: I suppose it might help to point out that I trust both my girlfriend and my male friends not to cheat on me with each other.

Although, all other things being equal, it couldn't hurt to assign the task to one of my female friends.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:27 PM on September 2, 2009

When my SO was about 1000 miles away, we'd watch movies together. We'd both rent the same movie, then call each other up and make sure we both hit play at the exact same moment. Then (if you don't want to waste a lot of calling minutes) you call each other back up when it ends and discuss. It's a good way to feel close to one another, experiencing things together despite the distance.

Also, symbolism gets pretty important. I agree that inside jokes are really valuable, but any excuse to send small gifts or cards or whatever is important. Is it the anniversary of when you guys first kissed? Why, that's something worth celebrating! Can't remember when you first kissed, but can remember, say, the date of that one movie you went to see but both seriously hated? That's something to celebrate! Anything is worth celebrating... Even if it's blatantly and obvious just an excuse to do something for her or send a card, it's still good.
posted by Ms. Saint at 1:27 PM on September 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

My brother and his GF (now fiancé) bonded in the years they were apart (he in Chicago, she in Manila) playing network Starcraft against each other. It seems to have worked. Were it me and my now-wife today I might recommend hanging out in Second Life, where you can even virtually cuddle.

(Also thirding the advice against hiring a buddy to run vicarious romantic errands.)
posted by brownpau at 1:29 PM on September 2, 2009

Having been in this situation, I can tell you that personalized care packages rock. There are greeting cards for almost any topic, so you shouldn't have too much trouble picking one that has special meaning to your relationship. Send that along with with something relevant to your life at the moment that she's aware of or involved with, or that remind you of things you've done together.

Most importantly though (and I addressed this in a similar question a while back) is to do things that don't call attention to the fact that you two are thousands of miles apart. It's more difficult, obviously, but you can still DO things together while you're away from each other (for example. start a DVD at exactly the same time, watch together with a laptop on each of your laps and IM each other your stupid and snarky thoughts, remarks, and inside jokes. Or, buy the same crossword puzzle book and work them together over the phone, etc...)

If you're going to involve your/her friends in this, I'd do it very sparingly. It's you she wants to be with and hear from, not them, and besides, they'll probably get very quickly tired of your repeated requests for chivalric favors on your behalf. They could, however, be very helpful, for big surprise visits or gifts on occasions like a birthday or Valentines.

Long distance is tough, but it's very much doable if you're willing to put forth the effort and committed to making the relationship work. I just got married three weeks ago to the woman I dated long distance for the first year and a half of dating, and I would gladly go through the trials of that first year and a half again. So, good luck!

Oh, and don't forget flowers at random times and for no other reason than "just because." Lots of women really seem to like that.
posted by Rewind at 1:35 PM on September 2, 2009

Best answer: My girlfriend (150 miles away) and I play almost-nightly games of scrabble via The Internet Scrabble Club.
posted by not_on_display at 1:37 PM on September 2, 2009 [19 favorites]

Best answer: My boyfriend (150 miles away) and I play almost-nightly games of scrabble via The Internet Scrabble Club.
posted by jessamyn at 1:38 PM on September 2, 2009 [23 favorites]

My SO and I were about a thousand miles apart for two years. He loved it when I'd sent him boxes with things like warm hoodies in them, and notes that I'd hope they would keep him warm since I couldn't (he was in a warm climate, I wasn't.)

But 2 hours away? That's not really long distance. While I think it's a nice idea to make the sort of little gestures that any non-cohabitating couple would, I think it's a better expenditure of thought and energy to figure out how to see her as much as possible.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would avoid situations where you involve other people.

Small packages with books, music that you've been listening to, etc work quite well.
posted by mattsweaters at 1:44 PM on September 2, 2009

Oh and I totally missed the 2 hours thing. 2 hours is not long distance in my opinion.
posted by mattsweaters at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

nthing cards and letters. they can be so special, and they are something she can save.

also: CDs of new music you've found that you think she'll enjoy. little inside joke things (it's silly, but i sent my boyfriend a little toy smurfette and grouchy smurf, and to this day he loves those stupid smurfs). cool little books, a list of everything you love about her....
posted by unlucky.lisp at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2009

(cold climate, rather)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:47 PM on September 2, 2009

I've been in a long distance relationship for almost 4 years (I'm in the US, he's in the UK), but through the magic of electronic communication we've remained a daily presence in each other's lives.

-Text messaging is your friend. We send texts that probably would make other people change their numbers ("Just had a pizza with artichokes. Thought of you!" "It's raining again. Thought of you!" "The bus is crowded today") and we have text sessions that can go on for hours. It's good for cheaper "real time" conversations. My phone doesn't take, send, or receive photos, but I can imagine that would be a plus.
-We also send at least 2 emails to each other per day. Over time, they have morphed into very long threads of multiple conversations at once. It can take 30 minutes or so to answer each one, but it's the first and last thing I do everyday. It's very comforting to wake up to the "New Message" icon.
-Skype is cheap to free
-This one has been our key to success: Even though we don't get to see each other very often, we've always known when the next visit will be. There is a great deal of comfort in knowing that the separation is not open ended.

In general, I think you'll have better success by thinking in terms of consistency rather than cutesy. Good luck!
posted by Eumachia L F at 1:52 PM on September 2, 2009

When you know she's holed up in her dorm/apartment studying, have her favorite food delivered to her. Prepay for it by credit over the phone/interwebs of course.
posted by mrsshotglass at 2:16 PM on September 2, 2009

When my best friend/coworker moved to NYC, I set up a long distance game of Exquisite Corpse with her. I bought a journal and started ten drawings, and put it in a self-addressed, stamped envelope so she could make her addition and drop it right in the mail.
posted by Lieber Frau at 2:29 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

What Ms. Saint said -- my boyfriend-now-husband (who was in the UK) and I (in California) used to watch MST3K online at the same time (well -- roughly) and IM each other. We'd also use the dopey sketchpad function on YIM, draw silly pictures, and take turns guessing what on earth we were trying to draw.

Email, text, skype -- stay involved on an everyday basis. At least that's what worked for us.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:35 PM on September 2, 2009

I also missed the only two hours away thing. That's not a long distance relationship; that's a daily commute for some. You could see each other every weekend easily, and every day if it was really necessary.
posted by rokusan at 2:38 PM on September 2, 2009

My now-husband and I were 1340 miles apart for four years. One day, while we were apart, I got a package full of the most random trinkets, decorations and games you could find, which I thought was delightful. When I asked him about it, he replied that he would often go wander around Walmart or the dollar store when he was lonely and sometimes he would see something that he thought would make me smile and then buy it. Eventually he got a collection big enough to mail, and that's what I got. I don't think I'll ever forget that.

I sent him a few packages of baked goods over the years, that were also appreciated.

We depended heavily on IM and Skype. He sent me a really nice headset with a mic, so that I could talk to him on Skype all night long without worrying about cell phone charges. Using web cams was also fun, but it seemed more of a special thing. As mentioned above, we would often watch movies and television "together," and that gave us the comfort of having a weekly ritual - something that we weren't sure we'd be able to enjoy in a long-distance relationship. Having Gmail accounts was also nice, because of the way Gmail treats e-mails like an ongoing conversation rather than messages going back and forth.
posted by bristolcat at 2:59 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

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