July 21, 2012 8:35 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to make my geographically-distant fiancee feel more emotionally close to me?

So my fiancee is off on the other side of the country doing a great internship right now. We've been apart most of the summer for this, and it's putting a little emotional strain on us despite the fact that we both know it's the right thing for her to be doing. I know that she's feeling a little bit neglected and lonely out there, and I want to make it good and help her feel my love for her and feel more connected to me. What can I be doing?

I sort of have difficulty with emotional matters – it's something that she and I joke about between each other, but it's a real issue for me especially when I'm left to my own devices. Beyond calling her and telling her I love her, I'm not really sure what I ought to do. I know that there must be something I can do to bring the love... surely?

This seems like a really silly, remedial question but it's just not something that I've ever been any good at in relationships and I'd really like to get better, fast. I don't have a lot of money but surely that isn't necessary – she's not one who cares about material matters at all, what is important here is the gesture and the thought.

I have her phone number, her e-mail address, her physical address, and her facebook page to work with here. Despite how positively robotic I must seem in my words above, I do have some ideas for things I might do. I'm looking for any and all suggestions, though. I have time on my hands and I'm willing to put a little work in.
posted by Scientist to Human Relations (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Is Skype a possibility?

If not, shared experiences are always good where shared space isn't an option. Could you agree to both watch the same TV series/web series/read the same blog/read the same book/whatever, either together in real time or asynchronously, and then discuss your respective reactions during phone calls?
posted by Bardolph at 8:42 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Send mail. Post cards. Cards in envelopes. A small box with something(s) inside that show you've been listening.

Don't tell her in advance. Put one envelope or post card in the mail each day.
posted by tulip-socks at 8:43 AM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

A digital version of tulip-socks' suggestion, with which I heartily agree, would be to text photos that relate to inside jokes you two have, or make you think of her, etc.
posted by emkelley at 8:48 AM on July 21, 2012

Make/find and send things that she can touch, listen to, smell (ex: a t-shirt), hold and read over and over, things like that. Missing the sensory, tangible aspects of being with your partner is the hardest, most distancing part of being separated, so anything you can do to assuage that helps a ton.
posted by sundaydriver at 8:58 AM on July 21, 2012

Getting snail-mail is great fun. Cards, postcards, letters. Things like folded fortune tellers you make in grade school with sweet messages in them are fun too, for mailing.

I like the idea of snapping a cell-phone picture every day of something you saw that day and sending it to her. You'll be thinking about her all day trying to think of what's interesting or pretty or strange enough to send her a picture of it.

Is there a TV show on this summer you guys can both watch and then talk after? If you're both engaged in a particular show, you can have a long-distance date watching it and then skype or call after to talk about the characters and what they're up to.

Is there a game like smashwords that you both like to play? Any non-synchronous game you can each play would work. A pen-and-paper came you can mail back and forth would also work. Or you can play the "letter-writing game" where you create fictional characters that write back and forth to each other.

My husband and I lived in different cities for the first 18 months we were married, these are some of the things we tried. The TV thing really worked the best for me, though, for making me feel close to him. The letters and stuff made me feel loved, but watching the same show and then calling to talk about it made me feel connected when we were apart. And it was frequently dumb stuff, stuff we wouldn't have otherwise be watching, but we'd get totally involved in some stupid food-channel competition or something and I'd eagerly await the episodes all week and our talk afterwards about whether Jerry really should have made that souffle.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:11 AM on July 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

In Shall We Dance, the female lead observes:
We need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet... I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things... all of it, all of the time, every day. You're saying 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness'."
When you are long distance, I think one of the most important things you can do is to try to find ways to share your day-to-day lives, even if it seems mundane and trivial and uninteresting. So rather than calling to say that you love her, call her to tell her than you had an egg sandwich for breakfast but you wish you could have made an extra one for her; that you got really frustrated at work wrestling with [insert science-y thing that scientists wrestle with at work] but then you finally figured out a workaround; that you got the oil changed in the car; obviously, encourage her to share back, including asking questions that branch out beyond "how was your day?" by showing curiosity about her environment and everyday experiences--getting to work, coworkers, shopping, etc.

Eyebrow's suggestion of watching a TV series together is excellent. You can also forward her copies of articles you read on line, youtube videos you watch, LOLcats that made you chuckle...

Now, none of that's really "gesture-y". If she's specifically hinting that she wants something gesture-y, unless you specifically know she doesn't like flowers, send the girl some flowers. (Non-rose mixed arrangements are less clichéed and last longer, fwiw). It's a cliché for good reason.
posted by drlith at 10:04 AM on July 21, 2012 [10 favorites]

Can you afford to send her flowers on the semi-regular? When my AMAZING boyfriend was traveling extensively, sometimes for two-week stretches at a time, he would send me flowers at work on any Friday that he was not going to be in town. It made me feel awesome, and like he was really thinking of me and wanting to make sure I knew he cared. I'd keep them on my desk and they'd make me feel great every time I looked at them. Is there some night that you usually do something special together? If you can replace it with something different and special, that really speaks volumes.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:06 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Send her care packages! Small and frequent (once a week, say) is better than elaborate and infrequent.

Obviously adjust for your individual tastes, but I'd argue that the best care packages have something to eat, something to remind you of home, something practical, and something romantic/sexual/fun. (Obviously, those can overlap -- brownies from the place down the street that the two of you love to go for romantic desserts would cover several categories.) And bonus points for when things create some fun anticipation -- sending a key that will open a fun and secret surprise back at home, say.
posted by Forktine at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2012

It'd be great to show her some projects you're doing around the house to make it even better for you both when she's home -- plant some stuff, paint things, fix squeaky things, clean out junk drawers, etc.

Also, phone sex.
posted by argonauta at 10:28 AM on July 21, 2012

I'm in much the same boat right now, for another month or so. One thing we do to make the distance tolerable is read a book to each other over Skype. We both have a copy, and we take turns reading chapters. You have to pick a book that's conducive to that - we like ones that are not too long or overly complicated. Right now we're reading Luka and the Fire of Life, a kid's book by Salman Rushdie.
posted by number9dream at 12:58 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing Skype. Just leave it on in the background while you each go about your evenings, and you'll come back to talking directly to each other throughout the evening. Sometimes it will make you want to be physically touching, but mostly you'll just be a part of each others worlds, like any marriage.

Also, try to have a date night together, where you each watch the same movie on your individual screens simultaneously and chat either online, over phone, or by Skype. My wife and I did that during a time when she was away at grad school and it made us feel close.
posted by dry white toast at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2012

I'm nthing letters. I've kept friendships strong and improved new friendships by sending them letters. My letters are basically like journal entries, but I find writing (rather than emailing, skyping or phonecalls) really lets my thoughts flow, and you end up with a much more heartfelt message. Just keep sending them. Tell her about your week and that awesome sandwich you ate, and how your boss is annoying you.
posted by Grandysaur at 2:26 PM on July 21, 2012

When I was long-distance with my husband, when we were engaged, I found that frequency of notes mattered much more than the romance of them. Just getting multiple emails in a day, or a letter every week, was fabulous. The notes were usually about classes or friends, maybe about a movie he had seen, but it said he was always thinking about me. We talked a lot on the phone, too, but notes I could read again, or letters I could carry around with me, were really special. I still have a box of the letters he sent me back then.
posted by Margalo Epps at 6:42 PM on July 21, 2012

You can also watch movies "together" while talking on the phone/Skype.

Or send someone to her (temporary) home with a treat that can't be mailed.

After you've done at least 2 self-initiated things, ask her what she thinks might help her feel better connected to you.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 11:12 PM on July 21, 2012

One thing my lady friend, who is across the atlantic from me, and I do is Star Trek dates. We each will start an the same episode right at the point where the enterprise enters the screen in the opening credits at the same time and watch through the series together while also hanging out on skype.

She had somehow managed to have never seen TNG and so we are starting with Season 4, with an episode or two of Season 1 so that it is clear why. With the plot/sub-plot model, the slow pace, the fun stuff to make fun of, and the interesting philosophical questions it provokes, it is just the perfect series to do this with.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:12 AM on July 22, 2012

Drlith has it right---Showing your partner that you are thinking of her during her daily routine (like a GM text) is a good way to create some of the shared routine that you are missing in a long distance partnership.

In my job, most people in relationships are in long-distance ones, and I have a colleague whose partner (of 25 years) sends her texts during the day of completely random objects/places/people that strike him. For example, she received a picture yesterday of a sliced fig, plucked from their fig tree, that he was about to eat for breakfast and one of the dog sleeping. He always puts a simple little caption. I know that after a particularly intense day, she'll often get a text from him that says: Tell me about your day, dear. (I know this happens and works because I see her smiling and typing on her phone.)

You can also set aside a bit of time at night to read a book together. I used to do this with my long distance partner and the novel gave us this secret little world that we shared and enjoyed.
posted by sb3 at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

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