Taking the LD out of an LDR
October 11, 2012 11:14 PM   Subscribe

Advice for long-distance partners finally settling together?

Today is a happy day - after over two years of developing our relationship continents apart, my girlfriend and I are both flying to England to settle down together. We're lesbian enough that this has been our long-term goal for most of the time we've dated each other, and we have talked extensively about how this will mean new challenges as well as new joys.

My question today is - anyone who's been there, what do you wish someone had told you? Not just long-distance couples, but anyone who's done the moving in after living apart, or moved countries together with their partner! I'd love insight and anecdotes - stuff for us both to read together and consider as we start this exciting chapter of our lives.

In case anyone wants details, we're both around 30, and have shared living space for at most 3 months at a time. We've never cohabited in an apartment all our own before, and while I've lived abroad, neither one of us has spent a lot of time in England. She's moving to take up a research position at Cambridge university; I'm still looking for employment. We have a lovely, close relationship, which can only get better if we have some idea of what others have experienced when making this life change, and can talk about issues that might crop up before they happen.
posted by harujion to Human Relations (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I did this. We had a 3 year long-distance relationship, then both moved overseas (to a country new to both of us) together. We're still together 12 years later!

I think the biggest thing we weren't prepared for is how intensely that sort of situation makes you rely on each other. Everything is new, culture shock is real, and you don't (yet) have a social network. So you are going from spending almost no time together to spending more time together than a typical couple. In some ways that's great. You end up with a very intimate relationship. But you probably want to make a big effort to develop a wider network as well, because there will be times and circumstances where your partner can't be everything to you. (If you both become depressed or sick, who will take care of you? And what about areas of your life that your partner is not so interested in, e.g. if you are creative and they are not, or if you are outdoorsy and they are not, etc.) It's not healthy to rely on one person for everything, but that is what will happen if you don't make a big effort to avoid it.

(And of course, while one doesn't like to consider the possibility, if you break up, there is nothing worse than being in a foreign country with no friends or family, no employment and no idea of what to do next.)
posted by lollusc at 2:05 AM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

anyone who's been there, what do you wish someone had told you?

(some of these may not apply since you're moving there together, but I thought I'd throw them out there)

I wish someone had told me how important it would be to create a living space together. When I moved into my partner's house after 6 years of long distance, it took me ages to get over feeling like a guest, and I had to get used to all the little quirks that he had taken for granted for so long. It got better, but I wish I'd known how to ask for that kind of space in the first place.

Making new friends in this type of situation is a challenge, unless you're super extroverted; I've lived here for almost 5 years now, and I'm only just starting to build a new community around myself. There will be a necessary period of like, complete reliance on your partner in that respect; I've had to work hard not to fall into the trap of only having social time w/ my boo.

There was a period of time right before and right after the move where I felt a whole lotta resentment that I was the one making the sacrifices so that we could be together, and I needed him to reaffirm how much it meant to be leaving my family, culture, and friends.
posted by catch as catch can at 3:19 AM on October 12, 2012 [5 favorites]

In a way you are in a good position as you are both going somewhere new together, so you'll get to share a lot of the culture shock, the bewilderment and the loneliness of moving to a new country. Just don't isolate yourselves and make it all about your new coupledom - you'll need time away from each other, as strange as it may sound now.

A more practical piece of advice: make sure that you are both named on leases, insurance papers, bank accounts, and so forth. You'll need bills in your name to prove your identity in all sorts of silly ways here in the UK. I struggled for the first year because everything was under my partner's name.

And finally, just remember that LDR can be very intense because you only have so many hours/days together ever so often. An everyday relationship will not sustain the same level of intensity and you might even find that living together in a new country can put pressure on an otherwise fine relationship because one person may adapt to the new country a lot quicker than the other person. Just keep talking.

Background: I moved to the UK six years ago on the basis of a LDR. We are still together and annoyingly happy.
posted by kariebookish at 4:26 AM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Wife and I met at school survived 3 years long-distance whilst at university and have now been living together for about 7 years.

I think if you've cohabited for as long as 3 months you've probably seen enough of one another's bad habits to know if there's anything you're going to have to put up with (the fact you're moving in together suggests nothing insurmountable!). I think the groundwork implied there is really all you need to know - this was certainly my experience with my partner.

Seconding people who've said making friends in a new place can be a challenge but if anything I'd guess you're likely to experience something of a honeymoon period anyway, the novelty of being finally able to enjoy a life together with no end in sight which will mean looking outwards is less of a priority. And with that comes an added layer of mundanity which it's wise to be aware of, as it's not a special treat to get to see one another any more and you won't get to fill your time doing the fun things you saved until you saw one another...

But hey, you'll be in a new country, it's (almost) all going to be fun and new and exciting. In some ways, whilst a move abroad when you've not lived together for extended periods is a risk, I think it might actually be a positive step over couples who live in Town A and Town B then move to Town B, as one is always going to feel a bit out of their comfort zone, where the other is already perhaps a little bored with the place. Your experience sounds likely to bring you together as a couple against the strange new country (trust me, I live here).

Wishing you every success with your move!
posted by tzb at 4:39 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I just settled together last month in a new city after about a year and a half of long distance (we were in the same place before that, though). So far, apartment hunting and choosing has been the most stressful. We thought we were on the same page about what we wanted, but it turns out we weren't quite and we wound up a) having a big fight over it and b) probably choosing the wrong place. It's hard to make such a big decision when you've also just gotten back into the same place and are also undergoing all the stress of a move.

Our work situations are similar to yours and your girlfriends, too (I am the unemployed one). Memail me if you ever want to chat!
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:38 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Both people being in a very new environment avoids the "local vs. stranger" thing that can happen when one partner is familiar with how things work and the other feels obliged to take a backstage role. Instead, you're going to be working all that stuff out together.

On the other side of the coin: seek out social networks of your own as well as shared ones, and create ways to have some individual space, whether it's a spare room with a "having some quiet time" sign or picking a cafe or pub where you can happily spend an hour or two on your own. Don't feel obliged to spend your days strictly on domestic stuff while your partner's out for the day, as that's a recipe for feeling housebound and frustrated over time.
posted by holgate at 7:37 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get rid of a lot of stuff before you move in together. Especially since both of you have been living alone, you probably have 2 of everything you could need plus some. Get together and figure out what can go toss or sell it.

It also makes moving to a new country easier.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:58 AM on October 12, 2012

Seconding holgate on social networks and individual space. You each need something that's yours, something new to share sometimes over dinner. She'll have work and the networks that come from that. Good luck in the job hunt, that will help. In the meantime, find things to do together and apart--ALL KINDS OF THINGS--especially those things you might not normally embrace. Think mancala club, pick-up soccer, Meetups of various kinds, your regional version of Elk's Club bingo, the firemen's pancake breakfast, trivia night at the local bar. It's a door into your new community, and also a way to expand your network. For us, this led to some unexpectedly fun encounters, familiarized ourselves with the area and helped us meet people around whom we built our new community. Pick at least one that is just for you.

One more thing: My mate was a morning person and to start the day right needed a couple of hours of quiet and reading. I'd bound out of bed, turn on NPR, ask him about his dreams and what we should make for breakfast. We found a balance. Just communicate your needs for space and you'll be fine. Let nothing fester.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 10:37 AM on October 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Internet in the new place is still spotty, but I wanted to drop in and give everyone who's answered this question a huge thanks! We read your advice together, and it's definitely the sort of thing we need to remember and think about.

It's also really encouraging to read about other couples who've done the same thing we have, and are still happy together. It really does forge a special kind of bond to go through so much to be able to live as a couple.
posted by harujion at 3:29 AM on October 14, 2012

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