Need advice for how to prepare for a long distance relationship
July 7, 2008 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Long-distance Relationship Filter: There is a good chance my boyfriend may be moving to a town an hour an a half away from me (for a job). Need advice for how to prepare for a long distance relationship, as well as tips for how to make being far from him most of the time manageable.

I am jumping the gun a little bit as he hasn't been offered the job yet, but they were really eager to get him in for an interview and he is well qualified for the job. Also, this job, should he get it, would be excellent for his career, have him earning more than double what he is now, and give him much more opportunity for advancement as well as great benefits. I'm being a good girlfriend and encouraging him and this job opportunity, but he and I are in agreement that being long distance is not best case scenario. Moving with him isn't an option either, despite what my father suggests, as there is zero jobs in my field (computer programming) in the town he would be moving to, plus I am currently in a contract until the end of March.

Neither of us have cars, so traveling back and forth will most likely rely on the bus. We have only been dating 6 months (actually, today is our six month anniversary) but the possibility of marriage has been discussed a few times and frankly we both see it happening in time. (We're 26/27 and both have been in enough relationships to know that what we have is pretty amazing).

We have enjoyed spending many evenings/nights together, not just weekends, and I know I am going to miss that a lot if/when he moves. We rarely go more than 2 nights without him staying over. We both have friends here, and we spend lots of times apart hanging out with our respective friends (as well as together with friends), so it isn't like we spend every minute with each other, but we do spend a lot of time together. I need advice for how to get used to not having him around all the time.

Assuming he is offered the job, how do we manage this? Any advice from people who have done the long-distance thing and know what works/doesn't work? How do we adjust from being together all the time to only on weekends, if that?
posted by gwenlister to Human Relations (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd call that a medium distance relationship. Look into a very used car, or even a motor scooter. If you are familiar with the route, and travel off peak, otherwise shaky transportation can be safe enough.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:11 AM on July 7, 2008

Is it possible for him to live a little closer toward you?

I was in a 1-hour medium distance relationship and (this was before gas was so expensive) we ended up staying over at each others' places on a fairly regular basis and just driving a little longer to work in the morning. No biggy.
posted by k8t at 8:13 AM on July 7, 2008

I should have added that I can't afford a car, even a junker, let alone the insurance and cost of upkeep. And my apartment doesn't have parking.
posted by gwenlister at 8:14 AM on July 7, 2008

and actually, no, there is no fesible town between us. We live in New Brunswick, Canada, so its a whole lot of long stretches of highway with an occasional farm.
posted by gwenlister at 8:16 AM on July 7, 2008

My immediate reaction is that a distance of 1.5 hours does not necessitate a long-distance relationship. I commute nearly that (1 hour on the train, 15-20 minutes on subway and on foot) twice per day. I do a lot of reading and get email stuff done using my phone, so when I get home, I can just relax with my husband. Whether you guys do that every night, three times a week, or just on Fridays, I think you'll find that it's pretty manageable.

If your guy is going to double his salary, perhaps he'll get a car?
posted by xo at 8:21 AM on July 7, 2008

I would imagine there are lots of opportunities for someone with a background in computer programing to telecommute.
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:22 AM on July 7, 2008

I was in a LTR up until recently (me in NY and him in Chicago but we live together now). Before I dated him, the majority of my free time was spent on the internet gaming or reading stuff and watching TV. When I started dating him, I realized that my usual routine would drive me nuts. Not only would I obsess over not being needy for his attention, but when we did talk, I would have nothing to talk about.

So I ended up taking Japanese language lessons and volunteering at an art space.

It took my mind off of things because I had to study or I had to pay attention and tell people where the bathroom was and sell them beer (plus I got tips whee!) and the bonus was when he would ask What have you been up to? My answer was not, "Oh just watching Top Chef and So You Think You Can Dance. Also my senior officer on puzzle pirates was acting like a douche!!! etc."

I got to tell stories about funny things that happened in class, funny drunk artistic people and the cool and weird shows I got to see for free.

Good luck!
posted by spec80 at 8:34 AM on July 7, 2008 [8 favorites]

I did a very long distance relationship for the first year with my partner (opposite sides of the Atlantic) and I think the key to it was making sure that we had some sense of connection and involvement with each others lives in between the times we could see each other in person (which were typically 2-3 months apart). This meant nightly phone calls, but more importantly using those to share details about our lives so it didn't feel like we were so separate, and which also made it easier to do the emotional work in the relationship. We would sometimes arrange shared activities we could do apart, like seeing the same film in different places.

Paradoxically I think its important not to try and put too much weight on your time together, to try and treat it much like it would be if you were living closer. I think its big mistake to think because its limited it has to special. There can be a tendency to try and pack too much in and to weight it with too many expectations which is not a good recipe. It's better, in my experience, to be able to relax and recognize that people have off days that have nothing to do with you and to treat it your time together as you would if you lived closer and it was not such a big deal.

The other thing that was important for me, personally, was having a time line so we had an idea of when we were going to stop being apart. I realise that this might not be immediately practical in your case but I do think you will both need to talk about where you both think you might be down the line. My experience is that its useful to be able to step outside whatever is going on in the relationship right now to be able to talk about this kind of stuff. Your relationship will develop as it will but I think you have to be almost artificial, or deliberate about this. It's not so much about having firm commitments as it is about having an overview to judge things against.

Overall I think it can be hard work but in the longer term I think it was healthy for the development of our relationship -- we had a space for a process of emotional workwhere we might otherwise have have been caught up in the physical and mundane aspects of a relationship. It also gave us a good sense of our commitment to each other and the development of the relationship in a way that was appropriate to the stage of that relationship.

and the happy ending...we are getting married.
posted by tallus at 9:18 AM on July 7, 2008 [8 favorites]

i wouldn't really consider 1.5 hours a long distance relationship. that said, if he's doubling his salary, would he not be able to afford a car?
posted by violetk at 9:22 AM on July 7, 2008

Yeah, that isn't that far, not much to worry about.

I actually think the bus is a fine choice, since you can do it even when you're dog tired after work, or late at night, very easily. You can probably even sleep on the way if you bring a pillow.

If you drive a couple times a week on the highway, on the other hand, there's the need to be alert and be careful, and the other person will worry... so you'll probably not do it as often.

As for the time between... buy a couple $19 webcams. It helps.
posted by rokusan at 9:52 AM on July 7, 2008

Seconding what tallus has said... My girlfriend and I were long distance for the first year of our relationship (Boston for me, New Orleans for her) and we only saw each oher in person about every month and half or so. Some of the things we did while we were apart:

-Date night every Wednesday night when we would both park ourselves in front of our TV's, watch Top Chef (one of our favorite shows), and IM with each other (usually snarky comments about the contestants.) We DID NOT miss this... er, well... we did a few times but only under rare circumstances.

-Regular phone calls ("Early and often" was our motto) where we would make great efforts at being aware of what exactly was going on in the others life, so as not to let the distance between us give us an excuse to become "passive observers" of the other.

-LOTS of IM'ing. Between work and home there was very little time when we weren't near a computer. We were always chatting back and forth. Still, don't replace IM with phone or vice versa. Do both.

-Made use of the postal service. We were regularly sending each other small, inexpensive, but meaningful gifts like funny greeting cards that were relevant to our relationship, or books, etc... These were often a surprise (she even sent me an entire Mardis Gras themed cake. I was astounded to find it held up.)

-Continued on with the rest of our lives and filled in the time with new interests. Obviously we both wanted to be together, but since it wasn't possible, we both took some time do do other things. We both wrote blogs, for example, and I got involved in a writers group. She was busy with graduate school, and had her own circle of friends. These were also things we could bring up in our phone and IM conversations as well. You'll find (assuming you don't unhealthily obsess over his absence) that life will kind of steer you in that direction anyway. While it may seem unthinkable to spend so much time apart, trust me, you'll find other interesting things to do that will help you find fulfillment (and don't feel guilty about it, damnit! Enjoy it!)

You will miss each other to be sure, but you can lessen that tremendously by still remaining active participants in each others lives. The other thing that helped my girlfriend and I also was simply knowing that our time apart was only temporary, and that the more time passed, the closer we were to being back together. Sounds like you and your boyfriend might well be in a similar situation.

Good Luck!
posted by Rewind at 10:11 AM on July 7, 2008 [12 favorites]

Nthing a lot of what's been said here, 'specially by Rewind. And I hope that bus service is regular and conveniently scheduled--so much better than driving if so.
I was in a 5 year LDR (w/driving) and for much of it we were together only for about 36 hrs on weekends. Hard, yes. But here's an interesting problem to look forward to when you're more proximate:
S.O.ofMngo and I found that when we lived apart, all our time together was "us" time because we consciously made that so, but when we were reunited we had to sort out our resentment about the way things like jobs ate away at our time. I hope you make it through this period so you can face this issue too!
posted by Mngo at 10:18 AM on July 7, 2008

I agree with most of the above, especially making phone time and regular visits. One thing that might be fun is if you have a camera (or go get a cheap disposable one), take a picture every couple of days of something (your smiling face, a funny car you saw, whatever) - then email him the picture or develop them and bring them with you when you see him. You're not too far away so maybe that's overkill, but it might be a cute way to say hey, here's what I've been up to, I'm thinking about you.
posted by wundermint at 10:45 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

You will adjust. Yeah, you won't get to see him after work but just give him a call if you need to. I am sure you are both busy with work and other activities. Just plan ahead and buy a bus pass for the weekend. There are ways to interact over long distances, but not those special interactions.

May I speak for my woman by stating, "An hour and a half away?! That's it?!" Your luckier than you think you are.
posted by thetenthstory at 11:01 AM on July 7, 2008

Don't listen to everyone who says 1.5 hours isn't a big deal - it's a big deal to you. I am one of those people who would be ECSTATIC to live only 1.5 hours away from my man (see above) since we currently are 8+ hours. But, if you are used to being together all of the time, it doesn't matter how far apart you are - at first it will feel like an ocean. It will get easier over time, but be prepared for it to be pretty awful the first few months.

You really have to trust each other. If one of you is the jealous type, it will not work out. Make an effort to call each other, but don't call ALL the time. And I'd vote against calling "every night at 9 pm," because as soon as one of you misses that window for some reason, the other person is going to have their feelings hurt. Just call whenever you are thinking about that person, and if you don't talk every day, it's ok. You might even go two or three days without talking, only to speak for three hours the next time. It also helps to have something to talk about together. Yes, you obviously have something in common if you're dating each other, but it helps. We sometimes watch the same Netflix, and we joined a fantasy baseball league. It's a way to "do stuff" together without actually being together.

When you are together, don't think it has to be "special" just because it's uncommon. You don't need to go out to a fancy dinner every time you see each other. Just sleep in and eat breakfast at noon and watch TV and order pizza. Do the kind of stuff you would normally do if you were together all the time. AND don't expect the sex to go smoothly and fantastically every time. You'll be out of practice, and your expectations will be high. If you have a bad outing, don't pressure yourself because you only have a day or two to recover. Remember that when you had sex all the time, there would be times when it was bad - the same thing will happen every so often.

Make sure you have a "non-relationship" life as well. Go out, hang with your friends, volunteer, take a class, whatever. You are going to miss each other, but you'll only make it worse if you sit at home in the dark. Distract yourself with something fun, and count down the days until you see each other again. Long distance can really help you appreciate the other person in your life, and help you not take them for granted.
posted by kidsleepy at 2:07 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

ps - don't forget to check out the related questions below
posted by kidsleepy at 2:15 PM on July 7, 2008

I really like the idea of webcams. I actually have a spare one, so if he moves I will absolutely give it to him. And I like the idea of doing things together but being apart. We like baseball/sports, so watching games 'together' would definitely work. :)

And an hour and a half IS a long way when neither one has a car or could afford a car, that gas is extremely expensive, the bus service only runs once a day, and we are used to being together constantly. I know it could be a lot worse but it would be a huge adjustment. Comments of how it doesn't classify as a long distance relationship and how it isn't a big deal aren't terribly helpful.
posted by gwenlister at 3:45 PM on July 7, 2008

IM'ing, email, webcams, telephone calls and the like are each wonderful ways to keep in touch, but I highly recommend also incorporating mail. I did a long-distance relationship, and was able to communicate regularly using technology - but it was the letters going back and forth that really made our days, and ultimately still bring great joy to our lives when we trudge through our boxes of memorabilia.

Letter, poems, photograph, and trinkets mailed back and forth was a substitute of sorts for physical contact. Unlike emails, holding a handwritten letter can be very sensual. Seeing the curvature of the words in a sentence can be like looking into your SO's eyes and into their soul. You can feel the time and effort and heart put into a handwritten letter. Not to mention, every envelop is like a little present filled with surprise.

You only need to write letters like 2 or 3 times a week. Write about things you forgot to mention, or about feelings that take time to fully express. I used to keep her latest letter in my pocket throughout the day, and when I felt that longing that couldn't be instantly satisfied by a phone call or email, I would pull it out.

That was 9 years ago. We're still together.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:37 PM on July 7, 2008

I've been in a long-distance relationship for almost a year where we were at least 12hrs apart (by plane) and we used our computers a LOT, but rarely IMed - we mainly had "us" time on Skype, with webcams. I think you'll be able to see your boyfriend at least once a week, or once every couple weeks, so there's no need to conduct the entirety of your relationship online - but that can be helpful too. We did things like watch movies/TV shows together online (counting to 3 and pressing play at the same time :P) and played some online games together/read websites. Also a lot of time was spent just lying around talking on Skype.

When you're together on the weekends don't feel like you have to fill that time with special date activities, because that could become a stressor - just act like you would normally hanging out together, but minimise distractions (i.e. email, phone, doing work, separate activities like reading or low-interaction activities like going to the movies). When my bf and I are together we sometimes read together and I find it surprisingly enjoyable, although I never thought I'd enjoy reading with another person. :P

Good luck!
posted by Xianny at 10:01 PM on July 7, 2008

All good suggestions above. (I'm nearly at the end of a 2-year LDR spanning 7600 miles, so huzzah!)

I'll definitely second that you need to, as soon as you are able, make plans (even if they change! My Aussie was supposed to be here in March, originally. Now I won't see him 'till August. But the point is, we had the goal) to end the distance, at some point. It's only daunting if there's no end in sight. As long as you have a goal, no matter how far distant it may seem, you can think of whatever you're going through as a temporary trial, one that can make you stronger as a person and as a couple.

Being part of each other's lives is important, but don't make that your sole focus. Don't horribleize the situation by focusing all your energies on it, even if it's to try and make things better. It's going to suck a bit, especially at first. What I find helps me is to arrange for my life to become especially busy upon the end of a visit to/from my partner. Perhaps you could start a class, or begin volunteering, or take up a new hobby, or something that's been on your mental to-do list for some time.

Having an online hobby we could pursue together helped, when we both had the internet available. Sending real-mail letters helped immensely, when we didn't have internet. Care packages are cool, but for us were daunting, and ended up happening only rarely. Phone calls do -not- happen every day (though that's partly because of the cost of calling, for us), and I find that I like it that way. We live our lives, and it's actually comforting to me to know that he's not so dependent on me, nor I on him, that we MUST SPEAK TO EACH OTHER EACH AND EVERY DAY OR WE WILL DIE OMG. Also, it doesn't build an expectation - I mean, unless you're planning on having no life, one or the other person will at some point have something going on that precludes being able to make the daily phone call, and if you're used to being called every day, that day that gets missed is going to hurt like hell.

When you do have contact, you can make it a big deal at first, but don't continue to do so. Spending quiet hang-out time is still just as important as it was when you lived close to each other, if not perhaps moreso for its normalcy.

When you're talking - online, on the phone, in a letter - remember times when you thought about your partner, and tell them. I loved hearing that I was on his mind even when I wasn't around, and I'm pretty sure he felt the same way about me. Savor those moments during the day when something reminds you of them. I find that I miss those, when he's around all the time. I still have them, but they don't mean as much.

And yes, though I'm another who would've given a lot to have my S.O. "only" an hour and a half away, I do understand that distance is distance is distance. Especially without a car, an hour and a half may as well be a fourteen hour flight away, sometimes. Good luck to him in getting this job, and to you both if he does. :)
posted by po at 4:04 AM on July 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

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