Making the Most of Long Distance Relationships

Zainab and Nadir

I married the man of my dreams in a beautiful outdoor ceremony at sunset in Northern California, 2011. We got back from honeymooning at the Big Island in Hawaii and as the summer drew to an end, I flew back to chilly Denver Colorado to complete my final year of graduate school figuring in our hyper-tech times, long distance love would be a cinch. Between Skype, texting, Facebook, and Twitter I assumed keeping in touch with my dashing and very tech savvy husband would be easier than ever.

But while my electronic devices and world of social networking seemed like I was constantly able to connect with my husband, I realized quite quickly that these things were mere crutches, and surviving a long distance relationship requires far more than an iPhone. Here are some lessons to keep in mind when you find yourself in love, but apart:

  • Focus: I think the biggest irony of assuming technology would make things easier is the key to really connecting is “unplugging”. Once in touch with your loved one on the phone or via text and chat, stop multi-tasking and start focusing. The conversations you share are the next best thing to being with one another, so make them meaningful. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Cherish those moments because really connecting means active listening.
  • Open Up: It’s hard enough being constrained by physical distance, and time differences can make connecting difficult. So open up, be expressive and use distance as an opportunity to share more. The French say “marry for conversation” and I think they may be right – a good conversation leads to mental and emotional stimulation that can lead to feeling close, and more comfortable. My husband and I would sometimes get into heated political conversations on the phone while we were apart and the big takeaway for me was that I married a man who is open, understanding, a phenomenal listener – it always left me feeling happy and more informed about him!
  • Work Hard: There must have been at least a half dozen times or more that I randomly showed up at our place in California during my last two quarters of graduate school. I would catch the last flight out of Denver, lug my baggage to a SuperShuttle and fly out of DIA (Thank God for Southwest Airlines). My schedule usually permitted I stay 4-5 days until I would fly back on the earliest flight on Monday morning to make it to class that afternoon. Suffice to say it was tiring, but made worthwhile for the time spent to bridge distance. Moral of the story is that there is no substitute for hard work. It always goes appreciated and any chance to eliminate the space barrier when in a long distance relationship is worth taking. Also, there really is no substitute for a good surprise – my husband’s shock and then loving awe when I would show up at his door on a random Thursday night when we had just chatted that morning while I was in Denver, is priceless.
  • Be in the Moment: The weekends I would visit home in California, I always made sure to enjoy the time we had together. I allocated enough time for work, but then enjoyed playtime to its fullest. Try and stay positive, pick your battles wisely and make the most of every moment you have together: lost time is never found and when there’s distance, time together is most valuable.
  • Build Trust: Distance can be very challenging in a new relationship when you are still getting to know one another. Have faith and be open about expectations. Don’t hesitate to discuss what you want, and how you expect the relationship to move forward. I suggest making this a priority because distances can make communicating about sensitive issues more difficult. In this instance though, take full advantage of your tech toys. Get on Skype and invest an hour or two discussing what one another’s expectations are to avoid complicated trust issues moving forward. When hopes, fears and anticipations are made clear early on, and both people commit to working together, this can make for quite a blissful beginning to a loving, lasting relationship.

These things worked for me, and I hope they may help others who also find themselves in a long distance love. But if you take one thing away from this piece, try and always stay in the moment.

When I think of the nights staying up talking until dawn with my husband, or waking up at 5 am to catch a flight back to Denver and start the distance all over again after a weekend of fun, there is a smile on my face because those moments were uniquely my own. Those moments were composed of so many emotions, and memories that we will never have again. Refuse to focus on distance, or what is, or isn’t to come – enjoy the person you are with and the place you are in now. Rely on the assumption that everything always works out for the best and just love.