Once upon a time, if you fell in love with someone from another country, unless you were particularly persuasive with a pen, you didn’t have a hope of building a life together in two separate countries.
The long distance relationship (LDR) has never been the easy option in terms of dating. However, the impossibility of it is certainly easing. The emergence of online communities for LDR couples, books and resources such as video chat, texting, email, social media and Skype are proving that distance can be overcome.
Sitting in the morning sun, with the distant chatter of Currawongs and Kookaburra’s, Todd Barrett, 23, is unable to contain the smile in his voice when speaking of his partner, Alyssa, who is from Los Angeles. At first they didn’t even contemplate making it work because they were so far apart but after three years of internet chatter, they found themselves, somehow, in a relationship.
“I don’t think anybody decides they want to have a long distance relationship,” he says, with a sly smile.
“It’s not something that you set out to find, it just sort of happens.”
Just because you’re not together doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be. Here are five things to consider if you’re in a LDR.
You can learn a lot by talking to someone. Reach Out Australia agree that open and honest communication is vital for maintaining healthy relationships and poor communication can result in the breakdown of a relationship. Regular conversations with your sweetheart and honest expression of thoughts and feelings is going to be what builds trust and makes you feel like you’re apart of each other’s lives, which is effectively how you’re going to share a life whether you’re physically together or not. Todd recommends mixing it up; video chat some days, write other days, exchange photos, send each other gifts and use Skype to see one another’s reactions.
It happens, no matter what kind of relationship you’re in and could be the result of any number of circumstances; trying to find time for each other, jealousy, dishonesty. It doesn’t take a genius to know you and you’re sweetheart are going to have to talk it out – don’t let the days roll by – or risk the consequences of ignoring the problem.
“If you’re really serious about your relationship, don’t let the distance be the reason to break up or to let it fall apart,” says Todd.
“Make sure that you do everything you can to prevent that from happening and that if you do end up giving it up, it’s because it’s no longer what you want and not just because it becomes too hard.”
The reality is, all relationships are hard and plenty of couples who live in same country have just as many trying aspects as long distance couples.
Hellos & Goodbyes
Saying goodbye again and again is undoubtedly challenging but the hello is what makes it all worthwhile.
“Once I saw Alyssa, any fears of it being awkward or anything just disappeared,” Todd reflects. “It was just like it was when we left off.”
After the first trip, Todd found the ‘airport feeling’ was replaced with pure excitement at seeing one another.
“The hardest part is leaving; saying goodbye rips you apart,” says Todd. “You go from 24 hours a day with someone to a 15 hour flight where you can’t talk to anyone, really. You get home, see your family and you’re happy for a while but then you’re alone again. That’s the hardest part.”
He says the most important thing to keep in mind is that long distance relationships will never be long distance forever.
Will all the chatting back and forth be worth it? Well, only you can know that. But Todd recommends staying realistic when talking about the future.
“We don’t try and get too ahead of ourselves,” Todd explains.
“Yeah we think it’s going to work, we’d like it to work. But neither of us is under any illusion that it’s going to be a huge challenge, not just until we move and end up in the same country, but even following that.”
Todd admits the decision on where to live together is one of their biggest challenges as a couple, one of them likely giving up their homeland, family and friends to be with the other.
“It’s one of the main things I think about. I’d also miss my dog; I can’t talk to her on Skype.”
How do you live in the now when you’re waiting for the time you will be together again?
Time is the enemy of the LDR. It can be overwhelming feeling like you’re constantly counting down or in a relationship that is on countdown.
“Sometimes it feels like I am trying to fast forward through life… like I am not really living for today,” says Todd, with barely a trace of a smile.
Todd and Alyssa both have goals outside of their relationship that they are also working towards. Talking to each other as well as spending time with family and friends has helped combat the ticking clock but most importantly, they believe that the other is worth the wait.
“Ultimately, you just have to take it as it comes and deal with things as you get to them, says Todd. “Try and look at it realistically and critically and not get too carried away at the lovey doveyness of it. Do not regret not giving it a go and don’t be forced by circumstance.”
Other resources for LDR couples
+ Stephen Blake’s book Loving your long distance relationship
We take our hats off to all those couples going the distance (forgive the pun) for love.