How to actually embrace your long-distance relationship

Oh, the dreaded LDR. The mere mention of the phrase “long-distance relationship” is enough to make plenty of folks run away screaming. And really, that’s understandable. Being in love with someone you can’t see, can’t touch, can’t physically be with—it’s a terrible, heartbreaking feeling.

My boyfriend and I were in a long-distance relationship because of me. I dreamed of studying abroad in Australia during my junior year of college. My boyfriend, being the amazing, wonderful guy he is, didn’t even bat an eye—he told me that I needed to do it, and that he’d be (virtually) with me every step of the way.

Our time apart only lasted five months, but we’re pretty thrilled that we not only came out of it with our sanity intact, but with our relationship strengthened more than we thought possible. It’s been over a year since I returned, and everything’s still pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Here are the things we did to make it work splendidly while we were 12,000 miles apart.

1. We took advantage of the time difference

This may not apply to every LDR, but I was on the other side of the world from my boyfriend—quite literally. There was a 14-hour time difference between Brisbane and Philadelphia, which pretty much meant that when I was going to bed, he was waking up, and vice versa.

I thought that this would be the biggest problem, but it actually ended up being a saving grace. After all, when you’re abroad, you shouldn’t be sitting by the computer waiting for your love to respond (even though that’s sometimes exactly what you want to do). You should be getting out there, exploring and experiencing everything you can. This really applies with anyone, studying abroad or not: a relationship is a part of your life, not your entire life.

I missed my boyfriend constantly. However, when you know your significant other is asleep, and you know you wouldn’t be able to get ahold of them, you can let yourself walk away from your computer. You can go work on a hobby or spend time with friends without being plugged in. And you can dedicate that special overlap of time zones to spending (virtual) time with your love, with no distractions. Plus, when I couldn’t sleep, guess who I knew would be awake?

2. We regularly updated each other about our lives

We talked pretty much every day. We told each other everything we did, however mundane it might have been.

Remember: when communication starts slipping, that’s always when things go awry.

3. We didn’t let distance keep us from celebrating the important days

One of the most romantic moments of my entire life thus far was celebrating our anniversary apart. It wasn’t even a “real” anniversary—we had been dating for one and a half years. But still, we decided to have dinner, even with the 12,000 miles of distance between us.

We both bought wine and the ingredients for spaghetti and meatballs. (I ended up having to settle for cheap champagne and some really, really terribly made pasta. I am not, and will never be, a good cook.) Sure, it was breakfast for me and dinner for him, but we dressed up and had dinner together via Skype, with lovely music in the background.

4. We gave each other mementos

I left for Australia few days before Valentine’s Day, so we celebrated early. I gave him one of my (oversized) shirts, and he gave me a pair of comfy shorts he had for me to wear to bed. And I bought us pillowcases to write on with Sharpie. Also, a totally unexpected thing occurred: I happened to find his favorite cologne at an Australian mall. So I may or may not have sprayed it on a few little sample cards and tucked them into the pillowcase. Admittedly, it was probably one of my more pathetic moments, but it was nice to be reminded of him whenever I went to sleep.

5. We used technology to keep us connected

Seriously, technology is a god-send. It constantly reminded me how happy I was to be in a long-distance relationship in 2013 instead of 1855.

Though this only applies for iPhone users, Facetime and iMessage were amazing. Even though I had shut down my phone plan while I was away, I was able to text him whenever I had WiFi.

When we missed each other, we could post pictures of stupid things on each other’s Facebook walls, or share new music that we had just heard.

6. We made plans far in the future

I’m not talking about marriage here. But while I was in Australia, we were planning day trips we’d take to Philadelphia when I returned at the end of June.

Sometimes, time can appear to stretch on forever, especially when you’re missing someone. But talking about dates like they’re going to happen next week helps to remind each other that you will, indeed, see each other again, and it gives you a lot to look forward to.

7. We didn’t forget about intimacy

Not gonna expand on this other than saying: technology, guys.

8. We looked at it as an investment in the future

I knew that if I never traveled to Australia, I would regret it for the rest of my life. And he (selflessly) knew that it would truly make me happy.

Look at it as an opportunity to improve your communication, and to try things you’ve never tried before.

9. We knew it would ultimately strengthen our relationship

There’s a quote by Roger de Bussy-Rabutin that has always stuck with me: “Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.”

If you can make it through a long distance relationship, you know you’ve got the real deal. And it will make your love even stronger.

The distance can hurt. It can be unbelievably difficult. But during the hard times, you have to close your eyes, breathe, and let the flame grow.

Sammy Nickalls the content manager of, an online mag helping people get healthier, happier, and more successful. She also enjoys writing about stuff sometimes, and she has an inexplicable weakness for sushi, M83, pre-loved books, and the sultry voice of Benedict Cumberbatch. You can follow her on Twitter at @sammynickalls.

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