Advice for long distance relationships?

As I mentioned in another thread I find myself trying to start a relationship with someone on another continent. I need to take 3 days off work just to visit her[1]. Anyone been in a similar situation? What are some things you’ve done to make it work? I won’t be able to visit for another two months. I do have plans to move to that country regardless of how the relationship works out, but it won’t be for another year or so.

[1] Discount plane tickets require 3 days stay, and I can’t afford standard tickets - they cost 3x as much as discount tickets.

I apologize in advance for psoting something you probably don’t want to hear.

I have been in two long-distance relationships. My sister was in one long-distance relationship. Just yesterday, I was speaking with a friend of mine who was in several long-distance relationships. Of these examples, guess how many worked out? None.

I think relationships are built upon shared experiences. The high experiences, the low experiences, the spontaneous experiences. The few times when my L.D.G. & I got together, we were both on “best” behavior (not normal behavior) so as to make the “most” of the time we had together. We didn’t have an accurate picture of one another. We didn’t have that kind of view of each other when one person just gets home after having a shitty day at work and getting cut off in traffic. You may hear about it after the fact, but that’s a whole different situation than living it with as it’s happening.

Of course you feel you know this person. If you are anything like my L.D.G. & I, you were able to get to know each other really well by talking (always good) without the physical side “getting in the way.” Unfortunately, the physical side is really crucial in communication. A person’s body language accounts for over half of what people get when we are communicating (estimates vary and I don’t have a cite, but if it’s crucial to my credibility, let me know and I will get my reference.) My point is just that there is no substitute for being in one another’s physical presence.

Aside from my main point, there is also the whole snuggling on a sofa thing, making food for each other, romping 'tween the sheets, helping each other through their minor daily crisises, balancing the time you spend with and without them, seeing them with their friends and how you fit into that equation.

Personally I became aggravated with the amount of money we had to spend to achieve just a fraction of what most couples experience. That tends to heighten the stakes and expectations.

If you feel you are really desperate for love, stick with it and see if will last. But if you are just like the rest of us looking for a compatible connection, seek someone you can actually physically connect with.

To be fair, I have to admit that I actually do have a friend who is marrying her long-distance relationship. And they will still be long-distanced for about a year even AFTER their wedding. I personally can’t even fathom it.

It’s OK as long as you don’t restrict yourselves to just seeing each other. Otherwise, you’re just asking to be disappointed. You’ll feel it was a complete waste of your time (and you WILL break up eventually – most likely, anyway).

Having done the long-distance thing twice for extended periods, one of which involved 9 time zones and the Iron Curtain, and observed various friends in long-distance relationships, I think they only work if you know there is a definitive future point after which they will no longer be long-distance. And even then, it’s a long shot. (One of them did work – a former co-worker of mine married her long-distance honey. But it wasn’t long-distance in the beginning; they spent a year together while he was int eh States in grad school. It was very tragic in the end – they got married, moved back to France, had a lovely daughter, and then the husband died suddenly right before the daughter was born.)

Both parties have to be EXCELLENT communicators. (Part of what sank the Iron Curtain one was lack of opportunities to communicate; he had no telephone, and the mail was extremely unreliable back then. For that matter, it still is now.) Plus you really have to make sure you both have the same set of realistic expectations, no matter how strong your feelings for each other are. Things are easier now, what with cheap prepaid telephone cards and e-mail, but it’s still a very, very difficult thing to pull off for any kind of extended period.

I’ve got good news. My wife and I never lived closer than 600 miles from each other until we got married. This was before the Internet, so we were restricted to telephone and gasp letters. We did manage to see each other every couple of months. Then, one year after we met, we broke up. However, we did keep talking every so often, and even visiting, and we got engaged 4 1/2 years after our break up.

Oh, and we will have been married 25 years next month.

It can work if you are right for each other, and are not just in the relationship to have fun, (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but care for each other as people, not just dating companions.

Eva Luna gives really good advice.

Set up a timeplan for when you will be together properly and work together towards it. The internet makes it easier to postpone the time when you will be together I think, so don’t fall into that trap. Me and the mrs had “only” phone calls and letters to communicate with, and while it was wonderful it absolutly provided motivation to get our life together started.

Communicate communicate communicate. You guys need to establish a habit of talking openly and honestly and not hiding things from eachother. This is a good advice for any relationship, but one where you can’t pick up on eachothers body language, facial expression etc it is vital. You need to say what is on your mind.

Iteki - started out as long distance, moved in after a year, now into year 9 and loving it :slight_smile:

It’s all about the phone cards.

No, seriously, It’s ALL ABOUT THE PHONE CARDS.

I get mine from - 0.4 cents/minute to Canada, with 50 cent connection fees. That’s the best I’ve found so far ANYWHERE. They have US-to-Japan cards for 2.8 cents/minute, 25 cent connection fees. Search around, since I don’t know if they have the best rates on ones to Japan, though they certainly do on ones to Canada.

Make time to talk. A LOT. As much as you can. This will suck with the time zones thing for you, but you should be able to have good conversations, provided that you both have someplace where you can be alone and fairly uninterrupted for an hour or two. Talk about EVERYTHING, and don’t hold something back. Learn one another’s vocal idiosyncracies, they can replace body language and facial expressions to some degree. I can tell, just by how he talks, if my boyfriend misses me, if he’s had a bad day, if he has something on his mind he’s hesitant about mentioning, if he’s upset or confused by something I’ve said… But this comes from talking for about an hour and 45 minutes every day. And it’s still not perfect.

It’s going to be expensive. Really, really freaking expensive. You’re going to want to see her very often, and sometimes you’re going to be miserable when you can’t. Visit as often as is financially feasible. Learn the usual fare rates in between all possible airports. Learn which days of the week are cheapest. Sign up with a few online ticket sites. Have them watch to see when a deal comes up on your preferred routes.

And DON’T do this if you don’t think that this person is better than all of the girls who happen to be located conveniently on the same continent, in the same country, or in the same city.

You CAN get through this without dating other people. However, that’s only if you’re not -interested- in other people. If you’re really into this person, dating other people will be a letdown. However, if you’d rather wait to date exclusively until you’re on the same continent, be aware that you can get nasty jealousy-things. LDRs can be quite emotional, and it’s easy to feel inferior to someone that your partner spends actual real-life time with.

I HATE long-distance relationships… but hate in the sense that I wouldn’t trade mine for anything. :slight_smile:

Another long distance relationship person chiming in… I agree with elfbabe completely… keep communicating… we too use phone cards and they are a godsend, as is the net and email and messenger programmes. Keep talking - set a schedule for when you talk, my bf and I have 2 times a day we talk, same time each day. If we can’t talk at those times, we email before hand to let the other one know. That way you;re not hanging round waiting for the phone to ring. At weekends obviously, it could be more flexible and you’ll probably get more time together. Most days, bf and I talk about an hour… on holidays or weekends, it might be more, maybe less (depending on whats going on).
Kalhoun I have to disagree with you on the “that you don’t just restrict yourselves to each other” - my LDR would not work out if either of us were dating outside of it. We discussed exclusivity at the very beginning and both agreed that it was vital for our relationship to work out. We trust each other totally in this and any other respect.

Visit as often as you can afford it - but don’t be rigid about your plans… real life has a way of butting in just when you don’t want it to and it can really mess things up. Discuss your joint priorities and make decisions together on what your plans should be. Something may come up that makes the visit unfeasible but might allow you to make a longer, less expensive visit in a months time. Given that it is expensive, this may work out to be a less stressful situation all round. What I’m saying is plan together, work together as a team.

Several people discussed honesty - be honest how you feel, if your mad, tell them, if your happy, tell them… whatever is going on, talk about. One of the wonderful things about an LDR is that you learn fantastic communication skills that will last a life time together.

Work together as a team as much as humanly possible - its not always possible but it can be done.

Also, to address the LDR’s don’t work out point? I don’t agree - I have 5 couple friends who are in long distance relationships - one couple are married, two are engaged, one couple are moving together by the Summer, I am still long distance as is one other couple I know.

LDR’s are hard and aren’t for everybody - but it teaches you a lot about yourself and your mate… its difficult and you can feel depressed about it at times but isn’t that true for all relationships? Yes I long to be with my bf but I know this waiting period is a time when we are building a very solid foundation to our relationship which can only serve us well in the future.

I firmly believe that fate brought him and I together and there is no way on this Earth that, now that I’ve found him, I’m ever gonna let him go!!!

Good luck with your relationship and feel free to give me a shout should you need any help.

Another long distance success story checking in. Rick and I met right here on the SDMB and had a long distance (England/US) relationship for almost two years before getting married last July. We are happy as can be. :slight_smile:

You have gotten some good advice about communicating. To expand on what Rhino’sHoney said about being honest, I would add that it is easier on the phone to hide any anger, hurt feelings, etc than in person, which is exactly why you must not do so. You have to be able to trust each other and hiding negative emotions will quickly undermine any trust you have.

Meet as soon as you can. As Hey you! points out, someone’s physical presence is important. Rick and I met two months after meeting online, although we already had plans to meet within two weeks. :slight_smile: If you are going to invest time and emotional energy in this relationship, it is worth time off from work, if there is any way you can swing it.

Best of luck to you.

My husband and I were a LDR before we married, and we’ve spent over half of our marriage apart. I have to agree with everyone here that communication is key. Talking is all you have, so you’d better make the most of it.

Visit one another as much as possible, but try not to go into debt.

Try to have realistic expectations. Talking on the phone with someone is not the same as spending actual time with them. There are a million things that you will never learn about this person over the phone. Remember that this person may have habits or idiosyncrasies that will make you crazy.

Good luck.

Thank you all for the help, I knew I could count on you guys to give honest opinions and advice. I know it involves risks and difficulties, but what doesn’t?

If I could add a couple of specific questions:

= Do they ever have discount tickets that do not require 3 nights stay at the destination? Time is more a problem than money, but still, standard air fare is ridiculous.

= Anybody try webcams and Internet phones? Are they any good? We both have DSL.

From here, for a cheaper price ticket, you have to stay over a Saturday night, it a regular rule. As far as I know anything that would be a, for instance, 2 night stay is considered a business flight, and therefore they charge more. See if you can take the extra day or if not, can the trip be reschuled? Even if you call in sick or something (if that’s possible?).

Me and bf use the webcam as often as we can - we are in a 5 hour time difference so often when I’m at work, he’s home or when he’s at work, I’m home… but when are schedules do match, ie weekends etc… then we use the webcams. Its so nice just be able to talk face to face… and yes, we have used it for other things too (we are red blooded human beings not angels!!!).

Another friend of mine has some internet phone connection thingie that allows for her to make free calls to her bf… its something you put in your computer… your other half has to get it put in their too… and then you can make free calls from a regular phone. Not entirely sure how it works but I’ll see if I can get a website link for you. I’m also not sure what the situation with it if you’re and one country and they’re in another… but I guess you could always email the company and get their advice.

I’ll go see if I can find that link for you - might take a day or two but I’ll get back to ok?

Try “bucket shops,” i.e. airline ticket consolidators. Really cheapo airfare! They may have less restrictions, because you’re not buying directly from the airline. Here they advertise in the Sunday paper travel section.

While not currently in a relationship (applications accepted between 2 & 4 PM :smiley: ), I have had two LDR experiences, both quite different.

The first one was an attempt to carry on an already existing relationship after my BF moved away to graduate school. I even eventually joined him, though we ended up breaking up and I moved home nine months later.

The second was a mutual fan of a certain band from a message board who I met with other online fans at a concert. We started that relationship long distance and it went well for a period of time, but ended rather abruptly a year later, both parties being happier for that decision.

Since you’ve gotten good advice already on chat, e-mail, phone communication etc, what I want to comment on is this: while neither of my relationship worked out in terms of marriage, I am happy to have had both experiences. Actually, I think of all my past relationships as valuable experiences that make me better suited to make better choices.

Best of luck.

First post on the forums. Hi everyone.

I’m glad I’ve found a topic I can contribute to right off the bat.

LDR can work if both parties are commited. I’m currently in the 8th month of such a relationship. I’m in NC, she’s in IA. It was four months before I was able to visit her and, of course, all the fears of it not being “right” in person were settled in the back of my mind. However, we connected in person and had a wonderful time. She came to visit me in March, and I’m returning there in 20 days for a two week stay.

It takes an understanding of each others’ needs to make it work. There are times when we have bad days, when we want to be left alone, when we need our own space. Those times should be respected.

It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to make a LDR work. But if she or he is worth it, then hang on and enjoy the ride.

Oh goodness LDRs are hell on earth. Seriously. Even when they are working they hurt, and when they aren’t…it feels like your soul is dying inches at a time.

That said:
-Communicate a lot. More than a lot. Even the shitty stuff, even the mundane stuff. Rent movies together, watch the same tv shows at the same time and stay on the phone through them. Anything and everything to try to connect and stay connected.
-Allow for dating other people, keep it light and loose if you can. Posessive relationships don’t work well normally, and they’ll kill the participants in an LDR.
-Know when its going to end. Make solid rock hard plans when the two of you will live close enough to have a real relationship. It has to be finite.

And know right now that this course of action is going to hurt, a lot, over a long period of time. It may or may not be worth it in the long run, you may or may not have some really fun times with it, but no matter what happens, in the short term, its going to hurt.

I’ve been in a LDR since October of 2001. AMS-LAX is nine time zones and about 8,000 miles.

It’s not easy. There have been times when we didn’t see each other for 6 months, and it’s rough. What some people have said is true: the visits tend to be holidays, where you both try to make the most of the time you have together. It’s not “real life”, as such, if you will. My girlfriend is trying to come over here for a couple of weeks soon, during which I’ll deliberately NOT take all my days off from work, in order to simulate what it would be like to actually live together.

We love each other very much, and are trying to overcome the remaining obstacles that keep us apart now. If we succeed in doing so, there’s no doubt in my mind: we’ll be very, very happy together. And at a year and a half into the relationship, both of us in our early 30’s, it’s about time the “LD” gets dropped.

Let’s hope it happens soon.

i’m in an LDR that started off with both of us living close together. we broke up for several years, but remained more than friends. we got back together about five months ago.

last november he joined the navy and is now stationed 350 miles away. doesn’t seem that far, but there are many obstacles in the way. first off he has no freedoms, no car, and no place of his own. another thing is we’re both broke. navy doesn’t pay well and i’m doing the waiting tables to get through college. his cell phone gets no reception in the BEQs. i have no way of contacting him. it’s a very difficult situation. since he doesn’t get his car until this weekend (yeay!!) i’ve had to do majority of the driving. i’ve probably put about 4k on my car since christmas.

every time we want to see each other it costs about $120 for hotel, $40 for gas (and i have a honda… imagine if i had a gas guzzler), plus meals (no option of eating in), time off from work, or the alternative of him coming to see me… renting a car ~$250 since we’re only 23.

if it hadn’t been for us having the previous relationship i don’t think i could do this now. the way i look at it though. i might be miserable now, but i’d be even worse if he weren’t in my life at all.

the only advice i could give is to be open with each other and share the traveling and the expenses. sometimes it can’t be helped like in my situation. it only makes it harder. i’m counting down the days until i can graduate college and move near him.

Well Coldfire, if you should hapen to find yourself in need of U.S. immigration advice, just say the word!

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal
(I’m completely serious, BTW.)

Wow – there are some people posting here who have some very specific “guidelines” based merely on bad experiences they’ve had, themselves. Frankly, there are no guidelines, as every single couple is different in their needs and expectations. Simply put, you have to do what works for you!

For instance, it could completely backfire to attempt to force someone to adhere to a definitive deadline as to when the next step should be! NOONE likes to feel cornered or trapped! As an example, if it works to have a scheduled time to talk every day due to your differing time zones and you don’t want to waste precious phone card time and money getting voice mails, great! For my then-boyfriend (see below) and I, doing it that way worked for a while, then started feeling like more of an obligation than something we could get excited about, so we eased off on the “must talk ever day at X time” thing and it put some of the thrill of anticipation back into our romance. Like I said – whatever works for you is what you need to do!

I’m also living proof that LDRs can, and do, work! My husband, Spiny Norman (hi sweetie!), and I met at a Dopefest (actually, at Coldfire’s in Amsterdam!), did the back-and-forth across the pond thing (him from Germany, me from Los Angeles, CA, USA) for 9 months before getting engaged and were married last May after a little over a year from when we met.

Certainly there are things you learn about another person only after moving in and living with them. However, even if we’d’ve lived in the same city, we’d’ve had that same obstacle to overcome, as I’m completely opposed (for myself only!) to living together before marriage. And I bet we’ll continue to learn new things about each other for the rest of our lives together, too.

The best advice I can give you is to love each other, talk as much as possible whether it’s by email, instant messaging, webcams or phone and visit as often as you can afford to. Everything else will fall into place – if it’s meant to be, it will be, and if not, it won’t – just like any other relationship.

Best of luck!