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Are you very excited about getting an opportunity to study or work abroad, but at the same time worry about your relationship back home? You are not alone. Long-distance relationships are very common for young international people nowadays. In this post, I will provide some tips about how to maintain your long-distance relationship alive while living abroad.
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Should you keep your relationship at all?
Before thinking about how to maintain your long-distance relationship, maybe you should first consider if you should keep this relationship at all. Going abroad does not necessarily mean to end your relationship. If you discuss properly with your partner before going abroad, it may save some potential hassles afterward. Below are some of the factors to consider:
How long will you two be separated?
Are you going abroad for only a specific period, and then you know that you will be back home again? An example would be an exchange program for university students. Commonly, students attend a foreign university for one or two semesters, which is around 6 or 12 months.
Or are you moving abroad permanently? For example, if you have found a job abroad, and you do not know if you will move back home again. Another situation is that you also cannot tell how long you will be abroad. For example, you go to study abroad intending to find a job there afterward. You may stay there if you find a job. But you may also go back home if you cannot find one.
In general, it is less complicated to keep a long-distance relationship if you are only abroad for a specific period. Because both you and your partner have something to look forward to and you can count down the days when you two will be physically together again.
It is quite a personal question. You need to ask yourself how long is the period you can stand separating from your partner. In my opinion, being separated for up to 12 months is doable. It does not mean that more than 12 months is impossible. It is just easier to manage when it is within 12 months. And when there are uncertainties if you will move back home at all, is this something that you can stand while keeping your relationship back home?
Do you two have the same goal in the end?
I believe that people should chase their dream when they are young. To give you an example: I knew an international couple in the past. An Asian girl and a European guy. They got along pretty well and were very happy with each other. The problem was that the guy always wanted to move to Asia, while the girl always wanted to move to Europe. Maybe that was the reason why they were attracted to each other. Both of them did not want to give up their dream to move to the countries they wanted. In the end, they broke up as the girl made it to Europe and the guy moved to Asia.
What I wanted to say from this story is that if you and your partner have a different goal in mind and none of you want to compromise, the relationship will not work even if you two get along with each other. Even if one is willing to give up, you have to think about if your values really match with each other. Imagine if the girl in my example compromised and lived in Asia with the guy, she might regret this decision and might even blame the guy in the future for causing her to give up her dream.
Do you have a plan to settle down at the same place?
If you are going abroad for a specific period and will go back home afterward, it is less complicated to keep your relationship. But if you are moving abroad for good, do you have a plan for how you and your partner can settle down in the same city in a reasonable time frame? An option would be that your partner moves to your city. To do so, he may have to give up his job, friends, and family in his own country. Will he be willing to do that?
There are some real questions to think about. If you see no way that you will move back home, nor he will move to your city, it may be better off for both of you not to continue with the relationship.
Do you know your partner long enough?
If you have been with your partner together for a long time before you move abroad, you will probably have a better idea if this is the person you want to be with for life. If you have just started a relationship with someone before you plan to move abroad, you may not know for sure if you two are a good match or not, especially if you two have never lived together before. Do you still want to risk it and keep a long-distance relationship?
I did see examples that the couples were only together for two months before the girl moved abroad for a two-year job assignment. They decided to keep the relationship. Their relationship still worked out and they got married in the end. So, you may not necessarily end your relationship if you do not know your partner long enough. It depends on if you want to take the risk and try it out.
Other alternatives than a long-distance relationship?
Sometimes there are grey areas: neither keeping your relationship nor breaking up with your partner. I do know couples who discussed with their partners before they separated and agreed on an open relationship. It means that the couples still talk with each other frequently even if they are in different countries. However, they are allowed to date other people during this time if they want to, or if an opportunity comes. And if they do date someone else seriously, they will disclose to their partner and end the open relationship.
Some people believe that if two people are meant to be together, they will be together. And they will just wait and see what happens. If they love each other enough, they may still be together in the end. If not, they will realize that and they still have the right to try to date other people. This solution is especially common for young couples who have no plans yet how they can settle down in the same city.
Why some long-distance relationship doesn’t work?
The one who stays in his own town may feel bad
Surprisingly, this is very common among long-distance couples. For example, a girl gets the chance to study or work abroad. This is a super opportunity for her and she is very excited about it. During her time abroad, she gets to travel to many different countries, meet many international friends, try many new things in her life, etc. And her partner? He is still in his home town, working at the same job, or doing the same study, hanging out with the same friends, having the same daily life without his girlfriend beside him.
Very often, the guy who stays in his own town cannot feel really happy for his girlfriend who goes abroad. The truth is that the happier she is when she is abroad, the unhappier he feels. This may be because he is jealous as he does not get the same opportunity. Or he may feel that his girlfriend is somehow “better” than him since she is so smart to be able to get this chance to go abroad.
This bad feeling can lead to arguments between couples. More often, this bad feeling is the root cause of many arguments, rather than those small details which are only the trigger of the arguments.
Couples may feel insecure when they are physically separated
Similar to the point above, if a girl shows that she is always having fun abroad, this may make her boyfriend at home feel insecure. He may feel that she can still have a lot of fun without him. He may question how important he is to her.
Besides, if the girl is always going out and making new friends abroad, her boyfriend may also feel threatened as she may potentially meet some other interesting guys.
Feeling fades away
If the couples do not see each other often enough, or if they do not have plans to settle down in the same city at a reasonable time, it can be very frustrating for both persons. Eventually, they may want to give up the relationship. Besides, physical contact is very important for a relationship. The feeling may fade away at some point in time when a person feels no hope to move together with another person.
No more common topic
When couples are living in different cities, they will have their own circle of friends, own activities, and their own lifestyle. When they separate for longer, they will have less and less common topics because they are not doing something together and do not hang out with the same group of friends. They can still talk about their daily life, what they have done, and so on. But this is not the same as they experience something together. And when this situation lasts longer, they may feel that their conversation becomes dull and not so interesting anymore.
Do not want to waste time
If the couples do not have plans to settle down in the same city, or if none of them is willing to sacrifice and move abroad with another person, they may not want to continue with this relationship as this may seem to be a waste of time.
This is especially true for women, who want to have kids at some point in life. The older the woman is, the harder it may get to become pregnant. If a woman cannot see a future plan with a guy, she may decide to move on to not waste her precious time and look for another guy.
Couples break up after moving together
When couples are separated, they tend to dream about their partners in an ideal way. Not being physically together sometimes also avoids many conflicts in daily life. If you live with someone in the same house, you may have conflicts on small things like who is going to clean the dishes, who should be cooking, or any other daily habits.
When couples are not in the same cities, they do not really spend time physically with each other. So, their imagination about each other will stay on the good side. And their impression of their partners may become more perfect in their minds than in reality.
I do know many couples who were in a long-distance relationship for years. Finally, they decided to move together. But only after a few months of living together, they decided to break up due to all the conflicts they had. They realized that moving together with their partner was not like how they had imagined it before.
9 ways to maintain a long-distance relationship
Below are some tips to help you to maintain a long-distance relationship.
1. Try to call every day
Some people say that it is not possible to call every day because of their busy schedule and the time difference. The fact is, if you really want to have a call every day, it is totally possible to do so. It depends on how much you want to do it. Thanks to technology nowadays, you can basically call anyone for free if you have an internet connection. You can use skype, WhatsApp, Wechat, or any other applications to conduct audio or video calls for free.
If the time zone makes it difficult, you can still find other opportunities to call. For example, my friend always called her long-distance boyfriend when she was driving to work and back home. This might be just a few minutes. But it helped so much in her relationship. And it was not taking her extra time for the call, as she would be driving anyways.
If it is not possible to call sometimes, at least send a message when you get up or before you go to bed. This is really the basic. Besides, you should reserve time for video calls from time to time (for example, on the weekend). Seeing each other when you are talking will help you to feel closer to each other.
How I managed to call every day:
I had a one-year long-distance relationship when I worked in the USA, while my boyfriend (husband now) was in Germany. We called basically three times a day: once when I got up, once when he went to bed, and once when I went to bed.
A long phone call may not be necessary. It can be as short as a few minutes just to say goodnight. And trust me, this already makes a big difference.
So, every day he gave me a morning call to wake me up. We talked for some minutes as I was preparing myself to go to work. Then, he called me in my late afternoon, when he was about to go to bed. Normally we only talked for a few minutes as I was at work. I called him again later on in my evening before I went to bed. This was a morning call to him as it was early in his morning. We usually talked for longer in this call.
2. Visit each other regularly
No matter how much you talk to each other on the phone, you will need to meet each other in person regularly to maintain your relationship. Depends on how far you are, you can plan to visit each other once in a while. For example, I met my boyfriend in Germany every 3 months, when I worked in the USA. If you are only a few hours away from each other, you can think about visiting once in a few weeks. You can even plan to go on vacation together in some other cities to create a unique experience for you two.
3. Always consider your partner’s feeling
Before you do something abroad, always think about your partner back home. Let say if you are in a club, or if you know someone is interested in you, do not forget that you have a partner whom you are committed to. I understand that you may feel lonely and it can be tempting sometimes. But it is better to have a clear mind and know what you are doing, rather than feeling regretful or guilty afterward. Whatever you are doing, make sure this will not potentially cause any harm to your relationship.
Here is a story from my friend: he was in Germany and had a girlfriend in the USA. Somehow he made out with another girl when he went to a party. He felt so guilty afterward that he had to confess this to his girlfriend. And this ruined everything. They had a trip planned after a month and they met each other in person. But the trip was a total disaster due to this incident. The girl couldn’t trust him anymore and it ended up being the last time they saw each other.
4. Be aware of how you talk with your partner
If you know that your partner is sensitive and feels bad that he could not get the same opportunity like you to go abroad, you may not want to sound too happy or excited about what you are doing abroad. This may make him feel even worse. And of course, you do not need to mention if you know someone else who is interested in you, when you know that your boyfriend will feel insecure. This is to give him confidence in your relationship.
Also, be aware of the pictures you post on social media. Are you looking too happy, too sexy, or too many guys surrounding you? You may think that this is nothing important because you are totally loyal. However, it is better to avoid unnecessary imagination from your partner. Your partner may also feel that you are totally happy without him being with you. So he may question how important he is to you.
5. Trust each other
A healthy relationship is based heavily on trust. It is okay to be interested in what your partner is doing, but do not check on your partner all the time. There should be a balance. Let your partner go out and meet new people and have new life experiences. If you truly love someone, you should be happy that he or she gets the chance to experience something great.
Both partners should have their own life and should not rely too heavily on each other. For example, some people do not go out to socialize with others because they want to stay at home and have phone calls with their partners. This is okay from time to time, but not all the time. I once knew a girl who loved dancing. She gave up her dancing classes to spend more time on the phone with her boyfriend. Their long-distance relationship ended after 6 years. And until now, she keeps telling me how much she regrets that she didn’t continue dancing when she was young.
Remember, couples should have trust in each other. It is not a healthy relationship if you sacrifice what you like to do to favor your partner or to make him/ her feel secure.
6. Show your affection to each other
Mention often how you feel about each other, and how important the other person is to you. For example, if you go to a festival, you can tell your partner how much you wish that he was also there and what would you two do if you were together at the festival. This will make your partner feel his importance and also make him aware that you have him in mind.
Don’t be shy to send your sexy pictures to your partner from time to time. Flirt with your partner on the audio or video call. This can help to keep the flame going and help you two to be more emotionally bonded to each other.
7. Surprise your partner
Sometimes, you may think that it is hard to do something for your partner abroad. But you can always do something, even though you are not in the same city. For example, my American friend had a girlfriend in Hong Kong. During valentine’s day, he ordered a bunch of flowers from a local shop and delivered it to his girlfriend’s office. She was super surprised and touched to see the flowers on her desk.
Another friend of mine even planned a secret trip to visit her boyfriend back home in the USA. On her boyfriend’s birthday, she rang the bell and he was shocked to see her standing at his door! It was a lot of work and planning to make this secret trip but it was totally worth it.
You can also surprise your partner with small gifts that can constantly remind your partner of you. Be sure you learn about the gift giving traditions in Germany before giving a gift.
There are some great gift ideas for your long-distance partner at SURVIVELDR. Currently, they offer a 10% discount for our readers. Just use the discount code sindy10 at the checkout.
8. Hang pictures of your partner
You can hang pictures of your partner at home, in the office, or set them on your phone. This can remind you of the lovely memory you have with each other. When your partner comes to visit you and see the pictures, it will also give him a feeling that he is important to you.
9. Counting down days
Sometimes it is really hard to be separated from your partner and not be able to see each other physically. One thing I think it really helps is to mark on your calendar the dates you will meet each other again. Once you have that marked, you can start counting down the days when you will see each other again.
Every day when I talked with my partner, I always told him that we only needed to wait x days until we would meet again. And every day, I crossed one day out. So I could also see it visually in my calendar that the time until we meet each other was getting closer and closer. This was a big emotional help for us that we had something to look forward to.
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Do you have experience in a long-distance relationship? Leave a comment and share your tips below!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Support Page for all the resources you need!