Flashback to November 2020.
As I hugged my American fiancé tightly in the deserted airport check-in hall, it dawned on me that I didn’t know when I would see him again.
Tears began to roll down my cheeks as I realised the gravity of the situation. He lived in America. I lived in the UK. Europe was experiencing a winter surge of COVID cases and we had no idea when we’d be able to travel again, let alone get married.
Our relationship was doomed, just like it has been throughout the entire four years we’ve been together. But, somehow, I was determined to defy the odds. I was determined to do the impossible. I was determined to end the four years of emotional turbulence before this pandemic was over.
The UK lockdowns meant that a lot of us weren’t able to see our friends, family and partners who live locally for months on end. But, what about the couples in long-distance relationships that transcend oceans? Some of them still haven’t seen each other since pre-pandemic.
Fortunately, I found my happy ending in March 2021.
My Long Distance Relationship Story
I met Nathan in Nashville in January 2015 while my sister and I were travelling around the US. To say it was love at first sight would be a lie. I was already in a relationship so, although we got on really well, that was the extent of it.
I remember thinking that he was someone I could be great friends with because we had so much in common (even though we were from different countries). So we added each other on Snapchat the night we met and that was that.
I went on to break up with my ex, go on a few dates and live the single life. Then one day, a few months later, Nathan popped up on my Snapchat feed.
We got to talking and started building a solid friendship. It wasn’t long before we were sending each other Snapchat videos every day and arranging Skype calls on our weekends, which usually lasted hours.
As fate would have it, my travels were taking me to Chicago in the summer of 2016 (a three-hour drive from Nathan’s hometown). Before I arrived, he asked if he could drive to Chicago and take me on a date while I was there.
To be honest, this surprised me. I thought we were just friends. But I also thought to myself, ‘why not?’ — it’s not every day that an American asks you out.
We went on to have the best first date ever. We dressed up and he wore a suit. He took me to a posh Italian restaurant. And the rest, as they say, is history.
After that trip, we had established a romantic connection that was stronger than we both initially realised. He came over to the UK a few months later and we began our long distance relationship. Luckily, I was self-employed so I had the flexibility to fly over to Nathan every three months or so (when I could afford to).
We did this for two and a half years before I felt like I couldn’t do it any longer. Being in a long distance relationship takes its toll on you emotionally and financially. That’s when we decided to emigrate to another country temporarily while we figured out what to do next.
We had a blissfully happy year in New Zealand where Nathan proposed on top of a Wellington mountain before returning to the UK, only to find ourselves on the cusp of a pandemic. Nathan stayed with me at my parents’ house for the full length of the first lockdown and his six-month tourist visa before we had to leave the country again.
Ireland was our destination of choice where Nathan would be permitted entry until we could enter the States via Mexico to adhere to Trump’s travel restrictions.
I’d had a stressful year of wedding planning and realised that elopement was our only option, given the state that the world was in. We had our second elopement date booked for Key West in December 2020, which was finally able to go ahead. As a result, we ended up tying the knot on Smathers Beach in between lockdowns two and three. We were elated, to say the least. It was the most magical day.
But then we had to leave each other again while our spouse visa application to live together in the UK was processed. Being separated and in lockdown 3.0 took its toll on my mental health as I reflected on 12 months of emotional turbulence, a plan B wedding and moving in and out of my parents’ house with and without my husband.
The Happy Ending
Nathan’s visa came through almost three months later and we couldn’t get him on a plane fast enough. Our reunion in Manchester airport arrivals hall was an emotional one as we both breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing that we’d never have to be apart again. We had been given a fresh start, a new chapter, and a new life to live… together.
It’s been almost a year since that reunion and we are blissfully happy being together full-time. Actually, we’ve just moved into our first home that we co-own.
However, sometimes there are days where I can’t quite believe our long distance troubles are over. It’s like my brain has been taught to expect pain and sadness after extreme elation. I suppose that’s an after-effect of being on the emotional rollercoaster that is a long distance relationship.
How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work (and Overcome It)
If you’re currently apart from your other half, I can totally sympathise. But you can get through it. You don’t have to be in this situation forever. My husband and I are proof that it can all work out in the end.
Although, I realise that it’s agony in the meantime, which is why I want to share my top tips when it comes to how to make a long distance relationship work. I hope that they help you!
1. Ask Yourself Some Tough Questions
First things first, do you see yourself being in this relationship long-term? Is your partner the one? Would you do anything to make things work?
The truth is, you’re making life harder for yourself by being in a long distance relationship. You’re causing yourself constant emotional stress. Not to mention, it costs a fortune (especially if there’s an ocean between you both).
I knew that Nathan was the one I wanted to be with indefinitely. Early on, I remember thinking how special our connection was. I couldn’t let him go (nor did I want to) but I did think about it several times.
Ask yourself whether you’re making the right decision for you by being in a long distance relationship. If you can’t see it lasting or you’re not 100% sure you want to commit, it’s better to nip it in the bud now.
2. Realise the Situation is Temporary
Now that we’ve established how dedicated to your partner you are, let’s get right down to the long distance relationship tips.
Spoiler alert: you will never get through a long distance relationship if you’re not able to look at the bigger picture. When you find yourself moping because all you want to do is call them but it’s 3am where they are and they’re sleeping and your heart hurts with how much you miss them, you have to be able to have a word with yourself.
If your other half wants it as much as you do, you will both find a way to make your relationship work. You will be together again. And you will close the distance. In the meantime, have a little faith!
3. Talk Every Day
How to make a long distance relationship work 101: communicate.
Whether it’s through Snapchat, WhatsApp or via Skype, talk to your long distance love every single day without fail. And texting is all well and good, but voice noting or hopping on a video call so you can hear their voice and/or see their face is more personal.
It doesn’t have to be for long if the time difference makes it difficult for you both. Even so, talking every day is so important in a long distance relationship. It bridges all those physical miles between you and your partner and helps you feel more connected.
4. Say Good Morning and Goodnight
As part of your daily communication, say good morning and good night to each other. This will start and end your days on a high.
It also shows that you’re thinking of the other person as soon as you wake up and last thing at night before you go to sleep, making you both feel loved and cared for.
5. Make Use of Technology
Another top tip in terms of how to make a long distance relationship work is maximise the use of technology. After all, we’re so fortunate to have the technology that we have nowadays.
For Nathan and I personally, FaceTime was a life-saver. We primarily used video chat to talk as it made us feel happier and closer to see each other. That said, we also interacted via social media by tagging each other in memes on Facebook (etc), letting the other person know that we were thinking of them.
Either way, technology is extremely handy and we probably wouldn’t be able to have long distance relationships without it. Therefore, make sure that you embrace it with open arms.
6. Always Have a Plan in Place for the Next Visit
Back in the day, Nathan and I always had solid travel plans in place for the next time one of us was going to visit the other. I mean, you kind of have to — flights are expensive and they get booked up pretty quickly!
If you make a plan to book your trips ahead of time, it always gives both you and your partner something to look forward to. Especially on bad days where you’re craving their touch or physical presence.
Counting down the days until the moment you meet face-to-face again is also kind of comforting — and it keeps you both going until that moment arrives.
7. Arrange Date Nights
As well as chatting every day, Nathan and I used to have nights where we arranged FaceTime or Skype dates. This was so we could do the things we would have done if we were actually together — for instance, cook a meal, have a glass of wine or even watch a film.
This helps to keep the spark alive and also makes you feel like you’re spending quality time together, even though you’re not actually with each other.
FYI, you can still be romantic in a long distance relationship. In fact, the whole “two lovers torn apart by geographical distance” thing can make your relationship seem even more romantic.
You know, like the olden days. Swoon.
8. Send Each Other Cute Gifts
Sending each other cute gifts can be useful in terms of how to make a long distance relationship work. It’s another way of letting the other person know that you’re thinking of them constantly.
The gift in question can be something virtual if you’re on a tight budget. However, receiving something physical through the post can mean so much more when you’re so far apart. (It’s like Christmas has come early!)
For example, I once sent Nathan some retro prints of some of our best memories for Valentine’s Day. They illustrated our relationship and all the things we’d done and places we’d been together so far. And he really loved and appreciated them!
9. Have an End Goal in Mind
Presuming you don’t want to be in long distance relationship forever (I mean – who does, right?), make sure you’re both open and honest with each other with regards to your future plans.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open, talk about adapting your situation regularly and both work towards a common end goal.
Sure, things might not seem clear at first. But if you both truly love each other, you’ll be able to work out a plan to ultimately be closer to each other.
10. Stay Positive
Finally, you’ll have days where you feel like packing it in (it’s normal). Even so, keep a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) when it comes to how to make a long distance relationship work.
If you don’t stay upbeat and focus on your future with your partner, instead of how challenging your present is, you’ll struggle to cope and your relationship will eventually break down.
Lean on each other, be there for one another and cry together if you need to. And above all, always remember that if you can get through a long distance relationship, you can get through anything.
Nathan and I have such a strong bond that I don’t think we would have if we hadn’t gone through what we went through. Although it felt never-ending at the time, I’m grateful for the tough times because they lead us to where we are now — living together permanently, happily married, and more in love than ever.
Do you have any more top tips in terms of how to make a long distance relationship work? Tell me your long distance story in the comments!
Katie Davies is the Yorkshire-based freelance writer who founded Trendy Tourist. Since 2017, she has written for over 100 companies on a range of subjects, from fashion to marketing. When she’s not producing content, you can find her shopping, exploring a new place or sitting somewhere having a cup of builder’s tea.