Ilan and I knew that we would likely have to be long-distance for a chunk of time after cancer treatment, because many jobs in the public health and international development fields are in places like DC, NYC and Boston. Cancer fast-tracked my carefree international lifestyle into a more stable and serious lifestyle. But when the time came and I got my job in DC, I had no idea what to expect with a long-distance relationship.
We had a solid foundation from 9 months of dating, not to mention during cancer where everything was serious from the start, so trust was not an issue at all. It was more the separation and missing each other that was the hardest. We needed to figure out visit logistics, how to support each other from afar, how to communicate extremely well and how to make big decisions together.
In the beginning, we decided it was important to have some plan as to how we were going to stay strong and continue to build our relationship. We decided that, to ease the longing, we would always know the next time we were going to see each other. We aimed for every 4-6 weeks and always had travel booked by the end of the previous trip, so it wasn’t up in the air. We alternated weekends between Florida and DC and sometimes met in other places, like for weddings.
We also emphasized transparency. Since we were unable to be with each other during the daily grind, we needed to communicate open and honestly. If one of us had a bad day and snapped at the other, we needed to be self-aware enough to explain that and apologize. We didn’t want any unnecessary conflict because it’s harder to resolve from a distance. Sure, we could, but it was harder to feel better about it without a hug afterward. Sounds small but if you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, I’m sure you understand the importance of physical comfort.
One thing that I think we both tried to do really well was to continue to date each other. We didn’t get complacent and we continued to have date nights, even virtually, and we sent each other surprise gifts, letters, houseplants and more. We did anything we could to remind each other how much we cared, showed support from afar and made the other person smile unexpectedly. It made a huge difference.
Lastly, we made the most of our time together. Our visits were very short, usually only 2 days at a time, and it never felt like enough. I was often missing him even when he was right in front of me, simply because I knew he’d be leaving again and I couldn’t get it out of my head (or vice versa). In an effort to keep ourselves out of our heads a bit, we made the most of our visits by planning fun things to do together. We went kayaking, camping, to the monuments, to various gardens, to spoken word poetry nights and so much more. It gave us a sense of normalcy during these visits and reminded us what life would be like in the future whenever we lived in the same place again.
Although being long-distance was incredibly difficult, we made the best of it. I knew with 100% certainty that I’d rather struggle through distance with Ilan than not have him in my life at all. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind and that helped tremendously. We didn’t know when the long-distance would end but the plan was always for Ilan to move to DC when he felt the timing was right for work. We ended up being long-distance for 8 months, from June through January, before he was able to move up to DC. Now when we look back, those 8 months were just a tiny blip in our relationship and I’d do it over again in a heartbeat if I had to.
4 Tips for a successful long-distance relationship:
- Agree on the frequency of visits and logistics ahead of time and stick to it! Always make sure you know when the next trip is before the current one ends.
- Honesty, transparency and communication are absolutely crucial. Put in the work here and it will help you grow your relationship despite the distance, rather than simply sustaining it.
- Continue to date each other. No matter what stage of relationship you’re in, it’s vital to make sure your partner knows and feels how special they are to you. It can be easy to fall into complacency with distance, but avoid the trap and continue to put in effort!
- Make the most of your visits together. Plan fun adventures to help you enjoy your time together without constantly thinking about the distance and talking about serious things. You both deserve a sense of normalcy together.