My first letter to Shane.
One of the worst things about being in a long distance relationship is losing your “normal.” I’m the sentimental type, and I really treasure those everyday acts of love: when he’d put the kettle on for me and make my favorite tea, or feed my cat, or meeting him during my break at work, even just for 15 minutes to have a coffee and crack jokes. I truly believe that what does a lot of couples in is when communication itself becomes an event. The next thing you know, you’re not the same couple anymore.
This is actually my second LDR (and also the second to span time zones). My old relationship didn’t work for many reasons, but distance really wasn’t one of them. Here are some things that I do to keep things, well, uneventful:
- Set up your phone (or computer) for their area – news, weather, time zone. Here’s a little peak at my phone (why yes, I do get all my blogging done at night, and yes, I hate charging my phone). Believe it or not, this is so simple, but it’s a really powerful visual that helps me to feel connected to Shane (in Limerick) and to my family (in Detroit).
- Greet in their time zone. I love it when I call my mom after work (10pm my time, 9am her time) and she immediately says “Hey sweetie – how’s your night?” It makes me feel like maybe she’s in the next city over and I could pop over to see her in the morning, instead of the helplessness that can sometimes come when I realize that even if I walked out the door right now and everything aligned perfectly, it would still be 20 hours and $1,000+ before I could see her.
- Skype for boring stuff. No, really. When we were in undergrad, my best friend and I would leave Skype on for hours. We’d both be doing various things, and we’d sometimes laugh and share something or just sit in silence. It keeps things casual. I like to do this in LDRs, too, because it de-escalates the Skype time that you spend together and lets you make some Skype time just regular “us being us” time and select other days where you are having a special Skype date. Again, the illusion of choice.
- Give them something to hold. I’m a tactile person and a drama queen. After a couple weeks of an LDR I start going on about “what if I forgot the way he smells? What’s next, will I forget his voice?” I know I won’t. That’s silly. But especially in the case of my relationship with Shane (where he does not have internet access and we have gone more than a week without being able to communicate at all except via letter) it really helps to having something in my hand: a letter in his handwriting, his hoodie, the chocolates that he bought for me the night before he left.
- Share your laughs. A good friend of mine, Xenia, is an old hand at this LDR thing by now. Her husband is in the US military and he’s been deployed many times during the course of their relationship – at the longest, for 14 months. And she had the genius idea to make a tumblr blog called “Hey Honey, Come Here And Look at This!” It’s exactly what you would think: a page where she posts cute or funny things that she thinks he’ll like. She started it during one of his deployments and he would check it when he could, but now he’s home and they read it together.
- Stay in their social circle and stay current. Nothing wrecks your normal like having to explain things you wouldn’t have needed to explain before. If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m a control freak, and I want to head that one off at the pass. Shane founded a brilliant metal festival, The Siege of Limerick, and when he was in Korea still he would talk to me about plans for the upcoming Siege. Now that he’s gone and we can only talk once a week or less, I follow the Siege’s Facebook page. I am obsessed with Downton Abbey, and I love talking about it with him; Shane is lukewarm about it. However, he watches it every week so that we can chat about it. And I’ve just begun Harry Potter because he told me that he liked those books.
These are just a few of the things that I do to keep things as mundane and domestic as I can. Obviously they won’t work for everyone, especially if you live closer or have more chance to talk. If you’ve been in a long distance relationship, especially across timezones, what do you do to make things easier?