How to maintain a long-distance relationship while you study abroad

long distance
'How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.' - Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne. Source: Shutterstock.

You will have heard horror stories of how catastrophically awful long-distance relationships can be. While, yes, if the person is not right, long distance may speed along the end of your relationship; otherwise there is no reason why it should not be manageable.

If you or your partner want to study abroad at university, then kudos to you. It is a brave and admirable decision, and will no doubt bring with it plenty of benefits for your future.

And if you’re worried about the survival of your relationship in your time apart, here’s how three couples made their unions work.

“I think it it’s natural to be worried about a situation that’s so different from the one you’re used to,” Rachel told Study International. Rachel spent a year away from the United Kingdom and her partner Richard while she studied in Morocco.

Being far away from your loved one can suck at times, but you can make it work. Source: GIPHY

Glass half full vs half empty

If you’re heading abroad for study, why not think of it this way: you get to go have this amazing adventure, but you still have someone back at home to talk to and who cares about you.

“The reality of a long-distance relationship was difficult, but it wasn’t as challenging as the reality of settling in a new country – the harder part was adjusting to my new life in Morocco,” Rachel said.

“My relationship was something like a safety net, because I knew that no matter how hard my day was, Richard would always be there at the end of the phone.”

Relying on a phone for communication is tough, but stick it out and you’ll be together again soon. Source: GIPHY

Fred and his partner Mae went through a similar situation. Like Rachel and Richard, the couple met at sixth form before Fred left the UK to study in the Netherlands.

Fred said: “You may miss home and each other for a short while, but it won’t feel as bad as missing an opportunity like this and regretting it forever.”

Have patience

Russian couple Anatoly and Valeriya certainly felt the strain when Anatoly left to study in the United States, and Valeriya in the UK.

Valeriya told Study International:

“Looking back now I can say that in reality studying away from him was worse than we imagined.”

She wanted to share her excitement of studying abroad with Anatoly, but felt Skype and Facebook were not enough.

“I desperately wanted him as a real person,” she said. However, before she knew it, they were reunited.

They don’t say ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ for nothing. Source: GIPHY.

Rachel explained most of the issues she encountered were out of her control and things she couldn’t have predicted.

“There were so many issues with me not having reliable WiFi, with schedule clashes, with the King of Morocco banning Skype and WhatsApp calls,” she explained.

“Most of the issues were ones that I couldn’t have envisaged, or were the result of not enough communication, but we got through it.”

Know it will strengthen you individually and as a couple

Despite it all, all three couples are certain they are better off for having done long distance.

“I firmly believe that long distance has made us stronger, because we are now so much better at communication, both when we’re together and when we’re apart,” Rachel said

Never underestimate the power of a simple ‘goodnight’ text. Source: GIPHY

“Also, the time that we do spend together feels very special.”

Valeriya agreed. “It was a necessary and very useful experience,” she said.

“It helped me fight my co-dependent relationships. […] It is a good test for the relationship; and it is a great challenge for your character. If you go through it, you’ll learn how to be a ‘complete’ person without your partner.”

Always stay in touch

Communication is key. “This means making sure that you check-in at least once a day where possible, keeping each other up to date with your schedules, and never letting conflict build,” Rachel said.

“If you’re struggling, tell them. If you feel homesick, tell them. Don’t go to bed without talking it out. Of course, this can be easier said than done with time-zone differences, but even just making sure that you say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ can make all of the difference in the world”.

Let the other person know you are thinking of them. Source: GIPHY.

Fred agreed but stressed the need for understanding when things don’t work out the way you would have liked.

“Communicate as often as possible but don’t come down harshly on one another when plans change,” Fred told Study International. “It’s important that each person still maintains social lives away from each other.”

“Communication is important – but don’t go overboard. You’re in another country for the experience and you won’t experience it if you spend the entire time glued to your phone, clinging to your relationship,” Rachel explained.

Respect how the other is feeling

Leaving can be tough, but remember it isn’t going to be easy for your partner being left behind either.

“Make sure that you enjoy yourself, but also be understanding as to how your partner might be feeling with you gone,” said Rachel.

“Bear in mind that you’re not the only one missing something – be empathetic and talk to your partner beforehand to find out their concerns.”

It might be tempting to ask your partner to come back home, or travel over to you, but you both need to allow the other one to grow. Source: GIPHY

However, she stressed: “Don’t let it hold you back.”

Enjoy your new country

“It’s easy to feel guilty for talking about your new and exciting life whilst your partner is left behind, but you are there to have that new and exciting life. You deserve the opportunities that are coming your way,” Rachel said.

The most important thing to remember is not to panic, whether you are the one leaving or the one waving your partner off.

“Don’t shy away from being honest with your partner if you’re struggling,” Rachel asserted.

“Don’t let the fear of ‘ruining’ their experience abroad keep you from telling them that you’re feeling lonely or sad – hiding this from them is more likely to cause misunderstandings and resentment.”

You will be together again before you know it. Source: GIPHY

Ignore the myths

Long-distance relationships “take a lot of effort from both parties, but more importantly, they are manageable,” Rachel stressed.

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, she added, also pointing out that spending time apart helps a couple learn independence from one another.

“Ignore the myths that couples that have been together before long distance should break up – this is not true at all,” she said.

“Understand that you won’t have shared experiences anymore, and that’s okay. You don’t need to be doing the same things, in the same country, with each other physically, to be in love – at the end of the day, loving your partner is the most important thing, and everything else comes with that.”

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