Together Apart: 10 Tips for Surviving a Long Distance Relationship

by Chris on October 31, 2010

Looking for advice on maintaining a long distance marriage? Ten tips from someone who has been there, done that.

long distance relationship

When I return to Seattle today after a quick trip to the East Coast, my husband and cats will be coming with me – for good.

That may not sound like a big deal. But when you’ve spent the last five months in a cross-country marriage, it’s huge.

Situations like ours are more common than you think. The poor economy has made it harder for “trailing spouses” to find comparable jobs in new locales, while the housing crisis has made it more difficult to be mobile (we still have our Philly house on the market).

This wasn’t the first time that we had to live apart for work reasons. During my first six months as travel editor at USA TODAY, I commuted from Philly down to Washington DC, spending four nights a week in a rental and coming home Thursday nights for an extended weekend. Although we saw each other more frequently, I hated the separation primarily because of I-95, perhaps the most congested interstate in the country.  Hours spent in traffic equal a very cranky wife.

Somehow these past five months haven’t been as bad. Maybe that’s because we’ve been married longer and have better communication skills. Or maybe it’s because we learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to maintaining a long-distance relationship. Here are a few tips that made it easier to keep things going cross-country:

1. Come up with a plan together. Spending months apart is not an easy decision. Be sure to talk…..and talk…..and talk some more before embarking on it. We made three lists of pros and cons – one for me, one for him and one for us as a long term couple. Knowing your logical reasons for being apart will help when you get lonely.

2. But be flexible to change the plan if needed. Originally, I was going to stay in Seattle solo until January, at which point Don would approach his company and ask for a transfer. But by August, Don sensed that his employers would be up for the change if he asked sooner. I had my doubts, but trusted him to go ahead and handle it. No matter how well you plan things, reality might require you to make alterations. A little bit of flexibility can go a long way.

3. Schedule regular weekends together, no matter what the cost. Before I left Philly, we figured out that we’d see each other every third weekend, no matter what. In normal times, we’re rigid savers, particularly when it comes to travel. I shop around for the best flights, scour the Internet for deals and try to travel during off-peak times. But I knew that approach wouldn’t necessarily work , as we both had limited vacation time and needed to travel on specific dates. Seeing each other regularly became the priority, even if it cost a little more. (and suffice it to say, I didn’t accept any press trips during this time, unless there was a way I could include my husband).

4. Don’t be afraid to have a life. Nothing will kill a relationship faster than constant whining. If you’re the one traveling, explore your new area and make some friends instead of moping around. And encourage the one left behind to keep up their routine and go out occasionally as well. If you’re too jealous to let your partner or spouse enjoy life a little, then it’s never going to work long-term.

5. Put each other first. Having a life doesn’t mean going out every night without your partner and downing tequila shots. Keep in mind what your spouse’s fears of being apart are, and do your best not to push those buttons. In our case, I knew that Don was worried that I’d explore some places in the Northwest solo, and then refuse to go back. So I tried to limit my solo traveling to places that I knew he wouldn’t mind missing (like a Twilight-themed trip to Forks).

6. Mesh your routines. Time zones can be the biggest foe of a long-distance relationship. I coped with the three-hour time difference by getting up earlier so I’d be more in tune with Don’s schedule. I also kept the clock in my car on East Coast time so I wouldn’t call home too late. If you’re overseas and have an iPhone, set your World Clock to the time zone back home.

7. Use the phone/Skype wisely. We were able to talk at least once a day, no matter how busy we were (I know that’s not always the case for people separated by an ocean). It’s not so much about the quantity of phone calls but the quality. Try not to fight virtually and never hang up mad. And it goes without saying that drunken Skype calls are a bad idea.

8. Up the romance factor. You might not be a flowers and chocolate couple (although this might be a good time to start). When you are together, take the time to plan activities that you know will be memorable for both of you. In our case, that meant going to restaurants that we always wanted to try, or seeing one of our favorite bands in concert.

9. Yet don’t ignore the mundane. Marriages aren’t all about romance. We made sure to keep up with each other’s day-to-day activities, such as vet and doctor appointments, bill paying, hassles with work and contractors, even what we ate that day. That boring stuff is the glue of a long-term relationship.

10. Have an end date. The most crucial tip, in my opinion. Knowing how long you’re willing to be apart – and committing to come back together – is the best way to cope with loneliness.

Do you have any long distance tips to add? What’s worked for you? Let us know in the comments!

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Camels & Chocolate November 1, 2010 at 10:19 pm

I can totally relate: My husband and I were SF to NYC long distance for two years and both had full-time jobs, too! Texting was the best thing for our relationship, to tell you the truth. We only talked once or twice a week on the phone due to the time change but texted several times throughout the day so it ALMOST felt as if we weren’t 3,000 miles apart!


Dina November 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I was in a long distance relation with my husband once too, before I can immigrate to his country. Great tips for relationship survival. The number 10 is very important indeed.


Nomadic Matt November 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I stopped doing long distance relationships…I move around too much!


Andrea November 2, 2010 at 10:18 pm

These are great tips! I feel really lucky that John and I only had to do the long-distance thing for a few months. Open communication is really important during the time you are apart.


vewe November 3, 2010 at 5:13 am

Great Tips!

Another important points is to let go of jealousy. It’s not easy but being able to trust your partner is really important in long distance relationship.


Tom November 3, 2010 at 11:41 am

Great tips! I was away from my partner for 3 months this summer while I visited my family back in the UK. We kept in contact every day (thanks Facebook) and having a date when I came back to Korea definitely helped!

Now we’re both living in Korea but in different cities…not as bad as different countries, but tough. We see each other once every two weekends, but make it an arrive Friday night, leave Monday morning thing.

Long distance can work, you just have to be prepared to make the effort, as you state here!


Chloe ETIENNE January 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I should have read these great tips before !


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