She’s a marketer in Singapore; he’s an animator in Vancouver. More than 12,000 kilometers in between them, approximately 120 pages of WhatsApp messages, and 730 virtual “I love you’s”-it’s amazing how both survived the challenging setup of a long distance relationship or LDR.
Now married to her husband, Shannan, my friend Yvonne shares with us a few pieces of advice on how to keep a healthy LDR…
Shannan & Yvonne on their wedding day
Hi, I’m Yvonne Chow. I’m a former beauty blogger, product marketing specialist, and had been in 3 long-distance relationships. I uprooted myself from Asia to migrate to North America after a two-year long-distance relationship to join Shannan who’s based in Vancouver.
Late last year, I quit from being head of Product Marketing in a global tech company; carefully squashed most of my belongings into three rolling suitcases; heaved tearful goodbyes to my family and friends; and got on that one-way trip to another continent. All to begin a new life with my husband, with whom I was in an LDR since February of 2016.
It was not easy, but these 5 things I’ll talk about helped us nurture and improve our relationship, which led to a happy marriage! I hope these insights will help you in your own LDR, too!
1. Schedule a time to talk.
Technology has made communication faster and easier, but it makes us complacent. How many times have we deferred replying to WhatsApp messages or responded to them in a cursory manner?
In an LDR, it’s crucial to set aside time to talk to each other because we lose the “immediacy effect”. Communicating verbally in-person elicits more natural responses, but because we couldn’t afford that, my husband and I decided to dedicate a fixed time each weekend to talk to each other over FaceTime – without distractions!
2. Practice honest, constructive conversations.
It shouldn’t just be mere updates or how-are-you’s. My husband and I treated each other like a journal and practiced articulating our feelings in an open manner.
You may find it easier to say, “I had a terrible day today-that’s it,” and expect your partner to understand. You’re not with your partner physically and it’s going to be difficult for them to read your body language and show encouragement without the nuances of physical presence.
Instead, try sharing, “I had a terrible day because this happened, and it made me feel this way, and I’m wondering what to do,” to be more constructive. Being specific opens up a natural path for deeper conversations and helps your partner support you better.
3. Listen to each other.
Many people search for articles that can help them articulate complex ideas better, but most do not search about how to listen. Communication is a two-way street – talking and listening. Remember to ask your partner about themselves too, and listen to know how their day went, what their struggles are, and what will make them happy.
4. Take advantage of the difference in time zones.
Although we couldn’t always communicate in real time due to different time zones, we used the delay to think about crafting meaningful conversations. This proved to be useful, especially when we were having disagreements. The difference in time zones enabled us to be creative and to carefully choose the words we write to each other.
5. Define your end goals.
That is both your own as individuals and together as a couple. This advice was given to me almost a decade ago by people who were in LDR’s and ended up getting married (still are so far!) as well.
The reality is there’s no point being in an LDR if you’re not sure how you’re going to move forward. Distance does make the heart grow fonder but it does little for physical intimacy (and it’s not always about sex).
Simple gestures like a hug, a pat on the shoulder, and holding hands help form and strengthen the bond you have with your partner. I don’t think it’s healthy to be in a perpetual LDR without some form of commitment, because an LDR feels like a limbo state. So commit to a future when you will finally be together physically.
These tips really just boil down to having intentional communication. We need to fill the space between with our constant effort to communicate and listen to each other. Love is sure to grow stronger in spite of the distance.
You may read more about Yvonne, her married life, and adventures in Vancouver here.