This term, when I was in Paris, I was away from my significant other for over three months. This was the longest period that we’d done long-distance and we were both nervous about it for weeks in advance, especially given the six-hour time difference.
Here are some things—many that I didn't see coming—that I learned about what makes a relationship work (and not work) across oceans.
Your lives move at completely different paces.
Study abroad programs, at least at my college, have the reputation for being less academically challenging. This does not mean that they are easy terms (as I found out firsthand) but that the professors generally believe that just living in the new country is part of your learning experience, and they keep this in mind when giving out assignments. They don’t want you cooped-up in the university library all day when you might be learning more just by walking through the streets of Paris and chatting with the boulanger.
It's hard to feel like you are together when your distance is reinforced by the disparity between your daily lives.
What does mean for your relationship? Essentially, it's hard to feel like you are together when your distance is reinforced by the disparity between your daily lives. My partner and I gradually felt ourselves slipping into different routines and consequently different wavelengths. While we still kept each other updated on our daily happenings, I felt removed as I told him about conversations I had with people he would never meet, about streets I’d walked down that he couldn’t see, and about interesting thoughts I’d had six hours ago, when he was still asleep. These little things—the things of daily life—slip through the cracks.
A time difference requires greater communication.
I have a friend who went to Israel last winter who told me that she had been perfectly happy to have minimal communication with her partner, thus allowing her to be fully immersed into her time there. Her partner, on the other hand, felt extremely neglected and forgotten and was disappointed that she hadn’t felt the need to reach out more.
The amount of communication each person needs differs greatly and it changes over time too. What I learned about myself this term was that I missed those tiny little daily details that were really impossible to share from an ocean away. I learned to treasure love and caring without feeling every bit as present in my partner’s life as I would have liked to, but this lesson was not at first easily learned.
It is important to communicate about how much communication you need, and to realize that different levels of need do not necessitate more or less caring.
When you’re in a LDR, you have to realize that not every conversation will affirm your relationship.
Not every conversation will do exactly what you hoped. Talking might not bridge that distance that you’ve felt creeping up that day, make you feel loved and cherished after a particularly lonely day, or promise a future together that makes the distance worth it. Not every conversation can do that.
You’re running on different schedules; perhaps you’re catching them as they’re going to class or to see a friend, perhaps they have no idea the bad day you’re having, perhaps they’re having their own. Whatever it is, it’s crucial to not put that kind of pressure on every interaction you have with you partner. Especially with a large time difference, conversations can be rare and precious and they might be something you’ve been looking forward to for ages. But anticipating that they will settle every nerve in you just sets you up for disappointment that is not necessary, and could take away the perspective you need to clearly evaluate your relationship when you need it.
I hope these words have resonated with someone else. I know that writing them has helped remind me of their importance, and as I face long-distance in the future, I hope I can remember what I learned in Paris.Add this article to your reading list