5 Tips on Staying Close in a Long Distance Relationship—From a Woman Whose Boyfriend Lives 7,000 Miles Away

Long-distance love can work, and this happy couple is proof.

A stint of long distance can make or break a couple. For my boyfriend and I, being apart actually brought us closer together.

We used to both live in New York City, but everything changed five years into our relationship last year, when he took a job at an anti-poverty NGO in the East African country of Burundi. I thought it was a joke at first. He wasn’t seriously trying to make me do a transatlantic romance, right? As a freelance writer, I could have moved with him, but it wouldn't have been a good professional step for me.

Our closer relationship didn't happen right way. After he left, I spent many long months begging him to come back and complaining about the frustrating seven-hour time difference. But eventually we rallied our love for each other and made a strict game plan of exactly how we were going to make it work.

Staying on the same page when you’re 7,000 miles apart requires serious effort, and we realized that the only way it was going to happen was if we were both completely committed. From weekly video workouts to travel itineraries that have us meeting up halfway between our respective continents, we hold nothing back and do everything we can to make the other person feel as prioritized as possible. Here's how we do it.

We 'date' on Skype and IRL

Whether we’re meeting up in a country neither of us has been to before or getting glam for a Skype session, who knew the space between us would lead to so many dates? Instead of the standard “what do you want to do for dinner” question, we make plans—and it’s taken our relationship to a new level. I never thought we’d be going on a winter wonderland adventure at Dubai’s indoor ski resort and having meals on Rwandan rooftop restaurants all in the same year.

We see the upside of the time difference

I’m a night owl, and my boyfriend is more of a morning person, so the time difference is actually a blessing in disguise giving us time when we both do our own thing. Now I unwind and head to the treadmill late at night after a long day of work, while he powers through a morning run at the same time. It couldn’t have worked out for the better.

We're regular workout buddies

At least three times a week, we video chat while doing several sets of sit-ups, push-ups, and lunges. It may not be the sexiest or most fun routine, but it switches things up from our standard Netflix binges and online shopping and gives us another activity to consistently do together.

We also rely on social fitness apps to make us even better fitness partners. Strava is a running app that allows users to upload photos and share their location. Basically I know exactly where he is and what his course is like, so I feel like I’m right there beside him.

We leave lots of messages

Sadly, it could take him months to receive a package in Burundi from the U.S. Even though I’m a fan of him sending flowers, we agreed that voicemails are where it’s at. We leave secret videos on Facebook or record messages on WhatsApp throughout the day, so we don’t miss anything in each other’s lives.

We focus on the end game

No matter how many butterflies I get from thinking about the sweet gestures we share, the truth is, everything we do is a sacrifice. Beyond how much we care, the only thing keeping us going is also knowing his contract ends in two years. When it comes to long-distance, there has to be a clear light at the end of the tunnel—or else you’ll start to question why you’re even doing this. Outline this early, and make sure you both want the same thing out of the relationship.

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