9 Tips for when you accidentally end up in a long-distance relationship

Illustration of two people staring out their window sills in different places and time zones. One looks over the beach and the other looks over the city skyline at night.

Written by Alice Reid

Illustration by Hattie Reid

Does distance really make the heart grow fonder?

Sorry to break it to you, but no, it doesn’t.

Maybe for your friend who lives with her boyfriend ALL THE TIME, when he goes for a boy’s weekend and he comes back and all of a sudden, they’re crazy obsessed with each other again, because you know SHE MISSED HIM for the 2 DAYS he was gone.

But that’s because it’s a novelty and she can never usually miss him because she’s usually too busy washing his underwear.

And let me tell you after a while, the novelty of distance wears off… 

After 2 and a half years with a boyfriend who lived in Germany for a year and then a global pandemic a couple of months after he returned home interstate keeping us apart, I feel like I’m fairly qualified to make that assessment.

Long-distance sucks.

Do I still love him?


Do I still remember what his eyes look like?

Honestly, no. 

No… I’m joking… Am I? I don’t even know anymore. 2020, has been a fucking long year.  

I do love him, and he is easily the most amazing person I have ever dated and yes, I’ve dated some idiots, but it still counts okay?

That is the only reason I am STILL in this relationship, 2 and a half years, 17 mental breakdowns, 8654 video calls and a near miss of an ‘I’m quitting my job and booking a flight to Germany’ later… because it’s him.

I very nearly didn’t get into the long-distance relationship. Man, I tried. I did the whole ‘I need to focus on me’ thing, until the boy wrote me a love letter just before my flight to South America in his shitty cute handwriting and I honestly didn’t have much of a choice, did I?

So, in saying this. If you like me, are very, very silly and accidentally find yourself in a long-distance relationship, or alternatively are considering getting into one (RUNNNN!!!!), here are a few unsolicited tips for surviving a long-distance relationship. From someone who almost didn’t survive one.


1. Communicate.

It sounds obvious, and honestly the same definitely goes in any relationship, but particularly when the person you’re dating can’t see your actual bitch glare at their texted response to you asking what they’re up to tonight. COMMUNICATE. That means if something they have said is upsetting, tell them. If you have an expectation that something will happen, tell them. If you miss them, tell them. People can’t read minds (one of our biggest faults as a species in my opinion), so you need to spell it out.

I always say you can’t be upset at someone for not living up to your expectations if you never communicate what they are.

So, don’t let your ego get in the way or do the classic ‘he/she should know how I feel’ just fucking tell them.

2. Can you see them in your real life?

This one can be tricky in long-distance.

So, a few of your mates live with their partners or have shared drinks with their mutual friends, or maybe their partners are even mates, but where does your guy/girl fit in?

Answer: They don’t.

Well, not really, truly. If you’re doing the real long-distance thing where they’re down every month or so, if that.

It can be really hard to try to assimilate your lives with a new partner in the best of times, but when you live in different states, or temporarily in my case, in different countries, that shit can be almost impossible.

But it’s important to work out (when you get the opportunity to) if you can see them fitting into your ordinary everyday life and vice versa.

Now, that doesn’t mean just slotting in perfectly without work or compromise. But it does mean: do your values align, do they get along with your friends, can you see yourself cooking dinner with them or looking after them when they’re sick, going out for drinks with your mate’s solo and leaving them to fend for themselves? These are things you need to try to visualise and discuss.

A lot of the time, particularly at the start of the honeymoon phase, it can be a bit like a holiday when you see each other. You sometimes neglect the ordinary routines of everyday life because seeing them is so special. Try and see if you can picture them in the ordinary. Because that’s the eventual goal.


3. Don’t try to be in two places at once.

With your friends? Put your phone away, call him/her back later.  

With your partner instead of going to a girl from high school’s engagement party? Stop looking at Instagram and being scared you’re missing out.

If you’re like me and get raging FOMO, you have to sit yourself down, have a good old chat and remind yourself that it is physically impossible to be in two places at once. Lame. I know. Imagine how many long-distance relationships you could have if it wasn’t!!!!

So be present.

Commit to your choices. Don’t try to be somewhere you’re not, it will just make the people you’ve chosen to be with feel like shit.


4. Prepare to occasionally be disappointed.

My boyfriend hasn’t been at any of my three birthdays. Three birthdays since we’ve been dating. I’m not three. And I’m the sort of person who used to do a countdown on the whiteboard in Primary School from ’49 days until my Birthday’.

But I’m really gunning for 2021.

Be prepared for a little sprinkle of disappointment, that’s a little bit of what long-distance is about.

They will miss dinners, birthdays, cocktail nights, camping trips, family events, it’s just reality.

There’s going to be times they aren’t there, or you aren’t there and that’s going to have to be okay because your circumstances are different.


5. Yep, it is going to be $$$.

I’ve spent I don’t know how much on flights. And I didn’t even bother to get a frequent flyer membership?? Idiot.

I could drive to the airport on autopilot, and I know the air hostesses by name. Shoutout to Brenda from Jetstar.


6. Set a time frame.

Long-distance shouldn’t be forever 

If it’s going to be for you, congrats to ya – no judgement here, trust me, just respect and admiration. But for me, most definitely not. 

After 2 and a half years of it, I reckon six more months and that’s probably it.

So, figure out what’s preventing you from being together – right now.

Is it work? Study? Family? A rescue puppy (longshot)?

What’s the timeframe?

When do they graduate uni? When will you look for a job where they are? What’s the plan?

Figure it out and re-evaluate as time goes on and situations potentially change (did someone say pandemic????). 


7. Who’s going to move?

So that leads onto my next question: who’s making the move?

Realistically unless you decide ‘fuck it lets compromise’ and both move to the Maldives, which honestly at the moment sounds like a pretty great idea, one of you will have to take the leap.

For us, I did the old:

‘Well you left me overseas for a year, so it’s only fair for you to move to me.’

Which worked a treat, until a certain someone got a job offer in another state altogether LOL… 

So, discuss that.

Sure she/he says they will move to you, but what if it doesn’t work out? They can’t get a job? Your mum gets sick? They get their dream job somewhere else? What are you going to do? 

Work out if the relationship is worth the risk to you. And ensure you both communicate your dreams, goals etc. so they don’t get left behind.


 8.  If you move, move for you, not them.

In the wise words of my iconic spirit human Ru Paul, ‘If you can’t love yourself how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen up in here?’

Me: ‘Amen!’

If you move, move for you. 

That means, with a plan. A plan for a job, hobbies, confidence that you will make your own friends and have your own full life.

If you move for somebody, specifically for them, with no clue of how you fit into the equation, you are setting yourself up to fail.

Going from a long-distance relationship where you see each other every blue moon to being entirely reliant on your partner for every source of connection, socialisation and energy is going to get old fast.

Having your own life is so important. So, if you decide to move ‘for them’ make it ‘for you’ and figure out how you will make it work for you.


9. Don’t take advice from NOBODY (says the girl writing the ‘how to’ article). 

But seriously. With long-distance everybody has an opinion.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s different or because they’re trying to help or because they’re just bored? But most people will have some sort of idea about whether it’s going to work or not.

Every party I went to the year my boyfriend was in Germany was HELL. So many questions. So many opinions. Me so sensitive.

Acknowledge it’s going to be hard, set yourself boundaries, recognise that your situation is different to theirs.

Listen, read, talk, discuss. But understand that their opinion is just an opinion.

Long-distance is hard.

But just because Paula from work’s friend Jan’s cousin Carly dated a guy for 6 years who lived in America and he ended up having another wife and 4 kids, doesn’t mean that’s going to happen to you. Geoff was just a jerk, right Paula?

Your life is your life, not Paula’s.

I hope this has been helpful, and if not, well sorry. 

Alice Reid currently works for older Australians: making videos, writing lots and creating a podcast interviewing different Nans and Pops. Previously she has taught music to small children and studied journalism. She’s currently writing a novel during lockdown (like probably every other 20 something who studied journalism) and is learning Spanish on Duolingo (would recommend).

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