4 tips for a happy long-distance engagement

February 22 | Guest post by SarahC

My fiance, Ian, proposed my senior year of college. Once I graduated, he still had a year of school left so we rented a room off-campus together. He went to school and I went to work. We floundered as we tried to figure out what we wanted to do and to find a way to make our passions profitable in the midst of the Great Recession. We managed to struggle along (with LOADS of help from both sets of parents) but earlier this year, we finally realized we couldn't keep it up. We decided that the best decision we could make was to move back in with our respective parents until we moved on to grad school. This responsible behavior came with a heavy price: our parents' houses are over 200 miles away from each other. It takes him over seven hours of drive time up to my parent's house and back and it's an even longer trip by train.

It's been difficult, and any person who's ever been in a long-distance relationship can tell you how much it sucks. But I've also learned some things which might be helpful to any couple forced apart for a while.

1. TALK TO EACH OTHER. Seriously, pick up a phone and listen to the sound of your fiance's voice. While it is always exciting to open up your inbox and see a new email waiting for you (my hubby-to-be and I send each other puns and internet memes) nothing beats a phone conversation after a long day. If you have a webcam, so much the better.

2. MAKE A SCHEDULE and stick to it! Discuss your schedules and plan appropriate times for a call or a visit. we've found that the time apart is made more bearable when we know when we'll see each other again. We try to make sure that by the time we have to leave, we've already arranged for our next visit.

3. BE SPONTANEOUS! Send a card, leave a ridiculous message on their answering machine, sext them in the middle of the day, whatever floats your boat. Just like surprise flowers on a Tuesday afternoon, a simple gesture of love from hundreds of miles away can have an enormous impact.

And finally

4. LITTLE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT. Occasionally Ian and I will have really deep and emotionally intense conversations about our future and the things we believe, but usually we just give each other a rundown of the day. What makes a relationship work is all the little things that happen between and to the both of you. It's good to keep up with what the other person is doing, what new shows they've been watching, what friends they've run into, and all the other small things that happen to us every day that can get lost in the distance.

Hold on to your sanity and hold on to the relationship. When you make it through this rough patch, the two of you will be the stronger for it.

  1. Totally agree! We spent 1.5 years 600 miles apart, and it was the regular daily phone conversations that made us still feel like we had a relationship despite the distance. Sometimes the call would max out at 5 minutes, sometimes it would be 2 hours, but I really think it's the calls that matter most.

    Also, if schedule, financial situation, and distance allow, seeing each other at regular intervals (3 weeks, 3 months, whatever) also helps. If regular intervals aren't possible, at least set your next in-person date before you part. There was one time I left from a visit not knowing when we'd see each other next…and that uncertainly totally sucked! I think the time apart doesn't seem so bad when you spend it looking forward to the next time together :)

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  2. My fiance and I did the long distance thing for about a little over a year. I went to Missouri to visit some friends and we hooked up there. The problem was that I live in Texas. The first thing we did was buy webcams. We talked every night and that made the BIGGEST difference. Getting to actually see his face every day got me through it. We tried to visit each other once a month, but there were times where I didn't get to see him for 2. He proposed to me on Skype and his company finally let him transfer here. Don't let anyone tell you that long distance relationships never work. Be patient and enjoy each other. I promise you it will work out.

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  3. Great advice :) The gentleman and I are almost 3500 miles apart (me in Philadelphia, him in the South East of England) and this is pretty much how we do it too!

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    • So true. I'm in Oregon and my Fiance is in Central Germany. All of this rings so very true.

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  4. EXACTLY!!! While I was deployed the time passed so much easier being able to talk to my love everyday. We had 16 days together between our engagement and when I left, and the beginning was really really rough on me. But once we got into a groove and found a good schedule so that we could talk, it was a lot easier to be away from him. We sent each other letters, emails, and notes even if they just said "I love you", something else that always put a smile on my face.

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  5. Megan – thank you for that. I left in December, he proposed a few days before, and with the VERY VERY limited communication and bandwidth, we're…struggling. Lots of email, but the face to face contact isn't there and the phone calls are mad expensive. Skype is not supported where I am. It's tough, but it's good to see other couples succeeding.

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  6. My husband and I first met long-distance… we did phone calls and then Skype for 5 months before we met in person, and Skype is how we grew and sustained our relationship for the next 11 months until we were married! I'd done long distance before, but this time had a partner willing to work to overcome obstacles. We both admitted to each other that there were nights that laundry needed to be done, we were tired, etc., but we still made it a priority to talk almost daily.

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  7. Yes!! What a great and much-needed post. Currently doing the long distance thing with my fiance (again!), and while we're now 2,500 kms apart, we'll soon be continents apart as I go do more field work (again) right before the wedding. My fiance and I planned a skype 'date night', and while we were both sick with the flu and tempted to stick to pj's, I still dressed up nicely, we both lit candles, drank tea together (it was supposed to be a meal but my tummy was turbulent), and then both watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead while on the phone with each other. I was surprised by how much of a comfort just sitting on the phone making an occasional comment every 5 minutes could be. Next date, we're ordering Thai and Indian and catching up on our next episode! Love, and zombies, keep us together ;)

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  8. I'm so happy to see this post! My prometido and I were separated for a year and a half while I was in school, and fortunately I got an internship in his town for six months. But unfortunately, I'll have to leave again come august. I'll be sure to keep this advice in mind.
    I'd also like to add that in order to work around the distance, you have to trust each other immensely. I have seen quite a few LDRs fail because jealousy and lack of communication. Although, none of them were engaged, and I hope that by that point in the relationship both partners already trust each other.

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  9. My fiance and I are on different continents right now. It can't get more long distance than that.

    It's hard and tough and sometimes just a litle depressing. The one thing that keeps me going is the planning for our future together, the idea of a future.
    Just like the article said, communication is key. We talk more than ever, we discuss things with more thought and overall it makes me feel like I know him more than I thought was possible.
    It's little things like that, it makes the awfulness of having a big ocean between you bearable. It gets me excited for the future and Im counting down the days when it's finally time to cross that ocean for good :)

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  10. I am currently going to University in Brisbane and my fiancé is working in construction throughout rural Australia (job locations change yearly). It is hard and he's not always gone for the same length of time, although I do always know when he is coming home next. We met whilst I was finishing my last degree and he was completing an apprenticeship. We got to know each other, fall in love and move in together.
    It's now been 4 years of him working shift work away and I still can't tell you how I do it. Or even how WE do it.
    It is hard, there is no denying but I follow each one of those 4 tips to the letter and we are still mad for each other and able to be a cute couple in love at EVERY chance we get, by going on as many real and virtual dates as possible :D

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  11. Great advice – the phone calls are so important, even if it's just five minutes. My partner and I have lived 150 miles apart for our whole relationship, but we talk every day and see each other most weekends (which spill over by a few days when I'm visiting him because I can do some work from home), plus summers (we both teach), holidays, etc… It's great when we get to spend time together, but those phone calls make us feel like we're still part of each other's lives when we're not in the same city.

    One thing I'd add – create little rituals! These arose spontaneously for us, but they could be 'engineered' as well. For example, we have very different work/sleep schedules and got into the habit of sending texts that the other would read first thing when they woke up (me sending one late at night, him sending one early in the morning). It means we both get to start the day with a smile and a warm fuzzy feeling :-)

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  12. Me and the fiance have been 1000 miles apart for the last 3 years (military), and he's now on a Deployment so it's probably more like a million miles D: And we can only email each other, blech.

    Also, playing MMOs and watching Netflix together over webcam is AWESOME. And two people can share one netflix account and watch the same thing at the same time <3

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  13. I'm not sure if yall have this in mind yet or what, but I think it would be a good idea when yall do get married and are figuring out a place to live, maybe make it a location right in the middle between both parents. I mean so it would just be half the time to get to each one, so it makes it easier to go visit and when yall have kids, etc so your parents can visit too, instead of 7 hours make it just 3 and a half :) Hope this helps and congrats on your engagement! :)

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  14. This is totally my life right now. My partner and I have been living together for a while completing grad school. We just got married this Christmas holidays back home in a low key wedding. And then 10 days later he (being finished school) he stayed at home to take advantage of the good job prospects and I went back to the other side of the country to finish school. Answering the question "So how is married life?" is always kind of awkward. Hmmmm we went from living together to long distance – its different.

    My husband and I have done periods of long distance before, so it was not a complete surprise. Also my supervisor was so nice about it as well. He insisted during the summer I should just go home to write rather than stay here.

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  15. Great article. And thank you. Right now the fiancé and I are also both living with parents, but it's a mere 20 miles ish apart. Even so, it's enough of a commute with traffic (he's got a job near his place and I'm still in school in town) that we can only see each other 2-3 times in a typical week. But, that's nothing compared to the (very likely) possibility that he will be leaving for grad school next fall on the mainland where he'll be like 4000 miles and 4-5 hours time difference away. I am sure it will be tough, but I think this advice will come really in handy when that happens.

    I would especially agree about scheduling, too. We're still getting used to it, but I always feel LOADS better when I know when we will see each other next or when I can expect a phone call or skype. We're both musicians so in addition to just regular work and school schedules, we do often have some late and unusual hours devoted to practicing, composing, and the like. It does make it hard, but it also makes us stronger and really appreciate our time together a lot more.

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  16. Suddenly my 'long distance' feels very short. When we started talking and got together, we were about 40 miles away but saw each other about once a month thanks to both being in college and him having work too.

    Hearing his voice always helped.

    I'm going to keep these tips in mind for our future though (excluding the sexting!) as we plan to leave the country and it'll be our families we have the long distance relationship with!

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  17. Thanks for this article! I've been in a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend for 3.5 years. I live in the midwestern US, he lives in Sweden. All of your advice is great. It's nice to know that other people are in similar situations as I am, it makes me feel less alone. I'm moving there this year in order to be with him, but international moves are quite complicated. One thing we always say to each other is this: if we can survive this, we can accomplish anything. If you're in an LDR and you start to lose hope, just repeat that to yourself. You will get through it. It will get easier. The distance will not last forever. You can do it.

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  18. This is all so true. By the time I move in with my love, we will have been long distance for almost 11 months (almost a third of our relationship).

    The phone calls really do make things a little easier (us being together would be easiest, but we make do and count down the days.)

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  19. My guy and I dated for 1.5 years before I finally moved to NY to be with him. We saw each other exactly four times (albeit for 7-10 days at a time) during that time. We didn't even meet in person (we met on Facebook, which is so weird for us) for the first six months. We got by with TONS of talking on the phone. So my word of advice? Have the same cell phone carrier! We both had Verizon, so we had unlimited Verizon-to-Verizon minutes, which was good. I was on my parent's plan, and my mom said that one month we talked for about 3,000 minutes. In one month. Yep. Thank god it was all free.

    P.S. I lived in ND and he lived in NY. It's about a 25 hour drive or 8 hours and three plane changes. Thank goodness it's long over and done with.

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  20. I agree with all of these! My husband and I were long distance for 2 years including our entire engagement and the first 6 months of marriage. Talking every day even if its for 5 minutes helps a lot. It keeps you in tune with one another, and keeps you feeling close because you do know the every day boring stuff that happened. Great post!

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  21. My fiancé and I are currently in a LDR – 3000 miles between us. Having access to Facebook, Skype & the phone has been a huge help with dealing with the distance. Skype is especially great to be able to talk face to face – so to speak. The only thing missing is the intimate contact. It has also helped with our kids too. Our youngest is having a hard time, so being able to see & talk to his Dad is a big thing. They even spend one day each weekend on skype together playing games. Our kids even do the same thing when they're able to. … What has made this time apart easier is not only using Skype but also making it a point of connecting every night even if it's to say good nite. We also have our own little rituals. Communication is a huge must including total trust. …. We reconnected (we dated in high school & moved to another province together after grad & lived together for a while) via Facebook after 9 years, became engaged this past Xmas holidays. We've been back together again for over a year now & have 4 more months to go before our youngest and I move to where they are & start our life together… not to mention start planning our wedding.

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  22. I'm so glad that this article resonated with so many people! Like Annie said, it makes me feel less alone to know that there are others going through the same thing. Good luck to everyone! An update from me: Ian is in the process of getting into a substitute teacher's pool and I have a job interview on Monday, so with any luck we'll be able to see each other more often!

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  23. My fiance and I started our dating relationship while I was living in West Africa and he was in the US. Skype is a BEAUTIFUL thing! We've had Skype date nights where we play games and watch movies together— it's a fun challenge to try and find new activities that can be done via the internet :)

    Now, the man is living in Germany and I'm finishing up things here in the US before the wedding, so it'll be another long stretch apart. We'd gotten used to being in different states on the same continent, so it is challenging to adjust back to the massive time zone difference/ lack of reliable and affordable phone service.

    Nevertheless, I'd like to give a shout out to other long-distance couples: you CAN do it and there are tons of benefits! I love that my fiance and I appreciate the heck out of each other when we are together. We've also had the opportunity to do have a lot of great conversations.

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  24. My FH is currently in Basic Training for the military, and our only form of communication is… da da da DUH…. snail mail. I'm an artist, so to keep it interesting and special, I draw him pctures. <3 He loves it, and it keeps us connected.

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  25. I am going through this now. My fiance is finishing his Army Reserves training, and I am struggling with planning our wedding pretty much all alone. It's hard to know what to do, and it's good to see that others are getting through the same sort of thing and managing. Thanks for this!

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  26. My dearest and I are separated by 2,500km. We met over 4 years ago and have always been long distance. We talk at least once a day by phone or Skype but we only see each other every 3-5months in person. We're now engaged and planning our wedding for later this year. Unfortunately, since we're living in different countries we'll have to remain long distance for about year after our wedding until our emigration clears.

    As much as we can't wait until we permanently live together, we've come to realize that being long distance can be a blessing in disguise:
    – We are conscious that we work to keep our relationship strong and fresh and this seems to make us more committed and definitely more appreciative of each other.
    – We've had to learn how to communicate with words instead of expecting the other person to mind-read from non-verbal cues, which helps to avoid miscommunications and verbal fights.
    – We frequently reminisce and share our favourite memories of our times together, which brings us closer.

    I would say our ingredients for success are:

    1) Implicit trust in each other.
    2) Truly listening to what the other person needs or is trying to say.
    3) Where possible, we 'table' the more important/difficult discussions for when we're together in person so that we can connect physically with hugs etc if needed. We avoid using email as a one-way communication to express emotions/thoughts (i.e. rant) about difficult topics for the same reason. The fact we recognize that certain topics are best discussed in person also means that by the time we do talk about these things the initial emotion has usually dissipated and we can have a more objective discussion.

    At one point in our relationship we experienced so much pressure from various friends/family expressing their opinions that we decided to tell people we had broken up. We kept our relationship secret for the next year while we worked things out for ourselves. During this year he asked me to marry him, and I accepted. About 6months after he asked me, we decided to bring our relationship back into the open and surprised everyone with our official engagement.

    Like Annie said: One thing we always say to each other is this: if we can survive this, we can accomplish anything. So true!

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  27. I got engaged while my hubs-to-be was 18 hours away at trade school. He was living in our camper so my son and I would visit him whenever we could. My son is home schooled, and I'm self-employed so we were able to spend several days at a time with my guy.

    Daily calls helped a LOT too. We usually didn't have much news, so it was a short but sweet call. Just a quick reminder that your best friend is still there for you, just a few miles away.

    Honestly, the time apart wasn't so bad, and planning the wedding has been kind of fun – gave us something new to chat about on the phone!

    The hardest part has been adjusting since he's been home! But that's a post for another day…

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  28. YUP, THIS – Hubby and I met at a Science Fiction Convention on the North West of the UK (Blackpool for people who know)and then discovered that we were from almost opposite ends of the country (200 miles apart(I know – nothing for those of you who are on different sides of the pond, but still a distance)). We then spent the next 3 years doing the long distance thing. Sometimes it was nice, mostly it was quite hard.

    We started out with letters and about twice weekly phone calls I think. Then there were emails too and visits.

    Once I finished uni I moved to live with him and 10 years later we got married – eep how long ; )

    If you're serious you make it work and it makes it so much nicer when you're with each other.

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  29. Oh yes! My fiance is in the Marines, so he's stationed in California and I'm in Connecticut. We have been long-distance for about three years now, and have another two to go (we are getting married July 2015 and his enlistment is up in September 2015). Skype is a godsend, and so are regular visits. Earlier this year we had to go five months between visits, and it was a big strain on us. We agreed that we'd never let more than three months go by without seeing each other, even if only for a long weekend (unless, God forbid, he gets sent on a deployment). I will actually be going to see in him in TWO days (let's speed up time!), and we already have our next visit planned.

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  30. I did this for two and a half years and it SUCKED; but it made us stronger. One thing I would add is to make sure you also have a life of your own. Not only is it ok to have a life outside of talking on the phone with your partner, it's healthy! You don't have to talk EVERY DAY and when you do talk it's good to have something to talk about.

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  31. I hear you! My fiancé and I have been doing the distance thing for most of our relationship-our families joke that we keep trying to escape each other. We met in Spain and two months later he moved to Italy, and we decided to stick it out and see how it went. I followed him to Italy six months later and was only there for two months before I was offered a job in Colombia. I moved to Colombia, he moved back to Spain. Fast forward nine months and I'm back in the States and he's in Nicaragua. I'm going to join him in two months and six days, and hopefully that will be the end of long-distance forever.

    Skype has been crucial to keeping us sane. We talk every day, usually for at least an hour, about everything and nothing. Having clear dates set for the next visit is also a huge deal. When I went off to Colombia, I knew I would be seeing him three months later, and I wrote a little Post-it sized note to him for each day that we would be apart and then gave them all to him in a box right before I left. Writing them all kept me from falling to pieces before my departure and kept him from falling to pieces while I was gone.

    I have a theory that if you can keep a long-distance relationship alive, it bodes really well for the future. My parents did intercontinental long-distance for four years before they got married, and they're celebrating their 33rd anniversary in January. They're probably the happiest couple I know.

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  32. Me and my fiance are in a LDR for 3 and half years. We are like 8000 miles away he in new York and me in India. Sometimes things are very difficult and we have to tolerate distance for more 2 and a half years. But still we love each other the most,spend time with each other but sucks we can't do things together. Hope everything will turn out good even if we fight like hell. Hope god bless us.

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