Six ways to make your relationship stronger when you’re apart
Being away from your partner for long periods can be hard.
I say this from experience – when Tim and I first started dating back in 2016, we only had about two weeks of physically being together before I had to fly back to the States.
Having to return to Iowa after spending a year in Nottingham was difficult, but having to leave someone I loved for an extended period made it so much worse.
Luckily for us, it’s the 21st century. The internet has made it easier to be in touch 24/7, and to be able to share experiences and make memories together in ways never available before.
Even so, people struggled to wrap their head around our relationship and how we made it work. Three years and an engagement later I’d like to think we’ve done just fine.
As the lockdown continues, I’ve seen a lot of people struggling to find things to do with their partners outside of Skyping and watching Netflix together. I wanted to share with you all some wisdom from someone who had to spend a good amount of time away from her partner.
Here’s how we made it work:
Plan a fun date night
Picture this: you both get your favourite pizzas delivered. You lay in bed, want to watch Netflix together but struggle with the noise of the call blending into the audio of the movie.
That doesn’t need to happen!
Some many great websites and extensions allow you to watch Netflix and have a call from the same window, so you can watch all your favourites in perfect sync AND being able to see your partner’s reaction.
- Tutturu.tv allows you to share your browsing window, so you can watch a movie from the same place. It also has integrated chat, voice and video so you don’t have to switch windows. FREE, but offers a subscription model.
- Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension that lets you watch Netflix in synch, but from the Netflix website. You just need to create your party in the browser. FREE, only for Chrome users
- Kosmi is more well-rounded, and allows you to play games, stream Netflix, Youtube or your local files in browser. You just need to create your private room with your partner. FREE
Capitalise on your common interests
On our first date, Tim and I went to a video game museum and spent the afternoon playing Mario Kart on Nintendo 64. Since then, we’ve spent countless hours playing different games on PC and Mobile.
I want to believe there’s a video game for everyone. Here are some ideas:
- Stardew Valley: The most wholesome farm simulator I’ve ever played. As a couple, build up your farm, befriend the local town people and complete quests as a team.
- Age of Empires II: For those of us 90s kids, this game is pure nostalgia. Battle against each other, or collaborate to defeat a common enemy. Your choice!
- Don’t Starve Together: Survival game in which you need to work together to make sure you stay sane. You explore the local area, create recipes and take it day by day.
- Tabletop Simulator: If you love board games, this one is a lifesaver! Play tabletop games together remotely, it has a large selection of games to download.
If you’re an avid mobile user instead, you can also play well-known board games online from your phone. Two games we’ve come to love are:
- Carcassone – Android and iOS
- Ticket to Ride – Android and iOS
Make them feel special
For Tim’s 21st birthday, I wasn’t able to be there physically. That didn’t stop me from trying to make it extra special for him.
- As he had just graduated, I asked several of his friends, family and acquaintances to fill in a postcard wishing him a happy birthday, good luck on grad life and any words of advice.
- I ordered a dish from my home country that he liked and asked for it to be delivered to his house.
- We Skyped and watched Great British Bake Off (anyone else loved the ‘old’ GBBO?)
Would we have preferred to be together? Absolutely, but we remember those times as happy ones instead because of the things we chose to do together instead.
Communication is key
When you’re not next to each other, it’s much harder to ‘see’ body language or any change in behaviour. Communication becomes crucial.
When I had a bad day, I had to learn to tell Tim why I had a bad day, what we could do together to make it better and how he could best support me.
It makes a world of a difference when you’re apart to know that the other person has your back, and will know how to help you if you need them. And if you only want them to say ‘that sucks’ – tell them.
Plan for the future together
Knowing we would be able to see each other again soon made distance less heavy.
We would often spend hours talking about all the holidays we wanted to take together, the places we wanted to visit and the things we wanted to do.
So we started planning. We created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, and would track:
- Flight deals: sign up to find out when the cheapest flights are for the dates you want.
- Hotel and Airbnb deals: we would put the links of the places we liked, and check the prices throughout the year.
- Attractions we wanted to visit: I always wanted to ride the London Eye, so I started looking for discounts.
- Activities to do: walking tours, cooking classes – the world is your oyster!
Do what feels most natural for your relationship
If I’ve learnt anything during our year apart, is that what works for some doesn’t work for others.
People would recommend activities for us to try but they didn’t always work. We tried doing a couple quiz for fun, but we got bored. We attempted to cook virtually together, but in all honesty, it was a bit of a disaster. And that’s ok.
What I want you to take from my experience is that we found things that helped us make our relationship work – and you can too.
Ask other couples how they’re coping. Learn from strangers online, and lean onto others who may have a similar experience. My inbox is always open, and so are my Instagram messages – so ask away!
What have you been doing as a couple during self-isolation? Are you currently long-distancing?
Let me know in the comments!