A wise soul once said, “long distance relationships do not rely on physical love, long distance relationships are driven by the love that inspires your heart, mind and soul.”
It’s tough to be a romantic in this day and age, but it’s still possible to believe in true love, that soul mates exist, long distance can work, and that love at first sight does happen. A surprising number of people have married and lived happy lives together based on a long distance courtship.
One woman’s story
She met her husband-to-be when she sat down next to him on a Greyhound bus in Reno, Nevada, in 1987. Mona H. had wanted to take the bus so she could peer out the window and watch as America went by on her way to Boston, Massachusetts. Originally, she had planned to join the bus in Sacramento, California, but the vagaries of bus travel changed her starting point to Reno. She said she nearly walked past the vacant seat next to him in favor of the smoking section at the back, but changed her mind when she got a good look at the back seat’s resident winos.
They began talking, as people do, with polite conversation that developed into the stories of their lives. He’d chucked in his job at an upmarket department store in England to travel the United States by bus for three months. She shared with him what life had been like growing up in California, and told him of her lifelong desire to visit Europe.
By the time they reached Salt Lake City, Utah, the following morning, they had agreed to meet again in 10 days. He met her in Boston, and after staying with her for just over a week, he went off to finish his tour of the States, promising to return. And return he did, nine months later. He stayed with her for a while, then went back to England. She visited him there for 10 days, and when she left, they knew she would eventually return to marry him.
After a year and a half of loving each other from a distance, and being together when they could, she sold all her belongings and flew to England where they were married; that was nearly 25 years ago and they are still happily married, but now living back in the States.
She said she knew, absolutely, he was the man she would marry. Nevertheless, friends and family were skeptical; she still recalls the resounding silence from her father after she told him she planned to marry a man she barely knew.
What were the odds?
Conventional wisdom says it’s tough to maintain a long distance relationship and that’s typically true for most people. The majority of relationship experts suggest investing in some critical, detached, self-examination before taking the plunge. Google “long distance relationships” and you’ll find a host of sites for the lovelorn that are longing from abroad. Wendy Atterberry, blogger and relationship expert of DearWendy, recently wrote on Huff Post Women about the eight things women need to do before moving for love. Mona, from the story above, said she really only addressed two of the eight:
- Discuss the long-term: They did discuss the future; they would get married in England, but that was really all they knew.
- Decide if there is enough love to give up the life you’re living in exchange for a whole new situation: She did.
According to the experts, it was insane to think it could work. Snail mail and telephones were, of course, the only means of communication back then. There was no Internet, let alone Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts, or texting, and long distance phone calls were very expensive. How did they make it happen? Mona says, “Sheer bloody-mindedness; and, we worked at it.”
They talked almost weekly by telephone, and sent each other letters and small gifts. Moreover, they believed they could, and should, be together. They had time to face the temptations of other suitors, and consider giving up, but instead found in each other companionship, trust, and reliance.
Crystal Jiang, associate professor of communications at City University of Hong Kong, published her study on long distance relationships in the Journal of Communication in 2013. Professor Jiang found that people in long distance relationships feel emotionally closer to each other, possibly because the people in those relationships share more and listen more carefully to each other. The relationship tends to be more emotional and intellectual, rather than physical, thus creating truer intimacy within the connection. In person, it’s all too easy to listen with half an ear when the game is on or life’s everyday distractions get in the way. Jiang says, “You always hear people say ‘long-distance relationships suck’ or ‘long-distance relationships never work out.’ Indeed, our culture, particularly American culture, emphasizes being together physically and frequent face-to-face contact for close relationships, but long-distance relationships clearly stand against all these values.”
Getting your ducks in a row
There are, however, things to you ought to do if you are going to move across the world for love:
- Try not to let the stardust get in your eyes. According to Dr. Gail Saltz, a New York City psychiatrist and frequent TODAY contributor, distance can sometimes create idealization. It’s important to keep in mind that your partner is all too human and, once living together, that habit of leaving the toothpaste lid off may not be so charming in person. Check out this blog post to read more about how to protect your relationship when moving abroad
- Give careful consideration to what living abroad will mean for you in the day-to-day, when it comes to your job, social life, support, family, and more
- Plan for the logistics of moving abroad- after all, it’s not nearly as simple as moving across town. Consider what you’ll take with you, what you’ll get rid of and you’ll leave behind
- Contact a reputable international shipping firm for assistance. You will save yourself an enormous headache if you consult the experts; they know the processes, and the paperwork required
- Be prepared for the red tape of expatriation. There are usually visa requirements and documents to assemble
- Get ready for culture shock. Prepare emotionally by reminding yourself that cultural differences are sometimes so subtle they cause confusion and misunderstanding (especially in romantic relationships, where you’re already blinded by love).
- If there will be language barriers, study to get a few core phrases and words down, before you land in your new home. There isn’t much that can strain a relationship faster than massive dependency on your partner to translate for you all the time
Ultimately, though, it comes down to the questions we all ask ourselves about any relationship, regardless of logistics: is there love and is there commitment? Every relationship is a leap of faith, and those who decide they are in it for the long run – no matter what – can surpass the challenges of distance, and ultimately, the changes that at least one has to make to be together.