Long Distance Relationships Suck. But So Does Uprooting Your Whole Life.


Moving for love isn't always what it's cracked up to be

I would tell my husband that I would cross oceans for him, but being the overachiever that I am, I already have, way too many times.

John and I met in Singapore almost five years ago—where I am from, and where he studied. For two years we bonded over weekend getaways on Instagram-enviable islands in Thailand and Indonesia where we basked in the tropical sun and devoured our weights’ worth of seafood. I watched my partner develop a more international palate and sweat way too much on our dates. Then, John graduated and left for LA, and I was left behind in Singapore.

In the two years we were apart, despite being able to see each other more often than other across-the-world couples (because–hello, working on a laptop), I was constantly lamenting about how agonizing long-distance relationships were. And I was agonized. My long-distance relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through—only second to the month both of my parents were in the hospital (back when I was twenty-one).

I’ve never been an overly clingy partner. Yes, I missed John all the time when we were apart, but I had things to fill up my time—a rockin’ full-time job that I loved, an epic friend group, and my family. I knew that moving across the world would be a bitch and a half–but I never anticipated it would be such a struggle.

Adjusting to living with John is the easy part. It’s funny; before we lived together so many people cautioned that you don’t actually know someone until you’ve lived with them. Not true. Everybody can change, everybody can adjust and adapt, especially if it’s for someone you love. I’d known John for slightly more than four years before I showed up in his bachelor pad with three suitcases full of clothes and shoes and makeup, and he is exactly the same person as he was before I moved in.

Granted, we have had to adapt. A queen-sized bed was no longer a big cloud nest that I could sleep diagonally in, and John’s once-muted apartment now looks like it had a passionate tryst with Crayola.

Beyond just adjusting to having my partner around all the time, what bothers me is I feel parts of me slipping away—by no fault of my now-husband. I am no longer an editor of a publication I love. I no longer feel in demand, or that I have a purpose. Beyond my career, I no longer have a group of girlfriends I see on a regular basis, or a gym I call my second home. My comforts no longer exist, my people are nine thousand miles away and I am now living in a city that practically requires driving (and I can’t), and I feel claustrophobic all the time.

I am dependent on my husband in ways I don’t want to be. I haven’t had to depend on anybody else for money except myself for most of my adult life, and now I’m tearing my hair out because I feel permanently broke while I anticipate the arrival of my work permit.

And then the lack of human contact—apart from that with my husband—is another issue. My job required me to interact and meet people everyday. Now, a conversation with the check out guy at Trader Joe’s feels like a breath of fresh air. Sure, I have FaceTime dates with my mom everyday, but it’s never the same. You can’t see how a person’s eyes light up when you crack a joke over FaceTime.

I want to be my own person again and I’m trying. It’s hard, you know? I’ve slowly started making friends and going for events in the city—and I’m probably one of UberX’s top paying customers.

Of course, it’s not that I’m unhappy entirely. After five years of waiting and planning, it’s amazing being able to wake up to the man I love every morning, and to actually spend time together.

People always have advice about how to survive long-distance relationships. But the truth is, no matter how much your plan, you never actually know what will happen until you pack your bags and move. Nobody ever tells you this: the happily-ever-after part of the love story? Turns out, it’s not perfect either.

Have you ever Relocated to be with a partner? (or had your partner relocate for you?) Was it harder then you imagined? How did you adjust?

Faz Abdul Gaffa-Marsh

Faz Abdul Gaffa-Marsh is a freelance writer from Singapore who’s recently crossed multiple oceans and relocated to Los Angeles to end her long-distance relationship with her now-husband. In between her quest to try all the hot sauces in the world and making time to write up a storm to pay the bills, Faz can usually be found looking for new hiking trails, trying to beat her last burpee count, or figuring out what new Mexican-Asian fusion dishes she can whip up in her kitchen.

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  • Eenie

    Yup. This whole post. Living across the country from my SO right now because this job will open doors for me. He could have come with me, but didn’t want to give up his job. Every well meaning person that asks me why I’m not living with him, did you ever think he also had the choice to come live with me? It was not a sacrifice either of us wants to make right now. And how do we make it work? You just do. Because not making it work isn’t an option. I do look forward to the day where I don’t feel tied to my phone because he’s next to me instead of so far away.

    • Randomdoglover

      Internet fist bump for talking to dogs while working from home

      • Eenie

        I don’t have a dog…but I talk to my cat. A lot. He makes sure I take care of him.

  • Gretchen

    I totally relate to this. My fiance is in the military, and I moved from our college town to where he’s stationed. When he is deployed, we are long distance with limited communication. So not only did I move here to be with him, but half the time he’s gone. I don’t regret moving, but it has been A LOT harder than I expected. I have trouble making friends, and I work from home so sometimes the only things I talk to are my dogs.

    • Natalie

      I feel you. My husband and I just moved away from the city in which we went to grad school, met, and had so many wonderful friends for his new job. He’s working all. the. time. and I work from home. Entire days go by when the only conversations I have are with our puppy. It sucks. And it’s so hard to change. I’ve learned that I hate working from home, because I miss chatting with people in the office. The benefits (lunchtime run with puppy, breaks whenever I want for yoga or puppy playtime) just aren’t worth the feelings of isolation for me. Especially since I haven’t made any friends in our new city yet.

  • Lauren

    I kind-of relocated for my fiance, which means that I joke about how I came to Germany for a year and just never left. There have been plenty of challenges along the way. The language issue has been big – there are many professional opportunities that aren’t viable for me here because I will probably never speak or write “perfectly”, and I’ve gotten infinitely more humble after embarrassing myself with all sorts of communication gaffes over the years. It took a few years for me to make friends of my own and breaking into my fiance’s circle of friends was incredibly difficult. I’m lucky that my immigration process has been relatively straightforward up until now, where I’m also waiting on a work permit and stressing out about not earning money!

    I think the question of where to live has also had the advantage of allowing us to focus on our priorities for our relationship. There was a particular issue that was an ongoing conflict for us in the first two years of our relationship, which gave rise to a lot of conversations about what I needed from him in order to feel secure enough in our relationship to stay and not move back to the US. We’ve also had to talk through the questions of where it would be better to raise a family, what our professional priorities are and what kind of relationships we want with our own families of origin. It’s also been incredibly gratifying to travel through the US with my fiance and see his enthusiasm for the country grow, and to know that he would, if I needed it, also cross the ocean for me.

    The distance to family is the hardest part. Other than that, I feel like so many doors have been opened to me by my relationship and where we live. I am way, way tougher and more resourceful than I was when we met, and have had so many wonderful, exciting experiences thanks to our lives here.

    • I just wanted to say that I too moved to another country with a language that is not my native one and went through the immigration process, during which I was unable to work. It’s hard. It took me longer than expected to restart my life here. But once I was a permanent resident and could work, that helped a lot, mostly because I ended up working at a place where I met some people who became friends….”my own” friends, not inherited-through-marriage friends (though I certainly appreciated those too…it was just nice to have some friendships initiated by me). Good luck in your process!

  • Ais

    I moved from Dublin to London to live in the same city as my partner three years ago. If I could say one thing to the me of back then it would be, ‘have faith’. I took a hit on the career front to make the move, and for a while that was really hard. I can totally relate to the horrible feeling of suddenly being broke and dependant. But there were advantages too. Not enjoying my job so much gave me the space to take a step back and look at my career as a whole, where I wanted to be and how I could get there. Even though I had to give up some of my independence along the way, I am weeks away from finishing law school now and actually, the decision to go back to study has been hugely empowering for me and is a much more viable long-term option than what I was doing before.

    One thing that helped me hugely in the early days was taking the time and effort to build a friendship group of my own. It does take time, but even just meeting people socially at an art class or as part of a sports team gives you a focus outside of your relationship and helps take the pressure off.

    Scarily, we are now just about to do the whole thing again, as my partner moved to Singapore for a year back in February. I’ve been over to visit him twice, and will be making the big move myself in June. We’ll be moving back to London (and getting married – yay!) in Feb 2016. This time at least, I’ll be able to work for the same company there as in London, but in so many ways it is right back to square one!

    Wishing you the very best of luck in figuring it all out – I’m sure it will start to get easier soon (and please feel free to pass any of those suggestions for glorious weekends away on!) Aisling x

  • Mary Jo TC

    I’m almost 7 years out from making this move, although mine wasn’t so far geographically or culturally. It was hard to start to feel at home in a new place. I’d say it took me 3 years and 3 job changes to feel at home.

    While we were long distance for 2 years, we fought a lot about who would move where and under what conditions and with what promises for security. I didn’t want to put my career second to my love life, and why couldn’t he be the one to move when he had a dead-end job and I was the one earning a grad degree? I didn’t want to move unless he was willing to promise me that he would do the same for me someday, move back to my hometown. He wasn’t willing to make that promise, not because he didn’t have confidence in our relationship, but because he didn’t have confidence in his own career that such a move would ever be possible. Finally, I realized that trying to extract a promise from him wasn’t fair. Being the one with the more advanced career meant that I was the one with more options. It was harder for him to find an entry-level position in my hometown than it was for me to find a professional job in his. Has anyone else found this to be the case?

    Now I’m just starting to deal with the fact that we might NEVER move back to my hometown. This move has been a great thing for me and us and our careers and our finances. I’m not sure that we’d be able to find jobs this good in my hometown. I’ve looked into it, and I’m sure I would take at least a 20% pay cut to move. Housing is cheaper, but not a big enough difference to make that pay cut worth it. Things are more spread out in my hometown, and our commutes would surely double. My in-laws are retired, and more able to help with our toddler than my younger, working parents are. There are tons of factors that make this a better place, objectively.

    Every time I go home for a visit, someone (or multiple someones) asks me when we’re moving back. I find this question invalidating and infuriating, but I’m probably making too big a deal of that. It’s like to my extended family, no life is valid unless it’s lived within 30 miles of my grandparents’ farm. Does anyone else get an attitude like this from family? I want to believe it’s just enthusiasm to spend more time with me and my growing toddler, but they also seem to think that moving back would be a move up for me in some way when that’s just not true. I don’t want to respond to this question, my life in Nashville is way better than it would be if I were here. But I’m starting to think it’s true. Not even getting to see my mom more often would outweigh more fulfilling, better-paying jobs, shorter commutes, more free time, stronger culture and community, owning a house appreciating in value faster than I’d ever imagined, and on and on.

    • lizperk23

      Re: when are you moving back – yep. I left CA at 18 to go to school in the Midwest, and for years I heard a lot of “when are you coming home” and “don’t you love us”. (“If you loved us you would move home”). This was less from parents and more from one of my siblings. I think it was a month or two before the wedding (at 32) that this sibling realized that, yes, my life really is rooted here. Home is here. And visits are a two way street.

      • Mary Jo TC

        Eek! I’m sorry you have to deal with that. I guess that makes me feel a little better that at least my annoying question doesn’t come with a loaded guilt trip. Mine is mostly coming from aunts and uncles and cousins. Immediate family, my mom most importantly, seems to understand how good we have it where we are. Although everyone but my mom needs to learn that lesson about visits being a two way street.

      • Lawyerette510

        “Visits are a two way street.” Yes! We have this struggle with my dad who lives a 4 hour plane ride away and my inlaws who are a 90 minute drive away: they all are really attached to us coming to them, but yet they are the ones with more time and financial flexibility. I think it’s something about parents/ family wanting people in the space they associate with home not the space their now adult family member associates with home.

        • Mary Jo TC

          That’s a good point. Maybe a big part of this is like a grown child wanting Christmas traditions to stay the same forever. Reunions don’t have the same feeling if they happen away from ‘home turf.’ It can also be about ceding control. And yet, you’re right, if people can be more flexible about location, more reunions can happen. Thanks for pointing this out.

        • Eenie

          I’ve also found sometimes it depends on available space. My parents have a bed when we visit and if they see me I give them my bed and sleep on the couch. So sometimes it’s a little bit logistics since getting a hotel room makes a difference seem very different.

          • Lawyerette510

            Absolutely, there are times where there is a clear logistical issue that makes it preferable for visits to go one way or the other such as a place to sleep or one side with limited time or financial resources to spend on travel compared to the other side with more of those resources or a physical barrier to travel. In my own case, my grandmother is 95 and no longer physically comfortable on planes, so I make a priority to go see her and don’t expect her to fly here to see me but when it comes to my inlaws and my dad– they all have significantly more flexibility in their schedules and budgets than my husband or I, and we have a guest room, but yet they are always putting pressure on us to come to them, when they have fewer logistical barriers than we do.

        • Jenny

          I think people who have never lived far from family don’t realize a. how nice it is to get to show off you town and life to people you care about and b. how hurtful it can be that visiting me/us doesn’t seem “worth it” (yes, that’s what we were told). They seem to make NO effort to understand that we just can’t spend 500-800 dollars three times a year to come visit, and we don’t have time off, so we either have to take unpaid leave, or have 3 day weekends. Not to mention it’s hard to summon the motivation to make that work when they make no effort to visit us, despite no major financial or time limits. Plus when we do go, it’s always we miss you, you should visit more often. Perhaps I should get little business cards printed with “visits are a two way street” printed on them? Too much? :)

          • Lawyerette510

            I’d be down for some of those cards! I’ve found it helps to be really blunt with the family members who could visit but don’t (mainly my dad and my inlaws) about what the barriers are and how their coming to us would facilitate additional time together. It hasn’t really changed how much they come to us (although it’s helped a little with getting the inlaws into the car to drive down to us), but it has gotten all of them to decrease the amount of “oh we wish we saw you more.”

            Solidarity fist bump with you on this one, big time.

      • Lisa

        This is something my husband has struggled with as well. He moved from SF to the Midwest for school and has been here nearly 10 years. His mother made some comment about never getting to have anymore grandchildren when we were talking with them over the weekend (my SIL is in her late-30s and expressing no desire for a second child), and when I said that we would most likely have kids in a few years, she said that they wouldn’t be the same because we would never move back near them. (Cost and job options obviously being a huge factor on our part.) That really stung to hear that she feels like she won’t be able to have a close relationship with our children because they might be separated geographically.

        And yes to “visits are a two way street”! My ILs are retired with enough money to travel around a bit, but my husband is the one who is expected to travel home for every holiday and vacation. I love my ILs, but we’re a young family with not so much disposable income so it’s hard to afford multiple cross-country flights for two people throughout the year.

        • Mary Jo TC

          Ouch, that stings! How hurtful. I’m sorry she said that. I can understand that a grandmother might have a different relationship with a long-distance grandkid than one nearby, and that’s something to mourn, perhaps, but to say that “it wouldn’t be the same” to a son and daughter-in-law is really insensitive.

          I keep wondering why these parents who want kids to visit and have so much cash aren’t offering to buy plane tickets.

          • Lisa

            Thank you. My husband and I already joke about how my nephew is the golden child and how our kids won’t measure up, but it’s all in jest. To hear my MIL say that she didn’t think she could be as close with our children felt like the confirmation of my worst fears.

            And amen! His family will help pay for his plane tickets, which is very kind, but the offer isn’t always extended to me. They also keep asking when I plan to come visit/saying it’s been so long since they’ve seen me/I must not like them because I only visit once a year. My husband is on a school schedule so it’s easier for him to plan trips home, but I only get a certain amount of vacation days a year, and much as I love and care for my ILs, I don’t want to spend every single one of them at their suburban home.

          • Alexa

            Interesting. We have kind of the reverse situation for travel. I’m on a school schedule, so I have zero vacation days unless they align with the school vacations, and my mother-in-law tends to take it as a slight that I don’t/can’t take off time to travel with them, no matter how much notice she gives me. :/

          • Lisa

            That’s super interesting to me, too. Maybe it’s because my FIL was a teacher that my ILs are more accepting of the school schedule. I was so surprised last week when I found out my sister’s now-husband, who’s a teacher, only gets two personal days a year and had to be back to school the Monday after their Friday wedding, which included a 10 hour drive each way.

            I’m sorry your MIL reacts that way though. That’s really unhelpful and hurtful for her to push her feelings on you like that. Hopefully it might get better with time as they adjust to your schedule or realize you’re not taking days off in the middle of the year to go on other vacations without them? :/

          • Alexa

            Wow, that sounds really hard for your brother-in-law. It’s too bad they couldn’t schedule the wedding at a time that would have given them more leeway. (Although I guess my husband actually had a similar experience, since we had two ceremonies & taking off the week between them used up the remainder of his vacation time that year.)

            As for my MIL, it’s kind of her personality? I mean, I think (hope) that rationally she understands why I can’t (sometimes it’s hard to tell with her). But it’s tied up with the fact that my in-laws are Nigerian, and I’m from & living in the U.S. (and am white). We were able to go with them back to Nigeria a couple of months after we got married, and there was a lot of concern expressed about whether/when I’d be willing to come back. I understand it’s tied into concerns about me pulling my husband away from his culture/background/family, so I try to remind myself that there are valid reasons for my MIL to be concerned that I’m making excuses. (And things get complicated by the fact that we’re considering having children in the next couple of years, and I am somewhat hesitant about international travel with babies/young children, but we’ll figure it out.)

    • MC

      Not from my family, but my husband’s paternal family all live one state away from us, the state where Husband and I both grew up. His parents live blocks away from his grandparents and he always assumed we’d move back there when we’re ready to buy a house. Well, turns out that housing prices are RIDICULOUS compared to where we live and it’s getting more and more appealing to stay where we are… but his grandma always writes in letters things like, “When will you move home??” I don’t know when he’ll have the conversation with them that this is our home.

      • Mary Jo TC

        Maybe close-knit families and communities are more likely to produce this dynamic–the kinds of families where parents and grandparents and siblings all live in the same neighborhood (if not next door), where everyone stays friends with their high school friends until they die. I also grew up across the street from my grandma, and I’m sure if she were still living, she’d be asking me the same question and I’d feel like crap.

        Of my dad’s 16 (yes, 16) siblings, all but 2 live in the county where they were born, or one of 3 neighboring counties. And all of them (except the two who were nuns, yes, we’re Catholic) married people who were from the same community. And one of those 2 who moved away, it was because she married a local boy who went into the military.

        My mom has 3 siblings, and two of them moved away for big jobs/education and moved back in their late 30’s or 40’s. And my sister just recently moved back after about 10 years in a city 2 hours away. So other people have kind of set this precedent for me, it seems.

        Thing is, in all those cases of people moving back, it was in a direction to get MORE favorable housing prices, not less. Like my uncle moving from New York to hometown. I’m not sure it would have happened if the finances didn’t work in that direction.

        • Caitlin

          Oh man, we must have similar families. My dad is one of eight kids, we’re catholic, and everyone lives within 30 minutes of each other. Except for me, I’m the black sheep who moved two states over to take a job in the same city as my fiance. I think the only reason I haven’t gotten too much push back is because this city is only guaranteed while my fiance finishes grad school. However, I think it will be hard for my family once they realize that our future moves may not bring us any closer. The joys of an academic lifestyle mean that we have no idea where we may end up. It’s tough, because I really appreciate and value how tight knit my dad’s family is, but it’s also very impractical for me (and honestly most people in our generation)

    • Whenever I get that question, I explain that my work opportunities are much better where I am and simply wouldn’t even exist in my hometown. And thankfully, people seem to get it. That’s not the only reason I don’t move back, but it is one that seems to be accepted and doesn’t feel like a personal attack on the town/region. And it’s the most logical reason. The other main reason? It just feels more like home here and like a place where I can pursue my most important dreams. And I share that sometimes too, when people ask. Some dreams can only be pursued in certain places…

      • Mary Jo TC

        One time I did try to phrase it as neutrally as I could and it bombed. I’m a teacher, so obviously there are teaching jobs everywhere. A cousin who’s an assistant principal told me about an opening in her school in my area. I said my current school is kind of awesome, and told her about our low class sizes, and she said, “but they’d be NICE kids.” Which, my immediate thought that I just barely kept myself from saying out loud was, “you mean, they’d be white kids.” Also, I had just finished telling her about my husband’s awesome brand new job when she brought this up. So it was kind of like she wasn’t listening. My mom said I should be flattered that my cousin thought so highly of me as a teacher that she wanted me at her school. Well, sure. But it also highlighted how I wasn’t being heard, as well as our different priorities in education.

        • Ah. Yeah, I guess it helps (in this situation) that my work is rather location-specific. But that stinks that she wasn’t listening. Part of it might be that it’s hard for people who might not have moved away from “home” to understand why someone might want to…? Or that a person can have multiple places where he or she feels at home…?

        • Emma

          I think smoke would come out of my ears if someone made a comment like that about my students

          • Mary Jo TC

            I think it was kind of unconscious and unintentional, but isn’t that how racism comes out a lot of the time? I don’t think I had any smoke, but my eyes may have bugged a little, and I had to rant about it to a few people the next day.

  • Alexa

    My husband and I were long-distance through college, and he moved to join me after we graduated. He got a job before he moved up here, but it was really nerve-wracking while he was doing the job application process, worrying that by limiting himself to jobs in this city he wouldn’t be able to find anything that was a good fit. We ended up being lucky; he found a job he’s actually still at over 5 years later, but it was a close thing.

    Somewhat tangentially related, I think a lot about how it was actually really good for our relationship that we didn’t go to the same college. Long-distance has its inherent struggles, but I think it really helped each of us grow as individuals at that time in our lives and not feel smothered or trapped in a high school relationship.

    • Eenie

      I agree – distance really puts stresses on your relationship that can make it better in the long term. And you both get to be your own person. One of the reasons I really like my job was that I’d get to live by myself for a couple years. When I graduated college I had always lived with family, roommates, or the bf. Never by myself. It’s been great to figure out me, but I’m looking forward to moving back in with the bf.

  • SAM

    Thank you for sharing this.

    My spouse has relocated for me, multiple times and across multiple continents, to allow me to chase my dreams. He calls it “chasing [me] around the world.”

    We have worked out a system (which includes jobs, housework, travel, finances, friends, etc.) that we’re happy with. Neither of us feels like we’re compromising too much, but even then it’s not easy. I am eternally grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to live my dreams. It’s probably not the life he would have chosen on his own, but we’ve made it work. Every couple has to decide together what works best for them. Best of luck to you both.

    • Sarah D

      Tell us more about your system! We are in a similar spot, and still trying to work out our system…

  • 1 year ago my now-husband relocated for me. We packed up his truck and made a cross-country drive together, and 3 days after the drive he proposed. Our relationship began as a long distance relationship, and even though we saw each other once a month, that distance was so incredibly difficult. The worst time was the last month before he moved here, the waiting for the days to go by so that we could get him moved out here was almost unbearable. Somehow we survived, and now here we are married. One thing that really helped was knowing that we shared space very well together. During our dating period we were lucky to be able to have a few 1-2 week long visits. When he finally did move in, there were no surprises on either side.

  • Greta

    Yes, everything about this post I relate to! My husband and I have done long-distance more times than I can count. He moved for me across the country, and couldn’t find a job. After 8 months of nothing during the height of the recession he moved back to his home town for a job, and I followed him this time. We lived there for a year, I took a major hit career wise, and I was miserable. It was also the first city I lived in without an automatic built-in community – my first city without college friends, grad school friends, high school friends, etc. I knew no one and found it really hard to try and meet people and make new friends. I was fairly miserable for the year we lived there, and luckily my husband missed the west coast as much as I did, so we both got shiny new jobs and moved back. I learned a lot about myself during that year though – how to not be resentful to my husband, how dependent I am on other female friendships, and I realize now in hindsight that when things got tough I just gave up. Now that I am aware of this, I’ve made a very concerted effort in the 2 cities we’ve lived in since then to constantly extend myself, constantly put myself out there to meet new people, be sociable, say yes to everything.

    We’ve moved cross country 3 times (each) for each other. We’ve lived in 6 different cities over the past 6 years. We spent more time living in different cities (sometimes different continents) than we did in the same for the first five years of our relationship. Now, we’re finally in a place we both love, with strong communities, and great jobs. It took us a hell of a long time to get here though.

  • I moved from DC to Baltimore two years ago to move in with my boyfriend. While that doesn’t sound particularly far, it’s still a haul for my friends in my old city, and I see most of these people a heck of a lot less, if at all. I struggled for quite a while to make friends here. I tried joining social sports teams, starting Meetup groups. But nothing seemed to really stick.

    We broke up in January, but I’m still here in Baltimore. And you know what? My social life has gone from zero to 60 since then. I have a ton of friends now, and I lucked out with great roommates. My theory is that I would prioritize spending time with my boyfriend over going out and doing things. Sure, I played bocce once a week, but I didn’t call these people up to hang out later. Now that I’m “forced” to fill my time, I’ve found it’s actually way easier than I thought.

    So basically, looking back, my advice to my old self–and to those who relocated for a significant other–is REALLY make sure you put your own social life high on the list. Your person will be there when you get home. Schedule time with them ahead of time if you want to spend time outside of the house with them–keep planning dates. Give the same weight to time with your friends (or potential new ones) as you do to time with your SO.

    • Bea

      My ex-fiance and I lived in 3 countries and 6 cities in 6 years before breaking up this past January. The relocating was every part hell and blessing and its been so hard going through the breakup process in a foreign land. And I wonder all the time that if we had just stayed at home whether we would still be together.
      But you are right, you have to really put yourself out there to make new friends in new places, even if you ‘inherit’ friends through your SO. Investing in yourself is investing in your relationship.
      Sorry for the ramble!

  • a single lady

    Super interesting post. I have a (self-interested) question for those of you who began relationships long distance: how did it work? Was distance an obstacle to getting it started? I ask as a single lady interested in someone who lives about a 5-hour drive away. To me, this isn’t a big deal and can be worked around. He seems interested (as far as one can tell from a meeting followed by emails…to be followed by another meet-up shortly), but several friends have commented that he may be holding back/concerned about the distance. So I’d love to hear from others about getting things going when you don’t live in the same place, especially if one person cares more than the other about the distance issue.

    • CP

      My husband and I are from the same Midwestern hometown, but I was in college far away when we started dating. We hit it off when I was home for a break, but I wasn’t interested in long distance (had done it before, no thanks). I had two requirements for LD: a) see each other in person every 4-6 weeks and b) have a specific future date when we’d live in the same place. I didn’t think we could meet those conditions, but he was persistent, and our relationship progressed even though I resisted calling it a relationship. Long story short, now we’re married.

      We never forced anything. We liked talking to each other, so occasional chats became daily phone calls. It was really only after we were talking on the phone every day and frequently exchanging texts that we decided we were “in a relationship.” At that point, we were both comfortable with the distance because we were already navigating it together. Seeing each other in person every 4-6 weeks and taking turns doing the traveling were good things. And as things progressed we set a rough schedule for when we’d talk and Skype. It required a lot of trust, patience, and communication, but the beginning happened very naturally – neither of us set out to get into a relationship, but we really liked each other and enjoyed talking. It didn’t feel like we were suffering through the distance to get to something better. Yes, we missed each other a lot in between visits, but getting to know each other was enjoyable enough to sustain the relationship. Good luck!

      • Mary Jo TC

        This is really great advice. My brother (who graduated college on Saturday, woohoo!) did pretty much what you’re describing. Another brother (who’s getting married in September) sustained a high school relationship through long distance during the college years. I think it might be somewhat harder for adults with established careers, though. Graduation creates a convenient ‘LD end date’ but there’s nothing similar for adults (unless there’s a grad degree or a contract job at play I guess).

        • CP

          Congrats to your brothers! I agree that it’s tougher post-college. Graduations (even finishing a grad degree, as was the case with my husband) create a natural opportunity to relocate. I deleted this from my original post because it seemed a little cart-before-the-horse for someone just starting a relationship, but a big piece of the success of my long distance relationship was – once we were pretty serious – that both of us prioritized living in the same place. This was probably the hardest part. My husband was willing to move across the country even though he preferred to stay in the Midwest, and I was willing change the focus of my career. At a certain point, you have to look for opportunities to get in the same place, even if you have to make those opportunities yourself. It’s not something I would worry about at the beginning of a relationship, but it’s a pretty big part of sustaining/progressing.

          • Mary Jo TC

            I agree, finding a way to be together has to happen somehow eventually, if you’re going to have a future. A cousin of mine broke off an engagement when it became clear that he wanted to stay in the hometown, and his fiance wasn’t willing to give up dreams of a big-city design career. It must be hard to begin a relationship knowing that sacrifices like this will have to be made at some point.

          • CP

            Absolutely. It’s why I was resistant to starting anything serious, but I liked him so much I couldn’t help myself! When the time came to actually make the sacrifices, though, it wasn’t as hard as I expected and I am really happy with where we ended up. If I had felt like I was giving up a dream, things might have ended up differently. I guess there’s a little bit of luck to it, too. A good job offer or a geographically flexible goal can really change how much of a sacrifice it is.

      • a single lady

        Thank you! I like hearing success stories :) Your point that progressing naturally helped makes a lot of intuitive sense to me. I’d like to believe I’m on a similar path, but who knows :)

    • When beginning a bi-country, bilingual long-distance relationship, we just addressed it honestly right in the beginning and asked each other if we both agreed it was worth pursuing. And we did.

      • a single lady

        Clarity sounds wise (and a delightful assurance to have). Hoping for a conversation of the like soon.

        • The good thing about clarity is that it either makes things more solid going forward or it saves you both some time so you can move on to find better prospects. I wish you the best!

    • Amanda

      My husband and I met when he was living in Columbus, Ohio and I in Milwaukee, Wisconsin while preparing to move to Atlanta, Georgia. It wasn’t until I moved to Atlanta that I allowed things to move past our first date because….it just seemed a little crazy to start dating someone in another state, while preparing to move to a different state (and region of the country). However, my husband was sweet and persistant-ish….sending me lots of emails and texts and, occassionally, care packages…..and by the time I got settled in Atlanta it was clear that this was something we needed to pursue, regardless of how crazy it seemed. We started talking on the phone for hours at a time, which quicly lead to planning a mid-week meet-up in the middle of Kentucky and pretty soon after that it became clear that this was it. We dated long-distance for about a year and a half and as hard as it was sometimes, it was also the easiest relationship I could imagine. We travelled back and forth to see each other, we’d meet up in other cities for weekend getaways or friends’ weddings, we’d drive to our halfway point and in between we’d spend endless amounts of time on the phone getting to know eververything about each other. Three years ago we started our life together in Columbus and a year ago we got married. Our ridiculous-seeming, long-distance relationship was the best thing I ever took a chance on.

      • a single lady

        What a wonderful story! I may be the persistent one, but who knows…

    • he told me he’d had bad experiences with long distance in the past, but we eventually followed our feelings and went for it anyways. we’re introverts, so being able to get to know each other via email was actually easier for us, whereas it might’ve taken us longer to be so open with each other if we were going on conventional dates.

      • a single lady

        As a fellow introvert, this makes *so much* sense to me.

    • IMO distance is only an obstacle if the people in the relationship want it to be. We make time, space and effort for the things that are important to us. There were a couple guys that I liked who weren’t willing or interested in putting in the type of work that a long distance relationship required; I took it that while they were interested, they weren’t interested (and invested) enough to be willing to make the effort. Relationships that start as long distance are more effort upfront and some people just aren’t up for that. For other folks, it’s not big deal. And then there’s the people who realize that the effort is worth it for the person they are building the relationship with.

      • a single lady

        Yep, I agree that distance can be overcome. Time to see if this fellow thinks the same or not…

    • Jle

      If both parties make a decision that a LDR is something they want to pursue it can work! My partner is currently abroad in Copenhagen for graduate school and I’m working in the midwest, but we have always communicated very honestly (through good and bad times) and it helps us see where we are going. Once you have an end date, permanent or not, it helps a ton as well!

  • Kayjayoh

    We had a year and a half of being a long-distance couple, then he uprooted himself and moved from Boston to Madison for me. And was immediately miserably homesick. He was ready to turn right around and move back, causing us to break up for a day or two while he packed. Then he decided to settle in and give it a chance. He never did stop being homesick, but he really tried. I told him that if we were in it for the long haul, I’d move to Boston with him someday.

    Four years later we got married and moved. Now I’m the uprooted one. I think I’m handling it a bit better, but I miss Madison and Wisconsin fiercely. Some things get easier, but others will never settle out. Fortunately, we live in a time where travel is fast and fairly easy. So visiting. We live in a time where the internet lets us keep up with the day-to-day news of our family and friends. But it still isn’t entirely the same.

    However, one thing we now have is that we have both done this thing for the other. We both know the challenge and the sacrifice, and I think it strengthens out bond.

  • kate

    yep yep yep. we weren’t long distance, but we moved across the country for his job last year and it’s certainly been hard. i’ve realized a couple of times as i struggle through adjusting and rebuilding my life here that i’m depending on him a lot more than i was when we lived in a city where i had a 7+ year history and that’s something that’s hard to swallow for me.
    he’s been extremely supportive and encouraging and i love our new city, so i have no regrets, but it really has been a much longer and more laborious process to put together all the little parts of life again than i expected and i find myself feeling lonely a lot more than i expected, especially as a super introvert and someone used to being very independent. i even kept my job, just started working remotely, but truly everything changes even more than you might expect and that can be really disorienting. though i can only imagine that for someone who made the move overseas that experience is x100 of mine…

  • laddibugg

    There is a chance my partner might live in NYC for a year or so. We live in NJ right outside the city, but if you know anything about the area, you know it’s not as close as it seems, plus I work out west Jersey so…..
    I know it’s not hours, oceans, or time zones away, and that it would be a good financial opportunity, but a piece of me will be incredibly sad that I wouldn’t be able to see him on whim.

    Being apart for a long, but definite amount of time is fine, but I could not start a relationship from afar. Just not how I’m built.

    • Amy March

      Move to Jersey City? It’s easy to get to the city on a whim and out to western jersey for work. Why does your partner have to live in the city itself?

      • laddibugg

        He’s doing an apprenticeship, and this would be his first year.
        He doesn’t *have* to live in the city, but a family member has an empty apartment that is literally just sitting there and he’d be able to live there pretty much rent free. Doing so would cut down on living expenses (if we moved closer or into the city), transportation expenses, and transportation time (he’d have to get to various job sites in the city as well as class so that’s important).
        I really don’t want to drive from the city to Morris County 5 days a week. My commute is already hellish, and I HATE driving on Route 80

        • Amy March

          In more oddly specific unsolicited advice, I take 78 to morris county every day and find it tolerable- 45 mins going out, 30ish coming home from Jersey City, so cutting off all the tunnel traffic. Or is the train an option for you- maybe even leaving your car at the station in reverse to get from the train to the office?

          Sorry to be so pushy it just makes me sad that you guys would be splitting up housekeeping over a silly river crossing :)

  • I must say I am impressed with the author (and others) giving up amazing jobs they loved to move to be with their partner. That is one thing that made it easier for me…I was working a dayjob and pursuing my passion on the side, so it made it easier for me to move for that relationship because it made sense for us to do it that way. I imagine that if I had had to give up my dream job, it would have been a much harder choice, so I am impressed by those of you who have done just that for love. Anyone moving for someone else is a HUGE sacrifice, but to give up a dream job on top of everything else is a big deal. I hope that your partners appreciate that completely….

  • “I want to be my own person again” really hit the nail on the head for me.

    I’m from Singapore too and just moved to Florida to be with my now-husband. We met in Singapore 7 years ago and are super duper glad to say goodbye to long distance. It was definitely one of the hardest things ever and it’s awesome to see each other so much and finally be together. But I want to feel like myself again. Theoretically, everything is great. But I didn’t quite realize that relocating to a place he is already settled into, meant that at least for now, everyone sees me as someone’s Mrs instead of just myself. People forget my name and refer to me as “so and so’s wife”, people hug us and greet us collectively by our new shared family name. I was so eager and excited to start a new life with him, but I can’t deny it’s bittersweet and I’m floundering a little to find myself again. I’m still positive that it’s a matter of time and patience before I can say that I feel equal parts “so and so’s wife” and “myself”. That said, long distance relationships are ridiculously difficult, and I think persevering through one is a huge testament to the tenacity of your marriage.

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    • Sarah McClelland

      Yup. I’m J’s wife more often than I am Sarah. And nobody even thinks that maybe my last name isn’t the same as my husband’s… It’s been a stretching thing to move into his house in his town and go to his church… And I think having him know his way around is more frustrating than convenient. But we move again in 3 weeks, to a place new to both of us, so I will be SUPER excited and hopeful of and for what learning a place together looks like.
      I’m so SO thankful to know that the struggle of “being my own person” is not unique to me.

      • All the best for your next move! I hope settling into a new place TOGETHER will help loads for you. I’m relieved to find out I’m not alone either ;)

        For us, we’re definitely staying put for the first couple of years at least. My husband absolutely loves it here, and truthfully, I do too. I’ve always felt that Florida is where we are meant to start our married life, if not where we place down roots and settle down “for good”.
        I’m just not so excited about all these frustrating feelings. Really feel you on how it’s more frustrating than convenient that he is already just so… settled and rooted. He has friends, a great job, a wonderful church community (that has welcomed me warmly… as his new wife). I have to say that he has been very patient and trying his best to understand my frustrations and struggles. Just last weekend, I blew up and cried about feeling invisible even though everyone is being nice to me. Because I feel like everyone’s just being nice because I’m his wife, not because I’m me. I can see us living here for the rest of our lives, so I’m really trying to nudge myself into figuring things out and “being myself” again.

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  • Stéphanie

    I did the same, tough the distances are way smaller, but you articulate this so beautifully. Thanks !

  • Corinne Keel

    After three years of long distance in the early part of our relationship, my fiance has moved cities a grand total of four times–all for me. This includes time spent on both coasts and, recently, settling (permanently, we hope) in my hometown. The toughest part for me is the guilt that comes along with dragging someone all over the country and for us jointly placing my needs above his. I know this dynamic was once (and maybe still is) common for women, following men to school and to different cities as they sought better jobs. And my fiance never tries to guilt me about it, but I’m hyper-aware of his sacrifice and sometimes wonder where he’d be without me–without all of the disruptions to his career and social life. After every move it takes time for him to find his footing or a job and this move has been no different. I hope that putting down roots here will allow things to balance out in the long run, with him finding rewarding work and his own space here. I find myself on the other side of the dynamic from the writer here–and I have to say, I think it’s tough from both sides, but well worth it when you’re with your true partner.

  • EF

    Ooooof. yep. I get this.

    Met my partner when I was in grad school in the UK. I moved to Hong Kong afterwards, then back to the USA, then back to the UK to be with him. And it wasn’t until my best friend broke down and cried at Logan Airport, dropping me off for my flight to England, and as he said, ‘this time, it’s it. I feel like i’m losing a friend. you’re never really coming back.’
    He’s still my best friend, but he was right.

    The UK isn’t a huge cultural change, for the most part, but I’m starting to admit (4 years in…) that it’s really hard being an expat, it’s really hard moving for the guy, it’s really hard looking at your social network across an ocean and missing them terribly. I haven’t found my people in the UK, and it’s hard when you’re an introvert who is used to meeting people by drinking Sam Adams and watching the Sox together.

    I’m not great at coping right now. I went home to Boston for the first time in 2 years recently, and it was glorious, but really just told me that I wish I were there. I’m excited that I’m moving to London in 2 weeks…but. But. I want a career that I love. I want to be paid what I deserve. I want to be able to buy reese’s peanut butter cups when I’m sad.
    The UK government makes me renew my visa every 2.5 years, and will for at least the next 5. That means I can’t have a job contract that lasts longer than my visa. It’s incredibly infuriating and frustrating to me.

    I really hope others are coping better than me.

    • Lauren

      Sending you big internet stranger hugs. Immigration is rough, but you will make it through soon enough. Obviously you and your husband have your plans in place, but it sounds like you might need to move back to the US at some point. Is he open to that? As far as I understand the green card system, it seems like he might (in the short term especially) have fewer employment restrictions in the US than you do in the UK.

      • EF

        Yeah, sadly if we go to the USA, the clock re-starts on my being able to get indefinite leave to remain or citizenship in the UK. Complicating matters is he in no way can go without health insurance, so going to the USA would be tough and expensive. I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually ended up in canada, though.

    • Embly

      Ah, another masshole gone Euro side! :) I definitely feel you on everything you said. Especially about those Reeses.

      5 years ago I moved to Seattle from Massachusetts to be with my SO. It was hard, I remember being so stoked until the day before leaving, when I cried while my mom and I packed my things. She naturally told me to suck it up. Fair enough, I was the one leaving.
      I had some seed money for my new life but it ran out fast, and it was 2010, so the economy was still fairly crappy. My SO was in grad school, so it was his hometown or long distance, which we had already done for 2 years at that point. It took forever to adjust to the dark winters and rain. The people can be very antisocial there. I mastered making friends there and having my own life right before he uprooted me again.
      He finished his masters, then a PhD opportunity came along in Norway for him, where we are now. Like the rain and dark were a problem in Seattle. I laugh maniacally when i think about how much worse it is living in the rainiest city in Europe. I’m finishing my masters degree, which is an unpaid position, and i rely on him for entirely everything financially now. I don’t indulge in Facebook, so our friends often contact him only, it’s like I’m just an extension of him to them. I miss myself.
      He travels a lot and when he does I find myself more able to pull myself through the day with success and enjoy living in the moment. I should have known that chasing him across the globe would not satisfy me. I only seem to get job offers right before I leave a place. It just happened again today. I want that job, and be able to visit home to pay for my own friggin Reeses!!!!!!

      Trying to decide whether to move back to Seattle with him, or Massachusetts. Seattle was working right before I left, and Massachusetts is completely foreign to me now since I haven’t lived there since I was 19… I’m 27 now…

  • Gwen

    Yes yes yes! A thousand times yes.
    I moved to California from Canada (Ottawa and Vancouver have both been recent homes) in order to marry my partner. He is everything I knew him to be after 7 years of long distance, and more now that I have lived with and been married to him for 1.5 more.

    But I didn’t expect the challenges of getting a job, or how lonely I am when he is at work, or how gosh-darned accomplished I am when I navigate a new crazy freeway exchange (I hit my first full drive-by-yourself license last year). Or how battered my self-expectations are after not being in demand by grad school, adventurous friends (my husband is a homebody and introvert so no big network of friends to jump into), and work commitments. I’m smart and driven, but where does that take you when you live in new suburbs and don’t drink or drive?

    And yet I wouldn’t change the move for anything. I love love love my husband and living with him, finally.

  • Whitney

    I haven’t done the move yet, but I’m about to… in 2 weeks.

    We started dating in college (3 years), went to cross-country long distance during grad school (2 years) and have now done a much shorter long-distance – 90 miles (4.5 years). We just got married in April and I’m planning to move into his apt in Santa Barbara at the end of May. Just as I get there, he’ll be leaving for a three-week work trip… so we’ll finally live to together at the end of June. Any advice for the first few weeks/months of living together after being together for so long!?

    Where we’d be moving had always been a bit of a contentious topic. I don’t think either of us wanted to give up our lives and just trying to blend into the other’s city. Many of you have discussed how hard that is. Luckily, after a few short months in SB, we’ll be moving to a completely different place. He got a job in Paris and we’ll head out at the end of the summer. I’m really excited about the fact that we’ll be both be new on this adventure together. Though I know that will bring it’s own challenges.

    Thank you for all the advice about discovering who you are in a new city (especially when you move for the other person). Though it’s not exactly the same situation, I think it will still be super helpful to us when we become expats.

    Also, I can’t wait to live together after almost 10 years. FINALLY.

  • jenn

    i first read your columns on xovain and i’m so happy that your posting to this website.

  • Jle

    I’m planning to move cross country (and in with) my boyfriend next January and although I’m totally psyched about preparing for it I’m so so so nervous about settling into cohabitation, work life, and navigating a social life. I love my independence and security so I’m obviously very cautious about this decision, but I’m telling myself that this is a city with better job prospects than where I am currently and it’s a city I would enjoy being in should the relationship end. *knocks on wood* If anyone has advice for a young post grad, send it my way!

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  • Thanks so much for writing this down, makes me feel less alone! ;)

  • Bethany

    Totally agree with all you’ve said! Moving abroad to someone you love means you’re open to a change – regardless of what kind it would be. Just stay positive and open-minded and sooner or later you’ll see that things are going the right direction. Wish both of you all the best!
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  • Sarah

    I’m a little late on the discussion but I stumbled across your article and was amazed how perfectly you put to words the feelings I often find so hard to describe. I am from Ireland and moved to New York in 2013 in search of adventure and to further my career. I met my wonderful boyfriend just 2 months after my arrival. It wasn’t long before it became clear he was my perfect match.. It was like an epiphany moment hitting me with ‘so THIS is what love is’. From all the movies we watch you’d think that would be it, we have found each other, now we can live happily ever after. But I too was hit by the struggle to be my own person in this new place. I felt I depended on him for so much. My social group were his friends and although they made me so welcome, I felt like the plus one and longed for my own group of girl friends like I had back home.

    After 2.5 years it was the limitations of my work Visa and my longing to explore a new direction in my career that pushed me to move back home and begin the dreaded long distant relationship. My boyfriend will not be the one moving to me as he is in his dream job and I am in the field of design and can work anywhere (the only struggle being Visas). I am now building my portfolio on what you could call a creative break. I do not regret the decision to return to Ireland, I needed it for clarity in my work and in my life. But this move was a temporary plan and moving back to the U.S. to be with my boyfriend was something I am hoping I can find the strength to do. I am asking myself the same question every day.. Can I uproot my life for love? I fear life without him but I fear life away from my family and I fear life in a country and culture that still feels unfamiliar to me. My boyfriend is so patient. But I am still unsure what I will do. You are an inspiration to me and I hope to find your strength! Thank you for sharing your story.

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  • Wendy

    Hi my name is Wendy and I met the love of live over the Internet when I was 21th on one of the chat groups I can’t remember it’s been 8th since then n for various reasons we have never met but dated over the Internet some people called “cyber dating ” our was a bit different we chat everyday call txt like an actually relationship but far away you know. At some points it was hard and we struggle… but we manage to always pop in life after we date people or what ever. Idk I guess when u find that one person that u can connect easy you try to hold on. At this point we are still living in different states I live in Cali and he lives in Ohio .. after all this time we still are in love and feel the same way we want to be married. and we wants me to move to Ohio. Even tho I have great job here he has some good points about his job. Anyways I agree to move in july. I’m just super nervous… Your thoughts guys?