When you are in an intercultural relationship, chances are the two of you will come from different countries. While this is incredibly exciting, it can also mean that the chances of you ending up in a long-distance relationship at some point in your lives are much higher. Especially where Chinese men are concerned, there is an expectation for them to return to their hometown and be dutiful sons by looking after their parents. However, it might not be an option for you to follow him into a third-tier city, where realistically the only way of making money is by being an English teacher. If you do decide that you want to be together – you just can’t at this point in your life – here are a few suggestions from my two years of being in a “slightly long distance relationship.”
1. 100 Percent Trust
The first and most important condition for any long-distance relationship is trust. When you and your partner are in different places, a lot of the time you do not know what the other person is doing, so you need to be able to believe that your partner is not messing about. If anything has ever happened in your relationship to make you suspicious of your partner, then do not even attempt an LDR (long-distance relationship), as you will go crazy with worry and jealousy and it will most certainly end badly.
2. Build Closeness Across the Distance
A big threat in LDRs is the physical distance turning into an emotional distance. When you and your partner are far away from each other and do not share your lives, it is very easy to grow apart and fall out of love. There are a few actions you both can take to work against this happening.
2.1 Regular Communication
The absolute key is regular communication. I used to speak with my husband every single day multiple times. Usually, we would video chat in the evening, and during the day we would send some messages via apps such as WeChat. Whenever anything exciting or bad happens, he is the first person I will message (or call if possible) and this way he stays involved in my life. Many LDRs I know started out fine and then slowly communication got less and less until it was only once a week. If this is happening to you, you need to ask yourself (and your partner) if the relationship is over, as you two seem to be drifting apart.
2.2 Do Things Together Apart
The best way to keep that emotional connection is by doing things together, even if you are not in the same place. Video chat is a godsend for this. For example, you can cook together using video chat, each person making their own meal. Or you can both agree to watch your favorite TV shows at the same time. This creates that normality of when you were living together.
Another great option is falling asleep together, or one of you falling asleep while the other stares at the other creepily. We have done this a few times, and I have to say it is magical, it creates a really strong bond. Watching my husband drift away peacefully into sleep like an innocent little baby is still one of the most gratifying experiences video chat has to offer.
Finally, you can create a new bond by learning something new together, something that you can share and ideally be connected online for. I have not done this before, but I think it is potentially a great idea.
3. When You Meet
Of course, it goes without saying that you should meet your partner in person as often as possible, within your financial possibilities. If you are in the same province you might be able to meet every two weeks, the same country maybe once a month. If you are on different continents, it obviously gets trickier. When you do meet, make sure to keep a few things in mind.
3.1 Prioritize Your Partner
Your partner has just come all the way to meet you, and the two of you only have a limited amount of time together. You have to prioritize spending time with your partner over anything else. After all, there is nothing more frustrating than taking a plane to see someone only to be told “Honey, I am hanging out with my friends tonight. See you later.” That might be the last time Honey comes to see you, my friend. Don’t waste people’s time like that.
3.2 Be Realistic
When you are unable to spend a lot of time together, you often expect the little time you have to be super exciting and magical,,, like a Disney movie, all fireworks and happily ever after. In reality, that is rarely the case. You are just human and very likely you will disagree on something. Going into these meetings with unrealistic expectations can set the bar too high and cause disappointment and unnecessary conflict.
3.3 Build Rituals
Actually, rather than planning an amazingly exciting meet-up, you should be focusing on building rituals. For example, you always go to have lunch at that same restaurant the first day after you arrive in your partner’s town. This creates a routine and a feeling that you are still a “regular couple,” and gives you a sense of security and familiarity.
4. Appreciate the Advantages
I personally believe that the attitude with which you go into the LDR makes a huge difference. If all you are thinking is about how your partner is so far away and how lonely you are and how little you see each other, you will make yourself unhappy. Instead, enjoy the free time and space that you have now gained. Take up new hobbies, rediscover yourself as an individual. Meet new people and expand your network. By leading an independent life and becoming a more interesting person, you will become even more attractive to your partner as well. After all, would you rather date the exciting person who paints or runs marathons in their free time and keeps telling you funny stories about their friends, or the mopey, sad, depressed person who sits at home just waiting for your call to tell you how unhappy they are?
5. Make Plans for the Future
Finally, while I do believe LDRs can work with the right mindset, they should ideally be only a temporary solution rather than a long-term situation. In order to give both of you the mental strength to pull this off, you need to have an endgame. While there are people for whom LDRs simply aren’t an option, I’d not give up that good job or that great place just yet. Give it a try, and you might surprise yourself!