My name is Alex, and I'm an LDR survivor...

by - February 12, 2014

In a nod to Valentine's day this week I thought I'd talk a bit about my surviving a long distance relationship (LDR) and how we came out on the other side happy, in love, and married!

I don't want the hows and whys of our meeting to be the focus of this particular post, but for those who don't know us, the short version is a friend of mine talked me into adding Kevin on Facebook, we talked for a few months and became friends, he came to visit, and we *really* hit it off and after a couple more months of just chatting we decided to officially give the long distance thing a try.

It seems like LDRs get a lot of flack. People saying they can never work and aren't worth it.

Well let me be the first to tell you they can work and if it's the right person then it is absolutely worth it!

I'm going to take you through a few of the key points that I think helped Kevin and I maintain a successful long distance relationship for just over two years.

1. Communication - I count myself lucky in that since my soulmate happened to be from halfway across the world, at least we found each other in such a digital age. We also were fortunate to both work desk jobs that required near constant use of a computer. When we started talking it was just on an instant messenger client and Facebook. It was these early days of talking that we really got to know each other even though we had never met. We'd stay up late discovering strange coincidences about our lives, trading YouTube videos of childhood shows, talking about our day, and anything else that seemed worth sharing. We formed a real friendship, which I think is the basis of any romantic relationship if you expect it to last!

After his first visit to the States, we graduated to Skype. I think for a couple of people that can be insecure at times, this was much easier after we had met face to face. First we'd Skype on weekends or when he was up late (as there is a 6 hour time difference!). Now I'm about to out myself as a complete sap...or weirdo here...but we eventually started just leaving Skype connected almost constantly. We even set it to answer automatically so if one of us noticed it was disconnected the other could just call right back. (Of course this connection was closed when Kevin went into work as he had a work laptop, but I'd leave my computer open at home and he'd call while I was at work after he got home and be waiting in my room so to speak).
One of the times it connected when I wasn't home

In fact, a couple of times I think it scared my mom when she was at home and could hear strange noises, only to discover Kevin had called but fallen asleep before I got home and was just snoring on my computer! It sounds silly (and probably even verging on creepy) but honestly the near constant connection on Skype I think is one of the things that made us feel like a part of each other's lives despite being an ocean away!

Skyping with a Tiger!
Showing off the gift I got him

2. Visits - I know that the frequency of these will depend on one's personal situation, distance, finances, etc. I was in St. Louis and he was in it was not cheap to see each other! We did pretty good, averaging seeing each other ever 3-4 months. I was very fortunate to have a great boss that let me rack up comp time to take a few extra days here and there in addition to the reasonably generous vacation time I was already given.

Top of the Arch in St. Louis
His first baseball game!

Gardens at Buckingham Palace

The visits were always really great, jam-packed with exciting moments, lots of eating out and other date type activities, and really a vacation. This is an important distinction to make, because although visits are great and wonderful and so much fun, you have to remember that real life isn't like that. You're cramming in (in our case) three months of not seeing each other in person and so it's very skewed and we're on our best behavior so to speak. We did a lot of touristy, travel things that we just don't hardly do now as real life has taken over. It makes for really great high moments when you're together that make times you're apart feel *really* low.

Visiting Tower Bridge
Cloud Gate in Chicago
Eiffel Tower in Paris

You can ask my mother, I was always a wreck after dropping Kevin off at the airport. I'd come home having cried the whole time at the airport and the whole drive home. Or when I had visited I'd come home having cried off and on the entire trip home. I did find the trips when we already knew the dates of the next visit were a little easier, but at the same time with each trip our relationship got more serious and saying goodbye felt a little more like I was actually losing a piece of myself that was meant to be intact.

The tiger was still sad, even that time he got his own seat!

3. Silly/Romantic gestures - I think these are important to any relationship, but especially when you go long periods without seeing each other. On Kevin's first trip, one of the last things we did before his original flight home (which was delayed a week thanks to the Iceland volcano, but that's a story for another post another day!) was we made each other stuffed animals at Build-A-Bear that we could hug when we were missing each other. It's a bit cheesy, and he may be really unhappy with me for sharing this, but I think it's adorable and those tigers got a lot of hugs in the time we spent apart.

The Tigers on their "bear-thday" (Build-a-Bear is cheesy so I will be too!)

Another tradition we started was leaving a note to each other hidden somewhere to be found after we had said our goodbyes. They were sappy a mostly filled with 'I already miss you so much' and 'I can't wait until the next visit' but it was really sweet and nice to have that final surprise after leaving.

One trip Kevin even took it a step further...and left me a note hidden that he told me where to find when I was having a particularly bad day at work. I had taken him up to the office to show him off help me move desks at work and he hid a post it note behind a filing cabinet. One day when we were chatting and I had just found out I didn't get into a film curating master's program in London he told me where to find it and it was just such a nice sweet gesture.

We also did a lot of more materialistic exchanges. Always sent gift boxes/care packages for Christmas/birthdays/Valentine's. I had so much fun shopping for him and wrapping everything up and trying to tease him with hints about what was in the box. Then we'd open them together on Skype and it was just almost like we had just handed them the gift. He also sent flower a few times.

Valentine's Flowers
Anniversary Flowers
(Bonus, the green post-it on the right is the surprise cheer me up note. I kept it displayed for anytime I needed a boost!)

4. Planning for the future - Finally, it is true that a long distance relationship won't work if there's no possibility of being together in the future. If neither party is willing to relocate (or both to a third location) then it just can't work. Although the tips and stories I gave you above can help to facilitate a LDR and keep a relationship happy within the circumstances, it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to continue that indefinitely. Now the length of time can be adjustable. It takes some couples longer or shorter to be able to make the necessary life changes.

I knew from the beginning that if I could find a way to the UK I would want to move here to be with Kevin. I already loved London from my time studying abroad, and had even said that if I ever did a master's program I'd want to do it in London. Although we began talking about the possibility of marriage just a few months into the proper relationship, we also wanted to see how we'd fare living in the same city rather than just the fairy-tale visits. So I worked and saved money and applied for a program through my undergraduate school (as I knew they would accept me!) and set wheels in motion to spend at least a year in London with the plan to reevaluate during that time what we wanted to do in the future.

We got to fly together when I moved here!
(Don't let it fool you, I used almost all of Kevin's luggage allotment as well as my own!
Obviously I was hopeful I'd be staying!)

It turns out we decided that we didn't want to go back to long distance and that marriage was the right step for us anyway, so we got married and I stayed.

I think relationships take a lot of compromise. If you're in a LDR and you want to continue, then I think one of these compromises is for the couple to find a way to be together in the same place. As long as you know this is an eventuality (even if it takes awhile) then I think with a bit of effort from both partners a LDR can be a great starting point for a lasting relationship. And a bonus is that with all the communication you have to be doing you will know a lot about each some cases probably more than a couple that sees each other everyday!

So if you find yourself in a situation where you're apart from the person you love for an extended period of time, don't listen to the naysayers who think the long distance thing can never work. If you love each other and try, it can definitely lead to great things!

(Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!)

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  1. LDR's are beyond hard! I am so happy to see someone that made it! Before my husband and I got married I lived in Atlanta and he in Florida - about 6 hours. Not too far, but far enough.

  2. You two are adorable! I have a friend who also survived a LDR with a Brit. Now they are happily married and living in London. :)

  3. SO sweet. You seem like such a nice couple, and completely in love :) LDR's totally work, some great pointers here for anyone going through a similar situation!

  4. Your story is so wonderful. I think that I'm hopeful that I could survive an LDR simply because I know one couple that it did work for.

    Thanks for sharing your story again.

  5. Thanks everyone for the kind words!

  6. ahhhh this is such a lovely post. I love your story. It's really made me smile. It realy is proof that if you are with the right person, anything can happen.

    I've just found your blog and I'm loving it so far, I plan on going back and reading a load more of your old posts.

    I'm your newest bloglovin follower.

    Jenn | PhotoJennic