How to Manage a Middle-Distance Relationship

Stay in touch…
This one is a no-brainer. Luckily, living in the age of technology makes staying in touch a lot easier. IM? Skype? Text? Phone calls? A good ol’ fashioned love letter? Find what method(s) work best for you, and make use of them. Neither my boyfriend nor I are overly fond of talking on the phone, so we text each other funny tidbits throughout the day and keep an IM window open at night. We save phone calls for the more important conversations that sometimes come up between visits. It all comes down to personal preference, though, so mix and match and find more creative ways to stay in contact (tin can telephone, anyone?). The trick is keeping each other involved in your daily lives, but without feeling like you’ve got to give a blow-by-blow account of every second of it.

…But not so much that you distance yourself from the here-and-now.
Beware, though, staying so glued to your phone or computer that you forget to engage with the present. It’s really easy to go out with friends but then accidentally spend the whole time texting your significant other (I’ve been guilty of this myself, so trust me, it’s something to be avoided.) Enjoy your friend time. Odds are you’ll see your other half in a few days anyway.

Send each other stuff.
Because nothing is more awesome than getting home and finding a t-shirt adorned with zombies waiting for you with a note pinned to it saying, “From your secret zombie admirer.”

Plan ahead.
Yes, it takes some of the spontaneity out of things, but planning can be a necessity. My boyfriend and I found that between both our weird schedules, we found that our time together needed to be scheduled or it wouldn’t happen at all, and I’m sure we’re far from the only couple for which this is true. This may sound a little like overkill, but you know what works really well for this? Google Calendar. That way, you can both see when your days off overlap ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Stay for a few days.
Depending on how much time and money it takes to make the journey, day trips can be problematic, so see what happens if you spend two or three days together at a time. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be attached at the hip for those two or three days– but when your time together is limited, sometimes it’s better even to see someone for five minutes before you go to bed than not at all.

Remember that it’s not the end of the world if couple time gets interrupted.
Shit happens. It sucks, but it does, and sometimes plans get interrupted by other things. The key is not to get bent out of shape about it. One missed date does not a disaster make.

Gentle Gloss reader Jessica is in a situation similar to mine; she and her significant other live a train ride apart. Jessica weighed in with us on the pros and cons of her relationship: pros include looking forward to Fridays even more than usual and getting one and a half extra hours for reading during the train ride; cons include dreading Fridays even more than usual and getting one and a half extra “me time” hours. And therein lies the rub: middle-distance relationships are full of contradictions. This is true for any relationship– how many times have any of us found ourselves in that “I love it but I hate it” zone?– but I think it’s especially true for distance relationships for the very reasons Jessica points out. Carrying off the balancing act of work vs. friends vs. life vs. relationship gets even more complicated when the relationship takes a hefty chunk of time and money to maintain. But if you CAN pull it off, is it worth it? Of course. Life may be a roller coaster, but it’s an adventure too, and even if they don’t go as planned, adventures are always worth exploring.

What about you? Anyone else in a middle-distance relationship? How do you cope?

In need of a fun date? How about hopping on a train and visiting somewhere you’ve never been? Find someone to catch a ride with your at our dating page, brought to you in partnership with HowAboutWe. You never know, it may turn into a ‘middle-distance’ relationship.

You can reach this post's author, Lucia Peters, on twitter.
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    • Ashlee

      I too am in a middle distance relationship. My boyfriend is from my hometown, but he goes to school and lives an hour and a half away. But for basically the first four months of our relationship, he was living five hours away for a Co-op for school. And here in a little over a month, he’s moving to Germany for six months. The distance doesn’t really phase me anymore, we’ve grown used to it. Typically, we’ll text on and off during the day, between classes. And like you, keep our facebook chat logged in for the evening. We see each other at least every other weekend, he’s very generous and sweet about making the drive despite being a poor college student. Recently though, our communication has started to become strained, so we’re going to try the talk on the phone thing.

      It is very frustrating knowing that you’re relatively close to someone, but not WITH them. But if both of you are dedicated to communicating and putting in effort, it’s very doable.

    • Erin

      I feel like my relationship is sort of on the cusp of middle and long distance (2.5 hours), but I really enjoyed both this piece. Lucia does a great job at pointing out hints, many of which we’re already doing and I think are working for us so far. I definitely find it’s often equal parts frustrating and liberating, and the thing that worries me the most is what happens down the road. At 7 months in neither one of us is considering making major geographic changes…but I also feel that for long-distance to translate to long-term something’s gotta give. In the interim I’m hoping we continue to make it work as we have been so far.

    • joofie

      It’s nice to see something out there on this topic. My girlfriend and I have both recently moved back in with our own families, and are currently situated about 80 minutes apart by public transit. We are each looking for as much work as we can find as we wait for news from graduate programs.

      With that said, I wonder if The Gloss could use a part-time or freelance copy editor, as this article is marred by a series of grammatical errors. My service is available.