Here at Team Gloss, we’ve written about the middle-distance relationship before. This sort of relationship is hardly a new phenomenon, it seems that the term itself is just coming into being. The term is even new to me, and I’ve been in one for a year and a half (I’ve been referring to it as a “mid-distance relationship,” but I think “middle-distance” glides off the tongue better). To how many others is this a new thing?

Here’s my situation: I live in Brooklyn, and my boyfriend lives in Jersey. By Jersey, though, I’m not talking about a section right outside the city and easily accessible via the subway extension that is the PATH; no, I mean the shore, which is a little more than the proverbial hop, skip, and jump away. The New Jersey public transportation buses do in fact go there, but it’s still an hour and fifteen minute ride in either direction, and that’s at its shortest. Depending on traffic… well, let’s just that it can get epic. Not as epic as a cross-country flight, but still pretty epic; and according to TheGloss’ proposed definition, that makes it a middle-distance relationship.

Relationship expert Chiara Atik of HowAboutWe says of the middle-distance relationship:

“I think especially for young couples, Middle Distance dating can actually be ideal. It gives you the freedom to concentrate on work and see your friends during the week, but you still get to see your significant other on weekends with relative ease (and the distance isn’t so great that you can’t make exceptions to the weekends-only regimen.) It’s a great alternative to the stifling, ‘always together’ mode of a lot of other couples immediately fall into, and allows the relationship to develop naturally and healthily without the immediate loss of individuality.”

I find this for the most part to be pretty accurate. When my boyfriend and I first started seeing each other, the distance meant that we weren’t able to overdose on each other the way so many couples do in the early days of a relationship. Where it DOES start getting complicated is when you’ve been together for a while and would dearly love to have more time with each other than you do. Does it suck sometimes? Of course. It can be tough knowing that we can’t just randomly decide to meet up for dinner one night. In some ways, I think it may even be harder than it would be were we in a cross-country relationship: it can be a weird sort of torture to know that we’re actually pretty close TO each other, but not close enough to SEE each other. We also both have atypical work schedules, which means that we can’t always rely on the weekends being free– and yes, sometimes that means several-week-long dry spells. But it’s no one’s fault; it’s just the way things are, so we roll with it.

How, you say? Like every relationship, what works for one couple may not work for another, but here are some things I’ve learned about maintaining a relationship over a somewhat awkward distance and strategies for how to cope with it.

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.