While the internet is almost widespread available and Facetime or Whatsapp standard tools we daily use you would think that a long-distance relationship is easy these days. We don’t need to wait 4 months or longer (who knows) to receive a letter. Even though you can be in touch almost every day and see each other on a screen, loneliness will still strike. If you find yourself in an LDR now you are probably dealing with tons of questions on how to make this relationship work. You are not alone!
In any relationship you face challenges but intercultural couples and couples on long-distance relationships are facing ups and downs of their own. The good news is: it is possible. Ignore people trying to convince you that it won’t work out, trying to protect you from heartbreak. Also, deal with stereotypes. I have heard them all. Your heart knows what is right for you, follow your intuition even when it seems impossible and lonely since you probably get very little support.
I have been there. I know how it feels. The endless lonely days and nights. The days of running around legalizing documents, collecting stamps, endless queues, going back and forth between one office to another. Twice. In his country, and in mine. Waited patiently for 3 months to get a passport, traveled 2000 km to another city to apply for a visa, waiting for it to come back and having the passport stolen out of our own house on the same day, starting every single step all over. But we didn’t give up. We found shortcuts and, eventually, we made it.
Luckily we are now happily living together in the same place and I am telling you, we never take it for granted. Your patience and struggles will be rewarded. I know every situation is different and some countries make it really, really hard: keep going. Step by step. Let me get over a few obstacles with you so you are well prepared to get this relationship to work out. You can do this!
Like Mandela said: ‘It always seems impossible, until it’s done.’
Long Distance Relationship Problems
You don’t really need me to tell you that communication is key, however I could not write this article and leave this part out. It is the foundation of your relationship. In any relationship but in a long-distance relationship even more so.
Miscommunication is common. Even with your neighbor next door. Can you imagine how this could affect you and your partner with miles in between and perhaps lost in translation? Misunderstanding arises in every situation, whether in speaking or writing. It is good to be aware of that. Our feelings, culture, the channel being used for the message, and the location are all part of how we perceive the message.
Worst of it all is when miscommunication leads to a fight. It is terrible to have a fight with your partner on the other side of the world when you can’t see each other in real life to fix the issue.
When my partner and I were separated for the first time, he wasn’t always responding to my messages. In my country, social apps were daily in use, but in my partners’ country, there was not even a proper internet connection and no smartphones. I felt sad and started to worry when he didn’t respond to my messages.
I learned a whole bit when he told me once: ‘I am not used to this. I have never been writing messages daily on my phone. Here we just visit each other if we have something to tell. I need to get used to this and I need time.’ It was so obvious and after living in his country before I could have known. I needed him to tell me this, to really get it.
What I am trying to say here is talk with each other and try to understand each other’s background and upbringing. Think about the words you use and how they are perceived. Ask if something is not clear. Make a schedule and have a virtual date night, block out time in each other’s calendar.
There is no quick fix to avoid loneliness. If you are in love you want to be with that person. Everything else in the world seems less important, and you are not interested in anything else. Try to get your life back on track. Don’t revolve your life just around your partner. Go out with your friends, invite them over, weeping alone at home is not going to get you any further. Go out, even if you don’t want to. Start a new hobby, go help someone or volunteer: it is important to get busy and always stay true to yourself.
If you get too busy, it could create another problem. Life can be hectic. If you both work full time and have a social life you sometimes end up without talking to each other. It is important to make time. Of course, you don’t need to talk to each other every single day. But you need to make the effort and block out time. Also, make a plan together when you will meet again. It could keep you going through the darkest moments of loneliness.
What I found interesting and supporting is the help of online communities in similar situations. Just google or search around the net, you will find out so many people in the same situation. It could help to not feel alone in all this, and sometimes you can even make a new friend in a similar position or with a partner in the same country. It could help you understand cultural differences and you can advise each other on the steps to take. Meanwhile, time is just passing and bringing you closer to the day you are meeting your partner.
#3 Cultural & Language Barriers
You think all you need is that one universal language that you speak: LOVE. In the beginning, you won’t even notice the cultural & language barriers. Mind you, eventually, you will face barriers that come from the unique different backgrounds you grew up with. Even if you both speak the same language but have a different understanding of communication, there will be challenges.
Respect each other’s background, upbringing, and embrace the differences. If you are open-minded you will understand and accept the differences. I always say being in an intercultural relationship means having the best of both worlds. While it can be challenging I see the differences and language barriers as an asset. We are enjoying two different cuisines at home; we enjoy extra festivities with the local community in the host country, learning unique languages and traditions. Generally speaking, we learn every day about the world and its history by understanding the background of our countries.
Attempt to learn each other’s languages. As a native Portuguese speaker, my partner spoke very little to no English so I learned Portuguese and now my partner is studying my mother tongue. But whatever language you speak, the most important thing is to think about the words you use and how they are perceived.
Being in a multicultural relationship sometimes means that someone is leaving the family behind. That is a tough decision and something you carry with you every single day. Years could pass without having the possibility to visit family. You feel alienated because you don’t really seem to fit into the new society. At some point, it could feel you have traded your family for your partner. You can even blame your partner for it. Stay connected with family and friends back home and support your partner in staying connected. I ask my partner daily ‘Did you talk to your parents?’ and however natural this comes to him, I see that still sometimes this is a small reminder during our hectic life. My partner does the same and checks up with me. Just as important, try to connect with people in your new country. Not only with the family of your other half, but try to build your own network of friends/colleagues.
#4 Trust & Jealousy
Trust is fundamental for a healthy relationship. You have to be motivated and build trust. Again trust can mean different things to different people and because of certain life experiences you can struggle to trust. Trust increases each time a partner makes the other feel heard and respected. Since you are miles apart, trust is essential. You need to have faith. It is not only about being faithful to one another, it is actually all about believing in the best intentions of your other half.
There is no other way. Love is a bet. But while you’re at it, go for it 100%. Make the commitment to trust your partner. No one said it would be easy, and you know that. Dating someone on the other side of the planet surely is a challenge. On so many levels. You will get frustrated, feel sad, and lonely at times. At times? Sorry, probably most of the time. Missing the presence of your other half and not being able to bring a quick visit is hard. Not knowing when you will meet again is frustrating and depending on migration laws is discouraging. People will get tired of you whining about your sweetheart but show them the outcome, prove them wrong!
#5 Lack of Patience
It is so easy to throw in the towel when you are done waiting. Having and keeping patience for an unknown amount of time is hard. Learn to wait. Not that you have an option but practice it in the little things. Be mindful and look at the bigger picture. Work towards that dream you have of being together. Make a plan in the long term. Think about where you both heading too. Where will you be living? How to get the paperwork right? There is so much to think about and to plan.
#6 Nothing to Talk About
When you run out of stuff to talk about, things could get awkward. It doesn’t make sense to be on the phone while not talking, right? That is soooo old fashioned. Nowadays you can watch a movie together online. There are tons of apps offering this service. Also, there are plenty of online games you could play together. So you don’t always need to speak. The most important thing is to create a sense of normality in difficult circumstances. Set up a virtual date, a double date with friends, or meet family online.