Asking for a Friend

Illustration by Billy Lawson

Submit your anonymous sex and relationships questions to Em Chan here

Question: “The person I’m in love with lives on the other side of the world. What is the best way to deal with this?” — Long-distance longing

Dear Longing,

The “L” word is a strong one, especially toward someone so far away — as someone who has navigated their own long-distance relationship, it’s definitely a difficult situation.

Before getting into how to navigate long-distance love, I have to pause and talk about how you phrased your situation as “the person you’re in love with” being far and not that the person is your partner or lover. 

Depending on the actual relationship you share with this person, the situation can be broken down in a few ways. 

If this is a one-sided love, you’re in the tricky situation of either holding out or moving on. If you two prioritize being friends first, I would recommend taking some time to objectively weigh the pros and cons of staying friends or pursuing a relationship.

If you’re simply holding out because you’ll be going back to wherever they live, consider whether waiting to see them to pursue a relationship is worth it. Also keep in mind whether the person you’re interested in will still be single when you visit or willing to coordinate dating long-distance. 

The thing about distance is that it’s easy for nostalgia to manipulate our memories. Before you take a step into dating, consider: If missing them is already so difficult, are you willing to continue pining for them and counting down the days until you can see them again? 

Holding out for long-distance relationships takes an incredible amount of time, effort and planning to do well, especially once you factor in time zones and the expense of travel plans. Are you mentally prepared for holding all this time and energy for them? 

If you’re already dating this person, I would make sure you have a day or two scheduled throughout the week to really connect. Sure, a text, Snapchat message, voice message or whatever you use can suffice, but to keep your bond strong the best practice I know is to get as close to in-person as you can. You may still be separated by a screen, but being able to receive and give full attention through a video call is really the closest you can (physically) get. 

I would recommend coordinating travel plans to see each other as far in advance as possible – that way, you and your partner can save money and have a reunion to look forward to. Of course, being across the world from them means airfare and other travel will be expensive, but at least you’ll have time to save up and splurge when you see them.

My favorite saying is that “love is logistics.” With that sentiment in mind, you have to frame maintaining your relationship as you two working against the world if you don’t make the time to communicate, build and cherish the relationship you two have, it will fall apart under the strain of distance. 

If you decide to pursue or continue a long-distance relationship, it can be rewarding despite all the obstacles you and your partner face. When you miss them, you’re reminded that, with the precious time you have together, you can’t take your partner for granted. Working through the daily tribulations, counting down the days, making plans and then finally seeing them at the airport or wherever you’ve arranged to reunite is a feeling (from my experience) akin to your heart bursting out of your chest from excitement. When you two are reunited, overcoming the distance will (hopefully!) feel worth it.

It's difficult to establish a connection strong enough to survive long distance, nonetheless across the world, and I hope it works out.