Two years ago, I was drinking a margarita on a rooftop bar in Manhattan when I met a man from London. He was there with his fiancée, a native of New York. When I asked how they met, they taught me something important: starting a relationship long-distance is possible.
Here's their story: He searched for his highest match on OkCupid, and she happened to be on the other side of the world. But her profile made her sound so awesome, he couldn't resist messaging her. Once they hit it off online and other the phone, they started visiting each other. A year later, he'd moved to New York and proposed.
Soon after meeting them, I changed my OkCupid location settings from "within 25 miles of me" to "anywhere." According to online dating expert Julie Spira, this was the right move. "I think that singles have to cast a wide net and when it comes to love," she tells Bustle. "There shouldn't be any barriers. If you're only hoping to meet somebody who lives in your neighborhood, you're really leaving the opportunity for deep love on the table."
I'm so glad I got that margarita when I did, because nine months later, I once again found myself wondering whether a relationship could start off long-distance — for my own sake. While living in New York, I met someone from Germany on vacation. When we said goodbye in tears, he told me, "it's OK, we'll see each other again" — and I replied, "no, we won't." But then, I remembered that couple from the rooftop bar and figured maybe it really could work. Nearly a year later, it has.
Here's how I've managed to start off my relationship long-distance — and why you should go for it, too, if you meet someone you really click with in another part of the world.
You Have To Be Vulnerable
Aside from the money and time that traveling for your first, second, or third date requires, there's also an emotional obstacle: You have to admit that you really, really like someone very early on. When I started my relationship, I had a lot of ideas about what it means to get so invested in a relationship so quickly: that you're desperate, that you're not desirable enough to find someone in your own country, that you're really just in love with the idea of the person, etc. I had to turn off all these thoughts and remind myself that really, I was just exploring a strong connection, and the travel was adding to my life, not taking away from it.
Technology Is Your Friend
Of all the limitations there are on long-distance relationships, the amount of time you can spend talking shouldn't be one of them. There are a ton of free, equally effective alternatives to texts and phone calls, like WhatsApp, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Skype.
Buy Your Tickets ASAP
When you're in a new relationship and it's unclear when you're going to see each other next, the whole future of the relationship can look bleak. Just getting plane tickets, even if they're for months into the future, reassures you both that you're still dating, even if you haven't been on a date in weeks.
Learn The Art Of The Love Note
People like to talk about how some conversations are better in person, but some are actually better over text or email. My partner and I have an easier time opening up over writing, and some of our most heartfelt messages — including the initial one that convinced him to travel for our first date — have taken place over email.
But Make Sure To Check In Through Voice, Though
The same openness that's allowed us to declare our love for each other over email has also led to some of our most vicious fights. After one day of exchanging angry emails, I called my partner, and we immediately apologized and laughed about how we wished we were in his apartment fighting together. Sometimes, all it takes to diffuse tension is to hear each other's voices.
You May Have To Meet Each Other's Family & Friends Virtually
If you put off the "meet the parents" or "meet the friends" date for a point when you can meet up in person, you're missing out on a valuable way of getting to know your partner. Instead, arrange a video chat for when one of you is with family or friends.
Be Patient & Trust That You'll Figure Something Out
Finding a way to be with my partner wasn't too hard because I work remotely, but I also know people in less flexible situations who made it work. A friend of mine was long-distance with her boyfriend for three years because she didn't want to sacrifice her job. By the time she had three years of experience under her belt, her company let her work remotely because they didn't want to let her go, and she could've found another job if they didn't. Not everyone's life can be uprooted right away, but people move for love all the time and make it work.
“I think, in any relationship, if I don’t feel honored and made important or prioritized by my partner, that’s not going to be a long-lasting relationship where I get my needs met,” Jeffrey Sumber, MA, MTS, LCPC tells Bustle. “Whether it’s a relationship with your partner living under the same roof or a long-distance one, we all need basic needs met and need to feel special and valued.”
People can be very down on long-distance relationships, but I wouldn't trade mine for the world. It's allowed me to both grow on my own and spend time with someone I love. And the fact that it started out long-distance just means it gave me motivation to see the world.