In a few weeks you will be leaving your home and unceremoniously replanting yourself somewhere you have never been. Chances are your SO isn’t going to the same place. The distance might be 50 or 500 miles, but in any case the relationship dynamics are about to change and whole new set of minefields are going to pop up for the two of you to navigate.
First of all you have to totally upfront and honest with each other - is this worth it? It can be far less painful to admit either that a long-distance relationship (LDR) is not for you, or that you think you’re just not stable enough as a couple to handle the inevitable hardships.
Having spent an extra year at home and watched my friends break up over common problems that weren’t talked about before shooting off to uni, I’ve decided to create a list of things to discuss and think about before heading into an LDR.
This refers to those financial and distance related problems that are going to have an impact, but often aren’t thought about, and pushed into the giant abyss of ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’ (SPOILER - it’s too late by then).
- Budgeting. At uni, it is common for students to set out a weekly or monthly budget for food, accommodation and the bus fare. It is easy to forget relationship costs. It may be deeply unsexy, but it’s necessary to plan to sacrifice a significant amount to cross-country travel, presents, eating out, and ‘spontaneity’.
It is useful to look into the coach services or booking train services a month in advance. Take advantage of the internet; look into free activities in the area. Also work out the splitting of costs over all. Will one of you be paying for travelling and other pay for food during the trip?
- Schedules. Right now, you know where your SO is going to be the majority of the time. You guys had a set routine and knew when to randomly call, and when not to bother. That’s about to change. The settling in period at university can be extremely random at times. They can’t do that Skype session because they’re sleeping all day to recover from a society night out. It will probably be a few months before there is a set routine again, and that can put a strain on your relationship. Anticipating it already puts you ahead of the game. However don’t worry if your routine is different from your flatmate and their SO. If it works for you, then it’s fine.
Many of my friends broke up due to not communicating their expectations about where their relationship was currently at, where it was moving, and how it would change with the distance. Some believed nothing would change at all. They didn’t work out. Those who did talked beforehand. It is also important to talk about the ‘semantics’ of cheating. Are you the kind of couple that are naturally flirty, or is talking to another girl in a particular way unacceptable?
- Time for each other. There can be a vast disparity between two people’s ideas about how much time they need to set aside to talk, meet up, or even watch a movie simultaneously over Netflix. One friend, on an extremely intensive course, was totally fine with not talking for days, even weeks on end to study, whilst their SO was more of a ‘catch up every half day’ kind of person. This is what led to their break up three months in. It is important to talk about how you expect your hours to work out, and how intense your year will be at various points, e.g. exams. Understanding what the big contact blockers are ahead of time helps massively.
3. Long term goals
- Views. Are you on the same page on the REALLY BIG things? Do you unequivocally not want children, and have known all your life? How do you feel about a traditional wedding? How would you split finances if you lived together? If you discover that you feel very differently about the core issues in your relationship, well, you may have found out earlier than everyone else, but you’re now a lot more prepared for what your life with that person would look like in a decade.
- Individual goals. Even if you don’t know what you what to do with your life, you probably know the kind of person you are by now. You could be very career orientated, and willing to move just about anywhere or drop everything for it, Perhaps you are more ‘career till family’ or ‘go with the wind’ kind of person. Talking to your SO about what you want for yourself is essential, because you may find that your individual paths from now on can never realistically cross.
4. WHAT IFFFF
- Lastly, it’s a good idea to play the ‘what if’ game. This may sound trivial, but running through as many distance-related problems as possible, and discovering what is and isn’t a deal breaker, can save a lot of hassle in the long run. For example, would it bother your boyfriend, if you, living in a flat of all boys, had no one to hold back your hair but them while you throw up into the toilet after a horrific night out? It will surprise you what values people hold over what may seem like the most minor of incidents.
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