Tag Archives: Long-distance relationship

Long Distance 2.0

Can you believe we are already almost halfway into 2018? I certainly can’t!

This year has brought some major changes…drumroll…Mr Li has moved back to England to pursue a PhD degree, while I have stayed behind in Beijing.

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve done long distance – we had 2 years between Nanjing and Beijing/Hohhot. I knew that moving to another continent wouldn’t be as simple as being just a 4-hour high-speed train ride apart. In the olden days, we managed to see each other at least once a month. While we have managed to meet up twice in the first 6 months of our separation, the major issue I did not take into consideration was the time difference.

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Good night, England./ Pixabay.com

When I go to sleep, he is barely done with class, whereas when I get up, he is already in dreamland. This is making video chat sessions not the easiest thing.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that probably because of that difficulty, I am finding it a lot more difficult to live apart. Maybe I am getting old, or I’m just too uncomfortable with being alone – but his move has resulted in me cramming my social calendar with lunches, and drinks, and other meetups, just because I feel like I have to. I always knew I was quite a social animal, but recently I’m almost finding it concerning how I simply cannot go two days without seeing friends.

But it’s not all terrible – the space I am getting is making me try out new things, and rediscover old passions such as – hold on to your hats because I’m about to geek out hard for a minute – puzzles. I just love doing them, and I don’t care if it makes me sound like a pensioner with a pipe, it’s just too much fun.

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Should I stay or should I go? / pixabay.com

I was really struggling especially during the early months of the year with the question of where my life should be, and whether I should just call it a day and run back to Europe. However, at the moment, objectively speaking, there are just so many more reasons to be staying where I am. And Mr Li will be back by the end of this year for a stretch, so at least that’s something.

Right now, this is just another reminder that cross-cultural relationships like ours will often take place across two different countries – the irony being that in our case we kind of mixed up the countries. I never thought I’d end up marrying a Chinese man, who’d run off to England, while I’m stuck in Beijing. For now, that is.

Have you had similar struggles? Did you dare move back home without a job in place?

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Getting Through Long Distance Relationships

While I was living in Nanjing, Mr Li and I did a long-distance relationship (4 hrs on the high-speed railway) for two years. At the time, a friend asked for some advice on long-distance relationships. Now, I find myself back in one and remembered this post I wrote 2 years ago before I moved to Beijing. This was actually a great exercise for me to reflect on my own relationship. A lot of the things below we might do automatically, some others I found in my research and want to try them or do them more consciously.

Before we start, I want to say that not everyone can do a long-distance relationship, some people simply need to be in the same place as their partner, otherwise they miss them too much. In that case you should probably find a way to be together, even if it means giving up on something.

For those who can, want to or have to do it, I hope the tips below will help keep the two of you stay connected. Enjoy 😀

1. 100% Trust

The first and most important condition for any long-distance relationship is trust. When you and your partner are in different places, a lot of the time you do not know what the other person is doing, so you need to be able to believe that your partner is not messing about. If anything has ever happened in your relationship to make you suspicious of your partner, e.g. they flirted with or kissed someone else, then do not even attempt an LDR (long-distance relationship), as you will go crazy with worry and jealousy and it will most certainly end badly.

2. Build Closeness across the Distance

A big threat in LDR’s is the physical distance turning into an emotional distance. When you and your partner are far away from each other and do not share your lives, it is very easy to grow apart and fall out of love. There are a few actions you both can take to work against this happening.

2.1 Regular Communication

The absolute key is regular communication. I speak with my husband every single day multiple times, usually we video chat in the evening and during the day we send some messages via apps. Whenever anything exciting or bad happens, he is the first person I will message (or call if possible) and this way he stays involved in my life. Many LDRs I know started out fine and then suddenly communication got less and less until it was only once a week. If this is happening to you, you need to ask yourself (and your partner) if the relationship is over, as you two are obviously drifting apart.

2.2 Do Things Together Apart

The best way to keep that emotional connection is by doing things together, even if you are not in the same place. Video chat is a godsend for this. For example, you can cook together using video chat, each person making their own meal. Or you can both agree to watch your favourite TV shows at the same time. I think it is a great idea, though we have not yet done that, because it creates that normality of when you were living together.

Another great option is falling asleep together, or one of you falling asleep while the other stares at them creepily, haha. We have done this a few times and I have to say it is magical, it creates a really strong bond. Watching my husband sleep away peacefully like an innocent little baby is one of the most gratifying experiences video chat has to offer.

Finally, you can create a new bond by learning something new together, something that you can share and ideally it is connected to online. I have not done this before but I think it is a great idea and I now plan on learning Cantonese with my husband to test this out. He recently moved to Shenzhen and I have been wanting to continue my Cantonese classes for a while now. Let’s see how that goes!

3. When you Meet

Of course it goes without saying that you should meet your partner in person as often as possible within your financial possibilities. If you are in the same province you might be able to meet every two weeks, same country maybe once a month. If you are on different continents it obviously gets trickier than that. When you do meet, make sure to keep a few things in mind.

3.1 Prioritize Your Partner

Your partner has just come all the way to meet you and the two of you only have a limited amount of time together. You have to prioritise spending time with your partner over anything else. After all there is nothing more frustrating than taking a plane to see someone only to be told “Honey, I am hanging out with my friends tonight. See you later.” That might be the last time Honey comes to see you, my friend. Don’t waste people’s time like that.

3.2 Be Realistic

When you are unable to spend a lot of time together you often expect the little time you have to be super exciting and magical. Like a Disney movie. All fireworks and Happily Ever After. In reality, that is rarely the case. You are just human and very likely you will disagree on something or other. Going into these meetings with unrealistic expectations can set the bar too high and cause disappointment and unnecessary conflict.

3.3 Build Rituals

Actually, rather than planning an amazing bombastic meeting, you should be focusing on building rituals. For example, you always go to have lunch at that same restaurant the first day after you arrive in your partner’s town. This creates a routine and a feeling that you are still a “regular couple”, and gives you a sense of security and familiarity.

4. Appreciate the Advantages

I personally believe that the attitude with which you go into the LDR makes a huge difference. If all you are thinking is about how your partner is so far away and how lonely you are and how little you see each other, you will make yourself unhappy. Instead, enjoy the free time and space that you have now gained. Take up new hobbies, rediscover yourself as an individual person. Meet new people and expand your network.

By leading an independent life and becoming a more interesting person you will become even more attractive to your partner as well. After all, would you rather date the exciting person who paints or runs marathons in their free time and keeps telling you funny stories about their friends, OR the mopey, sad depressed person who sits at home just waiting for your call to tell you how unhappy they are?

5. Make Plans for the Future

Finally, while I do believe LDR’s can work with the right mind-set, they should ideally be only a temporary solution rather than a long-term situation. In order to give both of you the mental strength to pull this off, you need to have a finish line.

Make plans for the future, this will bring you closer together and show your partner that you are taking this seriously. This will also help in motivating you as it will give you a goal to work towards, e.g. if you are studying, after graduation the two of you can be together.

Most of all, stay positive and talk. Talk lots. Not just about how your day was but about thoughts, feelings, wishes for the future. I know many men are not keen on this but it is really important. Trust me.

Good luck! You can bridge the distance!

Laura

Marriage Limbo (Part 2) – Why I still don’t feel like a wife

As I wrote in my previous post, the rather sombre legal wedding and the fact that I still carry my old name around with me but not a wedding ring make me feel like I am in some kind of wedding limbo, where I know I am legally married but I simply don’t feel like a wife at all.

Aside from the aforementioned cultural differences, there are probably two other reasons for this lack of major life change feeling; one is that we still live apart to the dismay of pretty much all our Chinese relatives and friends, who simply cannot grasp the concept of a married couple choosing of their own free will to live in two places. That’s 21st century romance for you! #livingthedream. I mean we still have the rest of our lives to pester each other and assign blame for who ultimately messed up our future kids, so what’s the rush people?! In the meantime, we both get to work in seriously amazing jobs and find personal fulfilment, plus enjoying our freedom but without the hassle of having to go out on dates with weirdos because Chinese society feels we are nothing if we are single. Hooray to long distance relationships!

On to the final reason I do not feel at all like I am a married woman; it might just be down to genetics. I am a clumsy, confused schlub. Mr. Li has a saying for me, whenever my mind is preoccupied with other things or I do or say something silly he says I am “in the clouds”, and thatis true. I have my own little world in my head and quite frankly it is probably not the most grown-up of worlds.

A wife, or so Hollywood tells me, is someone sophisticated who can always wear high heels, looks gorgeous the minute she steps out of bed, throws amazing dinner parties with matching crockery sets and has a cooking island in her ridiculously clean, white and oversized kitchen.

I on the other hand cannot walk five minutes in anything but flats, have on occasion worn my sweat pants to the office because unlike in London, here that won’t necessarily get you fired (have I mentioned I love my job?!), my last dinner party ended with drunken videos of Soju-fuelled renditions of Ghost by Ella Henderson, which might be one of the most amazing songs of all time but should not, under any circumstance, be performed by myself, the killer of harmonies, and finally, my cooking island is neither clean nor oversized, nor an island for that matter. But it is white, so check on one of my wife list items.

Cheese salami mushroom spinach minced meat pancakeAt least I am capable of making this butt-kicking pancake, so one more wife point for me! Though come to think of it I own neither a whisk, a measuring jug or a spatula, making this a rather free-style effort. Oh dear, I have a long way to go…