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Sara, from Toronto, and Paul, from Vancouver, met at the destination wedding of mutual friends. They had no idea they'd be coming away with their own spark and, after keeping in touch for two months, a new relationship separated by thousands of kilometres and three time zones. Neither had been in a long-distance relationship before, but they made it work for eight months before Sara decided to move to Vancouver.
"Our relationship is no different than a same-city (or province) relationship. We still need to be communicating and we still need to have the same goals and outlook on life," says Sara.
Long-distance relationships do come with challenges, but if you've found the right person, it's worth it! Here's how to keep your sanity and make it work.
You may not be in each other's day-to-day lives physically, but keeping in regular contact should be important. Don't go for days without at least an email, text or phone call. There are so many ways to say "I'm thinking about you" to your sweetheart – even if you're busy.
When your honey is in a different time zone, you may need to be more proactive about planning. Sara and Paul often scheduled phone calls into their days.
Use technology to your benefit
Take advantage of texting (and maybe even sexting!) to keep in touch on the fly between phone calls or Skype dates.
You can also use technology to connect – and see your special someone's handsome face – for longer periods of time. Sara and Paul sometimes turned on Skype and left it running for hours on weekends while they did laundry, cooked or ate supper. Being on Skype "made it seem like we were ‘physically' closer and a bigger part of each other's weekend," says Sara.
Visit as often as you can
"Frequent visits and keeping up momentum is an integral part of making a long-distance relationship work," says Andrea Syrtash, a dating and relationship expert and the co-author of It's Okay to Sleep with Him on the First Date: And Every Other Rule of Dating Debunked (Harlequin, 2013). "Otherwise, it may be easy to forget you're in a relationship!"
Sara and Paul were able to schedule visits around long weekends and travel for work. The longest they went without seeing one another was about six weeks.
Have something to look forward to
It's important to plan visits you can look forward to, says Syrtash. Even if you don't have a visit coming up immediately, just having something booked is positive and feels much better than looking ahead to an abyss where you don't know when you'll see each other next. If you're on opposite sides of the world, it may be longer between visits, but you can still count down together to the next major holiday or meet-up.
Maybe you have a gift to send your partner in the mail as a surprise and you can't wait to see his face. Remember, small gestures are also worth looking forward to.
Honesty is key in any relationship, whether near or far, but Sara says it was particularly important for her and Paul to be up front with each other.
"We agreed to be completely honest with one another from the get-go and not beat around the bush if there were issues or second thoughts. It helped to make me confident that if there was a problem we could address it right away and move on with things," she says.
Dating long distance can be difficult – don't be afraid to express your frustrations with it to your partner when you need to.
Make time for your partner
Sara says she and Paul had an "unspoken rule" about picking up the phone if the other one called, even if they were out with friends. They didn't necessarily chat for long, but they were able to catch up and connect.
"I really liked this... It didn't take a lot of effort, but still made me feel like I was a priority and in the loop with what was happening in Vancouver," says Sara.
You don't always have to "go big"
"Remember to find normal, low-key hang time when you're together," says Syrtash. "Long-distance couples have a tendency to stay cooped up at home or play tourist and plan over-the-top dates for their visiting mate, but it's just as important for people in this relationship to see each other in the 'real world.'"
It's fine to stay home and do laundry or catch up on work emails. Putting too much pressure on each visit can be stressful and unrealistic.