Long distance marriages/relationships suck. There's just no getting around it. It's hard on both parties and anyone who tells you otherwise is either (a) lying or (b) delusional.
However, there are some good parts to it. It has forced Dr. Man and I to really work on our communication skills. We've gotten more tolerant to each other's moods and have learned to let some things go (eg. neither of us are at our best when stressed). We also value our relationship a lot more than we did previously. This isn't to say that we didn't value it before, but we now really know how important it is to both of us and how willing we are to keep it.
With these things in mind I've been thinking about the best tips I've received in dealing with a LDM (I received most of these either in real life or in anonymity, so I'm not crediting anyone here, but if you would like be credited let me know!) and what I've found. So, I figured that I'd write about it here in true Ladies' Magazine style.
Tip 1: End the conversation when there is nothing left to talk about.
This may seem obvious, but it isn't. Many times you feel that you have to keep talking for hours a day to make up for not being around each other. This isn't true. Just sharing your day/thoughts/feelings is important and if it only takes twenty minutes, so be it. Staying on the phone long after the conversation is over just leads to fights.
ETA: N commented below about using Skype. I think it's excellent. It sounds like a good way to hang out without forcing a conversation!
Tip 2: Share the mundane details of your day.
Yes, having a new thing for lunch or getting into a minor territorial argument with your Labmate sounds minor. But you would probably share such things with each other normally and not all phone conversations have to be deep soul-searching ones. Plus, just knowing these simple details help make you feel closer (even if you geographically aren't).
Tip 3: Let the small things go.
This was the hardest one for me to follow. People get cranky when they are stressed (well, maybe not all people, but most people that I know) and can act out in stupid ways. So, if you snap at your Significant Other or s/he snaps at you, take some time to figure out if it's really worth arguing about or if your S.O. just had a really rough day. Many times it's the latter and being on the phone or email makes it hard to discern between the two. This leads me to my next tip...
Tip 4: Give your S.O. the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe your S.O. sounds like s/he is reading you the riot act while talking about things like (including the following, but not limited to): budgeting, time spent visiting one another, buying of cards for families, or where to spend the holidays. Maybe s/he is just tired and is thereby sounding cranky. It is always better to kindly inquire as to whether or not s/he is really cranky or maybe s/he should just get more sleep. This is much better than the following approach: “Why the f*ck are you blaming me? If you want X/Y/Z done and you're not happy with the way I'm doing it. Then do it your own damn self.” Or something similar.
Tip 5: Enjoy the time you have together.
This was very important. Sometimes it's easy to spend the entire time you are together focusing on how much it sucks that you live apart. It sounds silly, but despite being warned Dr. Man and I found ourselves doing this a lot. The times you are together have to get you through the times that you aren't, so enjoy it! Even if you are just lounging around during the weekend focus on that and not what happens come Monday.
(ETA 2) Tip 6: Ideas for things to do together, while apart.
I'm adding this after reading some more comments below and I'll add to it as I think of more ideas.
-Play games together online. Facebook is great for this. Also, Yahoo! Games. This is also great for conversation fodder.
-Plan your visits. Is there a new restaurant in your area? Or maybe a good hiking trail? Planning your visits together gives you both something to look forward to.
-Plan vacations. This is something Dr. Man and I did. We both liked planning our time together and vacations were even better. Since we tend to pick locales that give us limited internet access we were really able to get away from everything and have a stress-free time.
This may or may not help other people in a similar predicament. But, at the very least, I'd like to think that this experience isn't a complete waste.
Labels: LDR, Unsolicited Advice