To Be or Not To Be (Together) : Long Distance Relationships

If you have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend and are planning on spending time abroad, you’ll have to face The Question: whether you should stay in the relationship during your trip or take the opportunity to be single and independent. Reasons for ending the relationship  before studying abroad can range from the hedonistic (“I want to meet foreign hotties”) to the healthy (“Spending time without a relationship will help us both grow”). Make a list of pros and cons if you have to: this decision will definitely impact your experience in the coming months.

First of all, take a moment to think about it: if you’re serious enough about this relationship that you would consider trying long-distance while abroad, then it’s probably the ideal time to spend some time independently living your lives to see if your romantic chemistry will outlast the experience.

It’s trite because it’s true: If it’s “meant to be”, you will get back together. I know many happily married couples who found their future spouse at a young age and took time apart before finally deciding they were right for each other. Choosing to end a relationship with such positive reasoning and intent can be a very mature and healthy step in your lives, regardless of what happens in the future.

Whatever you choose, your decision should be made to help you have the best possible experience abroad. So no matter what, keep in mind: this is YOUR time. Sharing your experience with others is a joy, but ultimately it is your perspective and your life that will be most altered by your time abroad.

Making It Work

So…you thought long and hard, you talked it out and asked for advice and finally decided…you’re staying together. Now what?

Everyone’s relationship is different. You two must decide beforehand how much contact you want to have and then respect that decision. It’s important to establish this before you leave so there will be no hurt feelings if one person wants more contact than the other.

Talk to past students to find the best ways to keep in touch with home, or find your program at and read the reviews for tips. If you have access to Internet, emails (even quick short ones) are a great way to keep in touch, for both longer letters and little updates. Writing letters can be romantic and a great way to spend your free time while waiting for buses or enjoying a cafe. Share the little things to let them know they’re on your mind: send postcards or small souvenirs (flyers, ads, newspaper articles) in your letters. Send a “good morning” text just to say hi and wish them a lovely day. To connect over something that you can both share, write about a favorite memory or plans for what to do when you get home.
If you make appointments to talk, IM, or Skype with your significant other, do your best to keep them and try to let the other person know if you’ll be late or missing. If you think being stood up is hard, try it when you spent four days with zero contact and no idea what adventures the other one is out having. It’s important to be understanding and patient with each other during this time, especially since long-distance fights are complicated: email and text contact can cause misunderstandings and limited contact means that you’ll both have to find a time to work things out.
Maintaining a relationship from abroad is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. If you have a strong relationship built on trust and communication, the distance can add to your bond rather than break it. Stay positive, work together, and most of all, take advantage of your time apart to spend more time with friends and go on more adventures! Good luck!