With me being back in the United States, we’re back to being in a long distance relationship for the next few months. In some ways, it makes things easier — when I’m in the US, I have all of the comforts of home, time with my family, and access to the best city in the world: New York.
Yet, I’m also missing out on sharing each of these experiences with the person I’ve chosen as my partner in life. It’s hard.
We’re lucky, though. Our relationship started long-distance, both our platonic and, later, romantic relationship. When we met, I lived in New Jersey and Gustavo lived in Rio. Yet we stayed in touch, getting to know each other via hangouts, well-aligned travel plans, and Whatsapp.
When we actually started dating, however, it became more challenging. In a relationship, you choose to share your lives with each other in a way that’s much more intimate than most friendships. Up until last October, we never really had the opportunity to spend the majority of our time together, living with each other, and sharing the most mundane things on a day-to-day basis.
Now that I’ve been able to spend the last five consecutive months living with Gustavo, it’s been a little bit easier. We’ve been able to develop a routine together, work through some of the hard points of life together — and life in Rio, so now when I’m here, I have something to compare it to. I know the parts of life in the US that I miss and I know the parts of living with Gustavo that I miss. So until I can bring the both of them together, I get to enjoy a little bit of both, one at a time.
How do we do it though? The internet is our savior. (I mean, literally, it’s the field we both work in, so it’s literally how we pay for our flights to see each other.)
We’ve gotten into the routine of texting each other via Whatsapp as soon as one of us wakes up, which is usually me since I’m always the first up, regardless of timezones. Gustavo is also really great about sending video messages, particularly when he travels, because it’s an easy way to connect via body language without needing to set aside a specific time to chat. Travel is hard because there are always a lot of competing interests and it may be difficult to find two times that overlap.
Aside from that, though, we also pretty regularly schedule Google Hangouts with one another so we can chat about our days. The phone is great, sure, but being able to see each others’ faces makes all the difference. Plus, then we get to show each other cool things we’ve found or changes we’ve made to the house. When it’s for a long period of time, too, we also try to set up a time to watch a Netflix series together. We leave Google Hangouts open and do the countdown to press play. It’s pretty cute, even if it takes so much longer to finish the series.
While I can’t really return the favor (thanks Correios), Gustavo sometimes sends gifts or flowers via Amazon Prime when we’re not together on a special day or even just for fun. It’s a nice reminder that he’s thinking of me and, honestly, not something we would do together in person outside of bigger holidays. But without in-person carinho, things like little notes and candies certainly do the trick of feeling cared-for.
We’ve also used apps like Without to send little notes and have a countdown from the last time we’ve seen each other. We also used Life360 for a while to help communicate when we got home safe. I used to get super anxious if Gustavo was out late in Rio (because Rio) and he’d almost always forget to message me when he got home (because exhaustion), so this was our way of making sure we knew the other was safe and sound.
We also track flights through sites like Google Flights or Decolar to see if we can find cheap airfare to cut down on the time apart. For example, I was originally only supposed to stay in New Jersey this time until April 15th, but Gustavo was able to find a pretty cheap flight — and I was thinking of staying longer anyway — so we ended up changing our travel plans a bit. It requires a lot of flexibility that we’re particularly fortunate to have, especially with our jobs, but it helps to be creative about solutions until we’re both in the United States.
It’s never easy, but then again, no relationship is a breeze all the time. Being apart requires planning and being much more attentive to our communication because it’s not a default part of our everyday life.
Yet, when we’re in this situation, I do feel lucky since we’re front-loading some of the hardest stuff in our relationship. We’ve been through 5,000 miles of distance for months at a time, international moves, immigration, language barriers, and culture shock all within less than two years. Yet, somehow, we’re still going strong. And if that doesn’t make me feel confident in us, I don’t know what will.