The time has come for me to return back to Boston and leave Lukas in Hamburg. As much as we think it will get easier, it never does. We’ve been doing this for the past year and a half and we like to think we’ve almost mastered the art of a long distance relationship and making it work. We still have small outbursts of tears right until we’re at the airport and the first few days apart are always a lull of loneliness where everything we do and everywhere we go seems so bland without each other to enjoy it with. That definitely doesn’t get better over time.
Location: Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Photo by Christine Florea.
After spending every single day doing everything together it’s definitely a strange void when you’re back by yourself and I feel like I have absolutely nothing to do now, trying desperately to make myself busy. I quit my job before heading to Hamburg and aside from my family and friends, I felt I didn’t have much to come back to. Lots of cleaning and writing this time. Lukas is putting his spare time cleaning and working out.
As we say our goodbyes to each other for some time I wanted to share some of our tips and tricks we’ve adopted that help us maintain a happy and fulfilling long distance relationship while we’re apart and some milestones we’ve had to overcome while together.
- Share. Share Everything! When we’re not together we obviously miss a huge part of each other’s day and we make it a point to tell each other everything, even about the things that seem silly or random thoughts one of us may have. It helps us fill each other in on what’s happening, to feel like the other partner is there in some way. The number of memes and Spongebob Squarepants references we send to each other daily would probably look crazy to some but we’ll never stop. It’s fun!
Location: Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Photo by Christine Florea.
2. Have common goals and plan a big reveal. Lukas and I both have goals to be in better shape by the time the weather really warms up. And as we’re not seeing each other every day, it makes it a fun and easier time to focus on our own health and fitness. Then when we do see each other in the summer it’s exciting to see how far one has come on accomplishing that goal! This works particularly well if we have the same goal because it also lights a small competition and extra motivation under our butts.
3. FaceTime. This one seems obvious and it works for some time but increasingly less in my experience. For the first eight months or so this worked really well for us. We would set up FaceTime when we were both home and talk, eat, work on our computers just to have the presence of the other one there. We then slept together on FaceTime so when I came home from work (my time: 6:30 pm, Lukas’s time: 12:30 am) I would eat dinner and such while Lukas was sleeping in the background of FaceTime. I would then wait until he woke up (my time: 12:30 am, Lukas’s time: 6:30 am) before falling asleep myself. As time went on and the more moments we actually spent together the FaceTime sleep schedule wasn’t really working as well and certainly was not a replacement for actually being together. Now I sleep with a stuffed animal that Lukas sprayed with his cologne and we’ll do more frequent but shorter Facetime calls (audio and video) throughout the day. The longest nonstop Facetime session was almost 48 hours. This involved multiple notes left taped in front of the camera if the other one ran out for groceries, laundry etc.
4. Lots of pictures! L and I adopted the habit of taking more photographs everywhere we go now. When we’re together we take tons of photos of each other and our surroundings (many of which become part of blog posts) and we have shared photo albums via OneDrive and Google Photos. We also have done photoshoots with professional photographers to make sure we have tons of photos together! We’ve had photo shoots in both Boston and Vienna. It’s a bit of a financial investment but we absolutely love having the photographs to look back on. For our first Christmas together I gifted Lukas a red leather photo album that was foil stamped “Rebecca & Lukas Volume One” and inside put tons of photos from that year together. This is now something we put together at the end of every year and we make sure to take and collect tons of photos for our albums now. We switch off who has the albums. Since I was the one who last traveled to Lukas he currently has two albums and I have an album that preserves all his love letters. This is also a really great way to see how we’ve aged over time!
5. Care packages. Who doesn’t love to receive a care package?! Lukas and I don’t send as many as we would like (it’s expensive to ship so many things overseas!) but it’s always a fun surprise. We typically send candy that the other one doesn’t have access to. Example: I love Haribo’s Primavera and rice chocolate bars that they don’t sell in Boston and Lukas enjoys Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies and York Peppermint Patties.
6. Don’t leave a fight unresolved. Particularly last year Lukas and I found ourselves in a lot of arguments via FaceTime. We have pretty different political views and the 2016 US Presidential Election brought out the worst of it. Lukas is not a US citizen but he is very active and interested in politics. I am not this interested in politics but I have opinions which I can back up and I can and do vote. We had a lot of fights. I cried a lot. We both got angry and irritated with one another. It was taxing on our relationship and we really weren’t sure if it would ever end. I am more the one when things get heated to just step away, let them cool down and hope it’s all gone by the time we talk again. Lukas is more the one who continues to talk, both of our emotions in full swing until we come to a resolution (or agree to disagree) and calm down with hopefully a better understanding of where the other person is coming from. This was extremely hard over FaceTime. Without being able to feel your significant other’s body language and “aura” on the situation, you lose a lot of unspoken truths and feelings about the discussion you are having and that really affected us when we were fighting. We were rarely angry at each other but irritated with the fact that we were having such trouble understanding one another and I believe the lack of body language we could not feel was a huge factor in that. When we are together we rarely argue to the length that we do on FaceTime. And Lukas was right in this scenario – keep talking until you try and reach an understanding and why you are angry and/or irritated. Don’t go to bed angry with each other.
7. Talk about your future together. This may also seem like an obvious one but it’s really important. When you both have active lives in different countries it’s a really big step to merge together. As we met in Boston I was pretty set in the beginning that Lukas should come to Boston and we will live happily ever after. As our relationship went on I realized right now I am the one who is more flexible than Lukas and his opportunities are in Germany at the moment. I may not know German but I can learn. I can also write and work with clients from there whereas Lukas’s law degree is really most valuable only in his country for now. When big opportunities arrive for me that may bring us somewhere else, I imagine we would then go together when that time comes. I used to be pretty selfish in this department but I’ve changed my views a lot, especially after living in Hamburg for some months.
8. Share your dreams. All of them! Not just the ones that involve your partner. How did you picture your life before you met? Did that change? What are all the things that you want to accomplish? Lukas and I both have a lot of dreams and extremely high expectations for ourselves. I saw another view of Lukas by the things he told me wanted to do at one point and still might. What he wrote when he was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” in Kindergarten and so on. Another way to do this getting to know each other’s friends and family well. Lukas has met most of my friends and I’ve met quite a few of his over dinner and drinks. We hear stories (sometimes embarrassing ones!) that give us another look inside the person that we love and who they were before we knew them.
9. Learning and accepting cultural differences. Again, this was a lot harder for me than for Lukas. We met in the US and Lukas speaks English fluently. He has a real fascination with US history and politics and fit right in with my family. He may not have known the art of drive through ordering but he wasn’t afraid to try! He also wasn’t afraid to dive right into his first Thanksgiving and made a special Austrian dessert for my family to enjoy. I had a really hard time when I went to Germany and Austria for the first time and met his parents and grandparents. I didn’t speak a lick of German, was embarrassed about trying to speak it and didn’t know anything about how to properly eat the food or what kind of coffee I was ordering. It was humiliating, I kept quiet too nervous to say anything and didn’t leave the best impression. I’m still learning about the German ways (and I’m sure I will be forever). Last semester I took “Intensive Elementary German” where I passed but still felt somewhat clueless. I am much more trained in food and know our local Edeka pretty well now! I’m still learning and there is a lot more to learn about his family life and Austrian ways but I am a lot more open and willing to learn and accept the humiliation of trying new things than I was. This was a big stepping stone for both of us but our relationship really improved once I wasn’t scared to try. I may not be very good at any of it but trying was the biggest lesson!
Me last year: “Wow this is…something” *pushes it around with a fork and takes one bite* | Me today: “I wasn’t expecting this, will you show me how to eat it properly??” *makes a mess trying to be neat but it’s not so bad!*
10. Say “I love you.” Beyond cheesy, but true. You can never say it enough! Especially when apart we send more and more messages whenever the other one pops into our thoughts throughout the day. It’s the best way to relieve any stress your partner might be having at work or a tough time being apart in general. Since I can’t get his forehead kisses and Lukas can’t get my back massages, saying “I love you” everytime he knows I need one is the next best thing.
I guess as we go into our next time of being apart it feels good to write this down for my own reference as well. Any additional advice you would add for getting having happy long-distance relationships?