Relationship Status: Long Distance/Career-Driven
Written by Hillary Kirtland
As a woman who also prioritizes her career, I get it. You’re focused so much on your career ambitions, personal goals and professional development that following a romantic partner can be, well, not a priority. As careers become more global, so does the need to travel for work. Sometimes this means traveling every week for a client. Sometimes this means traveling to another city for a promotion. Sometimes this means traveling to another country for a special assignment. What does this mean for those of us that want to have it all, and a little romance too? Enter, the long-distance relationship.
Between work, higher education, and personal travel, I’ve been anywhere from an eight-hour drive to 14 time zones away from my romantic partner. I’ll be the first to tell you that long-distance relationships are hard, but there are definitely ways to make them work. So what do you do when your hustle and your partner are not in the same place?
1. Choose deliberately.
First and foremost, think through what you’re getting yourself into and weigh all the trade-offs (because there will be plenty). Make this a deliberate decision to do a long-distance relationship, and go in whole-heartedly! If the potential benefits don’t outweigh the potential hardships that come with maintaining a long-distance relationship, it’s not worth it just to have one. Ultimately, you’re responsible for your own happiness, but your significant other can—and should—enhance the happiness you’ve already created for yourself. Know what you need from the other person (and what you can realistically give) before you take this particular leap of faith.
2. Communicate frequently.
Communication should be daily, but at the very least, it should be consistent. How you achieve this is up to you. Many people like to FaceTime over dinner. Others may pick a time to have drinks and a phone call. Some prefer the communication to feel more organic, like random texts and frequent (but brief) phone calls throughout the day. Most weeknights, my partner and I try to be available to talk at some point between the end of our workday and before going to sleep. On weekends, we find that trying to maintain a variety of conversation topics (outside the normal “How was your day?”), keeps us looking forward to our time together. Whatever you and your partner do, make sure you’re communicating on a frequent and consistent basis. If you can do this, you’ll be setting a solid foundation for your relationship.
3. Budget wisely.
It’s no secret that the big-ticket items in a long-distance relationship are travel related. The best ways I’ve found to be as money-conscious as possible is to maximize my work travel.Sometimes we make plans to meet in the middle by visiting friends and staying with them. Other times, we alternate family holidays. The most important thing I’ve found is that long-distance couples should “go Dutch” on everything. This way, everything is evenly split, and you know that no one is more financially burdened than the other. But, this isn’t limited to just the big-ticket items. Being meticulous about splitting date nights, groceries (when you have a week or more together), movie rentals, or even something as small as parking reminds you both that you’re in this together; that you both chose this relationship and you’re both invested in its success.
4. Fight honestly.
Arguments are easy to sidestep in a long-distance relationship. You want your limited time to be special, and you want to enjoy every fleeting moment that you have. However, it’s absolutely imperative to have all the difficult conversations as they arise. Don’t ignore them! Be afraid to disagree with each other or admit you’ve been hurt by something your partner said or did. If you don’t, these conversations will inevitably get bottled up more tightly than they would in an in-person relationship, because it’ll never be a “good time” to revisit a difficult discussion when you don’t have enough time together in the first place. If you and your partner truly want a long-distance relationship built on mutual trust, love and respect, the hard conversations are just as important to have as the easy ones.
5. Have fun.
It's always important to have things in a relationship that make you (and your significant other) feel special, excited or wanted, but those things can be a little more difficult to come up with when you’re apart for long stretches of time. Here are some things you can do together even when you’re not together:
Make a Google Sheet for all your vacation ideas: when you would go, how much PTO you would need, holidays that overlap, etc. Throw all your crazy vacation ideas in there and make it as creative as you like. Don’t think of it as a list of commitments, but instead fun things for you and your partner to look forward to and consider down the road.
Have a jar and fill it with something to equal the number of days until you see your partner again. Remove one every day so you can see just how close you are getting to seeing each other. I once had one filled with chocolate kisses, so I could have a chocolate kiss every day until I could get a real kiss in-person.
Try sharing a travel journal that you contribute to every time you see each other. Write things about what you like, what you did, how you felt, what impacted you the most, etc. Whoever takes it home after the trip can continue to write in it, and you can read it together during your next meet-up.
Try a shared interest. For us it’s a shared Audible account. Although my partner and I may listen to different books most of the time, it gives us a new topic to explore. You can have intellectual conversation and get different perspectives on topics you may never have otherwise broached.
Pick a movie to see at the same time in your respective cities. Then, plan a phone call to talk about it as soon as you get home. When my partner and I do this, it almost feels like really being on a date—even if we’re 3,000 miles apart.
Pick a TV show to watch together. This creates something to look forward to and it can last over several weeks. You can both get excited about the plot, try to predict outcomes and debate about whose favorite character is best.
At the end of the day, the most important part of a long-distance relationship is to prioritize each other. Some days it's hard – especially when you can’t sleep after a bad fight – but make the effort to not let each other slip through the cracks. You've chosen this path; now it’s up to both of you to make it work. People in long-distance relationships actively, consciously and deliberately choose each other all the time. They remind themselves the sacrifices are worth it, and that they are worth it to each other. There is nothing in the world more beautiful or romantic to me than to be someone’s choice, every single day. Keep your hustle, keep your dreams and fall in love with the opportunity to have it all.
If it’s the right person, it’s the right choice.
Hillary works as a Senior Strategy Consultant at IBM. She found her passion for her new job in the two years she took off work to pursue a full-time, Global MBA degree at George Washington University in Washington DC. She is driven by her constant curiosity and her truest love is for travel and adventure. Outside work you can find her playing in two of the local DC kickball leagues, taking Jiu Jitsu, boxing, and yoga classes at her gym, reading a book, or binge watching a new show (Currently obsessing over Outlander, because Jamie).