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Ways to Spice Up Your Long-Distance Relationship
The Basics--Skype, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime?
My boyfriend and I had only been dating for about three months when he left for college, three states away, in Atlanta, Georgia. Suddenly, I found myself having just graduated high school, on a giant campus where I'd never been before, thrown into a long-distance relationship. To say the situation was overwhelming would be an understatement. However, this is the same situation many people find themselves in when school or work force them to temporarily part ways. Long-distance relationships are stressful and difficult to maintain, but as someone who just successfully completed three years of one, I have become quite skilled at thinking up new and interesting ways to keep the bond across states.
**Before you can do any of the activities suggested in this article, you have to find a video chatting option that suits your needs...
This is an absolute must and, better than that, it's free. There are so many different options that make it more than possible for long-distance couples, or even just friends, to keep in touch. While it won't replace that feeling of having a warm body to hold onto, I have found that it is the next best thing. Skype was the chosen application of my boyfriend and I's three-year long-distance relationship, but we also tried out Google Hangouts, as well as FaceTime.
FaceTime: FaceTime is nice if you both have iPhones and Macs, but it is a very basic application that does not allow for many different options. For this reason, we did not stick with it. FaceTime is a nice option for having short video calls on the go, but not practical for many of the activities I will be listing below.
Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts is a fun video chatting option because it has lots of little features that are fun to mess around with. For example, you can play mini games together, or even doodle. It is also interesting toy around with the photo effects, but navigating to it and setting up a room can be confusing and inconvenient.
Skype: In my opinion, Skype is the best option for keeping in touch with your significant other. It is an application that can be used on all types of formats: Mac or Windows--even Ubuntu (a form of Linux) as I discovered. It is easy to use, takes very little time to set up, and has many features that allow you to screen share, transfer files, and type instant messages. My boyfriend and I found that Skype fit all of our needs, so it was open almost constantly during the three years we were apart. If you're looking for the simplest way to stay in touch, I would advise downloading Skype immediately.
8 Fun Activities to Keep Your Time Apart Interesting
Now that you've chosen a video chatting option that will allow you to spend time being face-to-face, here are some fun activities that I have discovered over the years. Of course, depending on your interests, you can think up any number of great ways to keep in touch, but these are just a few I found to work...
1. Friday Movie and Pizza Nights
I didn't begin doing this until the last year of my long-distance relationship, but it turned out to be a really fun idea that we still continue now, even though we're together. Basically, every Friday night we would pick out a movie to watch together and order pizza delivery. After all, who doesn't like movies and pizza?
Plenty of couples have movie nights, and there's no reason distance should prevent this from happening in your relationship. In fact, any movie you want to see can be found online, free of charge, on sites like MegaShare and Putlocker. Then, all you have to do is open Skype, set up the show, grab a slice of pizza, and you have a great way to spend a Friday night together.
Another fun thing to do during holidays, like Halloween and around Christmas time, is to have themed movie weeks/weekends. My boyfriend hates scary movies, but for Halloween, he caved and let me create a list of seven horror films. The week of Halloween, we watched one movie everyday after we'd finished our homework. That way, even though we were apart, there was something fun to look forward to each day.
2. Couples Who Play Together, Stay Together
Another activity that filled a lot of our time apart was playing video games. While you may not be a big fan of gaming, whether you like it or not, it is a great way to make memories, even from hundreds and thousands of miles apart. I wasn't a huge gamer myself, but once my boyfriend left for college, I purchased a PS3 so that we could play together. Gaming consoles can be price-y though, so computer gaming may be a more affordable option as there are a great number of free games for both Mac and Windows users.
When we first entered into our long-distance relationship, I had a Mac and my boyfriend had a PC. This made gaming difficult, because not many free games are offered on the Mac. Initially we relied on PS3 games--Modern Warfare 3, Black Ops 2, and Little Big Planet--but eventually I dual installed my Mac with Windows so that we could play other games. If you find yourself in this situation, a number of college campuses offer Windows to students at discounted prices that are quite affordable. However, regardless of your platform, the options for online gaming is almost endless.
3. Follow a Series
Similarly to the Friday movie and pizza night suggestion, following a series is another fun activity to do with your significant other. My boyfriend and I ended up having a few too many and they became difficult to keep up with, but having a series or two is a great way to maintain a shared interest and makes for nice conversation.
We each picked a show we wanted to watch, and everyday we would watch an episode before bed, or while we ate dinner together over Skype. This kept us constantly looking forward to finding out what happened next, and we would spend hours afterwards just talking about how we felt about it. Picking something to watch consistently is a great way to find a common interest that can be developed and maintained.
If you need ideas for what to watch, here are some categories of shows that we ended up picking...
*YouTube Abridged Series
4. Activity Book
For Christmas, my mother gave me a book called "Me, You, Us--a Book to Fill Out Together". It was a fun-filled activity book full of topics that you could answer and discuss over Skype. The pages had things like, "the story of how we met" and "a pie chart of how we spend our time together". I would take some time every night with my boyfriend to fill it out together. I presented him with the topic, and together we would discuss how it should be answered. I'm the creative one in the relationship, so I got to decorate the pages.
There are many different activity books out there that are similar to the one my mother gave me. These books can be simple and fun topic starters that will constantly remind you of why you're fighting to get through your long-distance relationship.
5. Read Together
It addition to the hundreds and thousands of games and movies that are available to you, there are probably twice as many books. While books are not cheap or free, a small investment offers hours of potential bonding and entertainment. With some research, you can find a book in which you both share interest, or even alternate by taking turns picking your next read.
For me, this activity was easy and free of charge, because I have spent over half of my life writing my own books. By the third year of my long-distance relationship, I had completed two of the eight books in my series, and I must have read them to my boyfriend two or three times each following my most recent edits. He really enjoyed hearing me read my stories, and it was an easy topic to discuss because, as a writer, I love hearing feedback. Of course, this can be done with any book, regardless of whether you bought it from your local bookstore or wrote it yourself. Reading is a great way to keep up a relationship.
An interesting and creative idea I came up with when my boyfriend first left for college was to create personalized journals. I traveled to visit him about once a month, so initially we would write in our separate journals and, each month, we would trade journals whenever we were together. That way, I got to read his entries and then add a few of my own, whether they were responses to entries he had already written or completely new topics. It was a fun way to share some of the thoughts we had while we were apart.
For us, the journals did not last more than three exchanges, because we found that we talked too much to come up with entries. With all the time we spent over Skype, there was nothing to write about that we hadn't already discussed during our time together. However, this is a great option for couples who do not have quite as much time to spend together over Skype and want something to look forward to at the end of that eventual visit. It didn't make leaving after a nice trip any easier, but it was a great way to calm myself during those crying spells at the airport.
7. Cook Together
How is this possible, you might ask. How do you cook together if you live in different states, or even countries? It's actually pretty simple. You pick out a recipe you both wanna try, you carry your computer into the kitchen while Skyping, and you simultaneously cook it together. Afterwards, once you've eaten it, you decide who did it better. This is especially fun for those cute, competitive couples. In addition to being tasty, it's a great way to learn new recipes. After all, learning to cook while you're in college is as good a time as any. Whether you like cooking full meals or just baking delicious treats, cooking together can be incredibly fun and rewarding. Once you're done with being long-distance, you can use the skills you've learned to cook together in person.
8. Special Trips
You knew this was coming. If possible, it really helps to have something to look forward to. In my experience, I have found that looking at the time in chunks makes being apart much more bearable. If you look at the period apart as a whole, like mine for example, three years can be quite overwhelming to think about. By making trips whenever you can, it gives you both something smaller to work towards. For my boyfriend and I, we made trips about once a month, on special occasions, such as birthdays, Thanksgiving, Spring Break, and Valentine's Day. Each month, we had a running countdown that would tell us how much further we had to go, and for the last year of our time apart, we each had a custom calendar to hang on our walls. At the end of every day, we celebrated by crossing another day off on the calendar, until finally we reached the end goal--May 7th, 2015.
Of course, there are many factors that may limit travel, such as work, money, or situation (military, etc.). But even just one trip a semester can make a long-distance relationship so much easier. Military situations can't usually be helped, but if your problem is work or money, there are steps you can take to overcome them.
Work: I have never encountered this problem, but my boyfriend did. While he did not have a job, he did have a lot of school work and could not leave campus. Due to his situation, I was always the one who traveled to see him, because my major/school was much more lenient in allowing me to travel, as long as I got my work done ahead of time. If you find yourself in a difficult work situation, it is usually an option to either take time off or have the other person come to you.
Money: With today's economy, money is a problem for many people. I was blessed enough to have saved money over the years and have parents who had the means and desire to help me in any way they could. However, most people are nowhere near as lucky I was. Plane tickets are not cheap, and driving sometimes isn't an option. For ways to make some extra money, feel free to check out my list of 10 jobs you can do online to supplement your income.
If you're in a difficult long-distance relationship, it is always fun to save up money and put it towards a nice trip to relieve the stress.
Tips to Maintaining a Healthy Relationship
It is not difficult to argue: Long-distance relationships are trying and can be incredibly hard to maintain. Time apart is one of the best tests of true love, because it takes two special people to stick together through all of the pain and tears. After three years, I still look back at my relationship and reflect on how we did it. Through everything that's happened, I have come up with four great tips.
1. Trust is the most important thing
*If you do not trust the person you are with to stay loyal to you, then you should not be in a long-distance relationship with them. In a long-distance relationship, both you and your partner must be extremely open and trusting. I can't tell you how many times I was told by strangers that my boyfriend would probably cheat on me, but never once was there any doubt in my mind. You have to be confident in yourself and your partner. If you have any doubt, then your relationship will quickly become unhealthy, and that's never good.
2. Compromises will need to be made
*There will almost always be one of you who wants to spend more time together than the other. In my case, that was me. My boyfriend found it easier not talking to me, because that meant that time felt like it moved faster and he could try to forget how much it hurt to be apart. However, he was caring and willing to compromise for my happiness. In fact, my boyfriend compromised a lot--probably more than he should've. It's a powerful kind of love that allows someone to forego their own wants and desires in order to make a situation easier for their significant other. When it came to the activities we did together--the shows we watched, the games we played--we both had to expand our interests in order to find new things to do together. In the end, it was rewarding. Don't be afraid to try new things, or try something your significant other likes, even if it's not something you would usually be interested in. Make compromises for him, and he will make compromises for you.
3. Be patient and understanding
*Different people respond to long-distance relationships in different ways. For me, I became somewhat clingy, which was unlike my usual personality. It is important to be aware of what aspects of a person's personality are their own and which are situational, because there is a difference. Feelings ebbed and flowed throughout the three-year period. I had a more difficult time initially, whereas my boyfriend became weaker towards the end, but throughout that time we remaining patient and understanding of each other. Do not judge, and try to be supportive.
4. Make each other feel special
*Encouragement is always helpful when you're hundreds and thousands of miles apart. Any way you can show your significant other that they are special to you will help strengthen and maintain your relationship. Of course, every person shows their affection in different ways. For me, I tended to write love letters and create personalized gifts, whereas my boyfriend did things for me: watched shows he knew I liked, played games I liked that he wasn't as into. Never stop reminding your significant other that you love them and that they are worth the wait.
If you can manage to make it through a long-distance relationship, you're almost guaranteed to have an unbreakable bond once you've completed your time apart, because a long-distance relationship is an investment of true love. Whatever you do, stay strong and keep moving forward. Trust me. It does end, and it is worth it.
Which of these activities do you most enjoy doing with your significant other?
**Now that you've finished reading this article, what are some ideas for spicing up long-distance relationships that I didn't mention? What's your story? How long have you been apart? How much further do you have to go?