The moment my husband and I met (more than 10 years ago) was like a scene straight out of the most romantic rom-com. I was backpacking solo through Europe and he was traveling with his brother when we first locked eyes as we checked into a hostel in Nice, France. They talk about love at first sight in fairy tales, but for us, it was real life. After two fun, wine-filled, heavenly days in the amorous beachside city, we parted ways with an email address and a promise to keep in touch. We continued our separate journeys through Europe—I headed toward Italy and Greece, and he went to Germany, keeping in touch with me via email until we both returned home.
At that time, I was an Aussie expat residing in London, and he lived in Arizona. We enjoyed (well, endured) a long-distance relationship for more than two years, with our longest time apart being six months. Keep in mind that this was well before video chatting or real-time messaging apps. I'll be honest: It was hard, and we both cried rivers, but we have one of the strongest partnerships now. I truly believe that the commitment, trust, and loyalty we developed as a couple are what kept us together.
Though not easy, long-distance relationships can be a whole lot of fun, too. Here are some of the creative ways we kept our long-distance relationship fresh.
One of the first things we did as long-distance lovers was send each other mixtapes. It is possibly one of the sweetest and most intimate things you can share with someone else. Your taste in music can also be a deal breaker for a lot of people, so it's probably best to get that out of the way from the beginning.
Since we did this more than 10 years ago, ours were made on CDs, which means they're all scratched up now. These days, you can make a Spotify playlist for free or load up a USB stick with your favorite tunes. For those who have never made a mixtape before, keep in mind that it's a curated collection of music that you've handpicked for the person receiving it. Often it's built around a theme, but it can really just be filled with any songs you love and want to share with a special someone, so have fun with it.
Just because there are physical miles between you doesn't mean you can't do things together. Do something simple—try taking a walk together outside and sending photos to each other as you go. You could also watch the same movie together and message your commentary or romantic gestures throughout, then take funny pictures of your reaction to the scenes. Another option would be to play an online game together where your characters can chat and go on virtual adventures. If you have vocal skills or a talent for playing an instrument, you could make music with one another via FaceTime or Skype.
This is definitely one of my favorite things to do in a long-distance relationship. During the few times we did visit each other, we would swap things we wore or that were precious to us. My husband left me with his prized vintage concert tee that smelled like his cologne. I wore it all the time, and sometimes I converted it into a pillow case so I could pretend-cuddle him at night. He took my beat-up designer shoes (holes and all) from when we first met in Nice and featured them amid his artwork in Arizona.
It's the small things that make a difference and help you feel like that person is there with you.
Besides emailing nearly every day, we sent handwritten letters, too. It might seem old-fashioned and time-consuming, but there's nothing quite like the excitement of opening a letter from your international crush. While emails are for more immediate correspondence, letters are saved for romantic prose, poetry, musings on life, and inner secrets. It's so insanely intimate (and a beautiful exchange between two people). I recommend adding a spritz of your favorite scent to the paper before you put it in the envelope to amp up the sentimental factor.
I can't tell you how many cute (and silly) pet names my husband and I gave each other during our transatlantic courtship (we still use them 10 years later). Despite the mushiness of it all, every time he made up a new one, I crushed a little harder. When you give someone a cute nickname, it shows your affection and that you share a rare closeness with that person. It's completely personal and something only the two of you share—and that is very special.
Since land (and sometimes sea) separates you both, you don't always get to know each other in the way a couple in the same town would. See this as a golden opportunity to really find out more about your partner. My husband and I did this by asking a couple of personal questions at the bottom of every email. It can be as simple and trivial such as "What is your favorite song to dance to?" or "What's your favorite spread on toast?" Asking something deeper, like "What book helped shape who you are today?" or "If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?" can spark an interesting conversation.
It's so cool when you get that email back and read the other person's answers.
When you're pining for someone, often the only thing that gets you through the months and weeks is counting down the days until you see them again. Since there was no Google Calendar back then (it officially launched in 2006), we used an old-school paper calendar and physically crossed off the days using a marker. Now you can keep track of the days by using an online calendar. Aside from visits, you can mark the times you plan to talk on the phone or the times you won't be available to chat.
Since you can't have an actual date night on the regular, you have to get creative. Thanks to real-time video apps, there are plenty of cute things you can do together. One of my personal favorites is making the same meal together. You can send each other the recipe via email or text message before the big night (that way you can gather all the ingredients you'll need). Then set the scene: Get all your ingredients together on the bench, position your camera so your partner can see you and what you're doing, and then get cooking.
Make sure you both dress up as you would for a date in person. It's so much fun—you'll both be laughing the entire time. I recommend toasting each other through the video too.
The way you communicate these days can be as varied as the messages you send. You can literally send a different type each time. So before you type your next SMS, think about sending a cool video message or saying "I love you" via an audio text instead of writing it. Tine is super cute too—just attach your audio or video message via sticker to anything you want, then send it to your loved one. As soon as you start digging, you'll find a ton of cool and creative ways and apps to help you communicate.
Oh, and always use your imagination.
This post was originally published on September 9, 2016, and has since been updated.