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How to do a long distance relationship

In the past, whenever someone would tell me that they were in a long-distance relationship (LDR), one that crossed countries and time zones and cultures that I knew nothing about, my first reaction was always: “What is wrong with you? This isn’t going to work!” I’m so glad that I was proved wrong by a friend who went on to marry an Australian boyfriend she had met in South Africa during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

It turns out that it wasn’t just the winning teams that scored! Long-distance relationships are like high-risk offshore investment portfolios: You have to put in a lot but there is no guarantee of any return on the investment.

A few years after my friend’s wedding, I found myself in the same boat. This tall blonde, sun-kissed German demigod graced the shores of my South African hometown Durban and our worlds crossed paths. We hung out a lot during the first few months and began dating. At some point, his internship ended and he had to go back to Germany to finish his studies. We ended up spending all that we had to fly back and forth over a period of 18 months before getting married. Needless to say our worlds remained forever changed. Was it worth it? Heck yes, and I would do it again.

Looking back, it wasn’t easy, but I would definitely say there is a certain skillset required to ensure success in a long-distance relationship. Here are a few tips:

Manage expectations 

From the start, it’s important to discuss how you will handle the distance because an LDR is quite frankly not for normal people, and you probably got into one because you see yourself as someone who can conquer the odds. Still, even if you’re a buzzing optimist, I can assure you that your LDR will exhaust you emotionally and so it is necessary to decide from the start

how often you will meet in person, so you have something to look forward to. In my case, we tried to meet every three months.

Decide on a routine of how you will stay in touch. 

Decide whether you will call everyday or what needs you have to make you feel connected and close. For me, it was small text messages such as  “good morning’ every day that gave the relationship a kind of routine stability.

You have to get really creative with your communication. It takes a lot of effort to stay connected when you are not physically a part of each other’s lives. When you are trying to share every waking moment with your other half – he might be experiencing the dead of winter, while you are sipping cocktails on the beach – it’s important to try to be a part of each other’s worlds even though it might be harder to relate to each other. Occasionally we would send surprise “care packages” to each other, voice notes and silly home-made videos. This part was super cute and now that we are married and have a normal relationship, we actually don’t do these cute things anymore. So there are some good takeaways from the effort that is required in LDRs.

Have a good group of friends 

Don’t forget to live in your own world as well and keep living life with friends that you can count on. There will be days when self-doubt will make you want to end the relationship. Sometimes it helps to have someone to talk to, preferably someone who isn’t into you romantically speaking. I had a friend who was also German and helped me see the bigger picture, who would help me make sense of situations and tell me when I was over-reacting. This really helped me handle the emotional tug-of-war that comes with the long distance.

Last, but not least, end the long distance, keep the relationship

The best tip for a long-distance relationship is to end it! We decided to end the distance when my husband completed his degree and came over to South Africa. We dated like in a regular relationship, went to the movies and had sushi together. Things are a lot less of a rollercoaster ride when you live in the same city and there are no more visa applications, security checks and broken online connections. However, the adrenalin and the excitement that we experienced each time we boarded a plane to see each other will always be a nostalgic part of our relationship – every trip was like a brick for the foundation of our life’s journey together. If you have the courage to endure the distance, it will make for a truly remarkable love story that you can tell your kids someday.


Author: Sarona Wolter (act)



09.07.2018 | 13:59