Calgarian couple discusses what helped their relationship succeed

Long-distance relationships can be difficult for a couple to go through, but with recent innovations in technology, such relationships are becoming more common.

The Center for the Study of Long-Distance Relationships, estimated in 2005 that one out of 10 marriages are reported to have experienced a period of long distance within the first three years of the relationship.

The Los Angeles based Center also did a survey of over 200 couples in long-distance relationships and found that the average couple was expected to remain apart for 14 months, and would only see each other about once a month during that time.

Michael Haggstrom, a psychotherapist who counsels patients on their relationships, says that due to increased communication modes, couples who have to be separated for a while are now more likely to stay together than they would have been in the past.

Perry Ellis and Katie Graham, who have been dating for five years, know first-hand what it is like to experience a long-distance relationship.Katie Graham and Perry Ellis know what it’s like to experience a long-distance relationship and come out of it strong. Photo by Colin McHattie

“It’s really hard,” says Ellis. “Sometimes you go days where you hardly talk to each other, and everything seems miserable.”

Although, they now live together and distance is no longer an issue, Ellis and Graham remember exactly how tough it was to be apart. They were separated for eight months while Ellis was going to school to become and electrician.

Another couple, Huw and Brenda Evans were separated from 1988 until 1990, which included the first few months of their marriage.

“We wound up spending most of our time apart for a few years,” says Huw Evans. “That was good since it let us both step back and think about whether we really wanted to get married.”

So what tips do these couples have that might help save your long-distance relationship?

1. Communicate

“I would always just try to text him as often as I could. Not really important stuff, just kind of keep up to date with what each other was doing,” says Graham.

Ellis says that he would make sure to schedule a good amount of time to phone his girlfriend and catch up with her. This allowed him to focus all of his attention on what she was saying, and made the conversations more meaningful.

Psychotherapist Haggstrom, meanwhile, encourages his
patients to communicate in several different ways if they can.

“Skype is great, but there are times when I encourage a person to write a letter, or send a card,” he said. “Do not just always do the same thing.”

Don’t be afraid to make things a little more interesting, he suggests.

“Maybe watch a movie as you’re on Skype together and just watch the movie together. Try to still keep some kind of recreational companionship as best you can,” says Haggstrom.

2. Don’t end a conversation angry

“Sometimes you get frustrated when you’re apart from your boyfriend or girlfriend, and I found myself taking my frustrations out on her,” says Ellis. “I just had to remember that she was probably feeling the same way
I was and that being angry, or fighting, wouldn’t help anything.”

3. Don’t be afraid to get a little naughty

With today’s technology, it’s easy to send some fun pictures to your lover over text.

“Sometimes you’re just talking on webcam, and it’s completely innocent, but sometimes it can be fun if that innocent conversation becomes… less innocent,” says Ellis.

4. Make your time together count

“It was kind of nice when we actually did get to see each other; it was really special,” says Graham. “It made your time together matter. We wouldn’t just sit around and do nothing. We went out and really enjoyed the little time we had together.”

After spending months apart, you really want to make your time together count, especially if it is going to be brief. Plan some fun dates, and make sure you do things that you both want to do.

Haggstrom says that he encourages his patients to get together at least every three to six months.

5. Don’t forget why you’re doing It

“I think it’s easy to lose track of why you’re still together and just give up, but if your relationship is really important to you, you’ll set those feelings aside and remember how much you love the other
person,” says Ellis.

cmchattie@cjournal.ca