When I moved to Germany from the UK last July, I knew that leaving behind my long-term boyfriend would be one of the hardest challenges to overcome. Although I was to move back home after a year, saying goodbye to him was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve ever had.
After living in Germany for seven months, however, I have realized that there are more advantages to a long-distance relationship than I initially thought.
1. You can benefit from additional travel opportunities.
If money and time permit, having a partner who lives overseas is a great opportunity to travel. My boyfriend, for example, gets the chance to visit Munich six times throughout the year — something he wouldn’t have had the chance to do if I had never moved abroad.
Your long-distance relationship might also give you the opportunity to travel more as a couple. If your new home is a convenient base for exploring new countries and cities, don’t miss out on these new places when your significant other comes to visit. Researching local sights can be a fun project to work on together and will keep you bonded despite the distance.
Whenever my boyfriend visits Munich, we try to take a day trip to another nearby city. In February, we spent the day strolling around Salzburg, eating Kaiserschmarrn (traditional Austrian pancakes) and exploring the city’s historical sites, such as Festung Hohensalzburg (a medieval fortress, which sits on the top of the Festungsberg — one of the city’s famous hills).
Not only was this a great chance to make new memories together, but planning the trip prior to his visit kept us both busy and distracted us from the distance.
2. You’re forced to discuss your issues.
When you live on the other side of an ocean from your partner, you can’t simply hug, make up and move on when you’ve had a disagreement. You need to deeply discuss any underlying or overwhelming issues, or you will run the risk of ruining your relationship.
One of the most common arguments among long-distance couples is caused by one partner not making enough time to talk to the other. The person who has moved abroad often wants to spend their time making friends, exploring new places, and trying to settle in — which means they have less time to check up on their other half.
The good news is that this disagreement is easily resolved! Over time, the partner living abroad will establish a routine. Moreover, the partner who is still at home will also adjust to the new methods and frequency of communication with their loved one and will feel less lonely and resentful.
The important thing is that you set common expectations. On the one hand, it’s not fair if your partner expects you to sit at home and wait for their call rather than explore your new country.
However, you need to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and cater to their needs a little more than you would if you were at home, as they’re probably feeling a little vulnerable. Discussing this problem, and any other issues that arise, will hopefully mean that the disagreement is fully resolved and won’t come back up in the future.
While communication is vital, don’t be afraid to give each other space. This can seem like a daunting thought when there are already hundreds or thousands of miles between you, but even stepping away from a video call for ten minutes can help you to have a more constructive conversation when you return. After a small break to collect your thoughts, you’re likely to feel calmer, more patient and more willing to find a solution.
3. You appreciate each other more.
The phrase ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is clichéd but true!
While having less time to talk to your partner may be upsetting at first, you will quickly learn to appreciate the time your significant other can make for you. Those honeymoon-phase butterflies will make a sudden reappearance whenever you get to hear their voice. Be sure to express these feelings to your partner — they are bound to be thankful that you are sharing your gratitude instead of taking the relationship for granted.
Since you’ll get to see each other less, you will definitely appreciate time physically spent together more. Whether you go on a hike or cook a meal together, just being with your partner after weeks or months apart is bound to reignite that special spark.
Make the most of your time together by having new and exciting experiences; for example, my boyfriend and I always try out different restaurants, stroll around a park we have not yet explored or check out an interesting museum whenever he gets the chance to visit Munich.
Also, be sure to take plenty of photos and perhaps create a scrapbook to look at whenever you’re missing each other. My boyfriend and I have a joint photo album, and each time we see each other we swap ownership of it. This way, we both get the chance to reminisce when we’re feeling low.
4. You have time to work on yourself.
Spending less time with the person you may depend on the most might show you how to rely on yourself more instead. This doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be with your partner, but that you are responsible for your own happiness.
You’re likely to realize that spending time alone isn’t as daunting as you first thought and that having a little more space could help you to come to terms with any personal issues, such as your mental or physical health.
One of the biggest problems I faced when first living abroad, for example, was making friends. While I could rant to my boyfriend whenever I needed to, he couldn’t solve this issue for me. This forced me to be more proactive in socializing and leaving my comfort zone, and thanks to my own strength, I now have a great circle of friends in Munich!
Furthermore, spending more time alone might help you to (re-)discover a passion that you’ve been neglecting for a while. My boyfriend, for example, has picked up plenty of new hobbies since I moved to Munich. Spending less time together means he now has time to learn German, go to the gym and try out lots of new recipes he’s been collecting for a while.
5. You will see if the relationship is truly meant to be.
Only true love will survive long distance. Living in another country to your partner will prove whether your relationship is happy and functional, or whether it’s time to call it a day.
Nothing puts as much strain on a relationship as distance does — from only spending a few days a month together to only hearing each other’s voice once a week, there’s an endless list of challenges to overcome when you both live in different countries.
I won’t deny that it takes time to make a long-distance relationship work. From posting gifts to spending your evenings video calling each other, these relationships require effort from both sides, but when both people are committed, they’re totally worth it.
If your relationship can survive distance, it can survive anything!
Leah Martin is a German and History student from the University of Leeds, currently undertaking a year abroad in Munich and working as the Social Media Intern at InterNations. She loves exploring new areas of Munich and Bavaria and is an avid chef and baker.
(Image credit: iStockphoto)