Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

8 Tips For Transitioning out of a Long Distance Relationship

I get a lot of letters from people who are in long distance relationships or are about to start LDRs who want tips for how to make them work. Many of you know my own relationship — now marriage — began long distance, so I learned a few things in the year and a half Drew and I lived on different sides of the country (you can see some of my tips here). But what about when LDRs are so successful, one or both parties make a move and the relationship eventually becomes short distance? Transitioning from living hundreds of miles apart to living in the same town, or even the same apartment, can be a little bumpy, but there are some things you can do to ensure a smoother ride. After the jump, eight tips for transitioning from a long distance relationship to living nearby (or together!).


1. Get separate places. (Or at least plan to eventually get separate places).
This tip is especially essential if you and your significant other have never lived in the same town or if it’s been more than a year since you lived nearby. Living apart, you develop your own routines and ways of doing and liking things just so that rarely affect your significant other. Living together in the same place is a totally different story, and that hour you spend at six in the morning singing scales to “get your voice warmed up for the day” may put undue pressure on a relationship that’s very much adjusting to a whole lot of newness.

That said, I have to admit that I did not get my own place when I moved from Chicago to New York to be with Drew. But I had planned on it — or at least, that was the story I was sticking to. I left most of my things in storage in Chicago and brought a few suitcases and my two cats to New York, where the plan was to stay with Drew until I found a job and my own apartment. In the back of my head, I suspected if things went really well, and we loved living together, I might just stay there. But I didn’t communicate that little idea with Drew. I knew doing so would put a lot of pressure on us to make it work. I wanted to see if it would work naturally. Luckily, it did. But if it had gone terribly, and I not only hated living with Drew, but I hated living in New York, I at least hadn’t yet paid to move all my things across the country, which leads me to tip number two.

2. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find your way home.
What I mean by this is: if you’re the one making the move, make sure you give yourself a way to get back to where you’ve moved from (or somewhere else you could move to) if things don’t work out where you’re going. Moving is always a leap of faith, and is love. Moving for love is really putting your heart on the line, so it’s important to give yourself a few safety nets. For me, that meant leaving most of my belongings in Chicago until I was sure I wanted to stay in New York. For someone else, it might mean subletting or renting out an apartment or house you aren’t ready to let go of. Maybe it simply means having enough money set aside for a plane ticket home. Whatever “safety net” means for you, make sure you’ve got one. The last thing you want is to be miserable in a brand new city (or country, even) and not have any idea how to get back to the life you’ve left behind.

3. Make space for each other.
If you do plan to move in together — even temporarily — it’s important to make space for each other’s things and routines. Going from two apartments to one will surely mean downsizing at least a little bit. You’ll need to set aside space in the closet and dresser drawers for the other person’s belongings. You’ll also need to respect that if your significant other has a routine, like, say, practicing the guitar for an hour every other night, you’ll need to respect that routine and get out of his or her way during that designated time, which brings me to the next tip.

4. Keep some of your own space.
If you’re the one who practices guitar — or yoga, or what have you — every other night, don’t give that up just because your long distance love has moved close. The hobbies and activities that you enjoy — the things you’re passionate about — make you who you are. And while it’s important and necessary to adjust your schedule a little and make space for the VIP in your life, it shouldn’t be at the exclusion of everything else that makes you happy. So, instead of getting rid of your hobbies altogether, consider cutting back on the time you invest in them. Or, if you were taking a different class every night of the week to keep yourself busy when you’re significant other lived far away, think about choosing just one or two classes to keep and eliminating some of the ones you’re less passionate about. Then, use the extra time you’ve freed up in your schedule to invest in your relationship. It’s investment that can yield the highest of returns.

5. Make (or keep) your own friends.
Whether you’re the person who’s making the move, or the one who is staying put, it’s important to have a set of friends that you, and you alone, spend time with. Now that you’ll be a couple in the same city, you’ll find yourself doing lots of couple-y activities — and that’s all fine and good — but it’s that time away from your partner when you’re with other people that will remind you that you are a YOU before you’re a WE, and that’s a very important thing to be reminded of on a regular basis.

6. Keep in touch with your old friends and family.
This is a tip that’s pretty exclusive to the person doing the moving, but it’s a super important one to list nonetheless. Make sure you do whatever you can to stay close to the people you’ve left behind to follow your heart. Not only are they part of those breadcrumbs back home that I mentioned in tip number two, they will help alleviate the loneliness and isolation you may feel in a brand new city where you don’t know many people (at first). Visit them when you can, call, email, text, send letters — whatever you preferred method(s) of communication, do it and do it often. Those people who know you and love you will be instrumental in keeping you grounded when you feel overwhelmed by your new life and surroundings. And, as you adjust to your new life, it’s as important to keep the ties to your old one strong. There’s nothing like an old friend to remind you how far you’ve come and how much you’re loved.

7. Give it at least three months.
It takes about ninety days to adjust to new surroundings and big change. So, even if you hate your new life, give it ninety days — about three months — before you decide to go back home or break up. Making any big decision before that would be premature and could possibly cause you to miss out on something really great.

8. Discover places and activities that are new to both of you.
If only one of you has made the move, it may seem like only one of you is making new discoveries on a regular basis. But that doesn’t have to be the case at all. Especially if you live in a large city — like New York, for example — there are always new things to discover, even if you were born and raised here like Drew was. I found it really helpful when I first moved to New York, to find things that Drew had never done — restaurants he’d never tried, shows he hadn’t seen, tours he hadn’t been on — and experience them for the first time together (or, even better, introducing them to Drew after I discovered them on my own). This gives the new person a sense of shared ownership and makes the new city seem less like “his/her town” and more like “our town.”

Finally, if you’ve moved in together and have decided to stay put where you are, this column has some good tips for how to make his (or her) bachelor/ette pad, your home.

14 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Maracuya April 27, 2011, 12:22 pm

    Great tips, Wendy. Definitely will keep them in mind for future use. 🙂

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    kerrycontrary April 27, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Thanks for this list Wendy! My boyfriend and I will be transitioning from long distance to living in the same city within the next year, so this is great! While we are only 3.5 hours driving distance apart due to me being in grad school and him having an unexpected work project this list is still really helpful.

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  • theattack

    theattack April 27, 2011, 1:27 pm

    Again, Thanks, Wendy. We’ll hopefully be closing the gap in our relationship in a year, but I’m already thinking about this stuff. I always like reading about your experience with distance and how you succeeded and made a happy marriage together. It’s really encouraging.

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge April 27, 2011, 1:51 pm

    Excellent! I followed most of these tips, although we did live together right away after I moved here. I will say that it did put undue stress on the relationship, and while I don’t exactly regret it and it all worked out in the end, there was definitely an adjustment period.

    I remember so vividly arriving with about 1/3 of my stuff in tow (I pulled a Wendy and sublet my apartment furnished for a few months so I had somewhere to go). My now-husband had made dinner, so we ate it together. I remember looking at him across the table and thinking… “now what? do we just…. hang out? No goodbyes to dread? what the hell do we do now? I guess… watch tv?”. Having my own place would have helped with that!

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    • avatar

      flamingogirl April 27, 2011, 3:36 pm

      “now what? do we just…. hang out? No goodbyes to dread? what the hell do we do now? I guess… watch tv?”

      I’m moving in 6 weeks to bring an end a 3 year LDR, and that statement really struck a chord with me. What the heck do we do now?? We’ve been trying to spend the last few visits just doing “normal” things, grocery shopping, dinners at home, going to the movies…as opposed to previous visits where we always did special things or had mini-vacations. Doing nothing together is a luxury we haven’t had in a really long time!

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    • Kristina

      Kristina April 27, 2011, 6:17 pm

      Ahh this is one of my fears that someday when I move in with a boyfriend/husband that I will get bored easily and not know what to do when I see my significant other so much more than used to.

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      • avatar

        WatersEdge April 28, 2011, 9:08 am

        Oh, I wouldn’t say we’re bored and we don’t know what to do. We have a great time! But it’s like flamingogirl said, when you’re in an LDR there’s a constant emotional rollercoaster- anticipation/excitement leading up to the visit, euphoria when you’re reunited, and then about halfway through the visit the little voice in your head starts going “you have to say goodbye soon… it’s gonna HURT…” and then there’s the dread of leaving, the agony of actually saying goodbye, the ache for the first night or two you’re back home, and then the settling into your normal life again. There’s an adjustment to the lack of drama and excitement that is intrinsic in LDR’s.

        Flamingogirl- Sunday nights are my cherished time with my husband because we did long distance. The luxury of not having to be separated at the end of a fun weekend is something that I don’t take for granted, even after a year of living together!

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  • avatar

    MsBorgia April 27, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Thank you so much! The reunion with my boy is yet a ways off, but making the transition is something I’ve been worrying about.

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  • Lana

    Lanchik April 27, 2011, 5:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this! 🙂 I’ll be back in the same city as my boyfriend for 4 months this summer (not living together, but still!), and I was a bit worried about how we would readjust to this new dynamic. We started dating last July and spent 2 months together before I moved 2 hours away to finish my 3rd year of university. Despite only seeing each other every second weekend, the relationship is going great! But we’re both very independent people in a lot of senses, so I was worried that we might be stepping on each other’s toes while trying to determine/respect our mutual need for alone time. Wendy, your article made me feel quite a bit more reassured about everything, so thank you! 🙂

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 27, 2011, 5:47 pm

    The one thing I would add is that if you are living together you find some activity to do together most days of the week that allows you to talk. This allows you to share your day which builds intimacy. My husband and I cooked dinner together for years and while we did that we chatted and ended up sharing our days, both the good, bad and ugly, our hopes and dreams, our disappointments, etc. We planned weekends and talked about life in general. If you can make your partner your greatest confidant you will be closer to them but if you confide more in someone else then you build intimacy with the someone else and your partner can become a second place person in your life. I’m not saying you need to be joined at the hip but I am saying you want to share frequently enough so that you don’t feel like you’re living alone even though you’re living together.

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    • avatar

      PinkPanther April 27, 2011, 8:02 pm

      I’m going to second the doing an activity together most days of the week that allows you to talk. My boyfriend and I eat dinner together almost every night of the week and I love having that time to talk to him. I feel like I haven’t seen him in days if we don’t get that time, even if we are both at home later in the evening.

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  • eelavocado

    eel avocado April 28, 2011, 8:02 pm

    Thank you so much for this, Wendy. I’m in an LDR now; my boyfriend and I are planning on moving in together by the end of August. We lived in the same town for about 9 months before I moved away, so I think we’re ready for it. This helps a bunch, though!

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  • avatar

    Moe January 10, 2012, 7:59 pm

    I have a question for you guys. My boyfriend and I dated for about 2 months in the same town before he moved back home and we were long distance for a year. During that time, we saw each other for 2 weekend visits, 1 one month long visit, and 1 week long visit. When he moved to my town, I really wanted to live together, but he was scared. So he got his own place, but only stayed there for a couple of weeks before he spent every day/night with me. When we officially moved in together, I suddenly got really scared and nervous. Even though we’ve been living together for almost 2 years now, and I absolutely love it…a lot of times I find myself feeling sad that we never experienced the normal things like going over to each others places, allowing ourselves to be apart without the constant fear and pain that comes with an LDR, and all the other things that normal relationships experience. I was just wondering, has anyone else who moved from an LDR to living together experience this? How do you deal with it and make peace with it? Advice would be greatly appreciated!

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  • avatar

    Bea October 2, 2014, 1:55 am

    Hi Wendy! Your posts have been so helpful. I was wondering if you had advice for the “final stretch.” My LDR will only last for two more weeks and we are finished? He will be moving in with me. I’m concerned bc I feel like we both but mostly him, have started to become lazy. Too lax. I feel like he is focusing so much attention on his life at home before he leaves and I get it but is not at all working hard to keep the spark alive…. Like he doesn’t have to try anymore? I’m frustrated and sad bc I still want that emotional connection and right now just down right losing my excitement.

    I’m trying to let it slide and just be grateful but I’m having difficulties bc I’m so angry!

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