Relationships on their own can be hard. Add in miles of distance between you and the going gets tougher. Our relationship went through a six month period of being a long distance relationship. In addition to the challenges of long distance on its own, we had the difficulties that come with military deployment. But we’re still doing well together. Deployment is just something we went through, but didn’t majorly impact our relationship in any way.
So, a long distance relationship is definitely survivable.
Background on Our Relationship
Just to give some more detail, here’s the timeline and background on what was going on during that time. We knew from the beginning that Evan was going to be deployed. We initially didn’t want to become an item because we didn’t want to deal with long distance. But then we fell in love and yada yada. So we ended up being together and figured we were stable enough as a couple that we’d make it through.
Previously Evan had gone out for training for six weeks about a month after we met. We were fine through that, so we had a little experience not seeing each other for a longish period of time. We hadn’t even been dating a full year before he left. Evan was deployed in November 2018 and came back May 2019. He went to several different countries in Asia and was on a ship for a couple months out of that period.
So here we are, an example of a successful relationship that made it through long distance. We’re by no means special. Military relationships deal with deployments and everything all the time.
One additional aspect that made our relationship challenging with the military is that since we’re not married, I wasn’t allowed on base by myself. Evan had to pull rank to get the gate people to let me in to pick him up the day he got back. Probably why military people often get married super quickly. I know that’s a stereotype, but Evan has told me stories about people he knew getting married really early in on the relationship. So there seems to be some evidence behind that stereotype. If Evan gets called back, we’re definitely getting married first so I can go wherever he’s stationed.
Ok, back to long distance relationships. SO here’s our advice and things that helped us make it through long distance.
Communicate When Possible
For civilian relationships, this is generally easier. If there’s a time difference, that can be challenging, but there’s usually not someone saying “you can’t have your phone” or being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no phone service. During Evan’s training right after we met, he had to hide in a porta-potty to text me. He’s just a bit dedicated to our relationship, even before it was a full-blown relationship.
We got lucky with this deployment. There was only about a month where we couldn’t communicate at all. Evan’s first deployment was very secretive. I wasn’t in the picture at that point yet, but he basically just had to tell his family he was going to be gone, but couldn’t tell them where or how long.
In this deployment I knew where he was most of the time. We would text, Snapchat, Instagram DM, Facebook message, Facetime, and call. Pretty much the only things we didn’t do were email, fax, and write letters. We would communicate in some way whenever we could.
If you’re not communicating in a long distance relationship, you don’t really know what the other person is feeling or experiencing. Really if you’re not communicating in any relationship, that’s uh not good.
Know Where You Stand
If your relationship is a bit rocky, long distance is going to be even harder. If you’re in a new relationship, but aren’t even sure it’s a relationship, establish what you are before it becomes long distance. You don’t want to be having the “what are we?” conversation over text with a time difference. We didn’t quite know what we were a few months before, but we had clearly decided that we planned on spending the rest of our lives together before Evan deployed.
If you’re not getting along and feel like long distance might even be better because you won’t have the opportunity to fight as often, that’s not a great start. If you can, try to work out any communication differences you have in person before doing the long distance thing. A long distance relationship will just magnify any existing issues. Distance causes strife even in happy, healthy relationships.
Have an End Date and Plan for the Future
We knew Evan was coming back sometime in May. I added stickers to a calendar and wrote a countdown to keep track of the days and months. If you’re in the military, the end date is whenever you get back from deployment. If you’re not, then the end date may vary. Could be whenever you get a job in your significant other’s city, or when you finish school. If you know when your relationship is going to stop being long distance, it is a lot easier. If you don’t have an end date, it can just feel like your relationship isn’t progressing and it won’t make it to the next level.
Evan and I started planning out our future after deployment a few months before he left. He was going to move in with me after he came back. Then we were going to move to New Mexico. He had no backup plan. I had a kind of backup plan, but I didn’t want to fall back on it. So there wasn’t really another option other than to stay together through deployment.
Depending on your relationship, this type of situation could be bad. If you have any unhealthy aspects and feel forced to stay with someone, that’s not great. Plan for the future, but allow yourself to have backup plans in case something goes wrong. Making future plans gives you something to look forward to and to think about.
Take Care of Your Health
I worked on my physical health and mental health. I continued working out, so nothing really changed in my physical health. Evan started weightlifting more during deployment.
Unsurprisingly, my mental health struggled a bit during Evan’s deployment. He wasn’t in combat, so it’s not like I was that worried about him or anything. He’s just a big part of my life and I missed having him around. He’s also the person I talk to about everything and being unable to communicate whenever I wanted or needed to was hard. I had been seeing a therapist for a few months before deployment and continued going. I also went to work on dealing with other issues that I didn’t want to affect our relationship at all. No one wants to bring baggage.
Trust Each Other
Trust is especially important any relationship, but even more pronounced in a long distance relationship. If that is something you struggle with, it’s something to work on because it can be detrimental.
I have complete trust in Evan. I was never concerned about him being unfaithful or lying about anything. Evan is the same way, at least as far as I know. There were never any questions of “who were you hanging out with?” or “did you go to any of the human trafficking massage parlors while you were docked?” (That was a thing some other guys did on the Evan’s previous deployment). You’re never going to know exactly what someone is doing or who they’re with all the time. If your person is untrustworthy, then why are you with them?
Show You Value Your Relationship
Everyone shows they value relationships differently. One of the ways I tried to show how much I cared is I filled a blank book with drawings of Evan, other art, inside jokes, and random things we did together. I made that before he left so he could take it with him and look at it if he missed me or was bored. Another thing I did was get presents for very holiday he missed. Evan had flowers and presents delivered to me for Valentine’s day.
Communication was the main way we expressed our care for each other though. Other ways to show you value your relationship are to stay faithful (duh), set aside time to talk, and show respect for each other and your feelings.
Live Your Own Life
Recently Evan had to go home to Washington for four days for a family thing. That honestly felt hard than deployment in some ways. Why? Because we do almost everything together now. So when he was gone, he missed the things we do together. I was doing the same routines, but without him they weren’t the same.
When Evan was in the military, he kept work separate from the civilian side of his life. With me he was the sweetest, affectionate, most caring guy. At work I know he yelled at people, got into fights and blew things up. Literally. That was his job.
We still lived an hour away from each other before deployment, so we only saw each other on the weekends. We had separate lives during the week and continued that while he was deployed. It made it easier. Our relationship was not our entire life like it is now. Obviously we still have a few separate things now, but overall our goals for our lives are things we want to do together. Back then I was going to school and that’s all I was working on. He focused on the military. We had our own lives and things to do. Neither of us just moped around waiting.
Without being face to face, there will be communication issues. Text doesn’t show tone. Near the end we had a few issues in communicating, but once we were together again, everything was resolved. Other problems may come up for you as well. Communication or lack thereof seems to be the primary factor in most issues though.
All relationships have hiccups somewhere at some point. Long distance just adds more potential for problems due to lack of communication, lack of intimacy, and just not being able to experience stuff together.
If you’re with the right person, it’ll be hard, but worth it.
We’re not relationship experts. We just know what helped us make it through deployment successfully. It wasn’t easy, but given that we’re still happy together, it was worth it.
One of the things that helped us too is that we’re pretty compatible to begin with. We don’t have many disagreements. To read more on compatibility, check out our post, 5 Crucial Factors in Relationship Compatibility.
Let us know in the comments what has helped you in your long distance relationship.