His & Hers Guide to Thriving in a Long-Distance Relationship
By Madison and James Sorrentino
We are Madison and James Sorrentino and we’ve been in a long-distance marriage for seven years.
Yes, you read that correctly.
In today’s climate of swiping left and solo-travel, meeting someone who captures your heart but doesn’t share your time zone is more common than ever.
When we met, James had just entered the U.S. Navy and Madison was finishing a degree at NYU, eager to pursue her acting career in New York City. We knew that being together would mean a lot of sacrifice and long distance. An elopement and seven years later, our relationship has seen us through some amazing and challenging times. We’re bringing you both of our perspectives on nurturing and thriving in a long-distance relationship. And as James said to Madison when he proposed, “it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”
Long-distance has been tough but I genuinely would not trade these last seven years for anything. It’s been an enormous catalyst for personal growth and helped me become the woman I always wanted to be. Here are the breakthroughs that took me from surviving in long-distance to thriving in it.
1. Know The Next Time You’ll See Each Other:
The most difficult aspect of long-distance was not always knowing when we’d be able to see each other. This took a normal level of missing James to a whole new level where the obvious conclusion was that we would NEVER SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN (I can be a drama queen). When we made a conscious effort to have plane tickets booked as soon as possible even if they were many months away, knowing when we’d see each other took some pressure off. In long-distance, a lot can feel uncertain, so give yourself the small certainties when you can.
2. Prioritize Personal Development:
It’s easy to spend A LOT of time missing your partner, imagining how much better things would be if they were around. And it’s only natural.
But there comes a point where focusing on that isn’t healthy for you or for the relationship. The hour that you and your partner have on the phone each day will be a lot more engaging if you have more to talk about than how much you miss each other. Neither time nor the world stops when you’re apart and neither should your growth.
Spending time on your own self-development could mean diving into a hobby or skill you’ve always wanted to cultivate, reading books or taking a class. Don’t be afraid to move forward with your life. Staying stagnant is the fastest way to kill your happiness and kill your relationship.
3. Find Healthy Ways To Deal With Missing Your Partner:
The biggest challenges came up when I struggled to find healthy ways to deal with missing my husband. I wanted the pain to go away and I didn’t know how to work through the feelings. I would escape into food, unhealthy relationships, working too much, etc. All of it was just me trying to escape pain through numbing agents or distractions. Take it from me, just feel your feelings and find a productive way to work through them. Writing, working out and investing in a therapist often provided amazing outlets to work through the difficult times.
Confide in your partner, lean on your friends, trust yourself and find a way to keep moving forward.
4. Date Yourself:
My growth (and actually enjoying parts of long-distance) really kicked in when I realized that my partner was not the primary person responsible for making me feel loved. That person is me.
My primary love language is quality time and instead of wishing my partner were around to take me out, I started taking myself out. I have definitely reserved a few special places that I will experience with James when he visits home.
But typically when I see a cool new movie coming out or hear about an amazing restaurant in my neighborhood, I get excited to dress up and take myself out to go enjoy it. There’s genuinely nothing more liberating and self-affirming than showing yourself an amazing time. For me, self-dates often involve a great outfit, taking cabs, dessert and flowers.
5. Be Grateful For The Plus Sides:
One of my favorite things about long-distance is that I still get butterflies when I’m about to be reunited with my husband. When you get a chance to miss each other, you make the most out of your time together and appreciate the person you fell in love with. When we travel together people often ask us if we’re on our honeymoon. We have the communication and openness of a couple that’s been married for seven years with the fresh eyes of newly weds to see each other through. There’s plenty of challenges in long-distance, but appreciate the silver linings when you find them.
They say “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.” While exceptionally cliché and somewhat outdated, every individual has a different way of expressing themselves and understanding the people they’re with. Communication can be very challenging, even when you’re standing right in front of someone. But throw in distance, emotions, and a myriad of life events happening to you separately—now that’s hard. It took us quite a while to find what worked for us and the road was not always easy. Here are some of the habits that have helped me the most.
1. Get A Hobby:
You HAVE to live your own life while you’re separate, and you have to love it. If this separation is just something you are trudging through day after day, where all you look is to the next time you see each other and everything in between is nothing but a void of misery, you will not survive it. The “hobby” is something you truly enjoy and can talk about or share with your partner. Bonus points if you can get some shared hobbies and do them together such as watching movies, reading books, creating art, etc.
2. Manage Your Time:
The best ratio we have come to is about 80/20: We spend 80% of the day dedicated to self-development (sleep, work, socializing, relaxing activities, chores, etc) and 20% communicating. Whether it’s setting aside designated talking times throughout the day, sending messages when you have time, an e-mail that says, “thinking of you”. These small actions help the other person know that even though they only have 20% of your day, they have all of your heart.
3. Value And Engage In Honesty:
Even with good communication you will still run into misinterpretations and misunderstandings. To help with that you need to have an open policy of freely speaking your minds. Don’t always assume the worst if there is are conflicting points of view. Honesty and trust go hand-in-hand, which is another thing that can be difficult with distance. You have to trust your partner implicitly, and sometimes that may seem exceptionally hard. But with that foundation of trust a lot can be born from it that’s both very fulfilling and enriching.
4. Manage Your Work Life Balance:
Work and school will and should have a key place in your life (see: Get A Hobby). But conflicting schedules in life can sometimes create an obstacle in your long-distance relationship. If you’re in different time zones, balancing your communication around each other’s schedules is important. Additionally, if you have a bad day at work, or find yourself under a lot of pressure meeting school or work demands, don’t take it out on them. In fact, it can be best some days to just leave the office at the office, whether in person or at a distance.
This sounds the simplest, but this is the part that needs to guide all that you do. Caring is not just about you, it’s about the relationship. It’s easy to say that you love someone and will do anything for them. But that means sometimes putting their needs above your own. You might be looking forward to talking to them all day and when it’s time to talk, they’re completely wiped out. Caring means you let them take it easy and get some rest even though you miss them. Truly caring is knowing them not just thinking about them, and what they mean to you. It’s being willing to do the hard things and knowing what you both need, what the relationship needs, and putting aside some personal wants, for what will help make it last.
Another aspect of caring is to know what you can do for them from a distance that will make their day better. It can be as simple as sending flowers, or as complex as organizing a surprise party for them with some of their friends. If you are on the receiving end, just know that no matter the size or scope of the gesture, in their heart they are thinking of you.
In our experience, our relationship can be our biggest teacher. Relationships show us our biggest strengths and reveal our biggest opportunities for growth. In a long-distance relationship, this is magnified ten-fold. If you take the opportunity and commit to helping yourself and your partner through the tough times, you will grow individually and build something beautiful together.