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How to make long-distance relationships work, according to three Singaporean youths

How to make long-distance relationships work, according to three Singaporean youths

Far far away

Text: Vincent Li

Editor: Aravin Sandran


As many young Singaporeans set their sights overseas for further studies and work, long-distance relationships (LDRs) have become increasingly common. The circumstances to initiate a LDR can be different: from temporary ones where one partner heads on an exchange programme to permanent ones where couples plan to see each other. If you're on the verge of entering a LDR, there would probably be loads of questions creeping up. What kinds of routines would develop intimacy? What boundaries should be made clear? And what's the best way to communicate all of this? Below, we asked three young Singaporeans to open up about their LDRs, so we could all learn a thing or two.

Joel Sim, 26

What were the circumstances for the relationship to become long-distance?
I went to the U.S. for further studies and to look for job opportunities.

What were some of the joys of the LDR at first, if any?
Some of the joys were Skyping or FaceTiming each other, introducing the lifestyle around here, and sharing the experience with her virtually.

Dating long-distance means conflicts and disagreements are trickier since they can't be solved face-to-face. How did you negotiate any difficulties you experience as a couple?
There weren't many difficulties; only some misunderstandings at first. I try to come back once every year. When we see each other again, we will try and rectify or express any uneasiness that we felt while we were apart.

What kind of efforts were made to sustain the relationship?
Understanding and trust between each other is very important. We constantly updated each other on what we were doing. Instead of shorter messages, we sent longer texts as the time difference was 12 hours apart. We always look forward to planning vacations.

Absence makes the heart go fonder, they say. Do you think a temporary LDR could be healthy in anyway?
Yes, I do believe in that saying. In my opinion, I am able to handle a temporary LDR. Though it may get lonely at times, I keep myself busy as I have loads of freedom to do things that I am unable to do in Singapore.

What takeaways and tips do you have for other young couples who might be entering into an LDR in the near future?
Trust is very much key in an LDR. I have the most understanding girlfriend, so it really helps in the LDR. Don't expect each party to be replying messages constantly. Different factors may affect the reply time like time zone differences, driving, or maybe being plain busy. Lowering expectations would be helpful than raising the bar higher.

Would you be open to entering an LDR in the future?
Yes, I still am open. However, the distance between each other should be shorter, so we can still see each other over the weekend.

Dominique Nelson, 25

What were the circumstances for the relationship to become long-distance?
I went on a exchange programme to Glasgow, Scotland, from January to June in 2018. My boyfriend went for his exchange to Eindhoven in the Netherlands the following year.

What were some of the joys of the LDR at first, if any?
Knowing that I would be able to go over, visit him, and travel together. Also, having space and time to spend with family here in Singapore was nice.

Dating long-distance means conflicts and disagreements are trickier since they can't be solved face-to-face. How did you negotiate any difficulties you experience as a couple?
At first, it wasn't too difficult since we both made conscious efforts to resolve any issues. The only thing was probably time difference, but we managed to get around it by setting aside a time every day to Skype.

After a while, it got harder and harder especially as it got to the middle of our exchanges. The main conflict that occurred was when we each wanted to do things that the other party disagreed with. For example, I would want to go to a club and my boyfriend would worry about my safety. In the end, it was a matter of negotiation and learning how to give and take.

What kind of efforts were made to sustain the relationship?
Texting everyday, sending pictures throughout the week, and Skyping whenever we could.

Absence makes the heart go fonder, they say. Do you think a part-time LDR could be healthy in any way?
Definitely! The best moment of the whole LDR experience was actually seeing my boyfriend in real life after counting down the days and hours until the meeting. It was a surreal experience and really made me appreciate having him there.

Having been through one, what takeaways and tips do you have for other young couples who might be entering into an LDR in the near future?
1. Try and plan a trip with your partner. It can be something fun to plan together and to look forward to.

2. Don't be afraid to share even the smallest detail about your day with your partner. They might appreciate it since they can't be there to experience it with you in-person.

3. Ensure your partner has a phone with a good quality front camera and a small portable mic. It'll come in handy when you have to skype.

4. Don't be sneaky and be as honest as possible, because if you get caught in a lie, it'll be really damaging and you may not have the opportunity to heal the mistrust and hurt.

Also, an LDR tends to reveal a lot about whether the other party is willing to make it work or not. If the relationship fizzles out because of a temporary long-term relationship, perhaps it may have even been for the best. If it works out, you could probaboly survive anything as a couple.

Would you be open to entering an LDR in the future?
Not for more than six months, and twice has been enough for me! If I really had to, I guess I would be way more open to it and familiar with what I had to do to ensure the relationship works out.

Clement Tan Yew Yi, 27

What were the circumstances for the relationship to become long-distance?
I decided to pursue a degree in Australia. It was all in the plan since we started our relationship back in 2014. This conversation came about when we were talking about we saw our future, individually and as a couple.

What were some of the joys of the LDR at first, if any?
It opened up more room for going out and hanging around my new course mates to get to know others. Don't get me wrong; it's not because she's controlling, but because I personally wanted to make sure I was spending loads more time with her. It gave both of us that space to go and form deep relationships with our new friends.

Dating long-distance means conflicts and disagreements are trickier since they can't be solved face-to-face. How did you negotiate any difficulties you experience as a couple?
To be very honest, we hardly found ourselves being stuck in any sort of disagreements. We've had our fair share over the years, but I didn't feel like the distance was a factor in us trying to solve our disagreements. Everything still felt the same to me, but maybe I speak for myself!

What kind of efforts were made to sustain the relationship?
Early on in our relationship, we had already visualized ourselves being in Australia, where my girlfriend would be working while I study. I guess having this common goal helped sustain the whole thing.

What takeaways and tips do you have for other young couples who might be entering into an LDR in the near future?
I guess it'll be not forgettiong to text her once in a while and update her of your location. The last thing you would want her to do is to worry by overthinking or not knowing where you are. You have to make compromises along the way too.

Would you be open to entering an LDR in the future?
I would definitely enter an LDR again if I have to. We squabbled here and there, but I guess you could say that we made it!

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