Tuesday, 23 April 2013

expat issues: Long distance friendships

Do you ever have those days where your emotions feel like they are right behind your eyeballs, just waiting to jump out in the form of tears? And then you realise that all your friends and family are an ocean away.

Thats expat life for you. 

Everyone thinks expat life is all relaxation, sunshine, cocktails and beach days. So, summer months are something like that here in Cyprus, but when you factor in working, cleaning, shopping, walking the dog and paying the bills, life in a different country is not that different to life in the one you left. 

I know that for the most part, expats make the decision to become expats, but that doesn't mean the trials and tribulations of everyday life don't get you down. But it doesn't mean you don't miss your friends and family. 

I guess that is the major sticking point for most; how to maintain long distance relationships. 

I would go as far as to say that I am a bit of expert when it comes to long distance relationships. Me and the boyfriend have been together for 8 years now and have had multiple periods of separation.

I remember the first time this happened - it's safe to say I was an emotional mess for a fair few months until we found a routine and ways to maintain a strong bond. And in fact, although its a cliche, distance does make the heart grow fonder.

However there has to be some ground rules for it to work *in my opinion*. There needs to be trust. Some sort of timeframe to work with, in terms of a date that you will be reunited and very good communication skills. But it is not impossible to maintain such a relationship and since, we have had many periods of separation, which I actually believe has made our relationship better. 

So when I decided to leave London for another country, I assumed that most of my friendships would be secure and workable. But I never really factored in the sheer amount of commitment, to multiple people, that I would have to make. Communication across borders with one person can be tricky, but when you have several friends and family members to maintain relationships with, tricky is the least of your problems.

I guess with friends it all comes down to the type of relationship you had in the first place; I have many amazing girlfriends (and boy-friends) in London, who I might not speak to for at least a month, but when we speak, its like no time passed at all. 


I think in order to maintain long distance friendships you need to find a balance with each person; something that fits with your existing relationship. And don't get down about being off the communication radar every once in a while.

I had many moments where I felt like I let someone down. Whether it was not being there for a birthday, forgetting to reply to that email or not being free to skype, everyday life easily gets in the way. But, friendships can survive distance with a little bit of effort.

And every time I return to London, I get welcomed back by the amazing faces of friends I love (and miss on a daily basis) and it makes all the effort worthwhile. 

I have never done long distance relationships with both the boyfriends and friends simultaneously, but that situation is about to be thrust upon me. Watch this space for how I handle that one. 

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