The all too familiar Skype ringtone sounds and a slightly less familiar face fills your screen. It smiles at you with sad, pixelated eyes. Has the week gone by this quickly? Have the years slipped by this fast?
The picture on your screen listens as you skim through your week. An hour passes and it’s time to wrap up. You schedule another time to meet and drop the call. You sit, staring at the screen for just a little while longer before breathing in and moving on with your life.
Being a family member, lover or friend from a distance is torture. Video calls, emails and messages do not come close to the simple joy of eating together at the same table or inhaling a loved one’s signature scent when holding them in your arms.
But there are ways to spend ‘quality time’ with your loved ones while living overseas. Here are seven things that you can do to bridge the distance.
1) Just be real
Often in video calls with loved ones overseas we try to pretend that everything is OK. We do it so that our mothers don’t worry, or to put on a brave face and convince others and ourselves that we made the right decision moving away from everything we know.
There’s no point hiding what you’re feeling from the people that know you inside out. Be real. Communicate every doubt and every hidden feeling.
Cut the chit chat. Bicker. Talk deeply. Share. But never hang up in a huff.
2) Don’t force it
There’s a fine line between making an effort to stay in touch and Skyping every single night. You should be picking up the phone to call someone special in your life because you want to, not because it’s Sunday night.
Yes, scheduling catch-up dates is important, but it can also let your relationship become monotonous. While your lives and experiences may be far apart, they should come together naturally, in the form of a spontaneous phone call, instead of at a forced meeting point.
3) Keep getting creative
Find a way to compensate for not celebrating a birthday, holiday or anniversary together.
On Mother’s Day, arrange to cook the dish your mother once taught you to cook and get your mum to do the same. Then enjoy it together over a Skype dinner.
Print out photos from the last time you spent together and write what the special moment meant to you on the back. Send it in the mail rather than over email.
4) Document everything
When it comes to long distance love, your memories are sometimes the only things that pull you through.
Take a screenshot of a string of messages from your loved one which really made you smile, print it out, and stick it somewhere. Take as many photos as possible when you’re together. Scribble something you’d like to remember in a journal.
Make your memories tangible so that you can pour over them alone, together, and one day when the memories in your head fail you.
5) Focus on the little things
There’s nothing more satisfying than returning home to a fridge stocked with your favourite food, a home cooked meal and a familiar bedroom.
While your whole life has changed, home has stayed constant. Time will fly by with your loved ones. Instead of galloping around trying to do everything and see everyone, spend time around the dinner table and park off with your dad on the couch in front of the game. You’re not a special guest. You’re home. Fall back into things and savour the normality of it all.
6) Make life decisions together
While many life decisions don’t require input from a loved one, most loved ones appreciate being asked their opinion. Whether you’re buying a car or moving house, whether your loved one can help or not, ask them. They will appreciate being thought of, and they will feel like they are more involved in your life.
7) Keep things in common
After time apart, often it can feel like you’re losing touch and living past one another.
Try find a topic in common for you to discuss. Recommend books or movies that you’ve enjoyed for them to try and report back to you about. Watch movies or series at the same time. Try a new recipe together. Don’t let life get in the way of spending ‘quality time’ with loved ones from afar.
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