Balancing Work and Long Distance Love

There are many reasons a couple may embark on a long distance relationship. Sparks fly at the beach on vacation, during a cocktail at an out-of-state business conference, and the next thing you know you’re texting/emailing/booking those plane tickets for Valentine’s Day weekend.

However, many couples that end up in a long distance relationship didn’t start that way, and the most common cause for their disconnected romance is work. Jobs can go in opposite directions and what do we do? We follow the money not because it is more important than our hearts, but because, well, jobs these days are scarce!

This sacrifice of partnership separation is becoming more common as the desperation for dependable work has been growing among recent grads. According to data collected in 2005 by The Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, there are over 7 million couples in the US engaged in some type of long distance relationship…and this data is almost ten years old, pre-2008 economic downturn!    

People often talk about the challenges keeping a long distance relationship together and lists abound as to how to spice things up, keep the flame going, etc. However, few people ever actually talk about the parameters of long distance love when it comes to your actual place of work.

If you’re thinking about spending time away from your partner as a result of your work, consider the following:

Phone calls with your loved one have more importance. Depending on the couple, average phone calls could range from one to ten or more calls in one day! They may not all be long, but knowing you can check in with your loved one is really important to maintain trust, confidence, and strength in the relationship. A very important fact to consider is TIME DIFFERENCE. It would be easy to say you’ll just talk when you both get home from work, but the reality may be that one of you is on your lunch break and the other is just arriving at the office. One of you may be getting ready for bed while the other is walking into a morning meeting. 

What to do? Get used to a routine. Figure out what works for both your schedules and stick to consistent check in times. If something is going to change in your schedule: give your partner a heads up! Let your colleagues in on your routine. Now, they don’t need to know every time you and your partner send kissy face text messages! But if every day you take an afternoon walk to check in on the phone with your loved one, let your coworkers know you won’t be available for those 20 minutes if something comes up. People will be sympathetic towards the situation if they have the facts and you don’t abuse the situation. What not to do? Leave the office for an hour every time your phone rings loudly.

Emails & texts take on new value. Of course lovey messages, funny photos, and ‘articles I thought you would like’, can sit in your inbox for hours. But pressing questions and “I need to talk to you now” messages have much more weight in a long distance relationship. A normal couple would say, ‘let’s talk tonight when I get home’, but that’s not an option when your homes are hundreds (or thousands!) of miles apart.

What to do? Keeping your phone on your person is appropriate in some office environments, but obsessing over it and having the ringer on full volume is highly inappropriate in most workplaces. Be mindful of those around you and of the content and volume of your phone calls. Keep your personal time with email and phone to quick spurts just as you would with checking Facebook or other personal sites at work. Also, be up front with your boss and coworkers about why your phone may be more active than others’. It should never be something that people see you preoccupied with, though.

Time off is of the essence. Vacation days and holidays are precious because they mean you are potentially able to go visit or host your significant other…if you can afford the cost of travel. However, something else to consider is emergencies. Openness communication with your supervisor about your long distance relationship is extremely important when it comes to leaving work at the drop of a hat for days at a time. An accident or other emergency could lead you on a very un-planned excursion that could be both financially and professionally costly.

What to do? It would be a good idea to have emergency money set aside for this type of unfortunate event. Also, discuss with your partner what constitutes a “get on a plane right now” emergency as opposed to a “I can be there next weekend” emergency or an “I’m okay; you don’t need to come” situation. Also, no supervisor or boss likes being blindsided by your sudden unavailability or need to take time off. Prepare for the unexpected and be up-front about your long distance commitment. 

So can my relationship AND job survive long distance love? 

YES! Just be aware of what you're getting into. When discussing long distance relationships and weighing the pros and cons of the situation, people talk about the loneliness, the trust issues, and how often they’ll travel back and forth. What they don’t talk about are the day-to-day details and how they will affect our work life.

Remember to not let work ruin your relationship, but also be careful to not let your relationship negatively affect your work. A work-life balance is a challenge in the best of circumstances, but in a long distance relationship it can really put a strain on an already undesirable situation. Be prepared and communicate with each other and your places of work openly.