How to Maintain a Transatlantic Romance

A transatlantic romance can be rough even if your honey-bunny doesn’t look like Stephen Moyer or Rashida Jones. (Photo: from ‘NY-LON,’ Channel 4)

Think scoring that dream job in the U.S. was hard? Pah! Now comes the real work: satisfying your loved one from the other side of the planet. Assuming you have all the relationship fundamentals in place (at the very least you’re high-functioning co-dependents with only the teensiest trust and intimacy issues), you should be able to make it work from afar — but it won’t be easy.

My gut, molded by a lifetime of reading problem pages written by self-appointed wise women named Imogen or Pamela, says that a couple probably won’t last if there’s absolutely no chance that they’ll one day share the same longitude and latitude again. For best results, either your stint in the U.S. needs to be short-term, or your beloved will have to source his or her own American visa. FYI: this might erupt into a premature conversation about marriage, so good luck with that.

Working towards a relationship where both partners reside on the same continent is prudent, but in the meantime you’re left trying to make a life in a new country, affection-deprived and swimming (one can only hope) in a sea of hot Americans with come-to-bed teeth. Skyping will help ease the transition, but not being able to pop over for authentic person-to-person time could leave you both… unfulfilled. And, alas, the transatlantic time difference might make mid-week face-time difficult or impossible: you’ll get home from work just as your UK-based other half is dozing off.

Booking frequent trips back to Britain and arranging for your partner to visit regularly is vital if you don’t want to end up saying bye-bye to your British bit of stuff for good. But this can lead to financial ruin, stress and indelible salt streaks on your cheeks from all those airport farewells where you blub inconsolably into each other’s faces and make everyone within a half-mile radius feel mildly nauseated.

Most importantly, long before you leave, have an honest talk about how — and if — you think this will work. Are you going to stay exclusive or initiate a don’t-ask-don’t-tell protocol? Will you schedule phone calls or just let it happen organically?

And, in your own head at least, try to focus on the positives that come from not sharing a physical space with your partner. No more arguments about mundane domestic annoyances, like him leaving the loo seat up or having to share a bed with her plush toy collection. Of course, if your adult partner keeps stuffed animals on the bed, you should probably be thinking about an exit strategy anyway.

Finally, as trite as it sounds, remember to laugh together and talk about the stuff that made you fall for this person in the first place. Having the same source material can help this along, so try to see the same movies and send each other hilarious things you find on the Internet. That dog who says “I love you” or a badger trying to eat a lemon just might save your relationship.

Are you in a long-distance relationship? How do you cope?

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • Anthony

    As you say..Thank heavens foe SKYPE.

  • HMS Seahorse

    Been doing it for 2.5 years — the Skyping, the jetlag, the bouts of physical loneliness. But I have to say, the No. 1 thing that has kept my parted-by-the-Atlantic relationship going is something that might seem counterintuitive: We have our own, separate, busy lives.

    Of course the emails fly back and forth. And we schedule a mid-week Skype date, Skype during football on Saturday/Sunday morning, and shoot to have a Sunday-evening Skype date as well. These aren’t set in stone, but keep to this plan 90% of the time.

    The rest of the time? It’s ours. Work, cooking, cleaning, friends, family, exercise, our own projects, our own interests all take up plenty of time. When you get quiet moments, it’s actually quite nice to spend them peacefully alone.

    Being comfortable with all that keeps the relationship alive and secure. First, you’re not sitting around, focusing on the fact you’re not together. Second, you have new things to talk about when you do get on Skype. Finally, you each know that you’re important enough to the other to warrant their time, which is a really nice feeling.

    That’s not to say we don’t hope we can sort ourselves out soon. The romantic ideal of stepping off a plane and into a passionate kiss lost its lustre ages ago. Skype is a poor substitute for actual human contact. We desperately miss being together in all the mundane ways that other people get to take for granted. But being independent individuals makes coping with those factors easier.

  • expatmum

    I did this over twenty years ago (and married him) and I agree that you have to sit down and have “the talk” at some point; and that point is usually earlier than you would be doing it if you lived on the same Continent. However, there’s nothing that adds tension to an already tense situation like not even knowing whether the other person has the same long-term romantic intentions.