How To Do A Long-Distance Relationship When You're On Completely Different Schedules

by Jamie Kravitz

Being away from your partner for weeks or months at a time is never easy. Long-distance relationships can really test you emotionally, whether you're a bus ride away from each other, or you live on two different continents. Perhaps the most frustrating long-distance situation is when you and your significant other are in a long-distance relationship in different time zones. Not only do you have to face all the obstacles that being in a LDR normally presents, but you also have to work around the fact that you are on two completely different schedules. This might mean having to wake up ridiculously early or stay up extra late for a quick FaceTime date with bae.

If you're struggling to maintain your long-distance relationship across time zones, don't give up just yet. I spoke to Sam Owen, relationship coach, psychologist, and author of Resilient Me: How to Worry Less and Achieve More, about how to navigate a LDR when you and your partner are on completely different schedules. By prioritizing your S.O., practicing patience and resilience, and having difficult conversations when necessary, you can make a long-distance relationship work. Oh, and maybe invest in an iPhone if you haven't already, because FaceTime truly is god's gift to long-distance couples.

Don't Overthink It

When you don't see your partner all the time, it can be easy to let your mind run wild about what they're doing (and who they may be doing it with), Owen explains. She stresses the importance of being mindful, and realizing that "they may be in a different headspace from you, purely because of the time difference or because of things that have happened that you don't know about." Before you jump to conclusions or take their mood personally, ask them a few questions to find out what's going on. Owen provides a few examples, such as, 'You seem quiet. Are you OK?' and 'Is there something I should know about?' They'll likely say they had a long day at work or didn't get much sleep, and that's why they don't seem as present as usual.

Talk About Your Concerns

Although your "face" time with your partner is probably limited, it's still important to address any concerns you may have about the relationship. "As much as you may want to make the limited communication time you have all rosy and fun, you still want to know that you're committing to a relationship that is worth your time and energy," says Owen. "Ensure you still have the important, difficult conversations you know you need to have, but do remember to execute those conversations calmly, clearly, and respectfully." Talking about your relationship is the key to making it last.

For this girl, planning phone calls ahead of time helped her feel closer to her boyfriend.

When I moved to NYC to pursue a career opportunity, I left a lot of things behind in Los Angeles — including my long-term boyfriend. You'd think that a three-hour time difference wouldn't be all that bad, but when you're heading to bed at 11 p.m. and he only just got home from work, things get complicated. Our schedules no longer aligned and I disliked that we couldn't be spontaneous and had to 'plan' talking to each other. I learned that what's most important in a LDR is a reality check, especially if your relationship didn't start with any distance. We started to plan a set time every night for him to call me before I go to bed, even for 15 minutes, and once a week we have a date night where we order in the same food and have a drink or two 'together.' At the beginning I fought against structuring our relationship like this, because it's so different from how it used to be when we were in the same city. But now I love that I am guaranteed to hear his voice every night.

— Emma, 23

Make Your Relationship A Priority

This person is clearly important to you, and is someone you want in your life. Make sure your feelings about your partner are as clear to them as they are to you by making them a priority. Owen suggests blocking out specific times to video chat. By setting this up in advance, you'll find times that work for both of your schedules. "If possible, schedule those calls in for a time when you're both likely to be in a similar frame of mind so that there is a good synergy between you when you chat," Owen adds. "Make sure those face-to-face communications are frequent and are supplemented with other forms of communication such as WhatsApp messages and social media interactions."

For this girl, sticking to a regular communication schedule proved that her partner was a top priority.

From my experience, consistently making time for a long-distance partner is something that requires a lot of discipline. Finding a time that works for both of you to talk/Skype and sticking to it will show your partner that even though you aren't together, they are still a top priority. Figuring out a time can definitely take some trial and error if you are located in different time zones, but it is doable. I would also say it's important to find the amount of contact that feels right for you and your partner, instead of pressuring yourselves because for some arbitrary reason you think you should be talking on the phone or video chatting every day. My partner and I found that video chatting every single day felt a bit too forced, but of course another couple might feel very differently. I would also say sending pics back and forth really helps when you're on totally different schedules but want your partner to feel included in your day-to-day life.

— Tayi, 24

Use Various Forms Of Communication

Owen says that it's a good idea to be in touch with your partner on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean you have to Skype or FaceTime every single night. Text messages, Twitter DMs, and Snapchats are all viable forms of communication. Owen does suggest taking time to catch up face-to-face at least once or twice a week (or more often if you're so inclined). "It's nice to start and end your day connecting with each other even if you can't speak for the rest of the day," she says. "Ensure at least one video chat [per week] is a quality chat for a reasonable length of time where neither feels like they are being rushed. Connect on the phone for the same frequency if you can’t via video chat."

Practice Patience And Resilience

Long-distance relationships are all about patience and resilience. "Patience with them when, for example, they're not able to communicate back as quickly as you'd like, and resilience to deal with the worries and frustrations that can come with LDRs," says Owen. Being in a long-distance relationship can be difficult, but if you really love the person, you can and should try to make it work.

This girl respects her boyfriend's need for alone time, and vice versa.

I'm an early bird and he's a night owl, so it seems that most days we're waking up and falling asleep around the same time even with the time difference. I work at home and he works in retail so we have the flexibility to text throughout the day when we can, and FaceTime at least once a day, usually before bed. We are also respectful of each other and there will be times I will get super zoned into writing and not respond to him, or he's playing a game and won't answer me. I feel like we make it work the best we can by always communicating, but I can’t wait until we live in the same city.

— Jacqueline, 23

When you're having a bad day and you wish more than anything that your S.O. were there with you, try to remember that this situation likely isn't permanent. You can also start saving up for a visit, keep an eye out for airline sales, or plan to meet somewhere in the middle, because there's nothing like being with your partner IRL.