A lot of people who are studying abroad without their girlfriend or boyfriend in the upcoming semesters have asked me for advice on handling the four-month-long long-distance relationship.

Here are 16 tips for maintaining a relationship with someone when you're studying abroad without them (or if you're the one who's not studying abroad but has a girlfriend or boyfriend who will be):

1. Communication is more important than ever


Whether it's over text, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime or even a classic phone call, find the time to talk. This can be hard if there's a significant time difference between your country and their country, but you can always plan the conversations ahead of time.

2. Trust will make or break your relationship

Before you even go abroad — or before they step on that airplane (if you're the one staying home) — trust must be established. If there isn't trust in the relationship — even if one of you trusts but the other one doesn't — dating long distance is going to be extremely difficult and the smallest misunderstandings or miscommunications may have the ability to cause major problems or even destroy the relationship. This may sound drastic, but I'm just laying my honest thoughts out there: if there isn't solid trust formed between you two, the relationship will most likely not survive.

3. Respect them and their feelings 

Just because the two of you aren't physically together does not mean you can disregard their feelings. If certain people make your girlfriend feel disrespected and if she has told you how she feels about them, it's a no-brainer that you should avoid surrounding yourself with them out of respect for the girl you love. Loyalty should withstand regardless of the physical distance between two people.

4. Always be there for them and protect them


If something happens to your girlfriend or boyfriend when you two are apart that makes her or him feel unsafe, hurt, or disrespected, be there for them as best as you can. Just because you're not physically by their side does not give you a reason to not support them from afar. If you're going to be away from campus for months, make sure your friends who are staying on campus look out for your girlfriend or boyfriend and protect them if need be.

5. Be open and honest with your feelings

If you ever have doubts, confessions, or questions you need to share with them, do so whenever you can. Leaving your girlfriend or boyfriend in the dark is one of the worst things you can do. Lying and bending the truth only makes matters worse, so always be honest and direct.

6. Send them things that remind them of you


Sometimes all it takes to make a girl feel better is to snuggle up with her boyfriend's hoodie that smells like him. Sending something that reminds them of you and your relationship is easily one of the most heartfelt gestures you can make. Even sending the link to a song on Spotify or an inside joke can turn their day around.

7. Use the time difference to your advantage

Send your girlfriend a text while she's sleeping so that she can wake up feeling loved. If your boyfriend is sleeping during the time that his favorite team is playing, send him a quick text about the game and include how much you're thinking of him.

8. Share memories

Check your Snap memories to find cute pictures and videos from the past to put a smile on both of your faces. Send her the picture saying, "A year ago today we cuddled and watched a scary movie. Only a few more weeks until you're in my arms again." Believe me, this will make her day,

9. Give updates

You obviously don't need to give your girlfriend a play-by-play of your night out, but it's always a good idea to let her know what your plans are. Plus, it's always better to let them know what you're up to rather than having them find pictures of you at some nightclub you never told them you were going to on their Instagram feed — even though it may have been no big deal, it comes across as really shady.

10. Allow yourself to cry 

It's healthy to miss someone when you're not with them for an extended period of time—that's how you know you're really in love and care for them! The first couple of weeks will be hard, and you may feel yourself getting emotional again sometime within the semester. Suppressing these feelings won't make them go away—it'll only make them snowball. The right way to deal with emotions is to allow yourself to feel them and then move on to another emotion.

11. Talk about your feelings with someone other than your boyfriend or girlfriend


Speaking to someone outside of the relationship can be a huge help. Even if your best friend hasn't experienced what it's like to be in your shoes (living away from your boyfriend for one-third of the year), they can still listen to what you have to say, give you advice, and make you feel better.

12. Gift them with goodies for no reason

Send them gifts out of the blue to show them that you're thinking of them. If you know they're going to be really stressed out during finals week, send them a care package with their favorite snacks, comfy library clothes, and a mug they can fill with caffeine during study sessions.

13. Visit (if you can)


Strong couples can survive the semester without seeing each other face to face, but visiting makes things more bearable. But, traveling is expensive and takes a lot of planning, so don't wait until the last minute.

14. Track your feelings

This may sound tedious, but think about keeping a log of how you're feeling. We all have bad days that can influence our emotions, but sometimes a recurring feeling can be a sign of something bigger. If you notice yourself constantly worrying or feeling weird about something regarding your relationship, keep track of it to see if it's worth investigating and possibly telling your girlfriend or boyfriend about.

15. Avoid social media stalking 

Viewing their social media is one thing, but stalking them as well as their peers and friends will drive you crazy. The tiniest of interactions (such as commenting on a picture) can lead you to overthink and second-guess when there may be no reason to worry at all.

16. Have faith


Rough patches are bound to occur in any relationship, whether or not it's long-distance. There may be some days (or even weeks) that are particularly difficult. Whenever I would find myself down in the dumps, I would tell myself that everything will work out. I'm a big believer in everything happening for a reason, anyone that is meant to be yours will be, and it's as simple as that.

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