My girlfriend and I have been in a long-distance relationship for almost two years. We met through Medium.
We’ve spent a few of these months together. The rest of the time, we’ve been apart.
It’s not easy, but it’s 100% worth it.
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world!
Last month, I booked time off work, flew to New York, and spent a month living with her. What would day-to-day life be like if we made it a permanent thing?
Here’s what we learned.
Lesson #1: Spend an hour checking-in
Tim Ferriss talks about checking in with his girlfriend.
Their check-ins are always on the calendar — once a week — even if they decide not to take them.
They can choose to “opt out”.
This gives them the opportunity to talk about things openly and honestly:
“One person will start by saying what they think they’ve done well…
“They talk about where they’ve dropped the ball or could focus more. This is helpful for diffusing things. They’ll then tell the other person what they’re doing well, and what they would love to see more of.
“It usually takes an hour… on a weekend evening. One of us will take notes on the whole thing…
“I have Evernote. I put all our check-ins in reverse chronological order. The most recent is at the top.
“I can go back and look…
“This is not as a gotcha. It’s just like, ‘All right, did I keep up my end of the bargain?”
Tim’s girlfriend set 90% of this up.
He’s just “along for the ride”.
“The ritual of having the time, having it on the calendar, respecting it, always showing up, being mentally present and tracking it — that’s like 90% of the game…”
My girlfriend and I applied this to our own relationship.
Every Sunday, we asked each other about our weeks.
It gave us an opportunity to say how much we enjoy living together, as well as think about our schedules.
One thing I brought up was her morning goodbyes. They sounded abrupt, like she was trying to get away from me. (Really, she was just in a hurry for work — or so I’m told!)
When I mentioned it, she didn’t even realise.
It’s such a small thing and we joke about it now. However, it got us thinking about how we communicate with each other.
We’re sensitive souls.
We appreciate softly-softly language.
Takeaway: Check in with those you live with. Are things going well? Is there anything that could be improved? If you live by yourself, the same questions apply.
Lesson #2: Let your mornings simmer
There’s a new concept in the digital nomad world.
I first heard it from Pieter Levels — founder of Nomadlist.
It’s called being a “slomad”.
Rather than flying through countries at break-neck speed, some remote workers are spending 2–3 months in one place. Only then do they move on.
It’s an approach my girlfriend and I took to our mornings. Rather than springing out of bed, we let them simmer.
We started off by copying Hugh Jackman.
When he and his wife are together, they spend the mornings reading together in bed.
Sounds cute, right?
I can confirm it is. We tried it.
After reading, we spent a few moments telling each other three things we were grateful for. They could be big or small. It didn’t matter.
Finally, we spent five minutes meditating using this practice.
We then spent more time cuddled up, away from the world, before slowly making breakfast.
I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a morning.
Takeaway: The world isn’t going anywhere. Give yourself ten minutes to rise slowly. Read, meditate; whatever feels good.
Lesson #3 —Remove friction from your evenings
I love this quote from Chris Voss — author of Never Split the Difference:
“When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion — you fall to your highest level of preparation.”
It reminds me of friction.
This force acts against stuff. It’s like that annoying kid in class who refuses to work. (I wouldn’t have minded you messing around, George, but we were in a group!)
My girlfriend and I realised something.
If we didn’t make plans for the evening, we’d default to our usual. Lounging in front of the TV, cuddling all night, watching Stranger Things.
Nothing wrong with that, mind you!
However, seeing as I’d travelled nearly 4,000 miles to see her, we wanted to be more outgoing.
So we wrote down a list of activities we wanted to do. Slowly, we ticked them off, one by one.
My girlfriend wanted to learn more about investing, so I taught her. She’s a pro at photography so she helped me with my headshots. We also made room for socialising, like hosting a taco night and dining with friends.
Whether going out or staying in, it was nice to have a loose framework so we knew what to expect.
Takeaways: Make evening plans before you go to work. After a long day’s graft, all you’ll want to do is space out.
Lesson #4 — Alone time is healthy
I’m an introvert. So is my girlfriend.
Spending time alone comes naturally to us.
As people pleasers, though, our challenge is telling one another that we need time alone. We need to recharge our batteries.
Little things made a difference. In her apartment, we worked in separate rooms. (Most of the time.) We had lunch breaks at different hours. After work, we spent 30 minutes on our stuff.
This meant that when evening rolled around, we wanted to spend time together.
We were ready.
Takeaways: If you’re living with someone, you don’t have to spend all your time with them. They won’t be offended if you want some downtime.
Lesson #5 — Split things down the middle
My friends Alex & Molly are pros at this.
Each month, they both put ~$50 into a joint bank account. They call it their “fun-time fund”. They only use this account for date nights.
This means that whenever they go out, they don’t have to think about who’s paying.
They simply throw down their “fun-time” card.
To paraphrase Jim Collins — author of Good to Great — Alex & Molly have agreed on a single decision that removes hundreds of others.
My girlfriend and I tried something similar.
One of us paid for things when we were out (usually whoever offered first). Then, if I paid, I would message my girlfriend to say how much she owed — and vice versa.
We split things down the middle.
We have an equal relationship, so we wanted our finances to reflect that. I paid for the first couple of dates, but now we split most things.
It’s the same with chores. We got into a routine of doing things as they needed to be done. No nagging. No drama. We’re both pretty tidy which helps.
When you trust someone, you know things will get done.
You’ve just gotta have faith.
Takeaways: Try and pay your way when you can. It doesn’t matter how. It cuts out the fuss.
It was 11 months before my girlfriend and I met in person.
This was a blessing and a curse. It sucked at the time, but it’s helped us build a solid relationship.
So did living together.
Here’s a summary of the five lessons we learned:
- Lesson #1: Spend an hour checking in — Start with these questions. Are things going well? Is there anything that could be improved?
- Lesson #2: Let your mornings simmer — The world isn’t going anywhere. Why rush?
- Lesson #3: Remove friction from your evenings — Make plans before you start a day’s work. You’ll thank me later.
- Lesson #4: Alone time is healthy — Particularly if you’re an introvert.
- Lesson #5: Split things down the middle — It’s so much easier than the alternative.
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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