How to Handle Long Distance Marriage

Matt Joyce wedding

On our wedding day // July 2014

I am definitely by no means an expert in long distance marriage (I’m more of a novice actually), but many of you have been asking me about surviving a long distance relationship. Here are some little things I’ve learned in the last few months. I’d love to hear your thoughts too, because many of you out there have been doing LDR for much much longer.

In Naples FL for a conference

As some of you may know, Matt moved to San Francisco in October to start a new job, and I’ve been in NYC finishing up my last year of residency. We’ll be doing the long distance thing for about 10 months until I move back to California this August.  I’ve never done long distance before, much less long distance marriage, so I’ve definitely had to learn to adapt. Here are a couple things I’ve learned from this process, from my friends and coworkers who are also in long distance relationships, and from Matt:

  • Your phone plays a vital role. My iPhone = pretty much my whole communication with my husband when we’re apart. One rule I’ve tried to follow is to always pick up his phone calls, even if it’s just to pick up and say that I’m in the middle of something and will call back. I think being able to connect even for a few seconds is better than being sent to voicemail and risk either of us feeling ignored. Obviously I don’t pick up if I’m at work but I always try to call back whenever I’m next free.
  • Set up a routine. We are both busy and Matt’s work schedule is actually crazier than mine. It ends up helping that he’s 3 hours behind, because by the time I’m going to bed he’s just leaving work! We try to facetime every night for 30 minutes. If the timing doesn’t work out, then we try to talk on the phone for at least 15 minutes.
  • Be intentional about meeting up. Matt and I have been lucky to have seen each other every 2-3 weeks since he left…and none of these were extra trips! I was already traveling back to California multiple times for job interviews, vacation, and weddings. He also joined me for the dermatology conference in Maui and will be joining me in San Diego for AAD. It’s a LOT of traveling and is pretty exhausting but the sacrifice is worth it.
  • Incorporate each other into your daily routine. My coworker Loren gave me this tip. I haven’t been diligent about it because it’s a mad dash out the door once I wake up, but in theory, this is a great idea. She takes a selfie everyday showing her outfit of the day, and texts it to her boyfriend. This way he can feel like he is a part of her day.
  • Write it down. When Matt first left NY he wrote a handful of cards to me and hid them around the apartment. I found them over the next few weeks, in my bathroom cabinet, a kitchen drawer, our bulletin board, etc. Reading them made me tear up but also feel closer to him. The next time he visited, I also wrote a handful of cards spaced out for the number of days we’ll be apart, and I wrote the dates he should read them on the envelopes. It’s funny because now in the digital age we rarely hand write things, but I find it more meaningful to have feelings written down in a way that I can look back on time and again when I’m feeling lonely.
  • Look for the silver lining. The silver lining in our case is that we are both pursuing our dream careers, and the fact that we’re apart means we have even more time to focus on on work! I get to study more and work on more research. I also get to spend more time with my friends and explore the city with them. In Matt’s case, he is working at a start up that is VERY demanding of his time. He is working around 12 hours a day, and if I were there, that schedule would not be sustainable! The fact that we’re on opposite coasts makes it possible for him to grind in his position and achieve all that he can. I fully support that!
  • Focus on personal growth. I’m an extrovert by nature, so I tend to draw my energy from being around others; getting used to being alone has been challenging but also refreshing. This past Saturday I didn’t even speak to another person in real life until 7 pm! That is really out of the ordinary for me, but I actually kind of liked having a chill Saturday. I ran along the Hudson River, made a big breakfast, studied, and watched TV. I fully relaxed and recharged and I’m starting to learn how to appreciate alone time.
Wedding Northern California

At a wedding in Northern California

As I said at the outset, I’m new to this whole long distance marriage thing. Many of you have kindly offered your tips, and I’d love to hear from you here: what advice do you have for making a long distance relationship work?




4 Comments on How to Handle Long Distance Marriage

  1. Amy
    February 2, 2018 at 12:35 am (3 weeks ago)

    Joyce, I love your blog and feel a connection to you. If you lived closer, I would love for you to be my dermatologist! My husband is an ER doc and I was an OR nurse prior to having 4 kids. We lived in NYC for awhile but are now living in westchester. When my husband was in residency, I was living in Vancouver, Canada in my last year of nursing school. We did the whole long distance relationship for 1 year. We would see each other every 3-4 months. It wasn’t easy but we got through it since we were both busy. Looking back, I wished I used the times we were apart to focus on spending time with my friends/families instead of counting down the days till I would see him again. But it sounds like you’re using your time apart well and keep yourself busy.

    • Joyce
      February 2, 2018 at 12:58 pm (3 weeks ago)

      Amy, thank you so much for leaving your comment! Every 3-4 months is really tough; I see my husband every 3-4 weeks and I still feel lonely sometimes. I think you give good advice to busy yourself with friends/family; luckily, NYC is very distracting with many new things to see and explore, so it keeps me busy in the times in between visits :)

  2. C
    February 15, 2018 at 9:02 pm (1 week ago)

    I’ve been doing NYC and Asia for 2.5 years now. I’m not sure if I have the best advice, but sharing my experience in case it helps. I found it important to Plan when we’d see each other next. Once we went 8 weeks and we decided it was too much so we try to do every 4-6 even though it’s a lot of traveling. I love hiding notes as well. And definitely enjoy the Pros that exist in every situation, like deciding to do something random instead of rushing home, sleeping in the middle of the bed, spending more time with friends.

    • Joyce
      February 16, 2018 at 5:17 pm (1 week ago)

      I love that! Yes it definitely has been easier because I have friends in NYC and I’m able to be spontaneous without feeling bad! Sending you well wishes!


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