Is this real or am I dreaming? Is s/he even worth it? Is s/he feeling the same way about me? Am I being a mediocre again thinking it’s going to work? Would I be better off dating someone else around here?

These were some of the questions in her mind in her two-year-long distance relationship before she married him. Carmen is American. Her husband (then her boyfriend) is Japanese. The two met in graduate school in the U.S. It was obviously tough for them but they surely survived.

It was not only difficult that they had a long distance relationship. It was tougher because it was a long distance intercultural relationship. The challenges included; lack of trust, lack of physical presence, lonely nights, fear of splitting, and cultural and time differences.

Here is the truth. Long distance relationships are tough, for everyone. Even worse is when they are intercultural. It’s like double the trouble. When it comes to surviving both the distance and cultural differences, there are some things that can make a difference because yes, it is possible.

  1. Have Something to Look Forward To

The secret to a good long distance intercultural relationship is growth. It means both partners have something they’re looking forward to. These could be a planned date together, vacation, work transfer to another’s city or sometime together at one of the partner’s cities or residents.

Usually, long distance intercultural relationships are filled with uncertainties, which are often a recipe for arguments and misunderstandings. The longer partners in a long distance relationship stay apart the more uncertain they become. Planning for something ahead helps keep the focus.

2. Hope to Close the Physical Separation  

Other than a common goal, there is need for hope to close the physical separation between one and the other. This has something to do with being physically and intimately connected. It’s a significant part of such relationships because really there is nothing that can be more important.

Closing in on distance also has the advantage of not only meeting one’s partner but also being able to know him/her a little more both in person and character. It also helps to learn a thing or two about the other’s culture; set of beliefs, traditional norms, cultural expectations, and family.

3. Establish Your Role in the Relationship

This is the basis of every relationship. There must be a purpose and every partner should know his or her role in the relationship. It calls for commitment. It also calls for knowing one another well enough. Just like having a common goal, having a purpose in a relationship keep the focus.

It happens that this was not Carmen’s first intercultural relationship. Towards the end of final year in undergraduate, she fell in love with a Brazilian who left immediately after completing. That would mark the end of their relationship. They never had roles to commit to.

4. Slow to Judge the Other Person/Culture

This is an assumption but often true. When two people stay apart, even if they are relatives, they hardly see each other for who they are. More often than not, they’ll judge and make assumptions about one another. Assumptions can be exaggerated.  Obviously, they are bad for a relationship.

Assumptions and judgments can also manifest in various ways in a long distance relationship. In some cases, people get insanely jealous or irrationally possessive of their partner. Often they will think of every social outing without them as threatening. It can be worse in intercultural contexts.

5. Communicate Naturally and Regularly

There’s a lot to communication. It’s not enough to say that it’s key. It’s important to communicate regularly and to spice it a little each time you do. A good communication should occur naturally. It also involves different elements; verbal and non-verbal. It also recognizes the need to be alone.

What it means for every partner in a relationship is that it should not be overly done. Similarly, it shouldn’t be too scarce. Humor is a good element to add to your communication. This should be considerate of reservations by a partner’s culture. Communication is better with shared experiences.

Perhaps now you have an idea how you’d survive the separation in a long distance intercultural relationship. The question others would ask then is whether it’s worth it, which is a yes and no depending on your relationship. Sometimes it may only mean being able to learn how to survive.

Some other times it may also mean you’re stuck in a long distance intercultural relationship and are missing out on a relationship across the street that may have a better chance of survival. It is that uncertain but you can give it a try hoping the other person is cool. Whatever you do, try and close the distance between you two because it never really feels real until you are actually there.