Living in another country is bound to cause a little bit of a gap in your relationships – there is just no way around that. It’s really hard to be involved in someone’s life as much as you were before when they don’t just live 20 minutes away, they live an entire country/continent/ocean away. It’s normal for our relationships to take a bit of a hit when we can’t talk to or see our friends/family/loved ones every day like we normally would. But there are some ways to close that gap a little bit!
When I found out I was pregnant (while living in a separate country from most of my family and friends), the first thing I wanted to do was tell my sister. She’s my best friend – how could she not be the first to know? What never occurred to me when I was dialing her number was the 9 hour time difference from Belgium to Vancouver.
- SHARE BIG NEWS IN THE MOMENT IF YOU CAN
Granted, this rule can only be used with specific people. My college roommate would be less than thrilled to get a 4am phone call from me, but my sister who I’ve spent years living with was more than happy to awake to the news of my pregnancy. Sharing your news in the moment will relay your own excitement and make the people you’re involving feel close and connected to you.
So, on a sunny afternoon in Belgium (which was actually 4am in Vancouver where she was at the time), I hopped on Facebook and sent her a message demanding she wake up and Skype with me. She called me, I shared the news – we laughed, we teared up and we celebrated, even though there were over 3000 miles separating us at the time.
Thanks to the technological advances of the 21st century, there were about a million ways you can share exciting news or milestones with family and friends all over the world.
- USE THE TECHNOLOGY AVAILABLE
What would life abroad be without technology!? We live in an amazing age where people all over the world can be connected instantly via Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, and countless other apps, devices and programs. Something specific for pregnancy that I found interesting was the AngelSounds Fetal Doppler, where you can listen to your baby’s heartbeat and movements through a handheld doppler. Not only that, but the AngelSounds doppler allows you to record and upload your sound clips to a computer, meaning you can share your baby’s heartbeat with your loved ones – no matter where in the world they are. Although we decided against this handheld doppler for various reasons, they are fairly popular if you’re comfortable using them.
We decided to go a different route with technology and actually record our entire ultrasound scan via video on my phone, and from there I could edit the 20 minute clip into little sections (hearing the baby’s heartbeat, finding out the gender, etc) and send them to friends and family that way.
- DON’T BE EMBARRASSED TO CAPTURE MOMENTS HOWEVER/WHENEVER YOU CAN
Originally I thought it might be a bit strange to ask my OB/GYN if we could record our entire ultrasound appointment – but then I just thought “so what, this is life abroad, right?!” Asking that one little question and having my boyfriend record our appointment is not only a lovely memory for us, but it’s a really great way to make my family feel involved in the pregnancy. They don’t get to see my growing baby bump, they won’t get to feel the baby kicking for the first or second time…this was a thing that they could be a part of and I was going to make it happen no matter how silly it felt at the time!
Something that had never really occurred to me until this year during my pregnancy was that people love hearing about the little things! Something as simple as “I can’t eat spicy chicken anymore, my morning sickness has ruined it for me.” can make my best friend feel like she’s in the know, or can make my mom feel like part of this journey.
- TALK ABOUT THE LITTLE/SIMPLE THINGS WITH WHOMEVER WANTS TO LISTEN
You know, those every-day things in your life abroad that you would tell your boyfriend about because he lives with you but they don’t seem “important” enough or “worth mentioning” during your 30 minute Skype catch up with your friend. Everyone is different, but sometimes your best friend might miss talking to you about what you ate for lunch that day or the cute guy at the Starbucks who wrote his number on your coffee cup this morning. A lot of people would really enjoy knowing those little every-day things because it helps them feel involved in your every day life, instead of just being involved in the life-altering, bigger things that happen.
Something that has taken me a long time (and by that I mean I still don’t fully understand this concept), is that people don’t always “have time” to catch up with you and that does NOT mean they don’t care. If you’re anything like me, when someone says they didn’t have time to get back to you, you can’t help but think to yourself – “really, how hard is it to send a text message?”
- BE UNDERSTANDING AND CONFIDENT IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Whether it be your old college roommate or your best friend – everyone gets busy and everyone loses track of people sometimes. It’s hard to maintain a long distance relationship of any kind, even non-romantic ones (trust me, I know!). Just because you haven’t been able to catch up with someone in a few weeks, does not mean they no longer care about you or that they don’t miss you. Be understanding of how busy other people’s lives can be and more importantly, be confident in the bonds you’ve created with these people. They are your friends and family – they care, even if they haven’t had the time to tell you lately.
Still, even with all of these guidelines for maintaining your long distance relationships, it’s easy to feel lonely, left out and disconnected from people – which is where this last rule comes into play…
- TAKE EVERYTHING INTO ACCOUNT (INCLUDING YOUR OWN ACTIONS) WHEN THINKING ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIPS AND HOW STRONG THEY ARE
There are a lot of different things that come into play when trying to maintain a relationship with someone you don’t necessarily see or talk to every day. Have you been making an effort? Have they? Have you told them how you feel? Are they busy or going through a hard time? Do they not like using social media or their phone very often?
All of these things can effect our relationships – it’s not always as simple as “we haven’t talked in 2 weeks.”
Maintaining a long distance relationship (romantically or not) takes a lot of effort, but most of all it takes confidence and communication. You need to know that these people are in your life for a reason, and most of the time no amount of distance or days without being able to catch up will change how much they care for you.