Nearly a year ago, my boyfriend got a great job offer in West Africa, approximately 7,700 miles away from where I live in Malaysia. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to being in a long-distance relationship, I was happy for him, as the job offered invaluable career growth. He returned home for a short visit five months after leaving, and we’ve officially said two airport goodbyes. I thought that the first goodbye would be most difficult, but boy, was I wrong. I suspect the goodbyes will get harder every time. Whether you’re preparing for a long adventure away from home or walking back to the airport parking garage all alone, here are five ways to make goodbyes less painful.
Don’t save it for the last day
Many of us tend to avoid talking about the goodbye and pretend that it’s not happening until the final moment. While denial might be a coping mechanism for some, it may actually lead to a more emotional farewell. I find it helpful to think of goodbyes as a process, not a singular moment. Days before the actual goodbye, my boyfriend and I talk about him leaving and what lies ahead for us until the next visit. Acknowledging the inevitable LDR and discussing our worries in private gives me time to to prepare myself emotionally for the goodbye. This way, when my boyfriend is actually walking away on the last day, I feel a lot calmer.
Have “one last date” before you say goodbye
Airports don’t have to be a sad and miserable places just because your loved one is leaving. Make your trip to the airport (or train station or bus stop) a memorable one. Talk about the good times you’ve had during this visit. Stock up on snacks and turn the drive into a mini road trip! My boyfriend and I have a habit of going to the airport earlier and having coffee or a meal together before he leaves. This “last date” also helps to reinforce the idea that the farewell location is filled with good memories too.
Meet up with friends after sending your loved one off
The first time I sent my boyfriend off, I felt really devastated as I drove home from the airport all alone. Life as I knew it was suddenly over, and I didn’t know how to cope. I called my best friend and vented to her for hours. Talking to her made me feel a lot better. These days, I plan ahead to meet my friends right after my boyfriend leaves. Surrounding yourself with friends is a good distraction from the painful transition back into an LDR!
Establish a communication plan
While it’s hard to see your loved one leave, it always feels better when you know the next time you can talk to them. My boyfriend works approximately 12 hours a day, six days a week, and with the eight-hour time difference, we only get to do video calls on Sundays. Although it’s infrequent, knowing that I’m able to talk to him every Sunday is reassuring. The goodbyes feel manageable, knowing that we’ll have our weekly Skype sessions.
Plan your next face-to-face meet up before your loved one leaves
This last point is the most important coping mechanism for me. My boyfriend and I always have a rough plan of when we will meet next before he leaves. He has planned to come back for Christmas this year, and that’s just a few months away! Knowing that the separation is not open-ended gives us both something to look forward to. Planning ahead like this may not be possible for everyone, but try to at least have a rough timeline to hold onto. This way, instead of saying goodbye, you can say “see you soon” and start your countdown for the next visit.
Originally published on October 19, 2018.