If you’re reading this, you’re either contemplating moving to China to be an English teacher, or you’re my mom (hi, Mom!). Assuming you are not my mom, there are a great many advantages to living and working in China, but it is still something that requires a lot of thought beforehand. It is not a decision you should make lightly. Today, I’m going to tell you about the most difficult part of coming to China for me; having a long-distance relationship.
My girlfriend and I have been together a number of years, but we’ve never spent that much time away from each other. Moving to China could have put a strain on our relationship and caused us to drift apart emotionally. We were determined to make it work, however, and so far we have managed to stay really close, despite the enormous physical distance between us. Here are some of the things I do (or should have done) to keep our relationship strong:
1) TALK EVERYDAY This is so important. Talk to him/her every single day. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, it could be something as small as a couple of text messages. Send pictures, videos, or voice recordings. Try to talk at length at least once a week. This can be tricky because of the time difference, but it’s not impossible. It may require staying up very late, or waking up at an ungodly hour, but it’s worth it to hear their voice in real time.
2) REMEMBER IMPORTANT DAYS Remember anniversaries, birthdays, and other important events. Call them on these days, and send gifts if the day warrants it. It can be hard to mail things from China, and it usually takes a while to get from A to B, but it will make your loved one feel appreciated. If you are unable to mail something from China, order something from Amazon and have it delivered to their house.
3) TRUST EACH OTHER Going away for such a long time can lead to feelings of unease; what if they forget about me? What if they meet someone else? What if I come back in a year and the spark is gone? There is no quick, easy answer for this. You have to trust each other.
4) BE TRUSTWORTHY
Don’t do anything that betrays the trust of your loved one. Don’t cancel a Skype date at the last minute because you want to shoot some pool with your new friends. Your friends won’t mind if you cancel on them, but your significant other won’t like it.
5) DON’T BE SLAVISHLY DEVOTED TO THEM 24/7 This may run contrary to what I just said, but try not to spend all your time thinking about your loved one and how much you miss them. Go out and have some fun! Make new friends! Do things that you might be unable to do with your significant other, even something simple (mine hates horror movies, so I don’t watch very many at home, but here in China I watch lots of them).
6) NEVER, EVER GO TO BED ANGRY There will be times when you argue, and that’s okay. It happens. If you are having a fight, try to resolve it before you go to bed. If you are anything like me, going to sleep angry with the person next to you is a rotten feeling; the distance between you compounds this feeling. Always talk it out, even if this means staying up late the night before an early class.
7) VISIT Plan a visit; either go home to see them, or fly them out to see you. Doing that is special enough, but you should do everything you can to make the visit as amazing as possible. I proposed to my girlfriend when she came over, then brought her to some other cities around China. Even though I was away from home and my family, it was the happiest I’ve been in years.
So that’s my advice. I hope, if this applies to you, that you feel a little better and a little more confident about moving to China. This is what I would probably tell myself if I could send myself some advice, it might have relieved some of my worries. I hope it does the same for you.