Expat life: making long-distance relationships work 

December 17, 2019

There can be many reasons why couples end up living in different countries when one is working in an expat role including:


  • commitments to family
  • your partner can’t get a visa 
  • lack of suitable roles for your partner
  • commitments to study or their own employer

Although there is no denying a long-distance relationship can be difficult, like any situation in life, try to look at the potential positives too. Living apart may help you:


  • solidify your feelings for each other
  • provide you with more time to focus on your career
  • offer the chance to take up a new pastime or hobby
  • build your communication skills

On the other side of things, a long-distance relationship does pose a lot of challenges. Living apart means:


  • you don’t see each other every day
  • there is cost involved in seeing each other
  • you may be living in different time zones
  • possible loneliness
  • missing out on important occasions
  • potential trust issues

Don’t sacrifice your own life

This is particularly important if you are moving abroad to work in an expat role. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of missing your partner and not make the most of your time abroad. It is still important to build a sense of community and purpose during your time away. How you do this will depend on your interests. 

Agree the situation is temporary

Long distance relationships are easier if you both know and agree there is an end in sight. Maintaining your relationship will be easier If you both know your assignment is a year and you plan to repatriate after that.

Focus on quality of communication

Unlike couples who are living with each other, you do not have to get caught up in day to day issues. Take advantage of this by using your communication time to discuss the important things including:

  • your feelings for each other
  • difficulties of being apart
  • plans when you are reunited

Don’t rely entirely on technology

Smartphones make staying in touch when in a long distance relationship easier. Time zones allowing, you can use apps to message and video call each other, but don’t forget the power of physical connection via a letter or care package. Digital messages are great, but they are instant, writing a letter to your partner takes time and shows commitment to your relationship. For extra brownie points, include some of your loved one’s favourite snacks, treats or products from home. 

Remind each other what you love about your relationship

When you are apart, it is easy to focus on the negatives. Do as much as you can to remember the positives about being in a relationship with each other. Use verbal assurances to make each other feel secure about the importance of your relationship.

Do things together

Even though you are apart, try to do things together, that could be watching a film or series on your favourite streaming channel or playing an online game together.

Visit each other

If you are going to be apart for a long time, semi-regular visits will be key. If your expat role is on the same continent, then visiting may be more regular. If it takes you to the other side of the world, visits will be less frequent. Don’t assume one or other of you have to make the whole trip, especially if it takes two or more flights to get there. Could you meet somewhere in the middle for a holiday in a destination that is new to you both?

Don’t over plan time together

Seeing each other in person can be a very exciting prospect and it is easy for the host to start planning things to do. If the expat is returning home,  their partner may be arranging meals with family and friends, brunch at a favourite restaurant and nights out in favourite bars. If all the time you have together is all scheduled, it can be very difficult to properly reconnect. So, factor in down time for each trip. 

The decision to enter into a long-distance relationship is not one to be taken lightly but if you are in a secure and happy partnership, it is not insurmountable. 

If you or your partner are thinking about moving abroad to work, don’t forget your health and wellbeing with international health insurance. This specialist insurance product for expats or digital nomads works similarly to private health insurance providing you with the health cover you need when living temporarily abroad.