Sometimes couples end up having to love each other from different cities. If your hearts are one but your zip codes are not, holding on to the intimacy and connection you share can become an even bigger hurdle in your relationship than the physical distance. You know you’ve got a good thing going, and you want to make it work, but how? Newlywed Danielle Cadet, managing editor of Refinery29’s Unbothered, feels your pain. She was living in Washington, D.C., nearly two years into a successful relationship with her now-husband when she was offered her dream job in New York City. He told her to go for it, even though he’s a lawyer who couldn’t just pack up and leave. Cadet took the job, and now they spend half the month living apart while she splits her time between two cities. We asked her to break down how they’re making love work long distance.
I don’t want to be giving you leftovers. I should be giving you a full meal.
ESSENCE: After you took the job, did you two set rules to make sure you stayed connected while apart?
Danielle Cadet: The first rule was that as long as he’s home, he always walks me to the train on Monday morning to see me off. It’s such a beautiful, tender moment before the stress starts. The second rule was making sure that we check in with each other. My days can get really busy. I would call him when I’m in a cab on my way home, and we’re not really connecting because I’m exhausted. He’s like, “How was your day?” I’m like, “I don’t even want to talk about it.” So that was the second rule: No, let’s talk about it. Tell me about your day. Let’s make sure we’re not just waiting till the end of the day when we have no energy left for each other. I don’t want to be giving you leftovers. You shouldn’t be scraping the plate; I should be giving you a full meal.
ESSENCE: Did you have to set boundaries at work to allow more time for balance?
Cadet: We give so much of ourselves, and we forget to give back to ourselves sometimes. Just out of the gate, I was like, “Whenever you need me here, I’m here.” And I’ve gotten to a point where I’m like, Let me set some boundaries. I started this job in October 2018, and we got engaged in November. Because I’m very used to just work, work, I had to figure out that I needed to be intentional about our relationship. I said to my colleagues, “There are going to be some weeks I’m not here, so let’s figure out video conferences. Here’s access to my calendar so you know where I am.” When I wasn’t there, I had a lot of guilt, but then I realized I wasn’t applying that to my relationship. We also had to get on a schedule so we could know when I’d be home. And it makes it so much easier.
ESSENCE: I’m guessing date nights are a must now too.
Cadet: We were absolutely that couple who was very smug about date nights. We were like, “We don’t need to do that. We love each other.” Now we make sure to set a time. When we were doing our premarital counseling, there were things that we talked about that we had previously been too busy to sit down and share. He said, “I need to know that I’m going to see you. I need to know that I’m going to spend time with you.” And when he communicated that, I was, like, “You know what? I know we joke about date night, but we actually really need one.”
ESSENCE: Any other realistic advice for women who are in your shoes?
Cadet: Accept the fact that you may fail. But you just get back on it. Don’t put the pressure of being perfect on yourself. That’s not fair. Be realistic about your expectations, and be flexible with each other. Understand that maybe you didn’t set rules and that maybe one week you miss a date night, but you make up for it. Also, I feel very blessed that I chose a partner who just supports me because support is so integral to making a long-distance relationship work.
Don’t let a few miles get in the way of your relationship.
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of ESSENCE Magazine, on newsstands now.