Long distance relationships: Part and parcel of an international life

At some point in their careers, most development workers and missionaries find themselves living far away from friends and family. Some even find themselves enduring long stints apart from those they’re dating or married to. Learning how to live with some of your loved ones half a country (or a world) away is an essential skill for coping well with international living.

This is something I’ve learned a lot about the good old-fashioned way – through personal experience. I was seven when my parents moved our family from Australia to Bangladesh. I spent my childhood largely separated from my grandparents and extended family in Australia, and didn’t return to Australia to live until university years (at which point I left my immediate family half a world away in Washington DC). With the exception of two five-month stints surrounding the birth of each of my children, I haven’t actually lived on the same continent as my parents since I was eighteen.

In the years since I completed a masters degree in forensic psychology and left Australia for the second time, I’ve traveled the world as a psychologist who specializes in working with humanitarian workers around issues related to stress, trauma, and resilience.

Mike and LisaI was thirty-one years old and living in Los Angeles when I met the man who would become my husband. Did he happen to live nearby? Well, not exactly. At the time he lived in a remote town in Papua New Guinea. We got engaged after seven months of getting to know each other across distance, and before we’d ever lived in the same city. (That is an interesting but rather long story that you can read more about here if you wish).

Mike and I have been married for four and a half years now, and we’ve spent about a quarter of that time in different countries. As I write this, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and I haven’t seen Mike in three months. I’m in Australia, safely within reach of a good hospital. He’s still working where we live in Laos. He’ll arrive here in two weeks, hopefully before his second son does.

This week, I’m putting all these hard-learned long distance lessons to good use in two ways.


First, I’m very excited to announce the launch today of a new website focusing on long distance relationships. Modern Love Long Distance will share stories and provide quality long distance resources and tools to help people thrive in long distance relationships.

Come on over and check us out! The blog is already up and running. One post most of you might be interested in reading is How do you and your partner deal with stress? 10 important questions to answer. And if you’re dating someone long distance, don’t miss Five lessons I learned the hard way about long distance relationships.



The website launch also coincides with the launch this week of my latest book, 201 Great Discussion Questions For Couples In Long Distance Relationships. This fun resource will help you learn about your partner’s childhood, family, work, passions, life now, the future, what if, and much more. Whether you’re dating or already married, this book will spark hours of fresh conversation and help you get to know each other better.

 I’m super excited about the launch of Modern Love Long Distance. The number of people dating long distance or spending significant chunks of their married lives apart is increasing exponentially (and if you have friends or family in this situation please send them our way). There is a huge need for good resources to help these people understand the dynamics of long distance relationships and learn new ways to communicate and bond across the miles. That’s the role I’m hoping Modern Love Long Distance will fulfill.

Here on A Life Overseas, however, I wanted to go beyond just focusing on romantic and partnership long distance relationships. As such, this post is part of a three-part series on long distance relationships that is running here on A Life Overseas. Friday’s post focused on staying connected with your friends and family while living overseas. On Wednesday we’ll discuss helping children stay connected with family and friends back home while living abroad. See you back here then, to continue the conversation.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you…

What long distance relationships have you been in?
What are one or two things you’ve learned along the way?

Lisa McKayauthor, psychologist, sojourner in Laos

Blog: www.lisamckaywriting.com      Books: Love At The Speed Of Email and My Hands Came Away Red

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Lisa McKay

Lisa McKay is a psychologist who specializes in stress, resilience, and humanitarian work. She is also the award-winning author of the memoir Love At The Speed Of Email, the novel My Hands Came Away Red, and the founder of the long distance relationship website, Modern Love Long Distance. She lives in Australia with her husband and their two sons. Find out more at www.lisamckaywriting.com.

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