Do you think you and your long distance partner could survive over 9 YEARS apart from each other? Most couples would say no to that question since, according to recent statistics in April 2016, the average duration of a long distance relationship is a mere 14 months.
It takes a real power couple to survive the distance for a year and a half, but it takes even higher levels of love and commitment to stay in a relationship for 9 years. That’s exactly what Kelly and Nikhil have been able to accomplish together! Kelly, from the USA and Nikhil, from New Delhi, India have even endured some of their long distance marriage while apart. Totally amazing and inspiring!
We loved Kelly and Nikhil’s story so much, we asked to sit down with the couple to learn more about the 9 year journey they took to finally closing the distance and being together. We hope their story will bring some serious inspiration to other long distance couples around the world. If this AMAZING couple can survive and succeed after 9 years of a long distance relationship, you can definitely survive yours!
Hi Kelly! Thank you so much for taking the time sit down and answer a few questions for us. Your story is a truly inspiring one, especially for other couples in long distance relationships. We’d love to learn a little bit more about you, Nikhil and how you met each other!
Nikhil and I met accidentally on a now defunct Orkut.com April 27, 2007. My Brazilian roommate in college wouldn’t join Facebook, so I joined Orkut. The same week, in New Delhi, India, Nikhil joined Orkut. He was looking for a friend from elementary school and saw me come up in the list of people he was looking for and he asked to be my friend.
His opening line on his profile was that he was “6’3 and likes making friends” and I am a very tall girl (5’11”), so I accepted his request after seeing his picture. He was 18 at the time, I was 21. After a few chats on each other’s walls, we moved to email then to google talk/instant messenger.
After a week of being completely smitten with each other, he asked me to be his girlfriend on May 3, 2007. That’s the anniversary we always celebrate. I should mention that Nikhil only could talk to me at an internet cafe. So using a web camera was always public, and calling on the phone was difficult, and sometimes they would lose power at the cafe and he would be gone, unable to speak. I’m so happy technology rapidly increased.
We moved to phone calls with an amazing calling card, then moved to Skype, iMessage on our iPads, and Whats App. He now has a great data plan in India and wifi at home, so we talk all the time! It’s the best! We primarily communicate now via Whats App and Skype.
I realized I was in love with him later that November 2007, and around Christmas time a friend decided to voluntarily go to India to meet him with me after college graduation. My friend Hope and I flew to London, Delhi and a few other places in India (just to not make a trip about a boy, just in case!) and to Istanbul. That was May 20-June 13, 2008.
I started flying solo the next February to see Nikhil in India, seeing him 2-3 times a year. For all of 2010 we did the work, with a lawyer, to get a fiancée visa to bring Nikhil to America. It was denied, needing more information. It was devastating, taking a whole year just for a denial. Plus, because of the cost, I didn’t fly to see him for 15 months.
After that, we opted to not move forward and do it again. It was too painful. Instead, we kept our faith and I flew to India and we got married 11-11-11 in New Delhi. It was a very private, legal ceremony. Our fathers were the witnesses and my best friend Shannon came with me as photographer.
Now, we hardly ever meet in India. Instead, we take advantage of our long distance relationship and meet in other countries, giving us BOTH a vacation. We have been to Thailand 3 times, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and we are going to Bali this summer. In the 9 years, so many GREAT things have happened: I grew a tremendous small business (allows me to afford this LDR!!!), my husband finished two bachelors, a masters, and is over half way through his doctorate.
Wow! It’s so amazing how you and Nikhil have managed to take a great obstacle like having your fiancée visa denied and then turn into what sounds almost like a perpetual vacation together. It sounds like you’ve had some amazing times together in your travels too.
While you’ve managed to make the best of your situation, I’m sure 9 years wasn’t the intended duration to be long distance so what obstacles did you face that caused the long distance duration of your relationship to be so long?
Oh goodness, no! If I would have known in the beginning that would would be long distance 9+ years I don’t know if I would have been excited to start! But he’s always been worth it. ALWAYS. We have always believed we were meant to be together, so having and maintaining a LDR hasn’t been a burden, or WORK, it’s always been a blessing.
Also, since we met on the internet, we started long distance and not together. We honestly would rather have each other and be apart, then never have been together at all. We focus on what’s next, what’s next, what’s next and we are happy with that.
For example, we have less than 11 weeks until Bali. That’s the focus. Then we’ll see each other for my birthday in September, or in October. Then maybe Christmas time again. Then he’ll finish his PHD and we’ll focus on a job in America, or literally, anywhere else in the world.
We are ready to live together. We feel that pull. So wherever he gets a professor job is where we will go, unless it is India, then we will start a spousal visa. We have an amazing next year to focus on, and that’s what we have done. We never thought to give up. When my faith is low, his is high, and vice versa.
A good example of this was when his fiancé visa was denied. Nikhil really reminded me that this was about God’s test for us. That we weren’t just meant to be a happy couple who has cute, giant babies, that we were meant to do more. We don’t totally know what that more is yet, but we know we are all a part of his plan.
I should mention here, that we were raised in very different religions. I’ve been a protestant Christian my whole life, while my husband is Hindu, but we have identical beliefs and we inspire each other to always focus on that relationship with God and that everything will be okay.
As far as specific obstacles only two really come to mind.. other than the immigration fiasco, I would say Education. I am not using my college degree in Sports Management because my business is booming and I am a happy girl. So when Nikhil got a second bachelor’s in Physical Education, then a masters… I went nuts over all the education. SO MUCH EDUCATION.
It meant that he would stay in India more, but really, HE IS GETTING A FREE DOCTORATE and I am the happiest, most proud wife in the whole Universe. God had a much, much, much, much bigger plan.
My husband was the only person in his masters program to get a research fellowship (aka fully paid for plus a living stipend) to complete a PhD. the second obstacle I can think about is when my husband leaves Delhi for family events like weddings. He doesn’t have wifi out of town and uses his data. He also is usually on a train for over 10 hours. Then he is charged for long distance roaming on his phone, so we hardly talk. I get crazy bummed out about our time being short, but at least he has a lot of great pictures for me when he returns.
I have to say Kelly, it seems like you have a very pleasant positive spin on everything! Its wonderful! LDR couples out there, take serious note!
Being in an LDR for 9 years (and based on your amazingly positive responses) I think we can say you’re a long distance pro. Do you have any tips or advice for other LDR couples who are looking to make their LDRs work?
The funniest thing happens, actually. Right before we got married, all I heard about was negative stereotypes about Indians and the exact moment after we got married, all I heard was “that must be so hard” and “when are you going to be together” and “when is he coming to America” and “you must miss him so much” and “husbands and wives should live together” and all sorts of everyone’s opinions.
I finally figured out that we were so happy and NOT having the same worries that others had because we focus on each other’s love languages. Gary D Chapman has a book called “The Five Love Languages” and it’s about understanding your partner’s and your own love language. Then your cup is always filled.
I speak his love language and he speaks mine. When I get cranky, I make sure to remind him that he could really add some more words of affirmation. It’s really the most important part of a relationship, long distance or not: the love languages.
Also, always have a trip planned! We always have a countdown, so we are constantly anticipating something great. I think when you are dating or early in a marriage you’re really only anticipating the big wedding, then the first baby… then… there is no anticipation or countdown after that. So always having a vacation to look forward to makes a difference.
We plan on still having hotel getaways and vacations when we live together. Our entire relationship bloomed in a hotel, so at least quarterly we will be escaping to hotels even in our own city to keep the closeness.
And when we have kids, that will be even more important. Kids go to my family in town, and off we go! People can get so sucked into the day to day maintenance of LIFE so getting escapes, even for a weekend will always be a priority in our budget.
You speak about always maintaining that closeness in your relationship and how it’s a priority for you and Nikhil..
Lots of long distance couples have a difficult time keeping that “closeness” in their relationship while they are apart. What other ways have you been able to keep your relationship strong after being separated for so much time?
We always have closeness from Skype, the countdowns, the awesome vacations together. We also always have faith. Oh! and we have the BEST time zone difference. I live in Washington state, Pacific time zone in America. There is only one time zone in all of India, and it is 12.5 hours ahead, aka the exact opposite timezone. So when I am waking up at 8am, my husband is finishing or starting dinner at 8:30 pm then getting ready for bed as I get myself ready for the day.
If we were on Skype the entire way through each others’ morning and evening routines, I bet we could talk for 10 of the 24 hours in a day. Someone once told me we probably talked more than they did in their marriage between work, meals, errands, picking up kids, shuffling them to all their activities… and I agreed. We feel very close.
Also, we are the cliche best friends. I often Think of Nikhil in 3: my best friend, my boyfriend and my husband. Let’s be real, all relationships aren’t roses and rainbows and ours is the same. We do have valleys with our peak experiences. I have figured out though, that I’m usually only angry at the husband. I mean, I could do without the husband sometimes when I am mad… (and he would say the same thing about me! ha!) but that boyfriend… wow… he is still smoking hot and my best friend Nikhil is literally the greatest human I have ever met.
So there have been times where I have said “hey, can I talk to Nikhil the best friend?” and he listens differently, and I speak kinder, more gentle, too. Luckily, those instances are few and far between, and recently I tried to think back to the big instances of fury between us… and I can only remember the details of one. In 9 years. Seriously, I was impressed. It goes to show that in a healthy relationship, time will heal everything.
You two sound like you have a rock-solid relationship and I love your idea of thinking of Nikhil in 3’s! Sounds like an amazing communication exercise for couples to keep things from getting too tense.
You and Nikhil have had opportunities to travel together, as you mentioned above, but the fact still remains that you’re enduring some separation as a married couple. What’s it like to be married while in a long distance relationship? Do you face any difficulties or stigma because of your LDR Marriage?
Oh yeah, definitely on the stigmas. The early ones were the Indian stereotypes… of Indian men, that he would beat me or control me. Then it moved into religious stereo types and myths about Hindus that were all wrong. Now, I mostly hear “when is he coming to America” as if we were actively trying to bring him here. We aren’t. We are 100%, completely and totally content in our journey and this current season of life. We are traveling the world together.
Nikhil is completing a PhD that will get him a career as a college professor and set us up for life. Why would we want to rush into something that 1) wasn’t in God’s plan or 2) rushing into the day-to-day stresses of running a household and going to jobs that would have us with time apart?
I once even had a lady, an acquaintance that I had known pretty well, TELL me that I was absolutely miserable. She was convinced that I was crying all the time and just so sad because I was apart from my man. It’s not true. I am outrageously in love with him, currently even obsessed with him (I wrote a novel about two indians falling in love recently and I had to put myself back in that thought process… and I am in a whole new level of LOVE with my husband right now). But I don’t cry or pout or feel bad for myself because my husband lives in India. Instead, I plan trips and we focus on all the fun we are going to have.
We lead very blessed lives, we believe we are extraordinarily blessed because we have not forced things to happen that weren’t meant to happen yet. Being married while in a long distance relationship was better than I imagined. When I was engaged, a friend told me it was different, that things do change… and I didn’t believe her because we would still be living in other countries, but she was right. Everything completely changed. It’s the greatest sense of security, knowing that I never had to look left or right again to find someone who loves me for me, who is judgement free but will continue to push me to be a better person. He constantly inspires me, and it’s just for being who he is.
So where does all of this love and positivity spark from? Do you or your husband have someone who inspires you?
Just my husband, he is the one who inspires me. I am not inspired by people with other marriages, unless they have been married over 30 years. I take the time to ask them advice because they have something I desire. A happy, life long relationship with a single person.
I once had someone in my life say negative things about my relationship and how it wouldn’t last long distance and she just had her third divorce. Why would I want to listen to a single thing she said when she is not a master of relationships?
Oh! One interesting thing we do, whenever we hear a friend (usually in America, not in India.) of a celebrity couple getting divorced or someone I know, we take time to talk about it. We make (probably) false assumptions why they are separating. MY husband almost always says “They just took it for granted” and didn’t take the time to focus on building a relationship and keeping their marriage a priority. We want to do that.
On our last trip, we had a scenario where we took each other for granted. I accidentally sent my husband a flight itinerary that said “ticketing in progress” for his return flight from Malaysia to India. Because it didn’t have an ETicket number on the paper, my husband was denied exit out of India. I didn’t know this until I arrived and couldn’t find him. He was still in India, I was in Bangkok (our first stop on the trip) We were sick to our stomachs, full of sadness and panic until he bought a new ticket and landed in Bangkok 30 hours later. It was so painful, but we will never take our time together for granted again.
Immigration is a tricky tricky thing. It felt like a denial, like we were being forced to end our relationship, that’s how sick we felt. But we finally calmed down and said, “oh, this just means I need a new flight. It doesn’t mean that I am not still with Kelly/Nikhil.” I never want to feel that again. It was horrible, and it was Christmas. I spent Christmas day alone in a hotel in Bangkok.
Thank you Kelly for sharing how you and your husband have managed to, not just survive, but truly thrive in a 9 year long distance relationship AND a long distance marriage.
You and your husband serve as the ultimate proof that long distance relationships can succeed. They can succeed by ending the distance altogether or by making the most of your situation even if you must be separated or can’t be together right away. There’s an upside to every situation, you just have to find it!
We hope many couples will take your positivity and ability to adapt to whatever challenges you’ve faced in your relationship and use it to make their own long distance relationships a success.
If you enjoyed our interview with Kelly and would like to get to know more about her long distance marriage with her husband Nikhil, ask her questions or just meet a true LDR survivor, you can find her via her instagram: selfiesformyman.