Eposide 3: Dealing with Long Distance in a Relationship Over the Long Term

Are you hesitant to dive into a long-distance relationship? Do you fear you won’t conquer the distance between you? We are here to prove you can have a successful long-distance relationship & tell you how. Ally and her new guest Fredrik will share their long-distance experience and give life-saving tips on how to keep your LDR alive. Starting with prioritizing the connection with family, Fredrick will discuss the very beginning of his relationship with his wife, as well as how the LDR works with his kids.

Hello and welcome to another episode of “Long Distance Short” — GiftBasketsOverseas.com’s podcast where we talk to real people about the triumphs and tribulations in all kinds of long-distance relationships. Your host is Ally Winters, an international gift consultant who’s found success in her own long-distance romances and friendships.

And here’s today’s topic: dealing with long distance in a relationship over the long term. Our guest is Fredrik Sandvall of MD Global Sales Consulting. Mr. Sandvall is ex-military, who has worked in over 40 countries – and is still married to his wife for many years. I’m sure he has excellent tips for staying together, even when you’re far apart. Let’s jump right in, Ally!

ALLY

Hi everybody! I’m Ally, and just in a few minutes, we’ll continue discovering long-distance relationships, their advantages, and disadvantages. I have been in a long-distance relationship for years now, but I know that there are people who’ve been in an LDR for almost their entire adult life — due to their work, business, or whatnot. So I am glad to introduce our new guest, Fredrik Sandvall, who is in a constant long-distance relationship with his wife and two kids. Hi, Fredrik! How’s it going?

FREDRIK

Yeah, all good, thanks! The sun is shining in Sweden today, but tomorrow, I’ll go to England.

ALLY

So, can you just give us a general idea of your background, maybe you would like to share some basic facts, such as maybe the reason for making a start with a long-distance relationship?

FREDRIK

Absolutely! To start off, I am a very unusual guest because I’ve got so many careers inside my career: I’ve been working as an entrepreneur when I was very young, later I moved into the military, and what they call special forces; I was also, as part of that, working in diplomatic relations between countries, and the intelligence service, and from that I moved into national consulting, and in later years, I have mainly been working as an entrepreneur.

And while I was doing all of those things, I actually had one single relationship — quite unusual, I would say: with the military people, it’s not an easy profession to have a relationship, because we might be called on duty where you can disappear for a long time, and when you’re in special forces, you can get a special call where they’d just tell you they’d like you to be here, like, now. Even if you’re on a birthday, you are called and you just have to leave, drop everything else and go.

And that can, of course, put a lot of tension, potentially, on a relationship — so, yeah, going back to the very early years, my wife has been with me for many years, and that means that she is the strong one, I’m not. She has to have all the patience with me because sometimes I’m changing my mind, I’m moving around, and… Yeah, it’s just complicated to live with someone who’s got too many ideas.

ALLY

All right, and how did you meet your wife? Was it a long-distance relationship from the very beginning, or did you both have to get accustomed to it?

FREDRIK

Great question! We actually met while we were scouts, which was the thing at the time, it was a long while ago; so we met at a competition with the scouts, and from there, we lived, like, one hour apart from each other, but, since we were young, we didn’t have any cars or anything to go from one person to the other, we’d use public transportation which could take many hours, so we basically had to meet up for, like, a weekend, or in the summer…

ALLY

You know obstacles, right? There were obstacles.

FREDRIK

Right! So, yeah, that’s how we started to learn from there. I did the military service, and she was also studying abroad, in France, and I was on various appointments in many, many parts of the world, so I was working in 40+ countries and traveling in 80, so you can imagine how often I was up on the road.

ALLY

Yeah!

FREDRIK

So, with all those things, it was a long-distance relationship from the beginning, and we’ve been living together for many years, but we’ve been living apart, as well — for several years, if you put it all together.

ALLY

And if we could count how many days in a year you were typically apart, or how many together, just to give us a picture of how it was?

FREDRIK

Yeah, sure, just to give you a couple of examples: so, when we were together, we’d pretty much meet almost every single and pretty much all the holidays, so we met as often as we could; another year to take as an example, she was staying and studying in France, I think it was in Paris, 15 times in that year…

Another year, if I take my worst example, when I was away with the military, you’re usually away for, like, three months, and then you meet for less than two weeks, and then you go for another three months again. And the longest time we had would be more than one and a half years when I would be living this very strange life, so it’s basically us meeting up for a month and a half within the period of a year and a half, which is crazy. It’s not a lot at all.

ALLY

Oh my God. So, one year and a half, and for only about one month you could…

FREDRIK

Yeah. It might have been a bit more, but at least it felt really, really short.

ALLY

Yeah, I can relate. Because I’ve been in a long-distance relationship with my Japanese friend — boyfriend basically, but we had a different story where we started like that from the very beginning, so we didn’t see each other until we met, like, last September. So we kind of just got used to it, and we just took it for granted, but in your case, I understand how it is, when you know you can be together here, but you’re not.

FREDRIK

Exactly. And now, I’ve chosen to have a very strange life, most weeks I’d worked for, like, five days a week, and then we maybe had a weekend together; I have decided to work half of my time, so half of my time, I am in England or somewhere else in the world, working very hard, so I can be with my family almost half of the time, not working. So, basically, I get like a half year of holiday every year. Which I can spend with my family, which is super cool. But that’s because I work very hard during the other half of my life.

ALLY

You work hard, and then you get a reward.

FREDRIK

Yeah, exactly. And of course, there are things you sacrifice, but also there are benefits: I can take a holiday pretty much any time I work in a year, I get lots of flexibility, but that adds stress on the family, of course.

ALLY

Yes. Specifically, what were your daily rituals to keep in touch with your family? Maybe something that you agreed upon, and you wouldn’t break that promise for any reason?

FREDRIK

Those would vary over the years: from the very early years, we were writing letters and we were on the phone all the time. Then came Skype and Skype video, and nowadays, it’s a lot of WhatsApp messages, and not just between us but also between the kids as well: they’re teenagers, 13 and 15, two boys. In addition to catching up with my wife, it’s also with my two boys — very often we just use FaceTime, the video function. So I speak with them most days, but not all days.

And also, another thing is you need to have quite a lot of tolerance to also allow people to do things their way. So, if you think about delegation, or how you appoint tasks, for example, we have certain things that I’m responsible for, and other things that my wife is doing, and the rest, we try to split up, basically — especially when on the road.

It also leads to my wife having to be able to take care of herself, and the kids, and everything in a normal house, almost like being single, when I’m not around. And also, sometimes not being able to count on me 100%, because sometimes my business interests are overruling the nice things that might have happened with the family. That’s a bit sad, but she doesn’t really trust 100% that I would actually be there, even if I said I would be. Which is not nice, but it’s just… one way to explain it.

ALLY

You just need to accommodate. Because…

FREDRIK

Yeah! Yeah, exactly.

ALLY

…Life is life.

FREDRIK

Indeed. Yeah.

ALLY

When you had kids, did it become easier or maybe harder to keep in touch because of a lot of housework, a lot of kids, work, and everyday issues?

FREDRIK

Another great question — again, I’m lucky because I was born in Sweden, and here we’ve got a very good system that takes care of how you must raise your kids, so I’ve been able to have more than one and a half years of my life paid by the government to be home and take care of my own kids. Which is very unique, so I’ve been getting a great chance to be with my family a lot.

I’m very… I would like to see myself as a strong role model for my children, in terms of interests, entrepreneurship, and many other things, and they learn a lot. I’m also helping them with school stuff, which we can even do remotely through tutoring over a Skype call, whatever. So I’m very much involved with my family even while I’m away.

And sometimes you might get really carried away in terms of business, especially since you don’t see the family, which means you might be working 24/7 for a few days, and they just go: oops, I’ve also got them over there, I probably should say hi so they know that I’m alive.

ALLY

Yes, and the kids need help with their maths! Shouldn’t forget about it.

FREDRIK

Yeah, and also I had a very sad encounter once in my life: when I had my youngest son, he was really young, he was nine months old, and I’d been away for three months. And he almost looked afraid to see me, because he didn’t recognize my face in the first few seconds.

ALLY

Oh, really?

FREDRIK

That felt really, really horrible. But then… that never happened again, and it was almost like a wake-up call that I’m probably away a bit too much at this very critical stage of his life. But yeah, those were very strange circumstances.

ALLY

And you took it as a lesson, so to speak.

FREDRIK

Exactly. It wasn’t too long after that happened that I actually left the military completely. That must have been… 2006, yeah, 2006. And then after that, I really considered a lot more variables in terms of the military, and I just did a few more long-distance trips, and then I left completely. And also bad things were happening to people close to me, in terms of, like, work; many people were literally dying, my colleagues and so on, and I was starting to think: actually, it’s not only me anymore, so I need to be more grown-up and start thinking about the others in my family, that’s why I left the military.

ALLY

Makes perfect sense. And your parents and your wife’s parents, how did they react to your lifestyle, what would they say? Did they change their opinion with time?

FREDRIK

Great question. I think my parents have always known that I’m a wild one, and my parents-in-law, they pretty much see me as supposed to be in their life, in my wife’s life as well, even if I’ve been having this very unusual career, with not-so-normal choices that I’ve been making, such as working with the intelligence service — so, coming home to your wife, you can’t even tell what you’ve been doing, and that’s a very strange set-up.

But yeah, no, they’ve been okay with it, and we’re actually really proud to get a book in their hands the other day, which is “Trust Is the New Currency,” and I wrote in the book something along the lines of, you didn’t think that, did you? Basically, they had no idea that this guy, from the middle of the countryside in Sweden, in a very rural area, would actually end up having multiple businesses, to write a book, to be traveling all over the world and talk about things, and help the others. They did not believe that when we got together, I think.

ALLY

That’s why they’ll need to read the book a few times, so they can look at you with new eyes, in the new light.

FREDRIK

I think they would, yeah.

ALLY

And it’s great, because this way you show how one person can change a lot, and only using determination, stamina, and the desire to work, to make life better, to help people, to make them happy. So, of course, if you’re interested in such an interesting topic as investment and resources, you’re welcome to visit Fredrik’s podcast, “Invest in You…”

FREDRIK

Correct.

ALLY

And if you think about investment literally, you should definitely check out the “Investment Skills” podcast — it’s more about money, but we all know that time is money, and time is life, and… everything is linked. (laugh)

FREDRIK

Yes. Yes, and thank you for mentioning the podcast, and also relationships and money, it’s not a very complicated thing. Because many people don’t talk about money, so even inside a relationship, money is a topic — I’m saying this because I’m mentoring, teaching, helping many people in this matter all over the world, and people usually don’t talk about money, not in a relationship, almost like having secrets from each other.

So the family finance can be really bad, and because of their pride, the other person doesn’t dare mention it. Or it might be that someone has their own account because their spouse would ask where they store the money. And you might have other matters while in a relationship which is very much linked to money as well, like very expensive drugs, — so, yeah, I am very lucky as I don’t have any of those problems, but it is something I see coming up here and there when I do coaching as well.

ALLY

Yeah, and I also know of situations when usually men don’t trust women, or maybe sometimes vice-versa when the other person earns more because they think… At the early stages, they don’t share this information in order to make sure the person you’re planning to live with is not a scammer, that they don’t want to scam you; of course, it’s a good thing to always be aware of, and not trust everybody literally — but I think there should be a line. And what is your personal opinion on that, do we need, do the couples need to share, maybe split all the money they earn or do they just need to keep each other aware of what is going on?

FREDRIK

I think a high degree of transparency is very important, and how people decide to split and share things very much depends on their situation. Like, for example, when you get married, you have the option to have, like, a pre-nup, which basically means whatever you specifically brought into the relationship is not part of the future, if ever, divorce. So I think that’s very much case-by-base.

But also you could argue that I would never be able to have kids and do what I do unless my wife was supporting me. So, as long as I want to have a family, I couldn’t do what I’m doing unless she was supporting me — it wouldn’t work; whereas you can discuss, like, what is the value: of course, my salary is way higher than my partner’s, at the same time we pretty much split everything, that works for our relationship.

And, on the other hand, as soon as I have too much money, I just invest it, which my wife doesn’t think is super fun, because, while we have a lot of assets, we don’t have huge amounts of cash floating around, because as soon as we got too much, then I buy another income-generating asset. So, yeah, my wife might want to have more money, but that’s a different story. (laugh) But I’m in it very much for the long haul, think of it as mini-empire building: building something that would not only last for us but will be there for many generations to come. That’s what I’m trying to do.

ALLY

Yeah, and I also know a Japanese proverb that says… They believe that a person can only be really happy if they have harmony: for example, it’s family, work, and self-development. So, why I mention this is because it should be… we were talking about investment, and we should invest in relationships, too, and since trust is the main part of it, I totally agree with you that it should be like this.

FREDRIK

Yeah; good, good.

ALLY

And, while talking about your philosophy of life, so to speak, what advice would you give to people in the same situation as you; like some survival long-distance relationship lifehacks, or something that you’d like people to know about?

FREDRIK

Yeah, I think that one of the most important things is just SMS communication; as long as there’s two-way communication between the two people, that may sometimes actually pick up when the other person isn’t happy, and you can also try adjust that if you’d like to maintain that relationship.

So, really, have communication, and not just one-way, but two-way, and also be very observant to the non-verbal cues which might be there. Someone might be saying something, but not say the same with their whole body. So she might say, like: yeah, dear, you can of course go out with the guys, but I can see that maybe her whole body language is saying something different. So, yeah, communication, essentially, paying attention to those small details in the whole body language, how you communicate.

So, that’s one thing. Another thing is, really understand that men and women are really, really different. It might be something that’s really obvious, but many men maybe won’t have seen this yet, when a woman just talks about their day, which might be to men perceived as a problem. But she might just talk about it to open up her heart, she might not be looking for someone to jump in and fix the problem and come up with solutions. They just want, maybe, to be heard — that’s another one.

ALLY

Again, it’s about communication: if you feel that there is some friction between you, just talk about it, and you don’t need to have a big row, you don’t need to quarrel about it, just try to say it in a polite way.

FREDRIK

This is extra hard when you see yourself as a professional problem-solver, which I very much do. So, that one; what else… Be aware that there are many ways how people like to be acknowledged in life; so, some people love to get — I know that you’re working with gifts — so, some people love to have gifts, other people like to receive or to give gifts. There are also different things — my wife, for instance, she loves to give gifts, and that’s something that gives me a clue as to what kind of gifts she would appreciate.

There’s a book about different love languages that I can recommend on this, that it might be that someone else would like to hear “thank you,” like the simplest acknowledgment; it might be that they would like to get help; others, like we mentioned, go with gifts; some people like to be touched, and others not. So, all of those is — pick up the clues of what your partner really likes and enjoys. There are often many clues about how you can do that.

Another tip, picked up from another book — I read a lot, pretty much a book every week — it’s, if for some reason you are frustrated with something in your relationship, try to find one thing that you really like that your partner did, and write that down. So: “At least she made the bed,” or “At least he walked out with the rubbish,” or whatever — but yes, you have to find something positive. Just by exchanging that in your mind, you’ll allow to have good, positive things to start happening in the relationship, while you maybe we’re used to looking at all the bad things.

Those were more than a handful of tips!

ALLY

Yeah, I just wanted to add that, basically, it works for me, and I didn’t read it in a book, I just found it out when we had a big argument, and I had to just think. I need time, first of all, everybody needs time, I think, to understand what’s right and what’s wrong, who is right and who is wrong. Of course, usually both are wrong to some degree, but I think that we should always think in terms of: do I want to go on with this person, do I want to move on in the relationship.

If the answer is yes, then I need to swallow my anger, I need to swallow my pride and handle the situation rationally — otherwise, we will not go any further. And, of course, it doesn’t mean that we need to go ahead and say: yeah, it was my fault, forgive me — I think it’s not about that, maybe when the time is good. But I think we should certainly think about what we personally can do, and that that person is not the worst person in the world. Even if it seems like that. I totally agree.

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ALLY

Another interesting question: if you could talk to yourself at the beginning of your path to a long-distance relationship and long distance experiences of any kind, what would you say to yourself, what would help you?

FREDRIK

One really funny thing from when I met my wife, is that the day after we got together, she asked: “Are you really serious about this? Because I really don’t have time for you.” (laugh) Because she was really focused on schoolwork — and, obviously, what would you say if someone asked you that? Of course, you can say: “No, no, no, I’m just fooling around,” or if you say: “Yes, I’m very serious about this.” I did the second of those two options, and we are still together now after 25+ years. So, something I said that morning, that “Yes, I’m serious,” I still have to live by that, obviously.

Jokes aside, although these relationships can be tricky, just set yourself some good, agreeable things that you’d both like to adhere to, really. We never set out to have a long-distance relationship, it very much became that because of my strange work, but, honestly, one reason why we are together still today, after many years, is that we also have that space in the relationship, we don’t live on top of each other the whole time. I think that actually is a strength to us. So we might be living together for a long time, and then we are apart a bit, again — it needs… it gets more interesting and exciting when you’re not together all the time.

That’s my view. Other people, like both my younger brothers, they don’t want to spend one day without their spouse if they can choose. That’s another view, and nothing is right or wrong, it’s just what works for both of the people in the relationship.

ALLY

Yeah, I totally understand. And I also had an idea that women need to give two things to men: the first is support in any situation, and the second is freedom. But I think women need it as well; I would say that any woman — well, we like attention, but there should be some borderline at some point. I think it works for both.

FREDRIK

Exactly, I think you’re absolutely spot on there.

ALLY

Okay, and Fredrik, what kind of things are you working on at the moment, what are your plans, what are your incentives?

FREDRIK

I’ve got a couple of businesses, they are mainly in real estate, and I have property around England, and I’ve also got a company that works with finance, helping companies to find the money for growth, and also consulting the same places, and helping other companies to grow. I have had, like, huge companies like Google to help them to grow — are you familiar with Google? (laugh) Then also very small companies, where there can be like one or two people, or like your business, for example, like grow your gift business, and everything in between.

So, I like helping people to grow. And I do that in different ways, so, for example, I do a little free stuff, like with the podcast, and I do some very affordable things, like the book, for example, which we have, “Trust Is the New Currency,” and then we’ve got another book that will be written in the next few months, which is called “How to Make Money as a Teenager,” more for younger people.

ALLY

And it’s a really relevant topic now, and I think it should be introduced in schools, it needs to be introduced from an early age.

FREDRIK

I completely agree. You’ll laugh out loud when you see the video for our Kickstarter campaign that’s coming out very soon because basically, it’s my younger son saying, like, “School does not prepare you to make money,” which is a very bold statement, and sounding almost aggressive, because of schools… Everything about your first school, it only makes you ready to go to the second school, which makes you ready to go to the third school, which might not prepare you for your actual job. Which is crazy.

ALLY

And I also heard people say: “What are you going to do after you graduate from the university?” — “I’ll go and get another degree.” — “And what’s after that?” — “Mm, well, I’m familiar with how to do it, so I’ll go for another degree.”

FREDRIK

Exactly, I might get a doctorate, and — exactly.

ALLY

And after that, it’s like: mm, what shall I do next.

FREDRIK

Yeah, so I try to help people in different ways; people are more than welcome to check out the links in the show notes, I hope. So, at the moment, what’s really at the top, in my head, surely it’s my younger son: he’s like, dad, you need work on the book, and that book is the one that’s called “How to Make Money as a Teenager,” he’s really, really interested in that. And we will start selling that on Kickstarter on the 15th or 16th of September, so that will be really fun. Hoping the world will find this interesting because literally, anyone can buy the book that we’re trading.

And many parents don’t have a relationship with their kids so they can actually teach and talk to them, which is very sad and ironic, because they might have done stupid things so there might not be the best relationship between them. So I hope to be the back-up parent in some kids’ lives to help them do the stuff that I did very early on, which is really unusual, to learn how to make money when you’re very young. And that has helped me ever since.

ALLY

And if there’s some kid who would like to find you, as a dad, what is the best way to find you and to contact you in this case?

FREDRIK

I’ve got a very unusual name, there’s extremely few Fredrik Sandvalls in the world; if you Google up the name, I will pretty much be on the first few pages, so you can find LinkedIn, Facebook, I also do quite a lot of video things with Charlie, my youngest one; if you go to YouTube and search for Sandvall, our surname, you will find Charlie’s podcast where we also share lots of stuff.

ALLY

Great, pretty easy!

FREDRIK

Yes, it’s quite easy — it’s good to have an unusual name.

ALLY

Can’t agree more. Okay, it was a very nice talk, thank you so much for sharing your great experience, and, of course, for sharing the expertise as well as sharing some new links and new ways we can invest in our long-distance relationships, and not only those. It was a real pleasure to talk to you, and I hope it’s not our last episode with you.

FREDRIK

Yeah! And if I can just say, I’m really not an expert — I’m still learning, women are extremely complicated creatures, so I’m just getting started.

ALLY

Yeah, I understand what you’re talking about. Okay, thank you!

While you’re here, we want to tell you about another of our guest’s exciting ventures! Check out h2m.money and learn how to invest in yourself & your children by backing How to Make Money As A Teenager on Kickstarter from Fredrik Sandvall and his son, Charlie. Parents & teens alike will benefit from Mr. Sandvall’s entrepreneurial experience & unique, an ongoing project to teach parents and children how to build, scale, and grow their own business – together. Again, visit h2m.money today.

Thanks for listening to “Long Distance Short” — GiftBasketsOverseas.com’s podcast with real people in real long-distance relationships. Make sure to subscribe, and keep tuning in for a new episode every month. If you have any questions or ideas for a future podcast, make sure to drop us a line at [email protected] — that’s [email protected].

Fredrik Sandvall on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandvall/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fredrik.sandvall.1

While you’re here, we want to tell you about another of our guest’s exciting ventures! Check out h2m.money and learn how to invest in yourself & your children by backing How to Make Money As A Teenager on Kickstarter from Fredrik Sandvall and his son, Charlie. Parents & teens alike will benefit from Mr. Sandvall’s entrepreneurial experience & unique, an ongoing project to teach parents and children how to build, scale, and grow their own business – together.

The campaign How To Make Money as a Teenager: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sandvall/how-to-make-money-as-a-teenager-the-book-for-you

Fredrik’s podcast “Invest in You”: https://omny.fm/shows/invest-in-you/playlists/podcast
& “Investing Skill”: https://anchor.fm/investing-skills

Fredrik has also got a book called Trust is the New Currency