No one wants to go long-distance, right? You might be asking yourself, “is this person worth waiting for?” Surviving a long distance relationship may seem impossible. The months, or even years without regular physical contact can be a huge challenge.
But there is good news.
A recent study shows a number of big upsides to being apart. Couples in a long distance relationship are more likely to share meaningful thoughts and feelings than couples who see each other every day. Even though you may interact less, you are likely to be more focused and engaged when you do.
And in today’s world, technology makes it easier to be intimate when you’re far away. Skype and FaceTime have facilitated long-distance couples. It’s made staying together while being apart more common than ever. 14 million people define themselves as having a long distance relationship, including 3.6 million people who are married. That’s 2.9% of all marriages in the United States.
Still, LDRs can pack some major challenges. Here are some tips for overcoming the downsides.
- Get Clear on the Ground Rules
It’s crucial that you talk about what you want your long distance relationship to look like. Some questions you may want to ask include
- How often will you visit each other?
- What are your concerns about being apart?
- How will you handle any practical issues like finances?
- What are your expectations about exclusivity?
The first step is simply to get these questions out into the open and start talking. The next step is to make a plan. Schedule visits, if possible. Outline your expectations and get on the same page. Make concrete arrangements about all practical issues.
- Talk. A Lot.
Without being in the same place, verbal communication becomes more important than ever! When you’re setting the parameters of your relationship, set a time to talk, too. Try to make it often and consistent.
For a lot of couples this doesn’t come easily. It takes practice. If you’re struggling, think about it as a chance to learn more about each other. When you live apart, there are huge parts of each other’s lives you know nothing about!
Try to avoid yes/no questions. They usually lead to dead ends pretty quickly. Instead, ask about your partner’s feelings and daily life. A simple, “How are you feeling today,” or, “Tell me about your day,” goes a long way. It’s an opportunity for you to find out more about your partner—and the place where they live.
That being said, if you’re partner needs a day off from talking once in a while, try to understand. Forcing it can add to their stress.
- Be Creative
While talking regularly is important, after a while it can turn into just a routine. Every so often, change things up with a picture, video, or recording. Even sharing mundane things, like your walk to work, or what you ate for dinner, can help you feel more intimate with each other’s lives.
Go the extra mile here. Take a picture of a handwritten note and send it to your partner. If possible, send letter or postcard in the mail. There are two goals here. First, to make your partner feel appreciated, and second, to make the physical distance between you a little less daunting. A little bit of effort here will make your partner feel loved and bring you closer together over the long-term.
You can also communicate by doing things “together.” Take advantage of technology. Watch a documentary on YouTube at the same time and talk about it afterwards. Take a “walk” together while video-calling each other. Go online shopping together and buy each other gifts. After all your hard work, you deserve it!
- Remember The Upsides
A long-distance relationship can be stressful. In the tough times, try to pull back and think about some of the real benefits that long-distance brings.
LDRs are a crash-course in effective communication. The physical separation forces both partners to become better communicators automatically. Not only are you likely to master conversation, you may become better at making plans for the future together.
Going long-distance also forces you to develop a strong sense of independence within your relationship. Because you’re not with your partner all the time, you will need to form your own hobbies, friendships, and, ultimately, your own identity. You will also have the chance to practice being alone. Once you’re back together, those are huge strengths!
The long-distance phase will probably the toughest part of your entire relationship. If you can get through it successfully, you can get through anything.
- Focus on the Future
In most cases, distance isn’t a permanent set-up. While you might be apart because of work, school, or other reasons, keep your eye one the prize.
If you haven’t already, start the discussion about when and where you will live together in the future. Set a goal. It will give you a concrete date to look forward to. Once you do that, you’ll be able to bond over reaching toward your goal together. When the going gets rough, that can provide serious comfort.
Long-distance can seem like a recipe for disaster. A lot of nay-sayers will cast their doubts. But in fact, it can be one of the healthiest and most constructive things you will ever go through as a couple.