Long-distance relationships are tough. You not only have to cope with the normal trials and tribulations of any relationship, but the distance adds a whole new layer of challenges. Yet couples successfully navigate the difficulties each and every day. Whether you are separated by military service, job requirements, educational pursuits, or other factors, following a few guidelines can help you keep your relationship alive.
1. Communicate Regularly But Not Obsessively
Many long-distance couples feel that they need to somehow make up for the distance by spending more time on each other. It is not uncommon to find people in long-distance relationships who talk nearly constantly throughout the day. Yet obsessive checking in can smother any relationship, long-distance or local. It is vital that you give yourselves the space to lead fulfilling, healthy lives in your respective cities. Think of your separation as a time to grow into the best versions of yourselves, strong and healthy and emotionally ready to come back together.
At the same time, it is important not to let communication slip away. Some couples go to the opposite extreme, barely speaking during their time apart. Then, when they are physically together again, they realise they have become strangers.
To balance these factors, decide together how often and when you will talk. If you are in the same time zone, you might want to say good morning and good night to each other. Perhaps you can set aside one evening per week to spend a couple of hours catching up. Between dedicated “talk times,” sending an occasional text or email can help your partner feel valued, but save the big discussions for a regularly planned conversation.
2. Normalise Your Relationship
Couples build closeness through a variety of factors such as shared experiences and becoming a part of each other’s inner circle. With a bit of creativity, you can replicate these factors in a long-distance relationship. Read the same book or watch the same movie and then discuss it. Play an online game together. Skype during a big get together, and have everyone present say hello. If you have the opportunity to visit, resist the urge to lock yourselves up in a hotel room. Get out and see friends, go shopping together, or take a stroll through the park. Use visits as an opportunity to practice being part of each other’s daily lives.
Video calls can go a long way toward helping you feel like you are in a normal, healthy relationship. Show each other where you are living, introduce new friends you have made, or even take your partner along virtually as you try a new hobby.
3. Set Goals and Monitor Your Progress
Long-distance relationships work out best when there is a definite plan for reunification. Will you move to his city next year? Will she move to yours at the end of the semester? Set a long-term goal for permanent reunification, and a series of short-term goals that support the long-term plan. From scheduled visits to apartment hunting to finding a job in a new city, each task that you check off the list feels like progress. Make time to discuss your plans frequently to be sure you are still on the same page.
4. Make It Personal
It is easy for a long-distance love to start feeling more like a friend than a partner, even if you go out of your way to make time for each other. Keep the romance alive by making it personal. Some people choose silly pet names. Some send meaningful “just because” gifts. Some plan elaborate surprise birthday celebrations with several loved ones making the journey. Exactly what you do, or how much money you spend, is not important. The key is to tune into what makes your partner feel valuable, loved, and cherished.
An idea that seems to go over well with both men and women, regardless of age or interests, is exchanging some sort of highly meaningful object. It might be a class ring, a personalized music CD, or even a treasured photo. Allowing the other person to hold onto something that means a great deal to you shows trust and confidence that the two of you will soon be back together again.
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