Having a long-distance relationship isn’t something most couples plan on. It usually just happens due to circumstances. Maybe you happened to meet someone far away and fell in love, or your career required you to move and be away from your mate. So you try to make the best of the situation and grow your relationship, despite the obstacles you face with being apart geographically.
Added to the difficulties of being apart is the pressure to disengage. You’ve heard the stories … that long-distance relationships don’t work out, that they eventually peter out. You may even have been approached by those closest to you, who want to see you happy, who try to talk you out of being a part of one.
To help you sort out the struggles associated with long-distance relationships, I’d like to discuss some strategies that might help you make the best of being physically apart. What’s the best way to communicate? How best to handle the issues that arise when you’re not with each other face-to-face regularly? How do you see your long-distance relationship play out?
Long-Distance Relationship Strategies
Stay in touch. Some people have different beliefs about how much to stay in communication to keep a relationship going. Some take the “less is more” approach; others adhere to the “out of sight, out of mind” belief. My advice is to feel it out for yourself. How does it feel to have long, nightly talks? Does it get stale or does it make you feel closer? Weigh in with each other about how much contact you want to have and when.
Keep in mind talking doesn’t always have to be lovey-dovey and intimate. Conversations can be light, fun, and helpful. You can be filling in your mate with what happened during your day, giving advice on how to solve a problem, sharing a favorite recipe or a joke.
In our super-connected, high-tech, social media world, you have so many options to help you feel connected: texts, phone calls, recorded videos, and the multi-media experience of conferencing where you can see and hear each other live. You can get really creative, find ways to keep the flames burning even when you’re not in physical contact … like playing a game, taking a virtual walk or tour an area or event together, or going shopping.
The test of time. Being away from one another is also an opportunity to see if a relationship can work with a constraint like distance. Can your love for one another last when practicing it at a distance? Do the bonds connecting you feel stronger over time or are they fizzling out? It could be one of the most challenging missions you’ll ever have in your personal life.
Have expectations. Setting up ground rules. Both of you need to be clear about what you want and expect of each other. Are you committed to one another long-term? What does that mean? Does it mean going to lunch with an old boyfriend/girlfriend is out of the equation? Are you making decisions for yourself that affect your mate? If so, do you talk them over before you make those decisions? What else can you think of that might catch your mate by surprise – and not in a good way?
Consider your actions and decisions. How might they affect him/her. Should you have given your mate a heads-up that you were out drinking late at night with friends? Will your mate be worried, suspicious, upset? Are you giving him/her grounds for feeling any of those ways?
Out of sight, out of mind? Let them know that’s not the case. Show them you’re thinking of them when you’re offline from one another. Send them a gift, forward something you’ve read that relates to something you’ve discussed together or that you think will be of interest to them. How often do you feel you need to see your mate? Is your mate comfortable with that visiting schedule? Keep one another informed. Know each other’s schedules. Keep one another updated on what’s happening with family and friends.
Share experiences. Read the same book, watch the same movie or TV series, listen to the same music. Shared experiences give you more in common, more things to discuss. That doesn’t mean you should do those to the exclusion of other activities that are different, of course.
Be honest. Discuss your feelings of fear, or insecurities. Don’t hide your feelings or your actions. Even if s/he doesn’t find out, holding that secret will fester and come out in ways you might not anticipate. Just because you’re living apart doesn’t mean you have to deal with your problems all by yourself. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. And remember, it’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.
Stay positive. Try to stay grateful that you have a loving mate who loves you back. Be thankful for what you have together, the time you spend together physically and remotely. Longing and waiting can be painful. You can feel lonely. Doubt about your mate may creep in from time to time. Reassure your mate of your love and what your motives are. But don’t feel you have to mask your feelings if you’re having a “blue” day. Act like they’re there with you and it can feel like they really are.
What’s the end goal? How long do you intend to be apart? Temporarily? For the foreseeable future? Is the plan to live together? Get married? How will your career decisions and goals affect one another? Discuss your goals as a couple and bring up the topic occasionally when the time seems right.