It’s not the most ideal arrangement, but long-distance relationships happen. Whether due to job opportunities, college, or simple economics, more and more people are having to navigate having a long-distance relationship with their partner.
1. Set ground rules
The most important thing to do early on is agree on the rules of the long distance relationship. How exclusive do you want to be? Sometimes people want to keep it 100% monogamous; others agree it’s okay to go out with other people.
Not taking the time to agree on and set ground rules is a big part of why long-distance relationships don’t work for some people. But for those who make it work, setting ground rules goes a long way to respecting your partner’s boundaries and having yours respected in return.
2. Communicate regularly, not constantly
There are a few tried-and-true quotes about long-distance relationships. On the one hand, you hear “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and on the other, you hear “out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunately, both adages are true. You should keep in touch with your partner, but don’t message them constantly: that gets old real fast.
A good compromise on this is to touch base regularly. Every day or every other day, it’s important to send just a brief “thinking of you.” Then, schedule a long call once a week to catch up on the big things.
3. Set share time
Modern life is wonderful. Even if you’re apart, you and your partner can talk face-to-face over Skype, FaceTime, or other voice call apps. For even more interactivity, you can play a video game together online, or even watch the same movie at the same time, texting commentary back and forth.
Be creative. There are ways to share without being there. Successful long-distance relationships happen when you find ways to bridge the distance.
4. Plan visits
Visits are the reward you get for being apart for long periods of time. Plan to make it happen one way or another. No matter how cute you two are on the phone, nothing compares to being physically present.
Even if it’s only for a short time, it makes the longer times between visits worth it. Of course, time and money constraints happen. Sometimes it’s not feasible to go, but make it a priority to make it happen if you can.
There are both pros and cons of long-distance relationships. One of the pros is now is a good time to check-in with yourself. How are you doing?
Do not neglect yourself while your partner is away. Go out with friends. Do things, learn things. Don’t let life pass you by. Being in a long distance relationship is not a sentence to solitary confinement.
Have adventures, and be sure to share them afterward with your partner. Talking about your interests brings you closer together. And just as importantly, let your partner do the same thing. Don’t envy them their adventures and good times away from you.
6. Know the endgame
Know what your relationship goals are and keep track of them. How long are you planning to be apart? What happens when that time is up? Do you move to their location or do they come to yours?
Set up a timeframe to work toward together, and make sure you stay on target. Or if the unexpected happens, be prepared to adjust the schedule as needed. But have a definite goal and a definite end date to the separation.
The opposite of romantic is boring. Surprises (the good kind) are a must. Is your partner’s favorite band playing near them? Get them a ticket and tell them to have fun. Or, check their amazon wish list and surprise them with something from it. It’s a thoughtful way to keep the surprises in the relationship alive from a distance.
It’s not about the spending money, though. If you’re on a budget, you can still do something. Send an old-fashioned, snail mail postcard. Make a mini-album of pictures from the last time you were together and send it. Again, be creative.
8. Respect your partner’s time
This is absolutely vital if you’re in two different time zones. You have to respect your partner’s schedule. Don’t schedule social calls during their work hours. Don’t mess with their sleep schedule by calling when it’s late at night for them.
There are apps you can use to display your partner’s local time to help keep you mindful of it. You don’t have to adjust your schedule to meet theirs. Just don’t expect them to, either.
9. Keep your partner involved
One of the problems with long-distance relationships is when partners feel distant from each other emotionally. Part of that closeness comes with making your partner feel like they are still involved with your life.
No matter the distance, keep each other informed about important matters. This could mean happy events like a promotion, or more serious matters, like an illness.
If you’re under stress, you partner can be your sounding board, and vice versa. Remember you’re still a team, even if you’re long-distance.
10. Keep at it
Can long distance relationships work that easily? No, it’s not easy at all. But they can work: it just takes practice and determination. Remember that because you’re not face to face, you lose a whole dimension of communication.
Your words and your gestures matter much more, so make sure you talk things out if you’re having a misunderstanding. Don’t let things fester, and don’t let distance trick you into putting off bad news. Don’t hide things from each other. Trust is the key; don’t throw it away.
Finally, are long-distance relationships worth it? If you’re doubting continuing a relationship that’s about to go long-distance, remember this quote: “For anything worth having one must pay the price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice.”