It's no secret: Being in a long distance relationship can be tough. The time and effort it takes to keep in communication can be exhausting, and having to schedule each and every reunion can suck the enthusiasm out of even the most passionate people. Fortunately, they aren't all bad. Thousands of couples all over the world make long distance work, and you can, too! Here's what our experts and an experienced couple say helps on the quest to keep long distance love alive.
If you rely on your significant other to be your main source of happiness on a day-to-day basis, you're navigating dangerous waters. In long distance relationships, couples need to be able to make themselves happy during the copious amounts of alone time they have on their hands. James Shields and his girlfriend, Shellie Brown, have been in a relationship that was on-and-off long distance for four years, with her in Toronto, Canada, and him in Portland, Oregon. "We don't rely on each other to create a sense of structure in our daily lives," Shield says. As musicians, Shields says they are both incredibly independent and capable of keeping themselves busy when they're not together, which helps them avoid feeling the strain of long distance.
Wendy Brown, couples therapist and author of Why Love Succeeds or Fails, says long distance relationships are better for some of her clients. She explains that some people prefer to spend the week focusing on friends and work or school, with their weekends reserved for visiting their significant others. Of course, most long distance couples don't have the luxury of seeing each other every weekend, so keeping busy and maintaining a sense of independence is especially important in those scenarios.
Yeah, seeing other couples looking happy and actually spending time together in person can be painful, but relationship expert April Masini says that long distance couples should try to keep their conversations pleasant and upbeat as often as possible to avoid conversations turning into a chore instead of something to look forward to. It's extra important for long distance couples to keep their connection strong, and dwelling on the negative aspects of the relationship puts that connection at risk. Brown has clients who avoid talking about missing each other or feeling lonely altogether because it makes them feel worse. When the distance starts to feel insurmountable, try focusing on something tangible in the future; talk about the next exciting reunion you have scheduled or start planning a fun getaway together in the near future.
Shields says he and his girlfriend do their best to utilize all mediums of communication when they're apart, from Facetime, to email, to texting. "We have to be careful that we don't let actual telephone calls slip away," Shields says. "With texting it's easy to stay in quasi-continuous contact and to feel like you're communicating enough... but I think the occasional phone call or Facetime session is important to have in the mix." Texts are great for quick little blasts of conversation, but meaningful conversations and connections aren't going to spring from emojis and gifs sent back and forth. At the very least, try to touch base with your partner once in the morning and once at night, and a phone call or Facetime session in the evenings or on the weekend can only make things easier for both of you.
One of the hardest parts of being in a long distance relationship is not experiencing life together, so finding ways to do that while apart is key. Brown advises long distance couples to find things they both enjoy and to find ways to integrate them into the relationship, regardless of distance. If you and your partner bond over food, find a recipe for each of you to try out and discuss the results. Pick a TV show to watch and keep up with it together. The options are endless, and easily catered to whatever interests you and your SO.
Keeping the spark alive in any relationship can be difficult after a certain amount of time passes, so keeping the dynamic fun and playful is important. "Unleash your seductress," Masini says. "Whether it's sexting, sending alluring photos of yourself, flirting, or sending sexy gifts, putting some energy into the flirtatious side of a long distance relationship is well worth the payoff." Without romance or flirting, relationships can quickly start to feel like friendships, so fan that spark, send those winky faces, and get your flirt on.
Masini points out that long distance relationships require a lot more maintenance than some couples are willing to put forth. Seeing each other often means paying for plane tickets, hotel stays, and other expenses regular couples don't worry about, but long distance couples should be willing to spend on these things to avoid creating an extra layer of problems. "We try to keep our longest separation to four weeks or less," Shields says. "When we keep it to two or three weeks I don't really feel any emotional distancing. When we go [longer than that], things start to get trickier... Then it becomes really important to be mindful how often you communicate." Nothing can replace seeing each other in person, but time and effort can also come in the form of an extra phone call, a small gift in the mail, or a love note that reminds your partner you love and miss them when you've been apart longer than you prefer.
Respect Your Partner
Masini says long distance relationships require a lot more patience and understanding than other relationships might. And with that patience, there should be respect. Couples do long distance for many reasons, and whatever they are, it's important that couples respect those reasons to avoid building resentment on either side. " I think it's important to respect each other's feelings for why one person wants to be here and one person wants to be there; whether it's career, or family, or climate, or hobbies. I think as long as everybody respects each other's values and is committed to the process of figuring things out it can work."
Remember, It's Worth It
Because if it wasn't, you wouldn't be doing it. Choosing to participate in a long distance relationship will lead to a lot of sacrifice on both ends, but at the end of the day, it should always feel worthwhile. "Anybody who commits to a long term relationship is doing it for some compelling reason," Shields says. "If you feel like the sacrifices and choices you're making are worth it, and you're doing it for the right reasons and you're committed to figuring things out, I think you can have a very fulfilling relationship."
What do you do to keep your LDR alive? Share your tips in the comments!