Making it Work: 10 Long Distance Relationship Tips from the Experts
Sometimes certain circumstances will lead you and your partner to be different places around the world, whether you like it or not. Some long distance relationships (also known as LDRs) start off in person then have to make the transition to long distance because of family, school or work obligations, while other relationships start off as long distance when people meet online or in passing and start a relationship from different parts of the world. Regardless of the reason that you and your partner are distanced, it’s important to recognize that LDRs come with a unique set of challenges that should be considered and attended to over the course of your long distance relationship. In addition to the usual relationship challenges of communication, compromise and conflict resolution, people in LDRs have to deal with finding time for one another, balancing a social life without their significant other and defining boundaries for themselves and the relationship. While every relationship has unique challenges, there are some overarching problems that present themselves in long distance relationships. Here are some relationship tips from the experts on making a relationship work, despite the distance.
1. Doing things together, while you’re apart
Even when you and your partner find yourselves in different parts of the world, whether it’s different cities, different states or even different countries, it’s important to find ways to spend time together, even when you are a part. In this day and age of technology, it can be easier than you think to do things together from different places. All the online streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO and whatever else you watch on, provide hours and hours of content that you and your partner can binge together. Newer platforms like Netflix Party even allow you and your partner to sync your TV and movie streaming, so that you are watching together in real-time. This can make it feel as if you are sitting right next to each other on the couch, rather than feeling like you are a part. Watching things together is a great way to connect over new things, and it can be a great way to keep your conversations fresh and flowing. In addition to streaming things together, you can challenge each other to online games. Facebook has plenty of games (who remembers Farmville?!), as do other sites, offering games like UNO and 8 ball pool. There are also fun quiz games on Buzzfeed and other websites that you can take individually and compare. Another fun idea is to start a remote book club. Pick a new book that you’ve been dying to read, set a timeline, and then have discussions about it. If you’re more of an active couple, you can also find ways to exercise together. There are plenty of apps on the market that let you share your exercise goals and achievements with one another, and there are even ways to compete remotely. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what movies you watch, what games you play, or what books you read, what exercise challenges win, doing these activities is about finding fun ways to connect to your partner, despite the distance.
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2. Scheduling time to hang out
In addition to finding common activities to do, it’s really important to schedule one-on-one time, so that you can check-in and chat, just like a regular couple. Relationship check-ins are extremely important for any couple, but are especially crucial for long-distance couples, where you are less a part of each other’s everyday life. While it’s always fun to pick up the phone and give your partner a call out of the blue, it’s also important to schedule a chunk of time so that you can hang out for a while. Different platforms like Facetime and Skype are a great way to stay in touch with each other because you can see each other’s faces. While you might not think of Facetiming as any different from a simple phone call, getting to see your partner, their facial expressions and their environment can actually do a lot in helping you feel more connected to one another despite the distance. In addition to Facetime and Zoom, new apps are coming out that make scheduling time to hang out even more fun and easy. Zoom for example is a great new platform to use to stay in touch. Zooms allow you to schedule meetings in advance and put them on the calendar which not only serves as a great reminder for your upcoming virtual date, but also creates something for you to look forward to later in your week. For those of use that are totally zoomed out after the workday, there are also things like Google Hangouts that you can use on your computer and things like House Party that you can use on your phone to stay in touch. House party is a fun option because it has games built into the video chatting app that you can play to help keep things lively. Embracing these different platforms, and changing it up from time to time is a good way to maintain a healthy amount of communication with your partner.
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3. Finding the right amount of communication
As we discussed, scheduling time to hang out together is a crucial part of maintaining an LDR, but it’s important to set boundaries that establish an appropriate amount of communication. If you’re like me, you are not necessarily a texter, and the idea of being in constant communication (even with a significant other) sounds draining and borderline miserable. If you’re not like me, you might love sending and receiving texts throughout the day to check-in with your partner. For a lot of people, it’s important to hear from your partner in the morning, during the day and at night. For other people, the appropriate amount of communication might be somewhere in between these two extremes. All this is to say that different people prefer different levels of communication, and it’s important to discuss your preferences from the get go to avoid swamping/neglecting your partner. If you and your partner are on different pages about the amount of communication that you need or can tolerate, it’s important to find solutions or compromise so that you are both comfortable and supported. It’s important to recognize that the right amount of communication can also change monthly, weekly or even daily depending on your different schedules and commitments. Being honest about your communication needs and preferences is super important, and (if possible!) you should let your partner know if you’re going to be more or less distant because of life events. Whether it’s a hectic week at work, or you have a friend in town who needs your attention, know that it is okay to change up your communication when you need to, as long as you are explaining to your partner what is going on. The key to any LDR is finding the communication that works for you as a couple. Doing this can often be difficult, and ironically requires A LOT of communication, but checking in often about communication is really crucial.
4. Going old school
Technology is making LDRs much easier these days. Being connected through phones, social media and other apps can help maintain your connection and really make it a lot easier to be far apart. And while all this technology is great, you should not rely solely on technology to stay connected to your long distance partner. As we are learning to embrace new technology, it’s important not to forget about the art of letter writing. Writing letters can be a super romantic, and more drawn out way to stay in touch with your partner. While a text is great for immediate communications, letters can often capture deeper, more romantic feelings. The anticipation of writing and receiving letters is also a fun practice to indulge in during this age of instant and constant communication. It’s not necessary to write letters all the time, and it’s definitely not necessary to use them as your main form of communication, but writing letters can add a fun dimension to your long distance communication. Letters are also fun because they allow for more creativity than a text message. With a handwritten letter you can add art, sketches, photos that can provide a more personal touch to your words.
5. Respecting the reason for being apart
There are a million and one reasons that couples are a part, and most of them are not voluntary – whether it’s work, school, money, family – it’s important that you respect the reason that you two are a part. A lot of the time we don’t have much control over where we live, so making your partner feel guilty about not being near you is not a helpful exercise. Sometimes couples are a part because they’re in the early stages of a relationship. In these situations, it’s extra important to respect the reasons for staying a part. You don’t want to rush your partner to move to your city or to feel comfortable with you moving to theirs if it is too early in the relationship. Respect that you are apart for now, and try to make the most of it by embracing creative ways to communicate and maintain (or grow) your connection. Remember that you and your partner chose to be in an LDR together, knowing that it would be difficult. Long distance is not the permanent stage for any relationship, so know that there will eventually be an end to the distance and try to focus on maintaining your connection even when you are not physically together. Though it will be tough, try to use every opportunity to look at the positive instead of focusing on being apart.
6. Setting boundaries
It’s important to set boundaries in any relationship, especially in a long-distance relationship. Going back to the concept of the right amount of communication, it’s important to establish when good times to communicate are. You may really want to talk to your partner Friday evening right after you get off work so that you can recap your week, but they might be totally exhausted, or they might have fun Friday night plans! Even though you and your partner are a couple, you have to respect that they have a life separate from you in their city. They have friends and social obligations to attend to, and you should support them keeping up a normal life without you. Creating boundaries like, Friday nights are for the girls, or don’t call me during work hours is crucial to allowing you to both have lives outside the relationship. It’s also important to establish boundaries related to your social lives and visiting. Boundaries help establish and maintain trust in a relationship and trust is especially important in LDRs. Setting boundaries will make sure that both you and your partner are on the same page about what is and is not acceptable in your relationship so that you can be respectful of each other and the relationship. Setting boundaries early on helps you avoid situations where you don’t know you are breaking your partner’s trust or doing something out of line. Establishing these kinds of boundaries requires clear and frequent communication. These types of discussions can be difficult to have, but will become easier with time and practice. Creating check-ins regarding your boundaries is always a good idea, as they can and will change over the course of your long distance relationship!
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7. Enjoying your personal life
Just like in a regular relationship, it’s important to maintain a degree of independence when you’re in an LDR. Like we mentioned above, it’s totally okay to spend Friday nights with your friends, not on the phone with your long distance boo. Though it can seem counterintuitive, it’s important that you prioritize your own needs over your partner’s from time to time which means that sometimes you might need to do some in-person socializing rather than staying in on the phone. Remember that it’s important that you maintain a normal life even if you are long distance. Doing things like spending time with friends and family and trying new things is super important, because it helps you maintain your identity outside of your relationship. It can often feel hard to do new things or make new friends when your partner’s not there (afterall you don’t want to leave them behind!), but it’s important to do things on your own, and you should encourage your partner to do the same. Being in an LDR can offer a lot of independence and free time that some people learn to love. Pick up a new hobby, try something new, keep learning and growing as an individual, while you’re apart. Getting out and doing fun things with people can also be a great way to distract yourself from the long distance, which can often be hard for some people to manage. Enjoying your personal life can also help you avoid feelings of resentment for a partner. While this might seem like an extreme sentiment at face value... think about it! If you are tethered to your phone because of a needy long distance partner and you’re unable to hang with friends or make new connections, you may start to resent your partner and the relationship. Establishing boundaries early on will help you and your partner feel comfortable with the independence that should come with an LDR.
8. Meeting up
All the modern communication is making it easier than ever for couples to survive and thrive in LDRs, but no relationship should be entirely long-distance. When you are in an LDR, it’s important to schedule times to meet up with one another IN PERSON, so that you can maintain a physical and intimate connection. Time and money are often huge constraints on how often you can travel, especially if you and your partner are ~ very ~ distanced, but it’s still important to schedule one-on-one time together. Picking a date far in advance and buying plane/train tickets early on can save you a lot of money, and make traveling to visit your partner much more manageable. Scheduling in-person time together far in advance is also great, because it gives you something to look forward to during your everyday life. Knowing you have a trip planned is half the fun of going on a trip, especially when it means seeing your significant other for the first time in a long time! Seeing each other in person will help you feel more connected, and it will help you be more involved in their lives. While it can be super fun to explore a new place together (and you should totally consider doing so), it’s also a great idea to visit your partner in their city. Doing this will not only save you money in terms of hotel or AirB&B costs, but it can also give you a glimpse into their every day life. Visiting their favorite coffee shop, seeing their commute, meeting their friends, doing all these things will strengthen your connection and make the LDR possible in the long-run.
9. Talking about your future
When you embark on your LDR, it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page about what the future holds. Afterall, there’s no way you want to be long distance forever! You can plan as many fun visits as you want (and you totally should!), but at the end of the day, you need to end up in the same place as your partner. You may not be able to put an exact end-date on how long you will be apart, but you should discuss how you want the course of the relationship to go. Creating a timeline can be a helpful way to chart out the future of your relationship, and establish an end goal. Will you be together once one of you finishes school? Do you hope to end up in a specific city? Are you applying to jobs in the same places? Are you willing to move to the same city as their family? Are you willing to give up your current life to be with them? Discussing these big-picture ideas at the beginning of your long distance relationship ensures that you’re on the same page, and are both working towards reuniting. Having a goal and timeline in place will also make it easier to be apart, because in the back of your mind you know that it’s not a permanent thing.
10. Getting some help!
Regular relationships can be hard to manage, and long-distance relationships can often be even harder. LDRs require a huge amount of open, straight-forward communication to properly work, and this can often be difficult to manage over the phone. Heck, it’s hard to manage in person! It can also be hard to establish boundaries and the right amount of communication if you’re doing long distance for the first time. Again, people have a difficult time doing this in regular relationships and believe it or not, distance does not make things any easier..... If you and your partner are having a hard time transitioning to a LDR, or are worried about whether or not your relationship will translate into a successful long distance relationship, consider turning to relationship experts. Apps like Relish can help you and your partner navigate the tricky territory of long distance with expert advice from tried and true relationship coaches. Relish provides one-on-one, personalized coaching that will help you set and meet your relationship goals. Relish also provides tips, tricks and testimonials that will help you and your partner grow your connection. Navigating LDRs can be difficult, especially if you already have a lot going on in your personal life. Turning to Relish’s relationship coaches can help you navigate uncharted territory, or address things that aren’t going well in a supportive and loving way. There is not a guidebook on how to navigate long distance relationships. Even if you follow all of these tips, it can still be hard to keep your connection alive when you are physically apart. Turning to a relationship coach is a great way to keep your relationship going strong despite the distance.
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