While the old saying Absence makes the heart grow fonder may apply in the occasional short-term separation, for the couple trying to make a long distance relationship work, the miles apart can prove to be a real challenge. All that time apart is the reason many people are skeptical about getting involved in a long-distance relationship. But the good news is that a long distance relationship has just as much chance of surviving as any other relationship if you’re willing to commit to doing what it takes to make it work. So for those of you in or considering a long distance relationship, here are some tips on how to make it thrive in spite of the distance.
First, let’s address the problems created by a long distance relationship. These problems are known to increase anxiety and thus make the relationship feel more fragile and susceptible to a breakup. Then I’ll offer tips to tackle these problems and help you minimize their effects.
Some of the problems shared by long distance couples include:
Fears of cheating or lack of commitment – Because you’re not around each other, the distance makes it harder to know what the other person is doing. It’s as though he has a whole other life apart from you. And all of that distance means you have a lot more time to think about and worry over what he’s up to! This can lead to feelings of mistrust, especially if you’re in a situation where you feel more committed to the relationship than he appears to be.
Feelings of disconnect – Distance means you aren’t a part of each other’s day to day lives and don’t share in the routine things like hooking up with friends after work, watching a favorite TV show, or being a part of a family function. This can make it more difficult to maintain a sense of connection. It’s the simple things we share when we see each other regularly that connect us. You don’t get to laugh together over the lopsided cake your mom baked. He’s less likely to tell you about how lucky he was to avoid the fender-bender that almost happened on the way to work this morning.
Loneliness – Isolating yourself from activities because you fear temptations or you don’t want to be the only solo in a room full of couples can create a sense of loneliness. It’s like going through life in a holding pattern – waiting to be with the person you love in order to join in and start living.
Lack of intimacy – Physical contact is important. Kissing, hugging, and even hand-holding are all critical forms of touching needed for bonding and to provide feelings of security and love. Distance leaves us feeling vulnerable. He isn’t there to give you a hug after a bad day at work or snuggle on the couch watching a movie on a rainy night.
When will this end? – No relationship can remain long-distance forever. We need the assurance that the distance will eventually come to an end and have some sense of when that might be. Without it, the relationship can feel like running a marathon with no finish line. At some point, you become too fatigued to keep up the pace.
Unresolved arguments or issues – Because together time is limited, couples will often avoid bringing up difficult topics or discussing problems in an effort to keep everything copasetic. Who wants to ruin the only time you’ve had together in weeks! Then, when tensions become too great or issues boil over, the lack of face to face time makes it harder to resolve disagreements or dispel resentments. Over the phone is a tough way to fight and make up.
Tips to Help Your Long Distance Relationship Survive and Thrive
To make a long distance relationship less stressful and the downsides of separation more tolerable, couples must commit to working on a few critical things:
- Create trust – I was always taught that trust is earned. And the only way to earn trust through distance is by engaging in clear communication, being honest and forthright, and following through with what you commit to do – like calling when you say you’ll call, not lying about going out with friends, thinking that what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. (A guy often underestimates the power of a woman’s intuition and ability to find out the truth!)
- Prioritize ways to stay connected – Because you’ll be spending a lot of time apart, you have to make a conscious effort to stay connected. Modern technology, like Skype or Facetime, makes it so much easier to talk and see your partner at the same time. But you need other, more creative ways to keep the spark alive and share in the routine, day to day type activities. Send each other pictures or cute little notes, play an on-line game together, ship him a favorite dessert you make, etc. Here are some clever connection ideas.
- Maintain clear, meaningful communication – It’s important to talk about your feelings and share even the most mundane events and daily encounters to increase a sense of connection. Tools like Instagram are a great way to capture and share in the moment – a picture of something funny, a pretty flower you saw, or a beautiful sunset and describe how it made you feel. Establishing communication rituals also helps, like a morning wake-up call or a coffee break text message exchange.
- Don’t avoid the tough topics – You can’t avoid the tough subjects, like where your relationship is headed or when you’ll be together for good. Don’t let frustrations build up and fester. You have to talk things out. Sometimes distance is used by one party as a way to avoid commitment, so make sure you’re both on the same page about how you feel and the status of your relationship. I suggest scheduling the “talk” if you anticipate it being difficult or heated. This gives you both time to prepare and prevents a heat-of-the-moment confrontation. You’ll be less likely to say things you don’t mean or spring it on him when he’s already in a bad mood.
- Schedule together time – Anticipation is part of the excitement of planning your visits; knowing when you’ll see each other again can make the time apart more bearable. How frequently you get together isn’t as critical as knowing when the next visit will be! So make it a priority to plan and schedule your next get together to give you both something to look forward to.
- Discuss a target end date – No matter how much you love someone and want the relationship to last, at some point you have a right to expect a commitment from your partner that includes plans for ending the distance. Regardless of the obstacle(s) keeping you apart – job, money, schooling, or family – you can’t maintain the current status quo forever. Someone has to agree to make a change – give up a job, commit to a move. And if neither of you is willing to budge, then you better engage in a serious discussion about whether physical distance is the real obstacle keeping you apart. Never-ending excuses are often a sign of an unwillingness to commit to the relationship.
- Stay engaged and keep busy – You each have a life that needs living so make sure you get out there and do it! Enlist the support of family and friends to keep you actively engaged socially where you live. Having activities and hobbies that keep you busy will help minimize anxiety, make time apart pass more quickly, and help you avoid getting too obsessed with your long distance relationship. This is especially important in the early stages of a relationship when there isn’t a clear commitment as to where the relationship is headed.
- Mutual desire and effort to make it work – You both have to want the relationship and put in the effort to make it work in spite of the distance. While you shouldn’t try to keep score – who calls the most or who traveled to see who last – a one-sided relationship where one person is doing all the work to stay connected and keep the relationship going will lead to trouble.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your relationship while apart. Making a long distance romance and relationship work requires a little extra effort and creativity but it can certainly be worth it if you believe you’ve found the lasting love you truly want and deserve.
Have some great tips of your own? I’d love to hear some of your creative ways and advice for making your long distance relationship work for you, so please share and I’ll in turn share on Facebook!
Until next time, remember to: Live Smart and Be Savvy in Love!