Long-distance relationships are filled with both unique challenges and special opportunities for closeness and connection. The time and space that comes with long-distance relationships may be a blessing and a curse for your relationship. Meeting each other’s needs may be harder when you’re unable to be together in-person, but research finds that long-distance relationships may lead to increased intimacy and more meaningful interactions.
Despite forced time apart and logistical barriers, your long-distance romance can thrive with intentional actions, realistic expectations, and communication strategies. Here are 10 tips for cultivating and keeping a healthy long-distance relationship:
1. Set Up Communication Patterns & Expectations Early On
Talk to your partner about how you would like to communicate when you’re apart. Consider how often you expect to communicate, how you will communicate, and how much communication you’d like to have.
While it’s important to ensure that you’re not glued to your phone for hours day after day and neglecting other areas of your life, it’s equally important to prioritize communication with your partner and stay committed to being in regular contact. It’s natural to have to get creative with timing, especially if you’re located in different time zones. What’s important is making a genuine effort to keep the connection going strong by using ample high-quality communication.
2. Take Advantage of Technology
Facetime, Skype, and other forms of video chat give you options to visually connect and go on virtual dates, making your communication more closely resemble face-to-face time. Despite video chat seeming awkward or unreliable to most people at first, these technological advances have done wonders for long-distance relationships as a whole.
Texts, emails, and phone calls are still helpful and necessary communication tools, but be aware of potential misunderstandings when communication methods lack body language and verbal cues. Save your important and serious conversations for video communication or, better yet, in-person visits.
3. Set & Agree on Ground Rules
It serves you well to define your relationship as well as expectations for time together and time apart. Be open about how you will handle visits (Where? When? How often? How will finances and travel be handled?), and agree to see each other as much as possible despite limitations such as time and money.
Also, set clear boundaries around your romantic commitment, and ensure you’re on the same page about your definition of cheating, managing abstinence, and keeping things sexy if your relationship is monogamous.
4. Be Honest, Authentic & Transparent
Distance can more easily allow you to hide parts of your life, personality, weaknesses, and choices. However, it’s essential to be real as you continue to develop your relationship.
Being your true self will help you ensure you’re a good fit and truly know each other. This also means speaking up about feelings, being open with your concerns, and expressing interest.
5. Handle Conflict Maturely
Missing each other, having large gaps of time in between visits, and inevitable everyday stressors can all wear you out and cause irritability, tension, and misery. While the challenges of long distance can create conflict in your relationship, remember you’re on the same team, and be committed to utilizing healthy communication strategies during conflict. Don’t lash out, throw angry tantrums, or assign blame without taking accountability.
Also, going MIA, giving the silent treatment, ignoring your partner, or playing games (like hanging up or not picking up the phone) to protect your heart when you’re upset or in conflict can cause significant damage to your relationship. Instead communicate about your feelings, express your needs, put in genuine effort to problem-solving and coming back together, and don’t disappear without advanced communication.
6. Find Ways to Share Experiences & Show Love Even When Apart
Seeing the same movies, watching the same TV shows, and listening to the same music can lead to interesting, fun, and dynamic conversations and bonding experiences. Plan a video date night, find creative ways to express love, care, and admiration, and be transparent in sharing yourself with your partner.
Write your partner a letter, share photos, and send surprise care packages. Be sure you’re acting in ways that keep love alive, reaffirm your commitment to each other, and breed emotional security.
7. Take Care of Yourself
And don’t make your partner your entire existence. Missing your partner can make you want to spend every waking minute on the phone together. However, neglecting your own life (friends, family, work, obligations, exercise, personal interests, hobbies, etc.) is a recipe for disaster and only puts pressure on your relationship to meet all of your needs, which is impossible.
Manage the distance by investing in yourself and your own life and taking good care of yourself — both for yourself and for the sake of your relationship. Commit to having a life where you live to the fullest instead of wishing time would speed up so you can see your partner again. Make each day count by balancing your relationship goals with your personal goals, making the most of your distance and time apart, and learning to be OK with being alone.
8. Trust, Trust, Trust Your Partner
Trust, trust, trust your partner — while noticing if something doesn’t feel right. A long-distance relationship cannot function without trust. The hope is that by getting to know your partner, sharing about your lives, and scheduling regular time for connection and communication, you will become more and more confident in trusting your partner and the strength of your relationship.
While it’s crucial to trust each other, it’s equally important to trust your gut and pay attention if something feels off. You may experience moments of insecurity and jealousy, which are natural, but if you feel you’re being lied to, or if your partner is acting in untrustworthy ways, it’s important to pay attention and rethink your relationship.
9. Give Your Partner Space
Distance and time apart will create natural opportunities for space. Understand it will take time to find the right balance of togetherness and separateness, so be patient with your partner and allow room for independence.
It’s important to allow your partner to have space and function in his or her own life without you feeling jealous, insecure, or possessive. Stop yourself from obsessively checking your partner’s social media accounts and acting in ways that promote jealousy.
10. Plan Ahead for Visits
But don’t put too much pressure on each visit being perfect. The distance and time apart will be more tolerable if you’re excited about concrete plans and have a clear sense of when you will see each other next and when the long distance part of your relationship will end. Also, understand mundane and/or boring tasks, such as grocery shopping and laundry, may be a part of your visits. These activities are a natural part of life and couplehood as well as good opportunities to see how well you click and work together.
Visits may also be filled with sleep deprivation from travel, other work or school obligations, and squeezing in time with friends and family, so go into each visit with a realistic view of how your time will be spent. Work to incorporate each other into your lives during visits (by doing normal couples activities), and make a commitment to make the most of your time together by planning special dates to look forward to.
Long-Distance Relationships Require Work, But They Can Be Worth It
To be both satisfying and sustained, long-distance relationships require commitment, communication, patience, respect, and trust. Be grateful for the time you have together and the effort you’re both putting into making your relationship long-lasting, and know the challenges of long distance are well worth it if your relationship brings you love and happiness.