Here’s how to improve your chances of succeeding
In this age of Skype and texting, it seems like maintaining a long-distance relationship would be easier than ever.
Gone are the days of paying fees so high for long-distance calls that they need to be rationed like precious gems.
Someone in a long-distance relationship should no longer pin all their hopes on delivering mail at 3 pm, waiting for a letter.
We don’t even have to wait any longer for your boyfriend to be at home sitting at his computer desk to check his email: prompt replies are almost a must now (perhaps a plus and a minus!).
But ask anyone in a long-distance relationship: technology can’t make up for everything.
The lack of regular physical closeness still seems to make many long-distance relationships as emotionally difficult as ever.
And yet many of us are trying to make it work.
A survey found that 74% of respondents used the Internet to maintain a long-distance relationship (and was there anyone who didn’t?).
And the good news is that studies have found that, at worst, the quality of the long-distance relationship does not differ significantly from geographically close relationships, and in some cases, it may even be better.
Will yours survive?
What makes the difference?
Fortunately, there are specific considerations that will increase your chances of healthy, lasting love.
Here’s what to keep in mind.
1 . Prioritize your schedules well
Different work or school schedules, sleep preferences, and time zones can wreak havoc on even the most well-meaning couples when it comes to taking the time to communicate.
Often, a couple can settle into a pattern by inertia, even when it turns out that that pattern doesn’t work particularly well for one or both of them.
When are you at your best?
When can you dedicate unhurried, private time to the conversation?
What is your opinion on spontaneous messages?
Who has the most flexible hours?
What is your most intimate part of the day – or the time when you crave connection the most?
Who should initiate contact?
Do you prefer a set schedule no matter what, or should it vary from day to today?
There is no limit to the types of communication arrangements that can work, as long as they seem mutually satisfactory.
Remember how you choose a rhythm that works for you, so resentment and frustration don’t build up after falling into a pattern that doesn’t feel convenient or favorable.
2 . Make sure your goals are aligned
In general, research shows that long-distance relationships are more satisfying and less stressful when they are perceived as temporary.
This makes sense, as it’s easier to keep an eye on the proverbial prize and work together to overcome the difficulties of parting, rather than being hopeless and feeling like it’s never going to end.
But what happens when one person is better off with the status quo than the other, or one person is more motivated to find a way to be physically together than the other?
If one partner sees separation as a temporary hurdle that will end in a major commitment—engagement or moving in together, for example—while the other partner sees distance as a simple need that may have to be sustained in the long run, there are likely to be friction.
Continually talk about expectations of exactly what the outcome of your breakup will be and when.
3 . Don’t just rely on technology
Many long-distance couples can thank heavens they are so lucky that FaceTime, video conferencing, texting, and all the other technological advances have made it so much easier to stay in real-time contact with your loved ones.
But let’s not forget the power of having something physical that reminds you of your partner.
Keeping an item of clothing that still smells like your partner, having a special object that serves as a symbol of your commitment, or displaying a gift prominently in your bedroom can serve as a proximal reminder of your presence.
And don’t underestimate the joy of receiving something tangible from him: a funny postcard, an unexpected gift, or the delivery of your favorite packets of candy – it’s not just for parents of college students.
4 . Focus on quality communication
Interestingly, some research shows that long-distance couples may actually be more satisfied with their communication than geographically close couples.
This may be because they realize how precious their communication opportunities are and often don’t have to waste words on day-to-day logistics (“Why didn’t you throw the garbage out?” or “But I want Chinese food – we order Italian.” last week “).
Use this to your advantage.
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, you don’t have the ability to have a great deal of communication compared to couples who are together in close proximity, but you have the potential to even exceed them when it comes to quality.
If you have daily bedtime conversations, for example, think about the most important parts of your day beforehand.
Realize that since you may not have the benefit of facial expression or physical touch, you will sometimes need to be a little more deliberate in the words you use.
Understand the shortcomings of a phone call – or even a Skype session – and plan accordingly to ensure you say what you mean.
This can help you ensure that the most important conversations about building intimacy are still taking place, no matter how many states (or countries!) separate you.
5 . Let the “boring” details become connections
Remember, focusing on quality communication doesn’t have to mean you’re leaving out the smaller details of your day.
It’s easy to break up if you have no idea what the daily rhythm of your partner’s life is like: who do they talk to at lunch?
What is he/she watching on TV right now?
What is he/she experiencing for dinner?
How is he/she redecorating the room?
Who drove them crazy at work?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the “boring” details of your day should be a mystery to your partner.
Obviously, no one wants to hear anything more than a list of minutiae, but the key is staying in each other’s lives long enough that you get a sense of the context that makes up their daily life: It helps keep you two close, even when distance gets in the way.
6 . Don’t over-plan your time personally
One significant way that long-distance relationships feel markedly different from geographically close relationships is that when you’re actually together, you often feel like there’s no time to waste.
But this can be a double-edged sword.
Yes, this can make you less likely to fight with someone who forgot to change the toilet paper roll, but it can also make you succumb to the urge to make your time so full that it stresses one or both of you.
I’ve worked with many people in long-distance relationships who report feeling a lot of pressure to make every moment count personally; if they only see their partner every couple of months, for example, then understandably they want to treat it like a special vacation every time.
But you should not forget that the intimacy of the relationship is built in small and big moments: spontaneously watching movies on the couch, in addition to sightseeing in the tourist attractions of your city or visiting the most popular restaurants.
Make sure you create some breathing space in the moments you spend together.
Downtime is not a waste of time, but the opposite: helping the two of you breathe and connect.
7 . Don’t put your life on hold.
There’s no doubt about it: long-distance relationships require some sacrifice.
But it’s important to be careful not to sacrifice more than necessary, which can breed resentment and regret over time.
This is especially risky when the long-distance part of the relationship is only supposed to last a brief period of time, but unexpectedly needs to be extended longer, whether due to military missions, employment challenges, or unexpected financial setbacks.
In these cases, a partner may have put off or even avoided spending time cultivating friendships, interests, or hobbies in the place where they live, because he/she didn’t think it was worth it – and now he/she has lived there for years. and wishing he had at least lived more fully in the meantime.
It’s one thing to hope to finally be in the same place as your partner; It’s another thing to put off living your life alone until then.
Rest assured that you are trying your best to make the most of the life you have where you live, right here and now.
Don’t isolate yourself, spin the wheels of friendship at work.
Live each day fully, regardless of whether your partner is away or not.
This will make the time go by faster.
8 . Renew the situation as positive – and believe in it
Given the positives that accompany some long-distance relationships, it may well make sense to celebrate your situation as something that can bring benefits despite its downsides.
Also, if you can remember the ways in which the breakup can make you appreciate each other more (research shows that you are more likely to idealize your partner when in a long-distance relationship), it can help you feel more positive. (a) about what distance can bring.
Cognitive reframing is useful in all kinds of difficult life situations as it helps bring hope and can give us a sense of control.
Long-distance relationships are no different.
Try to follow the focus of how this challenge can help them grow even stronger.
9 . Know the difference between “checking in” and “checking in”
And that brings us to the main point of contention in many long-distance relationships: the fact that you don’t have a sense of what your partner is doing, day in and day out.
Do you worry about being “out of sight, out of mind”?
Or do you fully believe that absence makes the heart grow more passionate?
You can take a break and recognize that long-distance relationships can bring slightly greater concerns about infidelity than geographically close ones, and that’s totally normal.
But don’t let it feed behavior that turns to suspicion.
When you want to hear your partner’s voice, call them.
When you want to send a question by text, send the question.
But don’t play detective: your partner will pick up on the intrusive nature of your questions and not feel welcome.
You’ve taken the leap of faith necessary to have a long-distance relationship, and you just can’t know for sure what they’ve been up to all day: the more you can relax about it, the better.
10 . Trust in yourself – and earn that trust in yourself
This brings us to one of the most important factors in making any relationship last: trust.
The work to build – and maintain – trust is two-way, with the gain being just as important as your partner’s.
Can you count on your partner in ways big and small – is he or she there to answer the phone as promised, or are you often ignored when something more “urgent” comes along?
Does he/she follow through on the plans you made to go out on a date or routinely put off the date because work got too busy?
He remembers what’s important to you and listens in ways that make you feel heard and understood, or each new conversation feels separate, as if you didn’t pay attention the last time, or as if your mind was elsewhere?
All of these questions can also apply to yourself, of course.
Are you being the partner you deserve?