What can you do to make your Long Distance Relationship work?
After endless searching, you finally found someone worth holding onto. And you’re really happy together. But through certain circumstances, you find yourself separated from the one you love by miles and miles of distance.
No matter how much you love each other, there’s probably a part of you that wonders how or if your relationship will survive the long distance between you.
First of all, be comforted in knowing that long distance relationships can absolutely succeed. In fact, most couples find themselves geographically separated at some point during their dating or marriage relationship.
Many couples even point to a season of long distance as the cornerstone of a stronger relationship.
We hope it’s just a matter of time until you and the one you love are side by side again. But in the meantime, here are some therapist-approved recommendations to strengthen your emotional connection, ease the ache of geographic separation, and help your relationship go the distance.
1. Communicate as much (or as little) as you need to feel connected.
We are living at a time when we have unprecedented round-the-clock access to one another. For those in a long-distance relationship, devoting extensive free time to catching up can be a tremendous gift—so long as you’re both on the same page about it.
Some couples want to feel connected every hour. Some find it tedious to talk every day. Discuss with each other what works for the general frequency and length of time you will spend texting, talking, or video chatting in a day or week. And be open to modifying your communication tendencies as life creates new and unexpected demands.
2. “Be there” even when you can’t actually be there.
Decades of research indicate the most satisfied relationships are those in which each partner successfully responds to the other’s emotional calls. Emotional calls are the thousands of tiny attempts to connect with each other.
At the core of every emotional call, you’re really asking each other one question:
“Will you be there for me?”
Responding to each other’s emotional calls can seem tricky within a long distance relationship. You can’t physically show up for each other’s milestone days or reassure someone with a hug. But that doesn’t make this crucial element of relationship success any less important.
Instead, long-distance couples may need to be more intentional about responding to each other’s attempts to connect. If you’ve scheduled a time to talk with your partner, make that call a priority, just as you would any work meeting or doctor’s appointment. If your partner has an important day, call or text preemptively to find out how it went. By weaving your partner’s needs into your day, you’ll demonstrate that you’re there for them, no matter how far apart you might be.
3. Remind your partner frequently what you love about your relationship.
Doubts, insecurities, and jealousy can run high in long distance relationships simply because you’re spending so much time away from each other. This is why therapists at Lasting recommend using frequent verbal assurances with one another. They help minimize these negative feelings and clarify where you stand as a couple.
The next time you talk, tell your partner how much you love and appreciate your relationship. And if you’re feeling uncertain about where you stand, don’t be afraid to ask for reassurance for yourself. “I love you and wish we could be together today,” is as wonderful to say as it is to hear.
4. Forge a secure attachment by supporting each other's interests.
Whether you’re together or far apart, you and your partner will continue to grow and change as life moves forward. That is both normal and a good thing—even if it forces your relationship to change some in the process.
According to therapists, long distance couples who have a secure attachment together are able to let each other grow and mature. They find ways to stay connected and push each other forward. In a secure attachment relationship, personal growth and change is healthy. It’s a product of security and safety in the relationship.
One of the best things you can do to promote a secure attachment is supporting your partner as they grow in their individual strengths and interests. While it might be frustrating if her new volleyball practice cuts into your nightly catch-up time, it’s important to encourage her to do what she loves—just as she should for you.
5. Find a way to hang out together while apart.
Research shows that interdependent relationships are proven to be the healthiest form of relationships for marriage. What does that mean? That means you and your partner do things in sync together while maintaining your own separate identities as individuals. Chances are your long-distance circumstances are forcing you do to more things independently than you would probably like, which is why it’s really important to identify a few activities you can do remotely but together.
According to marriage therapist Liz Colizza, having shared experiences with your long-distance partner increases the cohesion of your relationship. “Finding things you can do together as a couple pays off big time in helping you feel more connected. That’s a huge win when it feels like the distance is pulling you in two different directions.”
Whether it’s virtual dates, reading the same book, streaming the same show while talking on the phone, playing games online, listening to the same playlist, or even eating at the same chain restaurant on the same night—all of these can help you and your partner feel more interdependent and, ultimately, more connected.
6. Learn how to address important issues both remotely and in person.
Whether you’re living under the same roof or oceans apart, all couples need to learn healthy ways to talk about and resolve conflicts. Bigger problems can arise if you ignore little struggles or are unwilling to address sensitive topics.
One military spouse experienced this when she and her husband were dating long distance. “I never felt comfortable bringing up tricky issues over the phone. But when I went to visit him, I didn’t want to ruin our time together by starting an argument. It created this vicious cycle where I felt I could never share what was bothering me. I would eventually blow up and break up with him. It was so unfair though, because he had no idea anything was even wrong.”
Learning how to talk about difficult topics takes time and effort, but it’s essential to the health of your long-distance relationship to not let small problems balloon into bigger ones.
7. Focus on the positive aspects of long distance.
Being separated from the person you’re madly in love with can hardly seem like a positive thing. But where you can’t immediately change your circumstances, you can immediately change your attitude.
One person in an LDR shared how he came to appreciate his long-distance status. “I know it sounds crazy, but I loved being in a long-distance relationship. I could devote 100% of my attention to my girlfriend when we were together. When we were apart, I focused on classes and spent time with my friends. That worked really well for us while I was in law school.”
Frustrating as it might seem to be separated, try to think of a few ways your long distance relationship is actually beneficial. Do you have more time for hobbies or working out or spending time with friends and family? Make a list of the positive aspects of long distance and focus on these during the harder days when the distance is really getting to you.
8. Respect the reason why you’re apart.
There’s no doubt you’ll have days when your long distance relationship seems especially difficult. You might even be tempted to do something impulsive—like quit your job or drop out of school—just so you can be together with the person you love.
While that might sound romantic, remember there’s an important reason you’re living far away from the person you love right now. That reason may hinge on a professional, financial, or family situation that needs to play out properly until the timing is right for you both to be together geographically.
Don’t let months or years of progress go to waste out of impatience to finally be together. Your relationship will be stronger in the long run if you finish what you’ve started and finish it well.
9. When the time is right, create a long term plan for merging your worlds.
Anyone who’s been in a long distance relationship can attest to the underlying heartache of being apart from the person you love. If you’re in a relationship with the person you want to spend your life with, at some point you’ll need to craft a plan to join your worlds together.
Whether this involves a wedding, an engagement, a job change or a relocation, be sure your plan considers the right next step at the right time for both people.
Having the hope of being together long term can help you ride out the toughest days of being apart from one another. That little bit of hope can go a long way toward making the one you love seem not quite so far away.
This post was originally shared on Lasting.