How to Deal With Long Distance Relationships
Long-distance relationships can be very difficult, especially if you’re used to being together often, and then suddenly have to be apart for long periods of time. It may not be an ideal situation for you and your partner, but with the proper planning and attitude, long-distance relationships can be just as good as geographically close ones.
Doing the Practical Stuff
Have a discussion with your partner.All relationships — long-distance or not — benefit from open communication. Before committing to be long-distance, you and your partner should have a serious discussion about how the relationship will work.
- What are your hopes and expectations for the relationship? What are your fears?
- How often do you expect to check in with each other? Do you expect to communicate with each other in some way every day?
- How often will you visit each other in person? What’s realistic given your budget and responsibilities (i.e. school/work schedule)?
- Will you see other people while you’re apart, or will you be monogamous? How will you satisfy your physical needs/desires from afar?
Ensure that you both feel secure in your relationship.You can do this by talking about your relationship but also through daily actions. One great way to do this is to keep your partner updated on your everyday life, including the people you interact with.
- Keeping your partner updated on your daily life will help them feel more involved in your world and your daily life. This will help them feel more secure in the important role they play in your life.
- Consider your partner’s feelings when making choices. For example, going out for late-night drinks with a cute member of the opposite sex or an ex when your partner is halfway across the world might make even a secure partner a bit nervous.
Figure out your end game.Chances are that you ultimately hope to be in the same place as your partner. Being clear about your end goals will help keep you and your partner committed to the relationship.
- Discussing the end game of your relationship will also help ensure that you and your partner are on the same page. Maybe you’re hoping to get married in a few years if all goes well.
- If you’re both just enjoying an international fling, that’s okay too. It’s just important that you both know that, otherwise you might have one person pining over the other while the other is happily dating around, which isn’t fair.
Make plans.Even if these plans don't go ahead, talk about your future. Where would you like to visit with your partner and what would you like to do when you're there?
Establish your methods of communication.People in long-distance relationships are no longer limited to snail mail and pricey telephone calls. Here are some apps that make keeping in touch easier and more affordable:
Commit to checking in with each other each day.Things will be different for each relationship, but this advice seems to be unanimous: at the very least, say good morning and good night to your partner each day.
- It doesn’t have to be long chats — just a simple “Good morning beautiful!” or “Night night!” is perfect. It’s just important to schedule some time each day to be virtually close with each other, no matter how long that time is.
Don’t go overboard.Research has found that spending too much time together online or on the phone when you’re in a long-distance relationship can actually be damaging to the relationship. Keep this in mind while discussing your expectations.
Make sure you have a good support network.Talk to the people you’re close to, namely your friends and family. Let them know about your situation, and tell them how you feel about it.
- Maintaining a good support network will help you stay strong when you’re feeling sad and lonely, and missing your partner. You can even talk out some of your insecurities with your closest friend or family member when you’re feeling low.
- It’s okay to talk to your partner about your insecurities too, but try to avoid it unless they’ve done something to make you feel insecure. This will help keep things lighter and more positive when you talk to your partner, which is important since you have limited time with each other.
Join a long-distance relationship discussion forum.As helpful as your friends and family might be, they might not be able to fully understand what you’re going through. There are a lot of great forums online, including a popular one on Reddit.
Part 1 Quiz
How can you stay in contact with your significant other during a long-distance relationship?
Having the Right Attitude
Don’t freak out.Long-distance relationships may not be ideal, but research suggests that they can actually be just as good as geographically close ones. Here are some keys attributes of high-quality, stable long-distance relationships:
- The people in them have a positive attitude towards long-distance relationships and do not feel that their relationship is automatically doomed just because of the distance.
- People in them worry less and focus on the positive.
- People in them feel more certain about their relationships.
- Greater distances seem to result in higher long-distance satisfaction, too.
- Each partner idealizes his/her partner to some extent.
Come to terms with your new relationship.Whether your partner has to move away due to work or it's a new relationship that has formed via the Internet, you need to realize that you are separated by distance, for now. Take some time to reflect upon this.
- The most difficult thing to deal with is the fact you can't see or touch your partner whenever you want to. It might hurt, but you need to come to terms with it, otherwise you’ll just be unhappy all the time, making for an unhappy relationship.
Accept what you have.If you love your partner just be thankful at the fact that you have them, even if they aren't physically with you right now.
- Find things to be grateful for, rather than focusing on the negative (namely, the distance). For example, maybe you’re building stronger communications with your partner, and getting to know them on a deeper level.
- By focusing on the positive things about your partner and your relationship, you’ll feel more in love with them and more positive about the relationship, meaning you’ll boost your chances of staying together despite the distance.
- Let the security of your relationship help you focus on other areas of your life, such as work, school, or personal goals. A long distance relationship can give you more time to focus on building up other aspects of your life, while your relationship continues to grow as well.
Be positive.Of course it’s sad that you can’t be together, but focusing on this might make it difficult to see the good in your relationship.
- Being positive means keeping things light when you talk to your partner — talking about the little things that happened throughout your day, for example.
- It’s okay to talk to your partner about any real concerns you have. You should be positive, but you shouldn’t pretend things are okay when they aren’t. If your partner does something to hurt your feelings, it’s important that you let them know so that you both can work out a plan to avoid that happening in the future.
- Be positive about yourself, too. Studies show that people feel happier and more satisfied in relationships where their partners keep their doubts about themselves and the relationship to themselves.Don’t be totally uncommunicative, but be mindful about what you talk about. Don’t call yourself fat or stupid, for instance.
Be realistic.While it’s important to be positive, it’s also important to be realistic. Being realistic about what you can and can’t do in the relationship will keep things healthier in the long run.
- As an example, if you know you can’t afford to see each other more than twice a year, be honest and upfront about this, otherwise it might become a problem later in the relationship.
- Being realistic also means accepting that there will be times you’ll miss your partner, or times when you won’t be able to talk to them when you really need to. Being realistic will help you feel less helpless in such situations. This is where having a good support network will come in handy.
Know your attachment style.Knowing your attachment style can help you figure out what’s real and what’s not when you’re having doubts about the relationship — whether it’s just you or it’s something your partner is doing.
- Studies of “adult attachment style” show that if you feel secure in your relationship, you are more likely to feel comfortable in a long-distance relationship whereas if you feel insecure, you’ll be more vulnerable to the negative effects of distance.
- If you’re always around your partner, you might not even realize you’re insecure in your relationship until they go away. If you’re not securely attached, you’ll feel so anxious and depressed when your partner is not around, that you may even find it difficult to go about your daily tasks.
Trust your partner.This is one of the most important things you need to have in order for your relationship to be successful, regardless of whether it’s long-distance or geographically close.
- If your distrust your partner and they have done nothing to deserve that distrust, chances are you have trust issues and need to work on them yourself. See a counsellor. Don’t make your trust issues your partner’s problem.
Avoid power games.When the feeling arises that maybe your partner doesn’t care as much as you do, write about it in a journal or discuss it openly with them in a non-accusatory way, rather than internalizing it and turning it into a power game.
Take what others say with a grain of salt.A lot of people might not understand why you would want to be in a long-distance relationship. Many of them might tell you the relationship won’t work. You’re best off ignoring them. Only you know your relationship, and if you’re happy, then that’s all that matters.
- Don’t be put off by what other people say, do what you feel is right. If it makes you and your partner happy talking every night on Skype then do it. Don't let other people spoil it for you!
Stay independent.You have to have your own life even if you miss your partner dearly. Having your own life will give you more to talk about with your partner, and will make you feel more fulfilled and happy.
- Keeping busy will also help you dwell less on what your partner is doing/how you aren’t together.
- Being in a long distance relationship can improve the overall relationship over time because it helps both partners learn how to live independently while also being in a relationship. Even after you're in the same place, both of you will know how to be an individual who happens to also be in a partnership.
Part 2 Quiz
Which of the following is a key component of a healthy long-distance relationship?
Having Fun Together
Commit to doing fun things together.There's no point being in an unhappy relationship. You can't change the distance, but it doesn't mean that you can't have fun together. Watch movies, play games, take up hobbies together — find things that allow you to bond despite the distance.
Have a weekly date night.A lot of people in long-distance relationships dedicate one night a week to have a special, extended hangout with their significant other. Maybe you’ll have a romantic video chat, or maybe you’ll make dinner together. Do whatever appeals to you!
Play games together.There are countless online games that you can play together. Scrabble and Minecraft are popular choices.
Send each other presents.Send your partner a book you think they’d like, along with their favourite cookies. Or maybe send some silly underwear for them to wear the next time you meet up. Get creative!
Send each other love letters.Pick up a few books on the subject, read some examples, and then make it a contest to see who can write the most ridiculous love letter. Some more ideas to spice up your love letters:
- Spritz the letters with perfume or cologne.
- Include dried flower petals in the envelope.
- Kiss the pages with lipstick on/seal the envelope with a kiss.
- Write on fancy stationery and use fancy sealing wax and a stamp to seal the envelope.
Visit each other in person regularly.Visiting each other as much as possible makes the whole situation better. Being able to spend some quality time in person with your partner is one of the best things in a long distance relationship.
- Just think, you can look forward to seeing them and it makes the time when you're together more special. Make sure that when you see each other you go out and visit places, and do things together!
Part 3 Quiz
How can you participate in activities together despite the distance?
QuestionMy girlfriend is in Minnesota, and I'm in New Hampshire. How can we keep this relationship normal?
Clinical Social WorkerClinical Social WorkerExpert AnswerThat's a pretty far distance! If you are both still in school, then it will likely be difficult for you to spend time together. It's a good idea for you both to work on maintaining your local friendships. You should also spend more time communicating with each other. Long distance relationships are unique, and they require lots of communication and dedication. They aren't for everyone, but you can make it work.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if we don't see each other for weeks and I'm feeling lonely?
Clinical Social WorkerClinical Social WorkerExpert AnswerIt's normal for you to feel lonely sometimes. You can combat your loneliness by spending more time with friends and relatives. It might not be the same as spending time with your partner, but it will help remind you that people are there for you. Your partner cannot fulfill all of your needs, even if you live in the same place.Thanks!
- If you're meeting your partner for the first time be sure to take a friend or a member of your family, just in case your partner isn’t who they say they are.
- Avoid the urge to spend hours upon hours together online each day, sacrificing your regular lives/social lives/work etc. just to be together. The key is quality of time spent, not quantity.
Sources and Citations
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