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Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients...Read More
Does distance in a relationship make hearts grow fonder…or fonder of someone else?
There are definitely more challenges to having a successful relationship when there is a separation but many couples have been able to do it successfully and others can as well.
Here are 10 tips for growing and maintaining a healthy relationship even when separated by many miles and long periods of time.
Defining Long-Distance Relationships
A long-distance relationship (LDR) is typically defined as a romantic relationship where the partners are separated by considerable geographical distances. This could mean different cities, states, or even countries. Such relationships often arise due to various scenarios like career opportunities, educational pursuits, military deployments, or meeting through online platforms.
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In an LDR, emotional and psychological effects are profound. Common feelings include:
Loneliness: Despite regular communication, the physical absence of a partner can lead to feelings of loneliness.
Need for Emotional Connection: There’s often a heightened need for emotional assurance and connection to compensate for the lack of physical presence.
Uncertainty and Anxiety: The distance can create insecurities and anxieties about the relationship’s stability and future.
Heightened Communication Needs: The necessity to maintain an emotional bond through words, whether written or spoken, becomes more pronounced.
Adaptability to Change: Both partners might need to adapt to new ways of expressing affection and maintaining intimacy from a distance.
Understanding these emotional and psychological dynamics is crucial for anyone navigating an LDR. It sets a realistic foundation and prepares couples for the unique challenges they might face.
How to deal with a long distance relationship
1. Discuss your level of commitment to each other and to the long distance relationship.
Have lengthy discussions about what you want from yourself and each other in this relationship while you are apart. Some couples believe that they are on the same page when really they are in different spots, they have just not talked out loud about their differences.
Assume nothing. Discuss everything. Long distance couples should communicate often.
Will you be monogamous when apart as well as together?
How will you deal with attractions to others? What will your sex life look like?
How will you handle the loneliness that comes with long distance relationships?
What about time alone with co-workers of the opposite sex?
2. Avoid jealousy and be trusting.
It is easy to let thoughts about your long distance partner run away when you are not together. Do not let jealous questions contaminate your long distance relationship. Find ways to calm your thinking and be fully present. Talk about concerns that you may have when you are in a good spot and know that long distance relationships are a difficult situation for most people.
3. Check in and catch up with each other every day to stay on the same page.
Be sure to have time to catch up with each other at the end of each day whenever possible. Block out at least 30 minutes at the end of each day to catch up with what is happening in each other’s world. Build on your “love map” as you grow in your understanding of your partner and stay connected to what he or she is experiencing each day.
4. Embrace technology.
Text during the day just to let your partner know that you are thinking about him or her. Skype video call them when you can so that you can see each other. If you are on face book, post pictures of times you all share so that you can reminisce and renew your commitment to others in your worlds.
5. Have regular time together…in person.
It is important for your emotional connection and intimacy to be together as much as possible. Clearly, this may be impossible for some couples. Military families are separated for long periods of time; however, whenever possible, find ways to make it a priority to spend time to be together, in person, as frequently as possible.
Be sure to make that time as positive as possible. Do not dwell on how hard it is, rather, make memories for the future – creating a feeling of closeness and connection, despite the miles apart. Here are some concrete methods to achieve this:
Create Shared Experiences and Rituals: Establish routines that you can both look forward to. This could be weekly virtual movie nights, reading the same book and discussing it, or even cooking the same meal while on a video call. These shared activities create a sense of togetherness and establish rituals that are unique to your relationship.
Innovative Virtual Date Ideas: Utilize technology to keep the relationship exciting. Some ideas include:
Virtual tours of museums or galleries.
Online gaming sessions together.
Watching a live concert or a show online simultaneously.
Planning future trips or creating dream vacation itineraries.
Having a themed video dinner date, where both dress up and prepare a similar type of cuisine.
Addressing the Challenge of Physical Absence: While physical presence is a key aspect of intimacy, there are ways to maintain a romantic connection.
Send each other personal items like a shirt with your perfume or cologne.
Write and mail love letters or postcards for a personal touch.
Share voice notes or video messages to keep the communication dynamic and personal.
Plan surprises like ordering a meal or a gift to be delivered to your partner.
Strategies to Keep the Romantic Spark Alive: Continuously find ways to express love and affection.
Send unexpected texts expressing your feelings or recalling fond memories.
Share photos or short clips throughout the day to include your partner in your life.
Plan your next in-person visit or a special activity to do when you’re together again.
By focusing on these areas, couples in long-distance relationships can maintain and even deepen their emotional intimacy, turning the challenge of distance into an opportunity to strengthen their bond.
6. Pursue common interests, even if you are not doing them together all of the time.
Look for things to do that you can share with each other when you are together and are interested in talking about when you are apart.
Learn to play golf, take bridge lessons, begin a running routine and challenge each other with it.
How to survive a long distance relationship
Surviving a long distance relationship can be a challenging yet rewarding endeavor. Regular communication is crucial. It helps bridge the physical distance, allowing couples to connect on an emotional level. Use various communication channels – video, phone calls, texts, and emails. Always be honest and open with your partner about your feelings, and don’t be afraid to talk about difficult topics. Plan for the future, setting short-term and long-term goals that give you both something to look forward to. Also, remember to keep a balance by maintaining your own life and friendships outside of the relationship. Put your overthinking to the test! Take our interactive online overthinking quiz and discover your thinking patterns.
How to cope in a long distance relationship
Coping in a long distance relationship necessitates a strong communication foundation. Make it a point to check in with your partner regularly, but also give each other space. Adopt a schedule for communication that suits both parties to ensure connection amidst varying time zones or busy lives. It’s important to discuss expectations, plans, and any changes in your lives. Support each other emotionally, remembering that it’s okay to have bad days. Rely on friends and family for emotional support, too.
How to maintain a long distance relationship
Maintaining a long distance relationship requires effort, trust, and patience. Regular and open communication is vital, as is setting clear expectations about communication frequency, commitment, and future plans. Celebrate special days, like anniversaries or birthdays, even if you’re physically apart. Virtual dates can also help to create shared experiences. Honesty and trust in each other can provide a solid foundation for the relationship. It’s important to look forward to the time when the distance will no longer be an issue and you can share your lives in the same place.
How to make a long distance relationship easier
Making a long distance relationship easier involves a lot of communication and patience. To ensure regular and meaningful conversations, set a time every day to talk about your day, feelings, or plans. Use technology to share activities, like watching a movie together or playing an online game. This way, you can create shared experiences despite being physically apart. Finally, remind each other frequently of your love and commitment. Sending surprise gifts or letters can also keep the spark alive and make the distance seem a little bit easier.
Navigating the Distance: Key Takeaways and Encouragement for Your LDR Journey
As we’ve explored various strategies for navigating a long-distance relationship, it’s clear that while challenges are inherent, success is very much attainable. To recap, some of the most impactful strategies include:
Regular and Open Communication: Establishing a routine for communication and being honest about your feelings forms the backbone of a healthy LDR.
Building Trust: Trust is crucial, and it’s built through consistent actions, understanding, and open dialogue.
Maintaining Emotional Intimacy: Through shared experiences, virtual dates, and personal gestures, emotional closeness can be sustained.
Individual Growth: Balancing the relationship with personal development and hobbies ensures a well-rounded and fulfilling life.
Remember, every long-distance relationship is unique, and the advice shared here can be adapted to fit your specific circumstances. What works for one couple may not work for another, and that’s perfectly okay. The key is to find what resonates with your relationship and to be willing to adjust and try new strategies as your relationship evolves.
Above all, stay optimistic and patient. Long-distance relationships require effort, but they can also be incredibly rewarding, offering a chance to grow both as individuals and as a couple. With dedication, understanding, and love, you can bridge the physical distance and maintain a deep, fulfilling connection.