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
Does distance in a relationship make hearts grow fonder…or fonder of someone else?
Definitely there are 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.
1. Discuss together the level of commitment to each other and to the relationship.
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- 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 in the same place when really they are in different spots, they have just not talked out loud about their differences.
- Assume nothing. Discuss everything.
- Will you be monogamous when apart as well as together?
- How will you deal with attractions to others?
- How will you handle loneliness?
- What about time alone with co-workers of the opposite sex?
2. Avoid jealousy and be trusting. It is easy to let your thoughts run away when you are not together. Do not let jealous questions contaminate your relationship. Find ways to calm your thinking. Talk about concerns that you may have when you are in a good spot and know that these relationships are difficult for most people.
3. Check in and catch up with each other every day. 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
7. Talk about your future together. Plan for vacations, holidays and weekends. Talk about goals for yourselves and, if you are married or engaged, for your future as a couple. (Singles should be careful not to push anyone into a commitment.) Plan for when you will be together in the future.
8. Be open and honest about your struggles with being apart while also respecting that you do not want your partner to feel guilty about the separation. Make sure that is only a very small part of your conversations with each other.
You should not be afraid to voice your concerns and struggles with being apart. Acknowledge what you think and feel (kind of like “the elephant in the living room“). It may be that you two can hear it as another way of saying “I love you” or an invitation to problem-solve about how to make changes. Unless something can be done to change it; however, you do not want this to be the main part of any conversation with the person that you love.
9. Share loving and positive feelings every day. In healthy relationships, there are 5 positives for everyone negative. Find ways to contribute to the formula.
10. Find ways to be a happy person even if you are not together. Do not wait to be together to enjoy your life.
Relationships don’t make people happy. People make themselves happy. Happier people are more fun to be around. Find ways to make yourself happy and enjoy your life so that you have positive energy to contribute when you connect or are together.
Keep Reading By Author Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT
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