Making a long-distance relationship work is difficult, as everyone who has ever been in one can attest to—yes, even if you’re really into each other. Contrary to what a cynical friend, relative, or coworker may attempt to convince you, LDRs may endure (thrive, even!) when the participants are enthusiastic about being together and prepared to put in the necessary effort.
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According to Rachel Hoffman, PhD, LCSW, a therapist and the chief clinical officer of the mental health support platform Real, the fundamental components of a healthy long-distance relationship are the same as those of in-person relationships, she tells Ghananewsaid.net. Trust, communication, and dedication are still necessary, according to Dr. Hoffman. The difficulty is that in a long-distance relationship, you need them 10 times more.
A natural rhythm of date evenings, sex frequency, and leisurely Saturday morning rituals frequently develops when you first start seeing someone who you can see and touch whenever you want; from there, things either blossom into something more serious, or they don’t. The majority of relationship formation happens accidentally, according to Moraya Seeger DeGeare, LMFT, the in-house relationship expert for the couples app Matched, Ghananewsaid.net. Yet when you’re far away, every decision you make is very much your own.
Maybe your goal is to transition your LDR into an IRL relationship within a year. Another possibility is that you or your partner must move temporarily for a new job and you’re committed to making it work. Whatever your situation, these professional long-distance relationship recommendations will guide you through this perilous new territory with open eyes and a sincere heart.
Make a plan you both feel good about
When you don’t have your person by your side on a daily or weekly basis, your degrees of uncertainty and uneasiness may increase, according to Dr. Hoffman. It’s more difficult to establish trust and feel secure in your relationship without the continual reinforcement you get from routine in-person intimacy—hugs, hangouts, sex, etc. Dr. Hoffman advises “creating a strategy and getting very clear on the routine and the habits of your relationship” to feel closer to your partner even while you are apart.
Here’s a starter list of questions Hoffman and DeGeare recommend for getting on the same page at the outset:
- How often will we talk?
- Do you prefer phone or video calls?
- What do you imagine our sex life looking like?
- Are you open to phone sex or sexting?
- How often can we afford to see each other in person?
- Who will be visiting who?
- If we’re in different time zones, will we talk when I’m headed to work and you’re going to bed?
- Will we talk on the phone in the morning or send good morning texts instead?
- How quickly can I realistically expect you to respond to messages?
It might take some negotiation to come to an agreement on these LDR strategies, but after you’ve begun implementing them, Dr. Hoffman advises having a regular state-of-the-union discussion (once a month, for example) to discuss which habits need to be changed. Whether cramming in Skype sessions before work is more hectic than you imagined, or the phone sex is growing a little monotonous. According to Dr. Hoffman, this is an ongoing, collaborative process. Even though you are separated by physical distance, talking about your communication preferences, sex lives, and in-person plans can help you feel connected.
Discuss your endgame too
Does every happy long-distance relationship end with one partner moving away because of love? Not necessarily; DeGeare and Dr. Hoffman both have LDR customers who are content to live in different cities without a clear end in sight. While DeGeare agrees that couples do require a certain amount of time and shared experiences in order to preserve the emotional bond and keep a relationship intact, “that number might fluctuate depending on what season of life you’re in,” she says.
Yet, if having children in the future is one of your goals, expecting to be reunited for good is much more common. It could feel premature to ask your partner to commit to a future in-person existence if your relationship is only a few months old or even if you’re beginning out long distance. The goal is to determine whether you are usually on the same page rather than forcing someone to commit to a rigid strategy. Something along the lines of, “If this works out, do you think we’ll establish a life together in the same place one day?” could be a question you ask your long-distance spouse.
It just cannot be the case that one partner believes you will eventually live together while the other believes leading separate lives is the best option, according to Dr. Hoffman. Also, it’s possible that one of you will later have second thoughts. Dr. Hoffman continues by saying that you’ll feel at ease addressing your spouse if your ideal goal changes over time in a healthy long-distance relationship. This will allow you to review your prior plans and determine whether you both still support this future vision.
Voice your jealousy and insecurities
The schedules for you and your significant other have felt hard lately—you can’t even recall your most memorable late-night conversation. They continue to talk about Rory, their fantastic research associate, who gets to have lunch with them in person and appears to be attractive in the tagged social media images you just discovered. AND Rory is a drummer? Officially, you are plummeting.
Dr. Hoffman claims that your relationship’s lack of trust and security, not Rory, is the issue. The answer is to express such feelings as soon as you can and as plainly as you can: I’m envious of Rory. By involving your spouse, it won’t become “I’m not going to text them for the next 48 hours because I want them to feel what I’m experiencing” or “I’m going to find my own Rory,” according to Dr. Hoffman. “When things proceed in this passive-aggressive manner, long distance relationships rapidly become difficult since you are unable to request a face-to-face discussion.”
Communicating your sentiments with others might prevent pointless arguments rather than keeping them to yourself and creating false stories about what might be happening. According to Dr. Hoffman, people often blame their partner when they can’t find a method to express their insecurity. “Instead of addressing the root cause, it becomes, ‘You’re avoiding me,’ or ‘You’re not returning my calls,'” the author says.
It is your partner’s responsibility to assist you in determining what will reassure you (up to a point—more on that below). “When I need you, are you able to respond in a way that says you understand me, that you care about me?” is one of the most crucial issues in any relationship. states DeGeare. In order to feel comfortable in the future, you might need longer dialogues or a stronger sexual relationship. According to DeGeare, affirmations from your spouse, like “you’re the only one that I want to be with,” can be helpful. DeGeare also advises repeating mantras to yourself that strengthen these emotions of security and trust (“We’re in this relationship because we want to be”).
Make sure you’re not overcompromising
Although giving up your personal wants can occur in any relationship, Dr. Hoffman observes that it happens more quickly in long-distance relationships because people are more willing to do whatever it takes to make a relationship succeed. You’ll begin to say things like, “I said I needed to chat before going to bed—but it’s okay if they don’t phone me back at night,” she warns.
Again, the willingness to compromise is a relationship plus, but there’s a distinction between giving up all you hold dear and meeting the other person halfway. According to Dr. Hoffman, gradually letting go of your wants might lead to anxiety symptoms including insomnia, tightness in your chest, and intrusive thoughts. She continues by saying that if left unattended, this concern can result in an unquenchable want for assurance that no amount of affirmation or phone calls will be able to fulfill, which in turn causes tension and disputes.
You may want to think about ending your relationship if you discover that the compromises you’ve made have gradually caused you to experience physical symptoms of anxiety or if you simply experience more negative than positive emotions when speaking with your partner or thinking about your relationship. I love you, but a distant relationship isn’t working for me, you can express without embarrassment, according to DeGeare.
Don’t stay just because you made that aforementioned plan
When one of you violates previously established boundaries—cheating, going days without speaking to the other—it is clear that something is wrong. Yet, DeGeare claims that she has witnessed several LDRs die more quietly, a death that neither party wants to talk about.
A long-distance romance can easily linger, especially if there is no conflict, she claims. Naturally, in-person relationships can become stale if they are allowed to continue. Nevertheless, in DeGeare’s experience, it’s lot simpler to do when you aren’t constantly face to face, and you might not have noticed how simple it has gotten to forget the other person when you aren’t speaking on the phone.
It’s possible that you still find comfort in the hypothetical thought that you have someone waiting for you at the end of this long distance relationship, but do you still actively desire it and them specifically? DeGeare advises occasionally assessing if you’re still all-in. “It’s tempting to avoid a heartbreak and just power through because you’ve got a vacation in Mexico booked,” she says. DeGeare believes it’s a good idea to routinely check in with yourself on how your relationship makes you feel, similar to Dr. Hoffman’s state-of-the-union advice above—for example, in a diary entry or during a long walk.
Try to enjoy the ride
When you’re in separate towns, time zones, or even nations, figuring out how to consistently be there for each other requires preparation, openness, and a healthy dose of faith. Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a drag.
When two people are in a long-distance relationship, there are numerous opportunities for in-depth discourse to take place over late-night phone calls that go on until the small hours of the morning. As the other person sends you images of the people and places they cherish there, you can develop a great fascination for their life. Your love may also deepen as you support one another as you seek objectives on different routes that will eventually (hopefully) coincide.
DeGeare argues that if you establish a strong foundation, you might be able to say to one another in ten years: “We didn’t just make it through; we learned how to communicate in a way that could have taken a couple years in person. We decided to carry it out. I appreciate us for that.” DeGeare has personal experience with the “end” of a long-distance relationship: Like myself, she participated in an LDR that ultimately resulted in marriage and, as of right now, a content family.
I’ll be the first to tell you that a successful long-distance relationship is not only possible, but also worthwhile, if you and your significant other can communicate through the challenging times—when it’s been too long since the last visit, when you can’t seem to stop playing phone tag, or when you haven’t quite decided where you’ll both end up.