All relationships have their challenges. But when you are in a long-distance relationship, the challenges you face are very unique and sometimes difficult to overcome. Difficult but not impossible, nonetheless.
Most people wouldn’t choose to be in a long-distance relationship. But sometimes circumstances can’t be helped and, if you don’t want to end things, that’s the reality. So, although absence can make the heart grow fonder, it can also mean that you’ll need to establish a few ground rules and learn some new routines in order to be successful.
Coming To Terms With The Distance
One of the hardest parts of living with a long-distance relationship is the psychological aspect. Yes, there are many new behaviors and practices that you need to consider, but before you can do that you need to be mentally and emotionally ready to make them work.
Being successful with the new dynamic of your relationship means accepting that the distance is real, and things will be different. It’s easy to live in denial and pretend that nothing will change, but the truth is that they will. Both you and your partner will need to be realistic and open about this. If you’re not, you will set yourselves up for disappointment. There will be a disconnect between the two of you, and likely failure.
So, how do you do this?
The short and sweet answer is to talk about it. Be honest with each other about your concerns and fears regarding the challenges and time frames associated. Maybe it’s a work assignment with predefined times, or perhaps it’s a permanent move for one of you.
Whatever the reason, discussing ahead of time the expectations for how long you’ll be apart is important for establishing the right psychological approach to your situation.
The same can be said for discussing your fears about the new dynamic in your relationship. No matter how strong your relationship is, you should each have questions and doubts about the impact it will have and how you will make it successful. It’s not a sign of weakness to admit that.
In fact, not asking can potentially create a situation where those fears will come true. But by discussing them you add the strength of your partner to your own strength as you work together to make sure things stay healthy and strong between you.
Be careful not to be too naïve or overly confident. Underestimating the impact is an easy and tempting thing to do. Being optimistic is great, but you have to be realistic and honest about the potential negatives as well.
Once you and your partner have committed to making things work, you then need to make a plan for how that will happen.
Best Practices For A Strong Long-Distance Relationship
There’s no surefire formula for making a long-distance relationship work. Each circumstance will be a bit different and each couple will have to adjust as necessary. The one certainty for every couple in this situation is the uncertainty that it will cause on a regular basis for each of you. With that said, there are some best practices that can help make the success more likely.
1Agree on a goal
A permanently long-distance relationship isn’t realistic for most. While there’s always exceptions, physical proximity eventually becomes a crucial factor for a happy and healthy relationship. The time you plan to be apart may be long, short, or subject to change, but along with that understanding you need to agree upon a goal for your relationship in general.
Are you married? Do you want to get married? Do you want to eventually live in a specific area together? Are you working toward saving a certain amount of money to get to the next step? Leaving things too open-ended can lead to a lack of commitment.
2Make talk dates
You may need to be flexible with this as life has a way of altering schedules, but making phone dates or FaceTime dates can give you each something to look forward to and help keep you connected.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but because you each have a life and your normal daily activities can take over, it can become easier and easier to allow these things to slip. So, treat them like a regular “date” and make a plan to “get together” on a set schedule.
This can be harder for some than for others, but try to plan ahead for visits. This may mean going to each other, or it may mean meeting in the middle, but seeing each other is an important way to keep things strong.
Word to the wise – surprise visits should be thoughtfully considered before initiated. Because of hectic schedules or set plans that can be hard to alter at a moment’s notice sometimes, a supposedly fun, surprise visit can actually backfire by causing stress and difficulty despite the good intention.
4Keep things romantic
Physical romance and intimacy can be exponentially more difficult when you’re apart, but you should still make an effort. Send little mementos, romantic texts, and make sure you are open about your feelings of love and desire. And, when it’s appropriate, there are ways to create intimacy using technology. Just be smart and avoid taking pictures or doing things that leave a permanent digital record and could be harmful down the road.
5Trust, trust, trust
This can be especially difficult. When you’re apart it can be easy to let your imagination get the best of you and feel convinced that your partner is betraying you. This, unfortunately, is one of the biggest killers of a successful long-distance relationship. But there is a big difference between checking-in and checking-up on your partner. So, accusing them of anything without proof can put a quick end to things.
Today, more than ever, the world feels both smaller and more accessible. This means that at any point the possibility that you or your partner may have an opportunity beyond your current geography always exists. It can seem scary to consider a long-distance relationship, but people do it successfully every day. If you find yourself in this situation, you can, too, if you’re smart about it.
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6Author: Dr. Kurt Smith
Dr. Kurt Smith is the Clinical Director of Guy Stuff Counseling & Coaching, a Northern California counseling practice that specializes in helping men and the women who love them. His expertise is in understanding men, their partners, and the unique relationship challenges couples face today. Dr. Kurt is a lover of dogs, sarcasm, everything outdoors, and helping those seeking to make their relationships better.