There’s no getting away from it: long-distance relationships are tough.
They take a lot of work, almost always involve sacrifice, and they don’t work for everyone.
But they can also be wonderful, rewarding, and entirely sustainable for long periods of time, if you can get the balance right.
Long-distance relationships can come into being for all kinds of reasons and take many different forms.
They can start off as long-distance, or a change in circumstances might mean that you go from seeing each other every day to suddenly living in opposite corners of the country, or even the planet.
No two relationships are ever the same, and no one else can really know or understand what goes on between the two of you.
I’ve been in a few long-distance relationships over the years, and they’ve all had their own struggles, their own niggles, their own high points, and their own benefits.
There are good things about being away from your partner, too, much as it might be hard to believe if you’re currently finding it tough.
Perhaps this is your first foray into the realms of long-distance relationships. Or maybe you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work out, but you’re determined to make a go of it this time.
Either way, it can’t hurt to be armed with a few key pieces of advice to help you deal with the inevitable difficulties that you will face.
1. Set your own rules.
Just because your friend and her boyfriend did it a certain way, doesn’t mean that will work for you.
Before you embark on this long-distance relationship, you need to make sure that you’re both on the same page.
You might decide to be exclusive, but equally, in your case, you might decide between you that your relationship is going to be an open one.
If that’s what you decide on, the two of you still need to establish exactly what’s acceptable and what’s not. Where is the line going to be drawn?
2. Make trust the foundation of your relationship.
However you decide to do things, the cornerstone of any relationship, long-distance or not, is trust.
You need to be secure in the knowledge that you can trust your partner to be honest with you and loyal to you, whatever it is that loyalty means to you.
If you don’t trust your partner, you’re in for a lot of worry and heartache, and the relationship won’t be sustainable.
3. Know that distance could exaggerate any flaws in your relationship.
On the other hand, it could be that being apart means you don’t realize things about each other’s characters that could come as a surprise if and when you’re no longer geographically separated in the future.
4. Make the most of your time alone.
This is your time.
Much as it’s incredible to have a partner, it can be pretty time consuming. And sharing your life with someone is always going to involve compromise.
So, make the most of this time with yourself. Start new hobbies or go on solo trips. Learn what it means to be by yourself.
5. If possible, always have your next meeting set in stone.
Sometimes, regular meetings just aren’t feasible. And even if you could see your partner every other weekend theoretically, that doesn’t mean you should.
Make sure you’re not sacrificing a short period of time that you’re meant to be spending discovering somewhere new by constantly flying or driving back and forth.
Whatever your circumstances and however far in the future your next meeting might be, it’s always a good idea to have a date set.
If necessary, book the flights so you know for sure when you’re seeing each other next and can start the countdown.
Knowing for certain that you’ll see someone on a specific date three months from now can be much easier to process than a vague agreement that you’ll see each other sometime next month.
6. Revel in your independence.
It’s easy to come to rely on a partner to do things for you. To deal with the spider, organize your social calendar, or whatever it may be.
Use this time to prove to yourself just how capable you are, and rid yourself of any codependent tendencies you might have developed.
A relationship should be about actively choosing to spend time with your partner because of the joy they bring you, not depending on them to function.
7. Let them know you’re thinking of them.
When you’re apart, good morning and good night texts are essential.
Other than that, get creative with your communication. Send cute GIFs or voice notes. Send them links to articles you know they’ll find interesting.
8. Don’t over-communicate.
Don’t feel the need to be glued to your phone all day every day. There’s only so much you can talk about, and they probably don’t need to hear about what you had for lunch. Again.
Less can very much be more, with fewer texts during the day meaning you genuinely have something to tell them when you FaceTime them in the evening.
9. Send them sexy messages.
You need to keep the spark alive whilst you’re apart, as physical intimacy is a really important aspect of any relationship.
Send them flirty messages out of the blue, to surprise them and put a smile on their face. Let them know that you’re dreaming about being back in the same room.
10. Speak via video call.
Make sure you set aside time for long video calls, rather than just messaging or speaking on the phone.
It’s important to be able to see each other’s faces whilst you speak, registering their body language and picking up on anything that’s implied rather than said.
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11. Settle disagreements in person where possible.
All couples argue or disagree on certain things. Try not to have these disagreements via messages as miscommunication is almost guaranteed.
Instead, agree to discuss the issue in more detail the next time you meet in person. Failing that, try to do it on a video call or phone call. This will help you work through things more effectively.
12. Remember their schedule.
The last thing they need is for you to try to call them when they’re in the middle of an important meeting or an exam.
Make the effort to memorize their schedule, and be respectful of it, only calling at times that you know work for them.
13. Exchange gifts.
Before you separate, exchanging some kind of small love token can be really powerful.
Having something you can physically touch and see every day that reminds you of the one you love can be grounding and reassuring.
14. Send gifts and letters by post.
We live in a digital world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn the clock back too. Write them letters (even love letters), or send postcards from places you visit.
On special occasions, get online and send them flowers, or internet shop for something you know they’d love.
It’s not about spending huge amounts of money, but about putting thought and love into all your gifts.
15. Stay positive and be grateful.
Sure, it’s not going to be easy. That’s just the reality of it. But there’s absolutely no point in focusing on the negatives and the challenges.
Focus on how lucky you are to have them and on all the reasons you’re doing this.
16. Prepare for the pain of goodbyes.
Whilst the highs of seeing your partner again after time spent apart are exhilarating, the lows of parting ways are hard to bear.
It is shortly after you’ve said goodbye that the pain is worst and you might find yourself questioning why you are doing this.
To avoid falling into a pit of doubt and despair, organize your life so that you are suitably distracted in the days immediately after a separation.
Make plans with friends or family. Take a little trip somewhere. Decorate a room in your house. Start a project that gets you excited.
Do anything to avoid throwing a pity party for yourself. Sure, eat that ice cream and watch a rom-com, but then pick yourself up and focus on something that will keep your mind busy until the pain eases.
17. Don’t hide things from your partner.
Don’t hide things from your partner that you think might bother them, as it’ll only make things tricky when they eventually, inevitably, find out.
If they discover you’re hiding things or giving them an edited version of the truth, they’re quite within their rights to start wondering what else you’re not being entirely honest about.
Think carefully about what could be a potential worry for your partner, like drunken nights out with your mates or being at the same event as an ex and make sure you tell them in advance what your plans are.
Even if you know it’s not a big deal and don’t think it’s worth mentioning, if you know it’ll be a big deal to them, make sure you’re upfront about it, reassuring them that there’s nothing to worry about.
18. Create shared experiences.
It’s important to have things to discuss with your partner other than just your respective weekend plans.
You need to find ways to build your connection and discover more about how one another’s minds work.
Doing things like watching the same films or TV series, reading the same books, or listening to the same podcasts can provide endless hours of interesting conversation and make you feel closer.
19. Create a shared future plan.
Long-distance relationships can work for extended periods of time, if you both put the work in, but they aren’t sustainable forever and ever.
If you love someone, it’s only natural to want to build a life with them, and to do that you’ll need to both call the same place home.
You’ll need a timeline for the future. You both need to have an idea of when you will no longer be separated.
Just like any couple, you need to know that you share the same goals and have the motivation to work toward them.
20. Nourish relationships with your family and friends.
Romantic relationships should never be your be all and end all.
Take advantage of this time apart to spend time with the other people you love. Spend time with your friends and family.
If you’re far away from them, too, then make an effort to forge and cultivate new friendships in your new home.
Relationships are hard, even more so when they are long-distance. But the keys to making one work aren’t all that different to any other relationship.
Throughout your time apart, just make sure you’re considerate, respectful, and honest with them and yourself. This will give your love the best chance to flourish.