These 10 ways to make sure your long distance relationship works are based on research, as well as my own experience with my husband before we married.
Dr Gregory Guldner, author of Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide, says an important tip on how to make a long distance relationship work is to discuss the issues that are critical to relationships. Couples in long distance relationships have limited time together, and don’t want to “spoil” a weekend by bringing up issues. This leads to a tendency to postpone (often indefinitely) discussing important topics.
Research has shown that while couples in long distance relationships argue less frequently than others, they also progress more slowly. Further, couples are more likely to idealize their partner and downplaying the negative side, which works well until the couple re-unites. Dr Guldner recommends that couples formalize a time to talk about the relationship and address problems that might otherwise fester.
Long distance relationships can work – and they can be very healthy and satisfying. But you have to be willing to put in extra effort, and stay focused on your long-term goal. Which leads me to my first tip on how to make a long distance relationship work…
10 Tips for Long Distance Relationships
These tips on how to make a relationship last are inspired by my own experience. Bruce lived on Bowen Island, BC, and I lived in Calgary, AB. We did the long distance thing for about a year, and have now been married for 11 years :-)
1. Decide on your long-term goals for your relationship
What do you want out of this relationship? Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, 10 years? You and your long-distance lover need to talk about what you want out of life. Be honest with each other. If your long-term vision for your relationship is marriage and kids and he wants things to remain the way they are, then you need to come to terms with your future.
2. Acknowledge the reality of long distance relationships
It’s hard to be in a relationship when your partner is far away! It’s no fun being alone every night, going to parties, dinners, or even grocery shopping alone. I love being married, and don’t enjoy it when my husband goes away for long business trips. I can’t imagine living apart from him. If one of us had to move because of work, then we’d both make the sacrifice of moving. If you have no choice about being in a long distance relationship, you need to be honest with yourself. Long distance relationships aren’t ideal.
3. Set ground rules for interacting with people of the opposite sex
Dr Guldner says that one specific topic that isn’t often addressed involves the ground rules about interacting with other people that might be considered a threat to your relationship. For example, is it okay to go out with someone for dinner? Is it okay to go to a movie together? Some couples who want to make their long distance relationship work even allow for dating other people. Research on long distance relationship shows that 70% of couples who did not discuss this topic broke up.
4. Make the most of your distance – surprise your partner
In 10 Best Gifts for Couples in Long Distance Relationships, I share several romantic gift ideas that will help you and your partner connect and stay connected. It’s important to be romantic and make the best of the space between you, and not just focus on how to make a long distance relationship work.
5. Get involved in your life
To make a long distance relationship work, you need to be fully engaged in your community, work, neighborhood, etc. Don’t put your life on hold for your relationship, don’t immerse yourself in work to distract yourself from loneliness, and don’t live on Skype or Facebook. It’s important to stay connected to who you are in your own world, so you retain a sense of identity and focus.
6. Don’t be suspicious of your boyfriend
One of my most popular blog posts is 5 Signs Your Husband is Cheating and 4 Ways to Spot a Lie. None of the hundreds of comments are from people in long distance relationships. The risk of having an affair is related to the quality of the relationship and the personalities involved, more than on the freedom to cheat. You may be more likely to worry about your partner’s love if you’re in a long distance relationship, but partners who live far apart aren’t more likely to cheat than couples who live together.
7. Find ways to stay connected
The hardest part of knowing how to make a long distance relationship work is being part of each other’s daily life. For instance, I like knowing the trivial things about my husband’s day! I’m interested in what he had for lunch or who he ran into on the bus home from work.
Even talking about trivial, seemingly meaningless things is an important way for couples to connect and stay close. Make time for phone calls. I remember waiting for my husband to call when he was working out in the field – the longer I waited, the angrier and lonelier I felt. After I told him how hard it was to be the one at home waiting, he made extra efforts to put work aside and call me. I needed to stay connected, and he understood that.
This tip on how to make a long distance relationship work goes both ways: both partners need to compromise and accommodate each other’s needs.
8. Don’t rely on online communication
In 7 Tips for Long Distance Relationships, I encourage couples to keep their relationships private. It can be tempting to connect via Facebook, Twitter, and even blogs. But, those online interactions are public and accessible to everyone. Just because you’re in a long distance relationship doesn’t mean you should rely on online forms of communication – especially public forums! Talk on the phone as much as possible.
9. Write handwritten letters to each other
Research from the Long Distance Relationships Center found that couples who stayed together wrote letters to one another twice as often as those who broke up. There’s something about handwritten letters – not email or text messages – that have an important psychological impact that fosters intimacy. You might even spray a wee bit of your cologne or perfume on the letter, as it will help your partner stay close to you.
10. Take care of your finances – budget wisely
Here’s a great tip on how to make a long distance relationship work, from Oregon State University’s Do’s and Don’ts for Success in a Long Distance Relationship: recognize the trade-offs necessary for an often-apart relationship and do learn to be smart financially (low long distance rates, low airfares, etc.) Don’t put a few dollars over saving a relationship.
What do you think of these tips on how to make a long distance relationship work? I welcome your thoughts below, but I can’t offer advice.
Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.
Need encouragement? Sign up for my weekly "Echoes of Joy" email - it's free, short, and energizing. Like me!