In these days of constant change and mobility, long-distance relationships are increasingly common and necessary as people take jobs and pursue life goals that move them about the globe. There’s no question that a long-distance relationship poses challenges that typical relationships, where people live with or near each other, do not. That does not mean that long-distance relationships can’t or don’t work; it just means that being aware of and real about those challenges, instead of downplaying or entirely ignoring them, is critical.
So how can you make a long-distance relationship work? Here are a few ideas to consider when thinking about how to keep your long-distance relationship surviving and thriving.
1. Maintain individual lives
Sometimes people in long-distance relationships find themselves pouring their all into staying connected to their partner via Facebook, phone, Skype, etc. They spend as much time as possible talking and chatting with each other, and when they’re not in direct communication they are thinking about it or planning their next time to speak. This may help ease the pain of being separate for so long, but it is a poor long-term solution, because it narrows your focus onto the one thing you are missing most right now.
Maintaining individual lives, social activities, and friends is key to surviving the time apart. You need other sources of connection and satisfaction to keep your mood up, and also to have something to contribute to your relationship when you do engage in that part of your life. Someone who doesn’t have a life tends not to be very interesting to talk to!
This is true not only for when you are apart, but for when you are together too. Obviously you need to be in contact as much as is comfortable for both you. This is itself a conversation: what do each of you need to feel connected? Is a phone call a day enough? Do you both want to be texting throughout the day? Don’t assume that what works for you also works well for your partner. Figure out how you can both get your needs met across the distance.
When you are together, you may be tempted to avoid any serious discussions in favor of just having fun with each other while you can. Taking this approach however may mean you never end up addressing certain difficult topics, because you don’t feel comfortable broaching it over the phone but you never end up doing it in person, either. Be honest about your needs and the importance of communicating them so you don’t bury the things that are important to you – those are likely to resurface in unpleasant ways later on.
3. Plan for the future
Have you ever been driving to somewhere you’d never been (without a GPS) and you weren’t quite sure how long it would take? Somehow it seems to drag on forever – and then on your way back, you may find that the trip doesn’t seem nearly as drawn out. When we have a sense of how long we’ll be waiting for something, the wait can feel much shorter, even if objectively it was the same length of time in both directions. When you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting, it can feel like an eternity.
So too with a long-distance relationship: if you have a plan for when the long-distance situation will end, it is likely to be much easier to bear the time apart. If there is no sense of when things will change, the time will feel like it is stretching on and on, wearing you down, and making the relationship harder and harder to keep up.
If at all possible, try to make some plans for when the long-distance part of your relationship will end. Of course, nobody knows the future, but if you have at least tentative ideas about the future of your relationship, you will probably find it easier to wait. Maybe when you get out of college you can plan to move to the same city, or when your current contract at work ends, or when you save up a certain amount of money – whatever it is, putting down some kind of planned end to your separation will make it easier to get through.
Even with the best planning and communication, long-distance relationships can face bumps in the road, no different from any other relationship. If you need help fixing up your long-distance relationship, we can help, whether you are both able to be in the same city or not. Contact us today for a free consultation or to ask us any questions you may have!
Learn more about our counseling options for long-distance relationships here.