Long distance relationships have a reputation for being hard and not working out. But while LDRs have a bad rep, there’s no doubt that they CAN be successful if you know how to successfully make your way through all of the challenges that a long distance relationship can bring.
If you and your loved one are facing a long distance relationship, never fear. Here is the all-inclusive, ULITMATE long distance relationship survival guide:
Step 1: Define Expectations
Whether this is your first LDR or one of many, your first step should always be to define the relationship and discuss what you both expect it to be like during your period of separation.
- Are you allowed to see other people?
- Is one of you willing to eventually relocate?
- How often will you visit?
- How will you deal with skeptical friends and family?
- How long will you be long distance?
Clarifying these things early on can help prevent future frustration and heartbreak. You don’t want to be 6 months or more into a long distance relationship with no expectation of if or when you can visit one another. You definitely don’t want to be a year or longer into an LDR with no prospect of ever closing the distance together. The more you talk about expectations and make plans from the start, the better your chances of succeeding will be.
Step 2: Set a Routine
I would say that the key to a successful LDR is routine, routine, routine. That might sound confusing considering anything can happen to alter your plans when you’re 1,000 miles apart from each other, but keeping a general sense of routine can be one of the only things that adds some much needed stability to your long distance relationship. Of course it’s still important to be flexible, after all you don’t want your LDR to end just because of the unexpected changes to your plans mentioned at the beginning of this guide.
Your routine should include a general outline of how your relationship will operate. If you followed step 1 above then you should already have an idea of how you both expect things to go such as how often you’d like to visit one another and when you plan to close the distance (most likely.) Now it’s time to put the things you discussed into action by coming up with a scheduled routine together.
Some things to include in your plans are:
- Date nights – make a set day or period of time to have a date together. Online, by phone or by video chat. Have a date night once every weekend, once every month or every 2 weeks. Set a time and keep to your commitment to spend that time together.
- Regular Visits – you know how often you both would like to visit, now plan for it. Maybe once a month is good for you both budget-wise and time-wise, for those of us in lengthier LDRs a visit every other month or every 2 months might suffice. Make it habit to visit as often as you both can. Things may occasionally come up, but knowing you will both visit one another on a somewhat steady schedule can do a lot for your optimism. Even if you miss a visit, you know you have another one planned in advance however long down the road that you can immediately look forward to.
- Activities – have a routine of doing things together! It doesn’t necessarily have to be a date night, it can be anything that your hearts desire. Read a book together, play a game together or watch YouTube together. Add that into your daily or weekly routine. Not only is it fun, but it will also keep you and your partner “closer.”
Step 3: Set Goals Together
Having a routine is great and all but you can’t always add everything into it. Consider your routines together as “short term goals” and things that can’t be achieved in the near future as “long term goals.” A long term goal might be closing the distance, moving to a new country or getting married. Those are all things that while you can’t do them immediately you absolutely can PLAN for them.
Set goals, work it out, come up with plans no matter how sketchy incomplete or theoretical they are. If you have to deal with Visas and, travel between states, etc. it’s a good idea to look at those things as you’re working your way toward them rather than all at once at the end of your long distance period. Get out that notebook and write down your goals and the steps you’ll need to take to meet them as soon as you can. You’ll thank yourself a million times over later.
Step 4: Be Creative in Expressing your love
So you understand what you both expect out of the relationship and you now have a schedule to reinforce those expectations along with long term goals that you are actively planning for or meeting. Good job, the ‘bones’ of your long distance relationship could not be any better at this point!
I could safely say that you’re all set to sail through your long distance relationship at this point since there’s not much else to fret about as far as planning goes… but as we all know, relationships are not logical and there has to be some l-o-v-e incorporated into the mix. Hence step number 4: expressing your love in a creative way.
Long distance relationships are a real struggle when it comes to expressing love. When you’re face to face you can hug, kiss and express your love in other intimate ways outside of just saying “I love you.” For couples in a long distance relationship, that physical element is entirely GONE -it doesn’t exist, and so your levels of attachment can suffer because all you can do is say I love you over the phone, text or web cam. Or can you?
We have to compensate for not being able to express love in a physical way and that is where the creativity comes in. Most popular among LDR couples is sending gifts to one another. The thought is “if I can’t be there for you physically, I can send you something physical to hold my place until I can be there.” Pretty sweet, isn’t it?
Here are some very creative gifts that I’ve personally seen other LDR couples send as a token of love to their partner:
- Handmade Cards
- Care packages
- Open When Letters
- Delivered Flowers
- Personalized Jewelry
- Custom Stuffed Toys
- Pizza Deliveries
- A favorite shirt
- A Date in a box
There’s lots of inspiration for gift ideas and things to send in place of yourself (temporarily) on LDR Magazine’s Pinterest Page. Feel free to follow us and check it out if you’re looking for a quick gift-giving cheat sheet!
Step 5: Make Technology your BFF
Alright! You’ve got expressing your love down & your guy or gal could not be more in love with you because of it. Way to go superstar! Now let’s talk about Technology because love it or hate it, for the duration of your LDR it is going to be your best friend.
In times past, long distance relationships were managed quite well through snail mail and romantic love letters, but this is the modern world where life moves faster than it did 100 years ago and some of us can’t afford the luxury of trying to get to know someone through snail mail. They do call it snail mail for a reason.
So in addition to all of the above it’s vital to familiarize yourself with the tools that are available to long distance relationship couples. You can choose not to use technology and I’m sure you’d be fine, however if you want to give your relationship its best. possible. chance. then the use of technology is something you won’t ignore.
Most commonly used in long distance relationships are the following technological goodies:
- Video Synching websites -these websites let you watch a movie together on-line without one person being 15 seconds ahead of the other. So when you watch things together you can focus on enjoying that time together without worrying if you’re at the same spot or stopping and pausing to catch up with one another.
- Texting – texting is a smart, simple approach to staying connected. We don’t all have the time to call one another everyday, but a text you can send anytime, anywhere at any time of day. So if you’re struggling with timezones, or you both have very busy schedules you can communicate at your leisure and still have a full conversation without having to devote a specific time or place for it.
- Couple Oriented Apps -I’m not sure when it became trendy to create apps for people in long distance relationships but there are literally hundreds of smartphone apps out there for anyone who wants to take the communication factor to a level that goes beyond texting. These apps are amazing and some even include the ability to share a virtual kiss or share a virtual hug together.
- Gadgets and Gizmos –“the internet of things” is a term used to describe objects that would not usually be computerized, but are. This term really fits all the wearable tech that has been created in the last 5 years to help people connect through normal objects. Some of these items include necklaces and bracelets that send notifications by buzzing and lighting up when you’re thinking of someone, or 2 eggs that move in unison when the other is poked by at least one person, OR desktop lights that both illuminate when one of you taps on one light. There’s so much out there, its hard to list it all -but these gadgets can be a really cool addition to your LDR.
- Video Chat -there are so many video chat applications out there, it’s great! What used to be just “skype” is now a whole host of websites and applications that let you video chat with anyone for free. Purchasing a webcam and having video sessions together is the closest thing to having your partner right there with you. It’s worth it to both invest in the hardware needed to try out this necessary activity. Don’t be shy!
- Instant Messengers – When you’re fingers ache from texting or you just don’t feel like staring into a webcam, instant messaging (IM) is another great tech tool that lets you text chat on your computers easily. A Keyboard is much easier to relay thoughts and messages through, making IM an effective way to communicate clear thoughts to one another, day or night.
- LDR Websites -and when you’re in a rut, having trouble or just need an encouraging boost, the internet offers you a good selection of long distance relationship websites (like this one!) You can browse through them when you’re bored, join their social communities and really feel the support that only like-minded individuals can give you.
Technology is amazing! Use it to your advantage and don’t rule it out completely.
Step 6: Build Trust Together
The single biggest issue in long distance relationships is trust. Thinking about it, I’m sure you’ve concluded that it makes a lot of sense. You’re 1,000 miles away from the person you’re trying to love and you don’t really know whats going on in their lives the way you would normally. They’re going to hang out with people you don’t know -people of the opposite sex even and that might make you a little jealous. They won’t likely relay every single minute or second of their day to you and honestly they potentially could cheat on you without you having any knowledge of it. Pretty scary stuff.
But lets look at the facts: Anyone can hide the fact that they’re cheating in a relationship near or far. You could be jealous of the people your partner hangs out with even if you lived together and honestly, even when you’re together you most likely NEVER know what happened when they went to work or football practice or to the grocery store.
The scenarios that are present in a long distance relationship are equally as present in close distanced (normal) ones. So what’s the deal? The stress of being long distance can often aggravate normal relationship anxieties -but to the extreme. For some reason we feel like the distance makes those possible bad things happening more likely than if we weren’t apart when the reality is that it doesn’t. Go figure!
This is why trust building in a long distance relationship is another BIG key to making your relationship work and last. If insecurities are made worse by distance, then the only logical thing to do is to minimize those insecurities as much as possible by building a solid ‘bedrock’ layer of trust. So how do you that?
- Be direct in your conversations- no one can read your mind when they’re halfway across the country, and your girlfriend halfway across the world may not be able to discern that you’re having anxiety about something the way she would if you were in person. You absolutely must talk openly and directly about your fears, concerns, worries and problems. Just come straight out and say what’s on your mind and talk it out together. Not doing so is bottling those anxieties up and every time something worries you and you don’t bring it up, its adding to the pressure of that bottle until one day it pops. (Think of shaking a soda bottle, every “shake” is another anxiety piling onto the next.) And that “pop” can be the literal end of your relationship.
- Keep your promises- Someone wise once said, “a long distance relationship is 90% promises.” This couldn’t be more true. Keeping promises, appointments, date nights, webcam sessions, and visiting dates is vital to the health of your relationship. Every promise you break tears down at the level of trust that your partner has for you. Eventually after enough broken promises they’ll start to feel like they can’t trust you and that you don’t value the relationship the same way that they do. Sure it’s fine for things to come up occasionally, life happens, but if it’s becoming a regular thing… get ready to kiss your partner’s trust (and possibly your relationship) goodbye!
- Think positively about your partner- I get it. You’re in a undesirable situation and it really really blows that you have to be away from the person you love for ANY period of time. But don’t let that fact affect how you feel about your partner or your relationship. Assume that your relationship will work -don’t assume or let your thoughts rest on it not working out. And when your partner breaks a promise, misses an appointment or is generally terrible towards you give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Try to assume good things of them! Rather than “he’s cheating” or “she’s mean” try “he probably has something important going on and forgot” or “she had a bad day at work” instead. Your attitude towards everything can affect how trustworthy YOU feel your partner is and how valuable your relationship is to YOU.
Step 7: Don’t think of Distance as the Enemy
Believe it or not, there are several advantages to being in a long distance relationship. Aside from not having to shave, having the whole bed to yourself and being able to live an almost single life – there are some relationship benefits that come as a result as well.
- You have more to talk about because you spend more time apart. While not every day will be jam packed with new events, think about how much less you’d have to talk about if you experienced every single day together.
- You can pick when and where you want to talk. With all the options out there, you’re never obligated to devote your time to each other. You both have your personal space and personal time and that’s alright!
- You’ll both develop amazing communication skills. There’s no way you cant, LDRS are completely a verbal/communication thing. When you’re finally together you’ll have communicating effectively down!
- The knowledge that if you can get through the distance you can get through anything is the biggest, baddest perk of being long distance. And if you make it, that is something to be proud of!
These are the seven crucial steps to successfully survive a long distance relationship. They are by no means all-encompassing but they can help you to head down the right path to defeating the distance and give your relationship a better chance!
What steps are you taking to make a success of your long distance relationship? What steps would you add to this list? Leave a comment with YOUR pointers & input.