In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to make a long-distance relationship work.
What to do.
What not to do.
(And most of important of all) how to make your relationship grow and thrive even when you’re apart from each other physically.
We have a lot to cover so let’s get started.
1) Clear Up Expectations
The first golden rule in a long-distance relationship is that you need to communicate everything, even the smaller things that you wouldn’t normally even think to talk about.
After all, nothing can break a relationship faster than one partner breaking another partner’s unsaid rule.
So have a discussion with your partner and set all the ground rules: exclusiveness, commitment, open-mindedness, and so on.
According to dating coach Fran Greene in her chat to Elite Daily, the first step to a successful long-distance relationship is discussing how it actually affects you when you’re physically apart:
“It is so hard, yet so important, to talk with your partner about your feelings about the separation. It starts with acknowledging and accepting that you [are] physically apart and how it [affects] you, your partner and the relationship.”
2) Be Honest and Don’t Lie
The second most important rule in a long-distance relationship is to be honest. Always.
You might not believe it, but the moment you start lying, your partner will start to feel that something is wrong.
No matter how good of a liar you are, you can never completely hide when something is up. It might be a change in your behavior, your schedule, or two or three lies running into each other; whatever it is, your partner will notice.
And that kind of lying is something you will never be able to repair.
3) Set a Timeline
In every long-distance relationship, you and your partner will eventually start asking yourself: why are we doing this?
The pain, struggle, and yearning will all start to feel pointless after a while, especially if you don’t know what your end goal might be.
So sit down and talk with your partner and set up your expected timeline. This will give both of you a better idea of how long the “long distance” portion of the relationship will last, and whether or not you are both capable of waiting that long.
4) Be Creative and Consistent with Communication
While you shouldn’t smother your partner, you should be consistent enough to show that you care.
A daily “good morning” and “good night” message is enough to show that you love them and think about them, but that’s not enough.
Send random audio and video clips of your day; talk about stupid, mundane moments and encounters; share your ramblings and annoyances.
Make them a part of your life, even if they’re thousands of kilometers away.
According to author Steven John in Business Insider, who was in a long-distance relationship for 3 years, communication was one of the most important factors in making it work:
“In any relationship, communication is key. In a long-distance relationship especially, all you and your partner have when it comes to communicating are your actual words.”
5) However, Don’t Communicate Too Excessively
This is a big problem that many people in long-distance relationships make. They want to communicate every hour of every day.
Unfortunately, this isn’t possible, and it isn’t healthy, either.
When you’re in the same city, do you communicate every hour? I don’t think so.
So don’t do it when you’re in different cities, or you’ll become exhausted and you’ll lose that spark that makes you two so great together.
As mentioned above, it’s important to keep in contact and let them know what you’re doing, but you need to live your life as well.
Author Steven John has some great advice again:
“I recommend only saying what you really mean and verbalizing everything you want your partner to know. Little rifts or confusions that could be patched with a kiss or a hand laid on an arm can grow needlessly in long-distance relationships, and they take much more time and effort to heal from afar.”
6) Share Hobbies With Each Other
If you can’t bond physically, then you need to bond mentally.
This means sharing hobbies and “likes” with each other—your favorite movies, shows, books, music, and more. Discuss politics, talk about your thoughts on everything from pop culture to religion.
Keep up to date with each other on your latest musings.
The biggest danger to a long-distance relationship is a lack of contact, which can cause the spark to start drifting away. Having similar interests and hobbies gives you a reason to be in contact and it keeps the conversations fun.
7) Avoid Unnecessarily Tense Situations
Let’s say the new person at the office asks you for a drink after work.
It might seem like a harmless office friendship to you, but to your significant other on the other side of the world, it could mean anything.
Innocent or not, putting yourself in a potentially “dangerous” situation adds unnecessary stress to your relationship. Be more considerate of your partner’s feelings.
8) Set Up a Skype Date Night
This one may sound a little strange, but it can help to set up a specific night each week where you have a real date…on skype.
You could dress up, light the candles and block out all other distractions for a couple of hours, just like you would for a physical date.
In Bustle, Behavioral Scientist Clarissa Silva says that she used to do exactly that when she was in a long-distance relationship:
“Set up a date and time as you would in real life and do everything you would in real life…Get dressed up, candle light, wine/champagne setting, any routine you have for a physical date apply it to your video date…I showed up in a sequin top for a date with my now- husband and we still laugh about it three years later.”
9) Be Sexy With Each Other
A huge part of relationships is the sexual tension and keeping that tension alive needs a bit more work in a long-distance relationship.
Talk sexy with each other on chat or on calls; things like double entendres, sexy puns, or even just reminders that you both find each other sexually attractive is all it takes to keep that fire going.
Desiring each other sexually is like the glue that keeps the relationship together.
10) Think of It as a Test
A long-distance relationship might not be your ideal set up, but it all depends on how you think about it.
Instead of seeing it as a burden, think of it as a test. Is your love strong enough to survive the distance and the time?
If it is, then you might be rewarded with the best relationship you will ever have in your life.
11) Send Each Other Personal Gifts
This doesn’t have to be anything expensive or fancy. Something small and something personal, a memento that has sentimental value to you.
Send your partner a letter or explain it to them before you part ways, and share the importance of the memento to you as you hand it over.
In an interview with Bustle, Behavioral Scientist Clarissa Silva had a great idea for what you could send your partner if you’re in a long-distance relationship:
“We are in constant electronic contact, but that only stimulates our visual and auditory senses…Although you may not be able to physically be together, sending your partner a card in the mail sprayed with your perfume or cologne will remind your significant other of your scent and will be just as intoxicating.”
12) Know Each Other’s Schedules
It’s useful to know when your partner is working and when they’re free. This avoids the awkward situation of one partner wanting to speak and the other one being busy.
This can cause unwanted tension where one partner starts questioning what the other partner is really doing.
You can easily avoid this by being honest with each other about your schedules and what you’re doing.
After all, you don’t want your partner calling when you’re in an exam or during an important business meeting.
13) Keep Track of Each Other’s Instagram and Facebook
This is a great way to keep engagement high. Make sure to be on the lookout for your partner’s updates and happenings on social media.
Like them, comment on their posts. Let them know you’re around and you’re keeping tabs. Be cool about stalking about each other.
14) Learn How to Love Being Alone
One major reason why most long-distance relationships fail is that people end up needing their partner more than their partner can accommodate.
With no one to hug, hold, and cuddle, you might start to feel unbearably lonely, to the point that you would give up your relationship for a closer yet less meaningful alternative.
The solution? Love yourself. Fill the void in your heart with love for yourself. When you wish you had your partner with you, just replace that with a sense of fullness drawn from your own self-love.
Not only will it ease the tension on your relationship, but it will also make you a more complete individual.
(To learn more about self-love, check out my ultimate guide on how to love yourself here)
15) Make Sure You’re Using a Great Messaging App
This one sounds obvious, but it’s more important than you think.
Messaging is obviously going to be your main form of communication, so make sure it’s an App that you both actively use. For me, it’s Whatsapp, but for some people, it’s Line or Facebook Messenger. And there are plenty more as well.
Make sure you both use the messaging App consistently, otherwise it could be difficult to get in contact.
According to psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb in Time Magazine, an important part of a relationship these days is sharing your day-to-day happenings, so having a great messaging app will allow you to do that easily:
“A lot of the glue of a relationship is in the day-to-day minutia, and with technology, you can share that in real time, instantaneously, with photos, texts, and FaceTime. That’s very different from letters or long-distance phone calls.”
16) Play With Each Other Online
Games, social media, messaging apps—the Internet is more exciting and interactive than ever. Play with your partner and keep it fun; not everything has to be a romantic conversation.
Sometimes you just want to blast someone’s head off in an online game, and what better way to do that than with your partner standing and laughing beside you online?
17) Stay Positive
It’s so easy to become lonely and despondent in a long-distance relationship.
You might feel like a ladder with one leg, standing up on your own with no one to help you balance. But the truth is simple—you just need to hold out.
Stay positive and keep smiling: it will be worth it in the end.
Have faith that everything will work out. According to a 2013 study from the Journal of Communication, approximately three million Americans live apart from their spouse at some point during their marriage.
(To learn 5 science-backed ways to be more positive, click here)
18) Be Confident In Your Relationship
Insecurity can result in excessive calls, messages and unnecessary tension. It will cause the commutation between the two of you to be no longer fun or engaging, and from there it’s a slippery slope.
In a long-distance relationship, you have to be confident that you’re relationship will survive. At the heart of this is trust.
(To learn more about creating a healthy, long-lasting relationship, check out our most popular eBook on essential dating secrets here)
19) Don’t Waste Time When You’re Physically Together
When you do physically see each other, you don’t need to go out on romantic date nights, bar crawls or to concerts, you just need to spend time together.
Be intimate with each other.
I’m not talking about sex, but you need to cuddle, to kiss, to talk deeply with each other. This is all vital for a healthy relationship.
According to psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb in Time Magazine, spending time apart is actually beneficial in spending more valuable time together when you do see each other:
“One of the greatest benefits is that you do a lot more talking and learning about each other, since you spend more time having conversations than you might if you were sitting side-by-side watching Netflix, or out running errands or doing activities together…You have more alone time than people who live in the same city do, so you’re very excited to see each other and really value the time you do spend together.”
20) Encourage Your Partner to Make Friends (Even With the Opposite Sex)
You have to live your life, and making friends is crucial to finding happiness, especially if you’re in a new city.
And yes, if some friends happen to be with the opposite sex, then that’s going to have to be fine.
If you can’t be free to make friends with anyone then that will make your life very restrictive. This can result in tension and conflict building up which isn’t helpful for any long-distance relationship.
Trust your partner and be honest with each other. Without trust, a relationship won’t survive.
“Once trust is built, distance cannot kill it. Time and space alone cannot destroy authentic connection.” – Vironika Tugaleva
21) Visit Each Other Whenever Possible
This should be obvious, but visit each other whenever you can! If you can squeeze in a trip to your partner even just for a day or a weekend, then why not?
Not every visit has to last weeks or months.
In fact, the shorter visits might even be more meaningful than the longer ones, because it will prove to your partner that you’re willing to make that extra bit of effort.
22) Have Future Plans in Place
A relationship won’t survive if it’s a long-distance relationship forever. Eventually, you’ll need to live in the same city (and the same place).
So start to make a plan as to how that can happen. Organize some goals. It will give both of you the peace of mind that this relationship has a future.
Uncertainty is a huge threat to a long-distance relationship, so organizing plans are the perfect way to mitigate that threat.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
This goes without saying, but you need to actually listen to your partner when you’re talking.
This is important for any relationship, but especially for a long-distance one.
Communication needs to be rock solid. So if one of you only cares about themselves and what’s going on in their own life, communication will obviously suffer.
Listening is more than silence on the other end of the phone. It’s actively listening. Asking follow-up questions, providing solutions, remembering what happened the day before. It’s simply an active effort to be involved in each other’s life.
24) Work Your Way Through Arguments
Miscommunication and arguments are bound to happen in a long-distance relationship. The key to working through these slight tensions and miscommunication is being honest and communicating how you really feel.
Speak directly and don’t play games. There’s no need to censor yourself and remain closed. They’re your partner after all.
25) Accept That It Might Take Months Or Years Before The Big Move
Yes, it’s great to organize plans for the future. But unfortunately, these plans might not happen for months or years.
And as hard as it is, you need to accept that.
When it comes to our careers and other reasons for moving country or city, there’s a lot we simply can’t control.
You can never be absolutely certain of the future. If they deserve a promotion at work, then you’re not going to get in the way of that.
You both know you’ll eventually be together, it just might be a little longer than you anticipated. The easier you can accept that, the more likely the long-distance relationship will be successful.
According to author Steven John, even while he was living apart from his partner, they were still planning where their future would be together. This way, even if they are apart for months or years, at least they know they would eventually be together.
“My wife and I were engaged for the last year and a half of our time apart, and were actively planning a wedding for much of that (more credit goes to her on that, of course). We were also scoping out apartments in LA, planning a honeymoon, looking for jobs, and generally, y’know, planning our lives together, with that last word being the operative.”
26) Let Yourself Trust – and Earn That Trust Yourself
In all honesty, this is probably the most important tip.
To build trust, it goes both ways. Earning it is just as important as having it in your partner.
It’s not just about trusting your partner to not cheat on you. It’s more than that.
Can you count on your partner in big ways and small? Do they call you when they say they will? Do they stick to the plans you’ve made to see each other? Are they paying attention? Do they remember the small important details in your life?
All of these questions can apply you to as well. If you fully trust each other, then there’s no need to worry about being in a long-distance relationship – it will work.
To learn more about long-distance relationships and how to make them work, read the below 6 truths that will help you dispel any misconceptions you have about them.
27) Many People Are in Long-Distance Relationships- So Don’t Worry So Much
A lot of people are in long-distance relationships. All you have to do is grab your phone and open your Facebook account to see all your contacts that live in one place but their spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other lives in another.
According to a 2013 study from the Journal of Communication, approximately three million Americans live apart from their spouse at some point during their marriage.
The way the world works these days a lot of people work in one place and live in another.
A lot of people, thanks to the internet, have opportunities to meet people they wouldn’t normally have had the chance to meet and that means that more people spend more time apart than they would normally like. But it can work.
28) The Internet Can Add Layers of Tension – So Be Careful
Whether or not the internet brought two people together into a long-distance relationship, the internet can add layers of tensions.
For starters, if one person is keen on posting lots of pictures and events and social functions, the other person might start to wonder what’s going on and why aren’t they on the sofa as miserable as I am without them?
It can be difficult for one person to have a life while the other is off at work.
In many parts of the world, people go off to work and leave their families behind.
Life goes on as much as you might not want to admit it and that can make it difficult for people who see how things are when they are not home.
29) Texting is Not Always the Best Way to Talk
One of the drawbacks of being in a long-distance relationship is the frequency with which you may rely on texting to communicate with one another.
What might start out as convenient might actually prevent you from having a meaningful relationship later if things go sideways?
If your relationship is in trouble and you are trying to work it out on my iMessage, it’s probably not going to work.
Yes, you have time to think about what you want to say, but you also run the risk of things being misinterpreted and misunderstood, causing more grief and pain for both of you.
30) You Need to Set Some Ground Rules
Whenever couples are apart for long periods of time, they should take the time to consider how the relationship will work.
Times to call home? When will you be back? What about the kids? Who will come to see whom and when?
All of these details might not seem like a big deal at the time of departing but if you can have a plan and some rules about how this is all going to work, you’ll both part ways feeling better about the situation.
Don’t wait for issues to arise to try to figure out how you are going to fix things. Be prepared and have a plan ahead of time so you don’t get sidelined in your own relationship.
31) You Might Be Too Tired to Care When You Get Together
One thing that might happen is that when you finally get together after weeks of being apart, you might be too tired to put in the effort to make your time together special.
This is especially true of moms who are left home while dads go off to work. Moms already have a full plate every day of the week and add single parenthood to the list of things to do and when Dad comes home, Mom might not care to get cozy.
She might just want to take advantage of the fact that another person is in the house to wrangle the kids.
32) You Might Like Time Alone
A funny offshoot of long-distance relationships is that one or both people might actually like and welcome the time alone.
It might not be something you say out loud, but it’s important to acknowledge that you do have your life and you are allowed to live it.
When your significant other is gone, you should be living it up and doing what you want without guilt.
When there’s guilt, there’s an underlying problem.
You might find that it’s not the distance that has made you grown apart, but how much you like the distance that causes the relationship to collapse.
Be honest about your feelings and what you both want and need from the relationship and your long-distance relationship will be able to thrive instead of just survive.
If you think that you’re still struggling, or you’re going to struggle in your long-distance relationship, check out the below self-help tips which will help you cope during the hard times:
8 self-help tips for anyone in a long-distance relationship
There’s no doubt that it’s tough to be in a long-distance relationship especially when you’re dealing with issues of your own.
I have been in a long-distance relationship for over one year. It’s tough at times but doable.
I believe that long-distance relationships have the same problems as normal relationships – everything is just magnified.
I have my own personal problems, and it’s difficult to deal with them alone. Usually, it helps to have your significant other physically around.
Whether it’s to lean on or just hang out with so you can forget about your problems, it just becomes a little more difficult when they’re on the other side of the country.
Face-time and Skype can only provide so much comfort.
So if you feel like you’re still struggling with a long-distance relationship, despite implementing the above tips, you need to focus on yourself. You need to do things you’re interested in and develop some self-love techniques.
Here are some ideas:
1) Surround yourself with friends
When you can’t physically be close to your partner, it can certainly feel like you’re lacking in connection.
So get connected with your friends. Go watch a movie, have a drink or go shopping. Whatever it is, being connected with others is important no matter who you are.
2) Listen to your favorite tunes
What music are you into? Put it on and let it soothe your soul!
According to research, music can make you feel happier, healthier and more productive at all stages of life. It’s also a great way to release your emotions!
3) Read old messages from your partner
It sounds a little lame but it can certainly make you feel good to read past messages from your partner.
I’m sure you’ve sent a lot of messages to each other, so go over some old ones and be reminded of how much they really love you and care for you.
4) Send a packaged gift to your partner
This is always a good idea for people who are in a long-distance relationship. Send them a package of something that they’ll absolutely love.
It’ll remind them how much you care for them, and making your partner happy will make you happy!
5) Start a journal and write down your thoughts and feelings
Writing down your thoughts is a great way to reorganize all your thoughts that are leaving your mind in a fog. You’ll clarify underlying emotions and get rid of all the clutter.
I personally journal every day and it has been one of the best hobbies I’ve taken up.
6) Get passionate about a project or a hobby
This is one of the best ways to lift your mood when you’re in a long-distance relationship.
After all, you have plenty of extra time now that your partner is away.
Starting a passion project is one of the best ways to make use of that time.
It could be starting a blog, taking up dancing, creating videos, writing a book. Whatever it is, get stuck into it and take your mind off the fact that your partner isn’t around.
When you’re feeling down, exercise is one of the best things you can do to lift yourself up.
Research suggests that physical stress can relieve mental stress.
Harvard Health says that aerobic exercise is key for your head, just as it is for your heart:
“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.”
8) Take up meditation
Meditation has long been known to reduce stress and achieve a calm state of mind. Recent studies have also backed this up.
Now that you’ve got some extra time, it could be extremely beneficial to take up meditation.
The good news is, anyone can practice it. Here are 4 steps to getting started:
1) Select a time and a place that are free of distractions.
2) Get comfortable. Any body position that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable.
3) Focus on your breathe. Simply watch as your breathe goes in and out. Try to breathe in and out with your stomach.
4) If you get distracted, simply return to your breathing. Don’t get annoyed if your mind constantly strays, just try your best to continually focus on your breathing.
It’s that simple!
You can read all the tips in the world about how to make a long-distance relationship succeed, but in all honesty, the only people who will make the relationship work will be the people in it.
There’s no question that a long-distance relationship is difficult, but it’s very doable.
As long as you can stay engaged in each other’s life through the good days and the bad days and you fully trust and support each other, you can make it work.
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