Long-distance relationships (LDRs) can be both rewarding and challenging in equal measure. As a firm believer in the power of trust, I’ve found that trust is the glue that holds relationships together, especially when distance comes into play.
Back in 2015, my husband had to go to Norway, a continent away from me, on business. He needed to stay there for a year, and I couldn’t go with him because we didn’t want to uproot the kids in the middle of the school year.
I won’t tell you it’s easy. Because, wow, it was definitely challenging. But it’s not impossible to keep your relationship thriving despite the distance.
In this article, I’ll share some tips on how we managed to do it. Hopefully, they can help you If you’re in an LDR yourself.
Let’s dive in!
1) Create a vision for the future
The first thing we did once we sat down and discussed how things would be once he moved was to create our vision of the future.
You see, when you’re spending time apart, there are lots of things that can distract you from your relationship. So it’s super important to have a “why” – as in, why are you doing this? Why are you making this sacrifice?
This shared vision is what will keep both of you going when the separation feels too hard. Your common goals and aspirations will give you a sense of direction and purpose and help you manage your emotions.
You’ll find it easier to trust each other, knowing that you’re both doing what you have to for your shared future.
As you work on your shared vision, don’t forget to…
2) Set realistic expectations
The problem with having an LDR is that we can have expectations that aren’t entirely realistic. And we realize it only when it’s too late, when a discrepancy between expectation and reality arises.
For us, we had to think of every possible scenario – the time difference, our individual schedules and workloads, our budget…we had to take all of these into account as we decided on our expectations while apart.
For example, my husband and I decided that we would visit each other at least once every three months, even though this required significant planning and budgeting.
Setting expectations helped us have a better grasp of what lay before us and manage the uncertainty that comes with being apart.
3) Establish open and honest communication
When my husband and I first started our LDR, we quickly realized the importance of open and honest communication. We made it a point to establish a routine for regular communication, which included daily texts, weekly video calls, and surprise voice messages.
We knew going in that this would be hard, especially because he’s a true blue introvert. Even when we were together, he had to have his own time and space to recharge.
But surprisingly, he understood the brief. He got that talking – lots and lots of it – would have to be a priority since we would no longer be sharing the same space. We would have to adjust our communication styles to adapt to our new situation.
So, it really is a commitment. When you’re in an LDR, all the normal challenges surrounding communication will be magnified. There are more opportunities for miscommunication or a lack of connection.
By sharing your day, thoughts, and feelings openly and honestly, you can develop a strong foundation of trust.
4) Address issues and concerns promptly
In a normal relationship, there are many ways a couple can resolve conflicts. They can hug or hold hands, engage in shared activities, and talk about their problems right away.
But with an LDR, you don’t have those advantages. The distance and the time difference (if any) really get in the way of all that.
That’s why it’s absolutely critical to address your issues right away. When you already have distance putting a barrier between you, you don’t need another hurdle to pull you apart even more.
Another thing I’d like to add is the importance of doing emotional check-ins. Don’t wait for things to build up to a real conflict.
Be proactive and take the time to check in on how each other is feeling. Regular emotional check-ins can help you stay connected and aware of each other’s emotional state.
And if it gets to be too much and you feel like you can’t handle it, you might find it helpful to speak to a relationship coach about your situation.
With a professional relationship coach, you can get advice specific to your life and your experiences.
I highly recommend the folks at Relationship Hero, a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations, such as long-distance relationships.
With the help of my coach, I was able to navigate the unique challenges we were facing as an LDR couple.
If that sounds good to you, click here to get started.
5) Be reliable and consistent
Here’s another important habit you need to do to maintain a healthy relationship across those miles – consistency. It’s important in any relationship, but even more so in LDRs.
Trust grows when we show ourselves to be reliable. I can imagine how awful it feels when you set a specific time to talk to your SO and they aren’t there.
Whether you like it or not, doubt and worry will start to creep in, and you’ll begin thinking of so many possible reasons, none of them reassuring.
What’s worse is that you’re too far away to really do something about it.
So make a conscious effort to follow through on your promises, and be reliable in your actions. This will demonstrate your commitment to a healthy relationship and help establish a strong sense of trust.
6) Be patient and flexible
Having said that consistency is important, I must point out that you also need to be flexible.
As you both navigate the challenges that come with distance, remember to be patient and understanding. So many things could happen – your partner could be stuck at a meeting and unable to talk to you at your scheduled time, they could have a poor internet connection, and so on…
In our case, that one year he was supposed to stay overseas turned out to be two. He had to stay longer to attend to some new assignments given to him.
That certainly caused a great deal of frustration for both of us, but we pulled through by adapting and exercising patience.
Buckle up and be prepared. Keep yourself open to changes and adjust accordingly. This will help build trust by showing your partner that you are committed to making the relationship work, regardless of the obstacles you may face.
7) Practice forgiveness and letting go
And if your partner really messes up? Forgive and let go.
Mistakes and misunderstandings are inevitable in any relationship, including long-distance ones.
When you’ve got distance between you, bad feelings could fester. Loneliness, jealousy, insecurity, frustration…even when you’ve got the best mindset, all of these are harsh realities of long-distance relationships.
Choose to let go of those feelings that don’t serve you. With an LDR, you have to prioritize your emotional health. Practicing forgiveness and letting go of grudges allow you to do that. They allow you to move past these issues and strengthen trust between you and your partner.
8) Use technology to your advantage
I’m just so glad that we live in an age where technology allows us to stay connected. I can’t imagine how hard it was for LDR couples back when the only means were snail mail and expensive overseas calls.
Today, we can talk to our loved ones through video calls. That opens up so many possibilities to keep the spark and trust going!
We’ve got instant messaging to keep chatting and sharing photos the whole day. We can do virtual reality dates and synchronized movie nights.
Take advantage of all that to build trust with your partner. With so many available avenues for communication, there’s no reason not to stay connected!
9) Make time for each other
With all of those options at your fingertips (literally!), carving out dedicated time for each other should be easy. And you should absolutely do it, even if it’s just a few minutes each day.
For example, you could set a specific time of the day to talk to each other regularly. You could also go beyond that and keep talking throughout the day as much as you can.
I particularly loved it when my husband would share photos of wherever he was, whether he was working at a cafe or visiting a client at their office.
I felt so much more connected, and it allowed me to be a part of his day even while we were on opposite sides of the world.
What did that tell me? Well, it told me that I was a priority in his life and that he enjoyed sharing even the little moments with me! That definitely earned him a lot of points in the trust department!
10) Develop shared rituals
You can go a step further beyond mere chatting and sharing photos by creating shared rituals.
This is probably my favorite part during the time we were apart. During that time, Game of Thrones was on, and we had a grand time watching it together in our respective corners.
Here are some other ways to bond if you’re in an LDR:
- Have a virtual date night
- Play an online game
- Read a book together
- Cook the same meal
- Curate a shared playlist
- Write in a shared online diary
- Watch a concert together (hello, YouTube!)
These activities give you something to look forward to and add a sense of stability to your relationship.
11) Support each other’s individual growth
While establishing togetherness is important, I would also recommend focusing on your own passions and supporting each other’s growth. You don’t have to put your lives on your hold just because one of you is away.
For instance, while we were apart, I decided to enroll in a short course. My husband was incredibly supportive, even though it meant that I would have a little less time for communicating with him.
He encouraged me to follow my passion and was always there to listen and offer advice. This showed me that he was truly committed to our relationship and trusted me to make the best decisions for both of us.
12) Celebrate milestones and achievements together
Did your partner get a promotion? Did they finish a degree while you were apart?
Whatever successes you achieve, find ways to celebrate them! You can do a virtual toast over a video call or send them a congratulatory care package.
I sure got one from my husband once I finished my course, and it was full of all the goodies I love – chips and chocolates!
So you see, all it takes is a little thoughtfulness and creativity, and you can both still be there for each other for those moments of joy!
13) Choose to think the best of your partner
Finally, here’s my last pearl of wisdom, and it’s something that really helped me while we were apart. Always choose to think good things about your partner.
I get it – when you don’t really know what’s happening on your SO’s side of the world, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.
He says he’s stuck at a meeting? He could be meeting someone else for coffee.
He was a bit lackluster in your last conversation? He might be getting tired of talking to you.
See how quickly our thoughts can go downhill and make up stories?
That’s natural, and I completely understand. That’s why I emphasize the word “choose.” You have to make the choice to continue thinking the worst or turn it on its head!
Here’s the deal: trust requires us to think the best of someone instead of building up unfounded stories in our heads.
Of course, I don’t mean to say you should be completely blind. It does call for a balance, but my point is, it’s always better to let your first thought be a good one instead of bad.
Building trust in a long-distance relationship may be challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible. My partner and I managed to create a strong, healthy, and lasting bond despite the distance.
There are definitely many other ways to build trust – you’ll have to find which one works for you. But hopefully, this list could give you a better grasp of how to handle your unique situation.
And remember, trust is a two-way street. As long as both of you are willing to invest time and effort into strengthening your connection, there’s no reason why your relationship can’t thrive.
Think of it this way – it isn’t an obstacle; it’s simply a new adventure!