How to Deal with a Long Distance Relationship: 11 Tips from Therapists

Published on: 18 Apr 2019
Clinically Reviewed by Cynthia V. Catchings LCSW-S
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Updated 10/27/2022

Long distance relationships (LDR) can be tough, but they are possible. It goes without saying that all relationships take commitment, dedication, and work. Admittedly, LDRs often need a bit more effort if you want to nurture a long-lasting and loving long distance relationship for you and your partner. 

If you’re both willing to put in the time and effort, though, our tips will help you overcome the unique relationship problems that LDR couples face.

Keep reading to learn how to deal with long distance relationship issues so you can create the type of bond that withstands the test of time and distance. Get expert long distance relationship advice that’ll help your LDR not only survive but thrive. 

1. Have Your Own Hobbies Outside the Relationship

One upside to being in an LDR is that it gives you more time to do the things you enjoy without sacrificing time spent with your significant other. If you hyperfocus on your relationship only, it can actually be bad for the relationship and your own mental wellbeing. Plus, trying something new or being actively involved in things are great ways to make new friends.  

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Strengthen your relationship through couples therapy you can participate in together or apart, at your convenience.

Tip: Not sure what to do with all your time or want to learn how to cope with long distance relationship blues? Think back to all the activities you enjoyed doing in the past. Try painting or yoga, or take up a new hobby you’ve always been interested in learning about. Having something you’re passionate about to focus on helps you build confidence and feel valued and accomplished.

2. Don’t Bottle Up Your Feelings

Long distance relationships can truly be emotional rollercoasters. There are high highs and low lows. Relationships of any kind can bring up intense feelings and negative emotions from time to time. It’s important that you make an effort not to bottle up your feelings. If something is bothering you, tell your partner. Communicate and work it out. Just like with a “regular” relationship, you don’t want to wait until you’re at your breaking point to voice any concerns you have. 

“Communication is key to all relationships and becomes even more critical in long-distance relationships. When you’re in person, you’re better able to rely on nonverbal cues from your partner, but these become more difficult to recognize when you’re not together. Carve out dedicated time to connect with one another and discuss your thoughts and feelings.”

Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, C-DBT

Need help improving communication in your relationship? Check out these communication exercises for couples.

TIP: Whether it’s in a journal, to a friend or family member, on a Facebook group, or to a therapist, let it all out. Keeping your emotions bottled up will only make you feel anxious, and you’re bound to explode at some point.

3. Focus on Maintaining Your Other Relationships

One thing that can happen a lot in “regular” relationships is that partners might spend so much time together they start to neglect other relationships with friends and family. Part of knowing how to deal with long distance relationship loneliness is appreciating the extra time you’ll have to really work on fostering healthy relationships with people outside the partnership. 

TIP: Plan fun things to do in advance, things like potluck dinners or movie nights, so that you have something to look forward to outside of your relationship — especially on weekends and evenings when you’re more likely to be lonely.

4. Have Realistic Expectations

It’s good to think positively, but simultaneously, you want to be realistic in a long distance relationship.

For example, you might wish your partner had the time to text you all day, every day, while you’re both at work. When you know how to deal with a long distance relationship, you understand that it’s simply not realistic or healthy to expect this. You might want to FaceTime before bed every single night, but things like different schedules and time zone changes can make that near impossible. You and your partner have your own lives in separate places, so you won’t always be available at the same time. 

TIP: Be accommodating and accepting of one another’s schedules and time commitments. You should also be upfront and communicate your ideal relationship goals. Do you want to be long distance forever? Probably not. At some point, you must discuss what you want your future to look like together and if it’s possible to achieve the goal of living in the same place. If you aren’t on the same page with your expectations for the future, it might be time to reevaluate the relationship.

5. Join a Support Group

It’s easy to feel alone when you’re in a long distance relationship. What better way to get support than to chat with people in the same position as you? Having solid support is an effective way to learn how to deal with long distance relationship struggles. 

There are plenty of LDR support groups and forums to join online. In these groups, you can share your experiences, ask for advice, give advice, and maybe even make friends who live in your area with whom you can hang out in person.

TIP: One resource you might find useful is the Long Distance Relationships: Advice & Support Group on Facebook, which has over 11,000 members. There are also a couple of active subreddits on the forum site Reddit, such as r/LDR and r/LongDistance.

6. Take Yourself Out on Dates  

Just because you can’t have regular date nights with a long distance partner doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a special day or night out. Loving and pampering yourself is just as important as caring for your partner. While you fall deeper in love with your partner, remember to continue falling in love with yourself.

TIP: Treat yourself to nice dinners, go for a walk in your favorite park, or take a candlelit bath. Remember how critical self-care is in any relationship — it’s even more so in an LDR.

7. Have Rules to Set Expectations

The further you get in your relationship, your expectations (and needs) will likely change. While this is true in all relationships, the distance components can complicate and muddle things if you don’t have clear expectations. 

TIP: Don’t wait too long to decide if you’re exclusive, how you feel about one another dating other people, or what your long-term goals are for the relationship. 

8. Find Common Interests You Can “Do” Together

Just the fact that you’re in a relationship probably means you already have common interests. It makes sense to share some of those things even if you do so while you’re not physically together. When you each take time to do the same things, you can learn how to deal with a long distance relationship using activities and experiences as a springboard for conversations or video chats. 

TIP: Find a show you can both watch, a book you can read at the same time, or a Podcast you can each listen to so you’ll have things to discuss the next time you speak or get together. You can even plan to call each other and watch or listen to something while you’re on the phone together.

“Find out what each other’s love languages are and make a point to be intentional about loving one another in that way whenever possible.”

Talkspace therapist Ashley Ertel, LCSW, BCD, C-DBT

9. Visit as Often as You Can

Some of the best long distance relationship advice you’ll get is that you need to plan to visit in person when you can. Since nothing can replace physical connection and interaction, visiting in person will deepen and strengthen your bond. It’ll also help ensure that if the long distance aspect ends, there’s a better chance you’ll actually enjoy being together in real life (IRL). 

TIP: Planning visits in advance is a great way to keep your relationship grounded and exciting. It gives you both something to look forward to and can help ease those super difficult days when you’re really missing one another. 

10. Send Them Something Via Snail Mail

There’s something incredibly romantic and sweet about sending something to a loved one the old-fashioned way, through snail mail.  

TIP: A simple thinking of you card, a little something you picked up that reminded them of you, or a handwritten letter are all thoughtful ways to reach out in yet another way, letting your long-distance-lover know you’re thinking of them and that even miles can’t keep your thoughts apart. 

11. Video Chat

Just because there are miles between you doesn’t mean you can’t see one another as often as you like. It may not be in person, but it’s better than going weeks (or months!) without ever seeing one another’s faces. 

TIP: Schedule standing weekly (or more often) video chats so you can keep the emotional connection strong. Even if you can’t be together in person for a long period of time, seeing each other on-screen can help. 

12. Don’t Neglect Your (Solo) Sex life

Sexual intimacy is important in any relationship…even long distance ones. Physical touch is one of the ways couples bond. Just because you can’t be physically intimate with your partner doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. It’s also beneficial to your sex life in general because you can learn more about what you do and don’t like.

TIP: If you’re comfortable with it, you can also experiment with sexting or phone sex with your partner.

13. Consider Seeking Couples Therapy

Couples therapy might just be the difference between an LDR making it or not. Thanks to technology and the rise in popularity of telehealth in recent years, you and your romantic partner can successfully access beneficial, effective online couples counseling despite the distance you face. 

TIP: Consider individual therapy with a relationship expert in addition to couples sessions if you’re feeling overwhelmed or need specific coping skills to help you manage any issues in your daily life or relationship. 

Long distance relationships can be challenging, but if you’re ready and willing to put in the time and effort, yours can succeed. Use these long distance relationship tips to make your relationship stronger than ever. 

With the help of Talkspace’s online therapy platform, you and your partner will receive personalized treatment from a licensed care provider to take that vital step towards improving your relationship and overall mental health. 

Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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