So, you were out with friends one night and met someone amazing – fantastic! But wait, the person lives in another city, state or country. Sad face. How’s that going to work?
Having recently been in a temporary long-distance relationship myself, I realized it’s a whole different ballgame from when I was in college 20 years ago (OK, maybe 25). Back then it was a phone call on Sunday and Wednesday and monthly visits. Now there’s social media and all kinds of ways to stay connected, so I decided to crowdsource best practices. I heard a lot of great things — some old school and some new but all relevant and helpful.
Keeping Your Connection Strong
Agree on Expectations for the Relationship
Do you talk every day? A few times a day? Are you exclusive? How often will you see each other? You should clarify these things to reduce conflict and be considerate.
Send love letters and audio clips. Ask each other questions, share thoughts, feelings and personal stories, even small things about your day.
Do this as often as you can. Most couples I talked to do this daily and said being able to see each other regularly is helpful in staying close and reducing the awkwardness of reconnecting after time apart.
Speaking of reconnecting, plan for upcoming visits so there is something to look forward to.
Enjoy Your Independence
Don’t stop trying new things or going out to have fun with friends. Having new experiences on your own provides stories to share with each other and keeps you growing.
Trusting the stability of the relationship and that the person is being loyal to your agreement is important. It’s fine to share insecurities, but it can wear on a relationship if your imagination is running wild for no reason. If there are legitimate causes for mistrust, it’s time for one of those hard conversations (or a session with a couples therapist).
For serious relationships, it’s helpful to agree on a plan for being together in the future.
Potential hurdles and how to overcome them
Having Hard Discussions or Conflict
It sucks to be in a long-distance fight because you can’t hug or reassure each other and it’s easy to disconnect. Literally. Because of this, couples may avoid talking about concerns, which ultimately creates more distance. Have the hard talks, preferably on video and text until the next time you meet in-person.
Reconnecting After Being Apart
Sometimes meeting in-person can feel a little awkward after having been apart, so know it is normal and not necessarily a concern.
FOMO [The Fear of Missing Out]
Facebook does a great job of grandstanding the fun parts of life. The flip side of that is it can make people feel left out. Prepare for seeing photos of your SO out having fun without you, but try not to get consumed with jealousy. Instead, allow them that freedom.
Having to wait even a few weeks at a time to see each other can be excruciating. Back to planning a visit!
They can really add up. Use travel apps and set alerts for deals so your long-distance relationship doesn’t have to kill your wallet.
Communication and Trust Can Make It Work
While long-distance relationships have their challenges, yours can be one of the success stories. In conversations I had with folks, the most important factors, hands down, were communication and trust. If you find yourself feeling insecure, panicking or jealous, reach out and get support. If the two of you are having trouble communicating or there is a concern that causes so much distress it threatens the relationship or your personal happiness, it is worth exploring with a therapist so you can make sense of it and make decisions that ensure your well-being.