Some people think it's impossible, but there are ways to make a long-distance relationships work. A lot of it comes down to the two people involved — if you're more co-dependent it's obviously going to be a bigger challenge than if you're fiercely independent. And, as an American based in the UK, I have to say that updates in technology from when I first came here nine years ago have made keeping in touch with people you care about so much easier (seriously, Whatsapp and Facetime will save your relationship). But that doesn't mean it won't be difficult.
Basically, there has to be a whole lot of trust between you. And part of that is trusting — really believing — that the relationship will work long distance. You'd be amazed how many couples just don't believe that.
"Rule number one for making a long-distance relationship work is believing that it's the right answer," relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. "As simple as that sounds, the number one killer of long- distance relationships is skepticism. Couples who 'try it' but do not have a lot of confidence in them will turn any snag in the relationship to a rationale for having the skepticism and thus the relationship is always going to be one foot out the door." So you have to believe it for it to work.
But once you get behind it, there's still a lot of upkeep involved. Here are seven habits of happy long-distance couples, because you're going to have to get creative:
1. They Schedule Times To Keep In Touch
It might be obvious, but it's important. You need to figure out how much each of you need to be in touch to feel secure in your relationship — and it won't necessarily be the same. If one of you needs a little more reassurance, you have to give it them. And if you're finding it hard, don't be scared to make a schedule. "Communicate, communicate, communicate," says Armstrong. "As in, do it often but more importantly, find predictable, pre-scheduled times to do it. This avoids any confusion about expectations and removes excuses."
2. But They Don't Stalk Each Other
Keeping track of their every move if just going to drive you a little nuts. Like I said, you need to trust your partner and that includes letting them go a little bit. I know you may be waiting for a response and your Whatsapp has two blue ticks and they've been online since, but give them some breathing room.
3. They Get Creative
You have to find weird ways to connect with each other. Sending postcards, little gifts, even having pizza delivered if you know they're having a night in — there are so many ways you can creatively show you care from far away. "Long-distance relationships put intimacy to the test," says relationship psychotherapist Rachel Moheban-Wachtel. "Although the physical connection isn’t as prevalent, there are things couples can do to keep the spice alive in their relationship across the miles."
4. Phone. Sex.
You can practice before you go in so it's not too awkward — and know that it may be a little awkward. But it gets better. And unless you can totally shut down your sex drive while you're apart, a little phone or Skype sex (or sexting) can keep your relationship strong. In fact, a 2013 Cornell study of 63 heterosexual couples found that long-distance couples felt more intimacy and communication in their relationship than geographically closes ones and reported more intimate talk and activities. So your sex life can actually benefit from an LDR. Speaking of sex — you need to set some clear rules beforehand about what's allowed and what's not.
Armstrong says you have to set boundaries and expectations. "This goes hand in hand with the second biggest killer of long-distance relationships: cheating," he says. While you may assume cheating is definitely out of the question in your relationship, you should still communicate with your partner what the rules are and what to do if one of you is struggling.
"You may be surprised at how many times someone gets caught and pleads ignorance, using distance and expectations as their excuse. 'You're there and I'm here, 876 miles away. I didn't know we were supposed by wholly exclusive'. So says the one who cheated," Armstrong says.
5. They Do Their Own Thing
I said that you can't stalk your partner, but that's going to be a whole lot easier if you have your own things going on. Sitting around missing your significant other is just going to make you feel resentful. You can lose sight of yourself and just feel like someone who's waiting around for their partner. "Our culture has become one driven towards romantic relationships," dating coach Monica Parikh tells Bustle. "I suggest making your own life your first priority. Develop hobbies, interests and friendships that help you grow into your best self."
It's true when you're single, in a relationship, or in a long-term relationship. And if you're keeping busy with friends, work, and hobbies, it'll actually feel nice to find time to fit in catching up with your partner. It's way nicer than sitting around waiting for them to text.
6. They Check-In About Their Relationship
Even if you start off strong, it's important to check in and see if you're both doing OK with the distance. If one of you seems to be coping really well and doesn't bother to stop and ask how the other is doing, tension and anger can build up.
“I think, in any relationship, if I don’t feel honored and made important or prioritized by my partner, that’s not going to be a long-lasting relationship where I get my needs met,” Jeffrey Sumber, MA, MTS, LCPC tells Bustle. “Whether it’s a relationship with your partner living under the same roof or a long-distance one, we all need basic needs met and need to feel special and valued.” Checking in frequently, rather than just assuming your partner is still OK, means you can deal with problems before they get out of hand.
7. They Make The Most Of Time They Have Together
A long-distance relationship works best when you make the time together count. Depending on how far away you are from each other and what your schedules are like, you may get to see each other frequently or not, but no matter what you should be making that time special. The 2013 Cornell study found that in an effort to keep the romance alive in their relationship, couples in LDRs will engage in more frequent communication and discuss deeper issues, such as love, trust, and their plans for the future.
In this way, being long-distance can actually make you appreciate your partner more. Your time spent together isn't just sitting on the couch and watching TV — you're communicating and connecting on more meaningful topics.
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