How To Make Long-Distance Relationships Work, According To Experts
Can long-distance relationships actually work? If you're in one now or have ever wondered if physical distance is a surefire relationship-killer, you're definitely not alone. In fact, according to research by Google of the top searches in 2017, "How to make long distance relationships work?" was the most-asked question about relationships. So not only does it indicate there are probably a ton of LDRs happening around the world these days, but people that are in them — or contemplating them — are willing to put in work to make them last. So what's the best way to have a successful long-distance relationship?
"One of the keys to a successful long distance relationship is to maintain healthy levels of intimacy and closeness," Behavioral Scientist, Clarissa Silva, tells Bustle. "Some couples use video chats, audio files, and snail mail as ways to compensate for the lack of being able to physically be in the same room. Try adding creative elements to what you already do."
But that's not all. With long-distance relationships, communication and support are extra key since you can't be there for each other IRL all the time. Here are seven ways to make long-distance relationships work, from sending snail mail to setting a timeline with your partner for the future.
1. Really Believe In Your Relationship
As with anything in life that you'd like to see come to fruition, you need to believe in your relationship. You can't half-ass it and assume it's not going to work out — but that's a defeatist attitude and will get you nowhere.
"First and foremost, the two partners must believe that it can work," Vince Brantley, Relationship Coach for Maze of Love, tells Bustle. "The alternative to this is that they are moving forward, but skeptical along the way. This is a common and unfortunate issues that haunts a lot of long distance relationships. The reality is this: if pre-existing skepticism exists, what would be otherwise minor issues become relationship show-stoppers."
2. Set A Timeline For Advancement
If there's no light at the end of the tunnel or promise that things won't always be this way, making an LDR work will be a near-impossible situation. Both partners need to know that evolution is definitely in the future.
"Long-distance relationships need to establish and meet their relationship goals in order to prove their viability," bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle. "These goals can include getting engaged or moving in together. Without these types of concrete markers of advancement, one or both partners could lose faith in the relationship’s future."
3. Send Them Snail Mail With A Twist
Even if the thought of standing in line to buy stamps — because who sends mail anymore? — is terrifying, part of the challenge of making a long-distance relationship work is keeping things new.
"We are in constant electronic contact, but that only stimulates our visual and auditory senses," says Silva. "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."
4. Ongoing Positive Reinforcement
When I was in an LDR, it really was all about really pouring the positive reinforcement on extra thick. We both needed it in order to feel secure in our relationship.
"Your long-distance mate can never get enough positive reinforcement from you," says Winter. "This is the type of emotional food that LDRs live upon. Be conscious of providing a continual supply of heartfelt messages along with plans for the future. Stay mindful of your partner’s need for security by reconfirming the depth of your love and commitment."
5. Communication, Communication, Communication
Studies have found that people in long-distance relationships communicate better than those who are not in LDRs — why? Because they have to communicate — and not just with body language, facial expressions, or emojis, but actual words.
"Communication must be both consistent and equally initiated," says Brantley. "It can’t be that two people don’t talk enough or that only one person is leaning in. Otherwise, less communication leads to high anxiety, even uncertainty. Next thing you know, we are telling ourself stories about what our partner is doing without us."
6. Plan A Date Night On Video
Just because you're hundreds or thousands of miles apart doesn't mean you can't have a date night. It might seem awkward at first, to have a date via Skype or FaceTime, but you'll get used to it because you have to get used to it until you're together again.
"Set up a date and time as you would in real life and do everything you would in real life," says Silva. "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."
7. Have An End In Mind
Similar to knowing, without a doubt, that there's going to be an evolution, you and your partner also must have an end in mind. While long-distance relationships can work, they should only be temporary.
"Couples must have an end in mind," says Brantley. "In other words, going into a long-distance relationship without a plan means that there is no end in sight. They are already difficult and without an end in sight, patience builds and, again, little things become big things."
Can long-distance relationships work? Absolutely. It's just all about the effort and time you put into them, as is the case with any relationship, but with a whole boatload more of communication and creativity.