We’re blessed in our time that we have various communication tools at our disposal, as these make relationships much easier even if you’re on different continents. You can receive your loved one’s news about their job interview as soon as they get it. instant messaging and video calls mean that you can stay connected even while you’re out shopping or working.
However, even though we have amazing technology at our disposal, using that technology well and combining that with important relational skills is what will allow you to strengthen your emotional connection in the relationship, soothe the ache of separation, and help your relationship go the distance.
Challenges for long-distance relationships.
There are several challenges that a couple faces when they are separated by distance. A long-distance relationship can be emotionally challenging due to the lack of physical proximity. If you’re having a hard time and you just need your spouse to be there for you, rubbing your back or just hugging you, not having them there can be a hardship.
Even in happy times, it’s hard to fully share a moment with a loved one that is not there physically. It’s common to feel lonely and sad at times just from the nature of things.
Because long-distance relationships can be difficult, and because they may seem less “real,” it often happens that couples in long-distance relationships face discouragement from family members or friends, who may say you shouldn’t take it too seriously. Even with a married couple, some friends may encourage infidelity, and that can prove challenging to the integrity of the relationship.
Even though long-distance relationships have their challenges, simple things such as eating together at the same breakfast table, holding hands, taking a walk, or smelling your significant other’s hair gain that much more significance because you don’t take them for granted through familiarity.
How to maintain a healthy long-distance relationship.
Though they may have their fair share of challenges, long-distance relationships are just like any other relationship – they have their ups and downs, and they require skills to navigate. Below are a few tips to maintain a healthy long-distance relationship (LDR).
Make sure it’s legit. Online dating has been booming in recent decades. If you met your beloved online, but never in person, before you commit yourself fully, make sure that it’s legit and that the other person is exactly who they say they are. Catfishing is real, and there are people out there who use relationships to scam people out of their money.
If you’ve met in person, and your relationship has now gone long-distance, making sure the relationship is legit may mean thinking about the future of your relationship, and whether you’re going somewhere with things. If you’re just dating, you can do that locally; but if things are serious, that warrants going through the hardships that LDRs present.
Talk about your communication needs. Communication is the lifeblood of any relationship, and it becomes even more important in an LDR. If you were in a relationship in person before, your communication patterns may likely change once you are apart. That’s because your communication needs will likely change.
Discuss how often you want to talk beyond the casual messages you may send during the day. You may need to find a compromise for what works for you both, but it’s important to talk about this early on to avoid frustrating each other later.
Surprises can be great. Because of the lack of everyday physical interactions, small surprises for each other can be an amazing way to stay connected. Surprises can range from a small gift to arranging a surprise visit. It lets your partner know that you’re thinking about them and are being intentional about the relationship.
The power of snail mail. Relying on technology can yield many benefits, but it’s easy to overlook the power of something low-tech like snail mail. Having a physical something from your significant other, like a love note spritzed with perfume or cologne, can do wonders for one’s sense of connection. Snail mail is also more romantic, in many ways, because of the time and attention it takes to write and send the missive.
You don’t have to talk constantly. This one is a bit tricky because you can feel the pressure to overcompensate for distance by being in constant communication. However, it’s important to recognize that constant communication doesn’t mean you’re remaining connected, and it can be overwhelming. The point of talking with each other is to connect, so make it a priority to share meaningful details.
When you talk, invite them into your world. You don’t have to only talk about the big, important stuff, but when you go into detail, be sure that it’s detail that develops intimacy and isn’t mere embroidery or agenda-setting. More than the detailed updates of what’s going on (not to say that it doesn’t matter), sharing things such as your dreams, greatest fears and celebrations may be more meaningful.
Don’t underestimate the small details. Having said the above, it may be tempting to focus on the deep stuff to the exclusion of details about your daily life. The main motivation behind this is often to make the conversations count.
However, don’t skimp on the small details that shape your world, because it is often these things that allow your partner access to who you are and what’s going on in your space. It’s a balancing act, to be sure, but the key thing is to share the details that matter and that affect your moods and so on.
Visit each other and spend time in each other’s worlds. Inhabiting your partner’s space gives insight into their life. When you visit their workplace, meet their friends, sit at their favorite coffee shop, and so on, you add texture to your understanding of who they are and the space they live in.
Don’t spend too long apart. This one is key for married couples in particular as it regards sexual intimacy. Of course, married couples can be sexually intimate apart, such as through phone sex, sexting, or swapping photos through a secure platform, though not everyone is comfortable with digital intimacy, and it’s not the same as intimacy in person.
If you’re shy at first, that’s okay; be patient with each other as you grow in this form of intimacy. It’s also important to see each other regularly in person because seeing one another regularly, ideally, at least every three months, helps you see how they are growing as a person, and it’s a way to remind yourself why you love this person in the first place.
Find different ways to communicate. You don’t just have to stick to instant messaging, particularly if you use various apps and messaging platforms. Of course, keep in mind that some people prefer to use one platform to keep track of conversations, but the important thing is to stay engaged when you communicate.
One way to do this is to keep your calls brief, and when you’re talking, use all of your effective listening skills. You might be able to get away with half-listening and being distracted while talking with your partner in person, but it can have a huge negative impact if you do the same thing while you’re on a FaceTime or Zoom call.
Self-Reflect and be self-aware. In every relationship, it’s important to know what you need and how you’re experiencing the relationship. This helps you and your partner know the best way to relate to you and what’s important to you.
Connected to this is having clear personal boundaries in which you establish trust, and don’t invade each other’s space, even if only virtually. It may feel normal to worry when your partner’s behavior seems unusual, but instead of cyberstalking them or requesting proof of where they were at a certain time, it’s better to communicate your concerns and let them address them.
Speak openly and don’t avoid conflict. Keeping feelings and emotions to yourself isn’t a good way to go. Couples in LDRs put themselves under enormous strain to make every phone call and visit perfect because the distance seems to magnify things. some people prefer to talk about difficult emotions or things in person, and that makes an LDR complicated.
However, you need to share these things, as not doing so doesn’t make them go away, but only makes them cause problems down the line. It may be tricky to talk in the absence of body language or facial expressions, so you should opt for a video call to avoid misunderstandings. You shouldn’t avoid conflict because it is an opportunity to work through things as a team and for you to learn how to better love one another.
Additionally, don’t assume that a bad visit or phone call means the end. If you’re in an LDR, it’s normal to have both great and not-so-great times with your partner, and that’s the case even in other relationships. Don’t assume or jump to conclusions about what the not-so-great conversations or visits mean for your relationship.
Tell people about the relationship. LDRs may have a feeling of unreality about them, and one way to combat that is to make sure everyone that matters to you locally, such as your friends, family, and people who may be romantically interested in you, know that you’re in a relationship. This will also serve to keep you accountable.
Do stuff together. Go for a walk, watch a movie, cook together, or start a hobby together. The benefits of technology in this regard are boundless. You can go for a walk with your partner by using your phone, talking with them while you show them the sights and other interesting things in your neighborhood. Stay safe as you do so, and that also goes for cooking a meal together.
Unspoken in all this is the fact that for a long-distance relationship to work, both people have to put in the work, make sacrifices, and be compassionate and flexible. A long-distance relationship doesn’t work if it’s one-sided, so both parties have to be committed and willing to translate that commitment into action.
All relationships have their challenges. Long-distance relationships bring a level of complexity that most in-person relationships don’t have. In a long-distance relationship, your communication skills need to be particularly good as you navigate conflict, set boundaries, express your emotions and experiences, and build intimacy.
Long-distance relationships will test you, but they are also incredibly rewarding. Thankfully, challenges in long-distance relationships can be met with creativity and skill and be overcome.
You may be facing challenges in your long-distance relationship; don’t give up without a fight. One way to equip yourself better for your relationship and its unique challenges and opportunities is to pursue individual counseling or couples counseling. Counseling can happen online, which might work best for a couple that’s not in the same space.
Your counselor can help you work through resolving any trust issues that exist in the relationship, assist you both in taking responsibility for the relationship, address conflict meaningfully, and give you the tools you need to manage differing expectations of the relationship as well as manage evolving relationship needs.
Your relationship matters; don’t hesitate to find the help you need to nurture and support it. Reach out for counseling today to get the tools you need to make your long-distance relationship flourish.
“Even if we’re apart…”, Courtesy of Maddi Bazzocco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “I Miss You”, Courtesy of Andrew Neel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Kisses”, Courtesy of Markus Winkler, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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