“Long distance relationships are hard. They never work out. Just end it.”
That was the advice I received, from just about everyone, when I told them my girlfriend and I were about to start one.
Yeah. Long distance relationships sure are hard. That part isn’t a lie. But, if you’re with the right person, they are definitely worth it.
When you start putting miles between you and your partner the relationship is going to get challenged. You will learn a lot about your significant other. I mean like really learn about them, down to their core. What you find may terrify you, surprise you, or excite you.
Regardless of the emotional discoveries you make, I ensure you that the journey of long distance relationship is filled with many trials and tribulations. Mistakes will be made. Oh yes, they will be made. Your relationship is going to twist and grow in ways which may have never been possible.
But, there’s hope.
Given that we know distance between one another is very challenging, what are some things a couple can do to make a long distance relationship work (and last)?
Here are six tips:
1. Discuss and decide upon your relational set up.
What I mean by this is decide between keeping the relationship monogamous, or exploring the world of open relationships. The word monogamous comes from “mono” meaning one, and “gamous” meaning having a specified number of mates. This is the traditional arrangement for relationships. It is just you and your partner, with no one else in the picture.
Polyamory comes from “poly” meaning many, and “amory” meaning love. Many loves. This is also known as “swinging” or an “open” relationship. Many sexual partners are involved in a polyamorous relationship. Ideally, the couple keeps communication open and all sexual partners are known about.
Admittedly, polyamory can create an exciting way to stay in a relationship, while removing the pressure of remaining “faithful.” For some couples this may actually be better, and more healthy, than forcing the constraints of a long distance monogamous relationship. Again, you and your significant other will have to decide what is best for both of you.
And finally, we arrive at polygamy (although it is often confused with polyamory).
Polygamy involves having many spouses. Polygamy is heavily based in religion, such as Mormonism, and in the traditional polygamous sense a man would have many wives.
Unless you are an active practitioner of a polygamous religion, you likely won’t be dipping your toes in this water.
Creating space between the two of you can certainly increase the temptation to “try the local cuisine.” However, establishing your relational set up will help ensure both you and your partner know what the rules are, and are playing the same game.
2. Masturbate frequently.
Stop it. We’re all adults here. I’m not talking about the “Ew, gross, he said masturbation and the blanket just cracked in half” habits of a high school boy.
No. What I am talking about is merely on a biological level.
Humans, by nature, are sexual beings. There is nothing wrong, or taboo, about having a great sex life. It is wired into our biology and is a big part of what makes us human; up there with having opposable thumbs and the ability to reason. Frequent masturbation is a great way to relieve stress, and can help ease the physiological blow of going from a great sex life, to a great sexting life.
3. Let off steam, to avoid blowing your lid.
People are quite keen at interpreting body language and then using that interpretation to either avoid danger, or ask a meaningful question.
However, when your relationship moves to long distance you lose that vital ability to vibe off the other person’s body language. You simply can not look at a text message and draw emotional clues from it, the same way you can by looking at a human face.
If something is on your mind the other person may not realize it. They may not be doing that to intentionally piss you off either. They, literally, might not realize something is bothering you.
They may never ask about it, causing you to think, “WTF?”
This causes emotions to boil inside. Left unchecked, this can lead to anger or resentment.
The truth is, in a long distance relationship if something is on your mind you are going to have to speak up. I akin this to a volcano constantly letting off steam, vs. letting all that steam build up, and then blowing its top off. The former is no big deal. The latter is catastrophic for all.
The same is true in a long distance relationship. You must find ways to let off steam (aka figure out how to articulate your thoughts into words) in order to avoid blowing your lid.
4. Master the art of active listening.
Talking about what’s on your mind is great for letting off steam, but the flip-side of that is active listening.
A long distance relationship will definitely challenge communication. Maintaining a real, authentic, conversation can be challenging at times. It’s easy to get distracted in today’s fast paced lifestyle, and think only about yourself. It is easy to hear someone, but it is very hard to listen to them.
Learning to be a great listener is a paramount skill to develop, so you can consciously understand what your partner is talking about. Active listening is a key element which creates strong communication.
For some, active listening comes easy. For others, it may be a challenge. But if you are going to spend time developing just one skill, and one skill only, make it the skill of active listening.
Simply asking, “How was your day” is basic. Thoughtfully ask about things your partner mentioned a week earlier. That will exemplify that you truly listen to what they said. Trust me, this will make them feel fantastic.
If you need help remembering what they talked about, the easiest way is to take notes. Write things down. While taking notes on your significant other may seem silly, it really does help you become a better listener; especially when life is pulling you in 10 different directions.
Take confidence in the fact you know this person better than most, but show them you actually care what they have to say by becoming an active listener.
5. Get the big things right, but don’t forget the little things.
Remembering to buy a plane ticket for your upcoming trip together is a big thing. Remembering your anniversary is a big thing. The big things matter, a lot, and you need to get them right.
However, I argue that it is the small, little, and lesser things that matter more.
Sending an unprovoked, but thoughtful, hand written letter by way of mail. Making sure that you text that person “Good morning”, while staying aware of what timezone they are in. Randomly having flowers delivered to their house or work. Sending them a funny cat video because you know they are a cat person and will find it funny.
The big things are the bricks which make up the foundation of your relationship. However, those little, and seemingly small things, are the mortar that hold the bricks together. If you are missing either aspect all you are left with is a heap of rubble, crumbled at your feet.
6. Have activities planned before you see each other.
The first time my girlfriend and I saw each other, after spending a few months apart, was for seven days.
Well, we had about four days worth of stuff planned, and ended up just kind of looking at each other for the last two days. I mean, it was still fun, but we could have used that time to do something else.
Having fun activities planned, before you both get together, is a great way to keep excitement levels up and make the most of the short time you have.
Also, planning trips into the future gives you something tangible to look forward to. And, planning the details of those trips gives you more to talk about other than what you both ate for lunch that day. Total life win.
7. Set a weekly Skype date.
Weekly is just an arbitrary number that works for my girlfriend and I. We plan to Skype every Sunday. You’ll need to figure what works best within the context of your long distance relationship.
It’s easy to get busy, but having that planned day or time to video chat is a great way to make sure build in some quality conversation time to your hectic schedule. Plus, you have the added bonus of seeing each other’s face. I’m making a bold assumption that if you’re together you must somewhat enjoy looking at each other.
Or, you just close your eyes the whole time. But let’s hope not.
In closing, you will need to tailor these tips to your own relationship. Each relationship is unique, and involves different dynamics. Keep communication open, actively listen to your partner, and don’t be afraid to speak up when something is on your mind. Long distance relationships are tough, but they are definitely worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.