Making a Long Distance Relationship Work

"I'm jealous of all the people that get to see you every day.  Miles and miles between us.  Expensive plane tickets.  Long waits between visits.  Poor internet connections.  Nights spent alone.  But, you're more than worth it!"

Anytime you tell another that you're in a long distance relationship they will have an opinion and that opinion will generally be negative.  Your friends and family will try to dissuade you from the relationship.  They will tell you that the relationship won't work out.  These are well-intended others and they're not trying to be mean.  Their advice is simply coming from a place of caring.  Unfortunately, it's not helpful and it's not necessarily accurate. 

Honestly, most romantic relationships don't work out.  I mean that 99.99% of the relationships you will ever be in throughout your entire life...will NOT work out.  They will be short lived romances and long-term unions.  Still, they won't work out.  That doesn't mean you should stop trying...because it may not work out.  

Life is meant to be lived.  This means taking chances and finding your courage.  So, if you meet someone that doesn't live in your city...don't write them off.  It's rare to find someone with whom you have a soulful connection.  Another person that you have deep friendship, passion, compatibility, and chemistry with is rare.  Don't let it go.  Fight for it!  Below are some tips to help you make your long distance relationship work. 

  1. Seize the Opportunity:  This is your opportunity to get to know one another on a level you never could if not for the distance.  The physical interferes with truly seeing your partner.  The distance creates a chance to know your partner deeply without distraction.  See them...know them...who they are on an intellectual and human level. 
  2. Communication on the Regular:  Communicate with your partner in all forms throughout the day every single day.  This means talk, text, video/photo messages, FaceBook, Instagram, and straight up note/letter writing.  This helps the relationship feel more 3D rather than something that is flat and limited.  If you forget your phone send your partner an email to let them know why you're out of correspondence for the day.  
  3. Virtual Viewing:  You need to see your partner.  The way they look when they talk or just watching them move within their lives helps strengthen your bond.  Create shared moments even if they're virtual.  This doesn't mean you both need to do the same thing at the same time.  Most couples that live together often do different things at the same time they are together.  It just means be be present. 
  4. Join on Different Levels:  Do more than just talk, text, and FaceTime. Have other ways of engaging like playing games or sending gifts.  You would do this organically if you were together, but the distance requires you to put forth effort.  It will be worth it in the end. 
  5. Share the Burden:  One person should not take on the burden to be the "always" visitor.  This takes money, time, and energy.  Both parties need to do this even if it is easier for one to take it on.  Even if one partner says it's okay if they bare it alone.  Don't do it even if they make a convincing argument.  If it's one sided... one partner will become a part of the other's life, but it won't be bidirectional and the partner putting forth the effort will grow resentful. 
  6. The Minutia:  Share specific details about your experiences with your partner.  They miss out on the experience, but can share in the memory.  This is a way of making them a part of your life.  Baring witness is a part of being in a meaningful relationship.  
  7. Be Authentic:  You've must be honest in your wants, needs, and opinion.  Show your true self.  This means you will need to fully reveal yourself.  You need to be all of the good amazing qualities you are, as well as, the rude judgmental you always are at times.  You can't wear a mask or pretend you are something you're not.  Show up everyday and show your true self.  You don't have the luxury of this happening organically over time.  
  8. Maximize your Time Together:  When you're together...be together!  This means create memories with one another.  Plan fun experiences and go on dates when you see them.  Don't think that these fun exciting times will somehow skew your relationship.  These highs times are fully earned...so enjoy them! 
  9. Avoid the Danger:  Okay, so you will be vulnerable.  Your heart is open, because you're in a relationship...AND you're going to be lonely.  That open/lonely combination can lead you to a possible cheat.  This isn't because you're a cheater, it's because your heart is vulnerable.  You need to be on mental guard while you're with your friends and in situations another may try to trespass.  Be purposefully vigilant, because it will be worth it.   
  10. Have an Expiration Date:  There has to be an end date.  You must know how long you have to deal with the distance.  This needs to be agreed upon by both parties and both parties will need to shoulder the burden of making plans for relocation and job finding.  This is hard to do and will be even harder for the individual that is leaving their home.  Just help as much and as fully as you can...even if it means extra patience and listening to their frustrations about not being able to find a job in your city.

Really, just find your courage and do it.  You love this person...don't let distance and time ruin it.  What is a couple years of long distance compared to a lifetime together...

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA