Knowing how to make a long distance relationship work can be tricky. Here are our best long distance relationship tips–and links to extra resources.
Long Distance Relationship Tips #1: Use this time to get to know your partner well
The biggest benefit of being in a LDR is that it forces you to communicate. You may never again in the course of your relationship have this much focused time and energy to spend communicating with your partner. Make the most of it. If you get to know them deeply and well, that will pay off big-time in the long run.
- Start slow, especially if you haven’t met yet
Don’t bare all too soon (literally or figuratively)! When you meet long distance it can be easy to jump in the deep end and move too fast in your new relationship. During the early days (the first couple of months, at least) don’t rush into vulnerability, set a pattern of talking for hours every day, or make serious commitments.
- Meet in person as soon as possible
There are all sorts of things you can only learn about someone face to face, but the initial reason why it’s a good idea to meet in person ASAP is simple: You may have great chemistry on paper or over the phone, and absolutely none in person.
- Set up healthy communication patterns early
When you’re trying to figure out how to make a long distance relationship work, talk about how you talk. Discuss some of your communication basics as a couple–how you generally prefer to connect (phone, VoIP, text), what times, and for how long. This can help set realistic expectations and avoid some miscommunications, frustration, and anxiety.
- Prioritize talking with each other
It can take real effort to rearrange schedules and make time to talk, especially when things get busy or there is a time difference involved. However, if you can’t consistently make talking with your partner a priority, reconsider whether you should be in the relationship.
- But don’t talk TOO much
Talking to your partner should be a priority, sure, but not your only priority. Do not overdose on talk-time. Don’t spend all your spare time talking or texting.
- Give each other some virtual space
Don’t rush to reply immediately to every text, email, or message that comes in. And don’t expect your partner to respond straight away to every text you send or message you leave.
- Be open, honest, and “real” in your communication
When you’re in a long distance relationship it’s easier to hide your weaknesses and put your best foot forward. Unless you both value transparency and honesty more than making a good impression, you will have a much more difficult time figuring out whether you and your partner are a good fit for each other.
- Learn to ask good questions and listen well
Communication is the bedrock of any relationship, but when you’re in an LDR, talking is often all you have. Learn to listen carefully to your partner and ask good questions – questions that make them think and help you understand them better.
- Find new things to talk about
Most couples in a LDR will go through periods where they struggle to find things to talk about apart from how their day was. When these seasons hit, put a bit more effort into finding new and fresh things to discuss (or make it easy on yourself and check out the book below).
- Don’t avoid the tough questions
Especially are your relationship deepens, don’t avoid topics and questions that could lead to uncomfortable conversations. Practice asking questions that make you feel vulnerable. Be willing to be transparent. If you’re in a committed relationship you should be able to talk about everything.
- Read, listen to, or watch the same things
It’s easier to figure out how to make a long distance relationship work if you share some common interests. So recommend books, articles, podcasts, music, movies, news items, etc to each other. If you can read or listen to some of the same things, that will help you share experiences and give you new things to talk about.
- Learn from other people’s stories
Lot of people out there have successfully closed the gap in their long distance relationship, or are making a LDR work well for them now. Read up on some of those stories and learn from those who have gone before.
- Get creative about connecting (and by “creative” I don’t mean “naked”)
You can share new experiences and build memories together even while you’re far apart. Talking to each other is great, but make that extra effort sometimes to try something new or go on a long distance date.
- Write to each other sometimes
Here’s one of my favorite long distance relationship tips: If you only ever talk to each other, try writing letters or long emails sometimes. When you write, you can think and express yourself differently than you do when you’re talking. Writing gives you more time and space to reflect on tricky issues, and letters and emails can become treasured keepsakes (or maybe even a book) in the future.
- Discuss how you deal with pressure
Sometime when you’re not tired and stressed, talk about how each of you typically acts and reacts when you are stressed and tired. Tell your partner how they can best help you during those times. Ask your partner to share these things with you, too.
- Learn more about how you both approach conflict
Conflict is inevitable in relationships, but being in a long distance relationship makes managing conflict well even more difficult. If you want to know how to make a long distance relationship work, learn some basic conflict-management strategies and discuss them with your partner before you find yourself mid-fight.
- Discuss your big disagreements in person
Never try to hash out relationship issues via text message – there’s too much room for misunderstanding. If possible, save your serious disagreements for when you can talk them out in person.
- Learn to recognize and control your own emotions
Long distance relationships often involve intense emotions and extreme ups and downs. There are times of intense loneliness, uncertainty, doubts, and fear. There are also times of extreme excitement, joy, and incandescent happiness. Learning to recognize, own, and manage your own emotions will pay off big time–now and in the future.
- Learn to control any jealousy
Feeling a little jealous now and again is not unusual in a long distance relationship. However, uncontrolled jealousy can lead to a destructive combination of suspicion, possessiveness, insecurity, anger, and shame. If you’re feeling jealous, figure out how to control your jealousy before it starts to control you. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
- Don’t stonewall (and don’t passively allow your partner to give you the silent treatment)
Stonewalling is using silence as a weapon or an escape. It is controlling the situation by simply refusing to engage. Distance makes this particularly easy to do (hanging up or not answering or returning calls), and it can drive your long distance partner crazy with frustration, second-guessing, and self-doubt.
- Practice taking your partner’s perspective
Try to see things from their point of view, especially if you’re having a difference of opinions. If you find yourself really stuck on something, you can even switch viewpoints and try to argue from the other person’s perspective!
- Talk honestly about money
If finances are tight, money can become a major source of resentment–especially if finances are keeping you apart, traveling to see each other is expensive, and/or one partner has to spend a lot more money than the other to keep the relationship going. Tackling this hot topic directly can help avoid assumptions and conflict.
- Figure out the best, low-cost way to connect
Figure out the best low-cost way to communicate so that you’re not worrying about the money when you’re talking (cell phone plan, Skype, etc).
- Learn what your different love languages are and practice speaking them
People tend to “speak” and understand love best through their primary love language(s). Do you know what your primary love language is? Do you know how to speak your partners?
- Build your love maps
Your love map is your mental network of information about your partner–their interests, stories, what makes them tick, and things you love and admire about them. The more positive memories and associations you build into this love map, the stronger your relationship will be over time.
- Discuss the “ground rules” of your relationship
Trust is a major issue for many LDR couples. Discuss your “status” as a couple, expectations around how you act when you’re apart, and what constitutes “commitment” or “cheating”. Talking about these things (and any growing feelings of jealousy or unease) can save you a lot of heartache and conflict in the long run.
- Laugh together
It’s great to talk about the deep stuff, but make sure you keep it light sometimes, too. Share things with each other that have made you laugh.
- Surprise your partner every so often with something thoughtful
Everyone loves getting a present, a bunch of flowers, or a handwritten letter in the mail. Every so often, go the extra mile and do something extra and special to help your partner feel loved and valued. Bonus points if the gesture is uber-thoughtful.
- Keep your partner on your mind
We’ve all heard the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but it’s also true that “absence can make the mind go wander”. Make sure you have some reminders of your partner around–perhaps put their photo on your desktop or tape it to your mirror, drink out a coffee mug they gave you… the possibilities are endless.
- Help your long distance partner connect with your friends and family
If you’re in a long-distance relationship, especially if it’s one that begins with you meeting online, the vital influences of family and friends are often missing. Find a way to involve and connect your partner with some of the other important relationships in your life.
- Figure out what works for you when it comes to coping with distance
Everyone is different, and so is every relationship. Everyone has different tips and tricks that help them cope better with the ups and downs that come with being in a long distance relationship. Figure out what works for you, then do it.
- Have some interests outside your LDR
Don’t spend all your spare time on Skype or your phone. Build a life where you are. Do things that make you fitter, smarter, and happier. Do things that interest you. Do these things alone, if need be. Remember, investing in yourself is another way of investing in your most important relationship. Start now.
- Invest in other important relationships
Similarly, If you focus all your free time and energy on your long distance love, your relationships with those close to you will suffer. In a nutshell: this is bad news. You will be happier and healthier in life if you have a strong network of friends beyond your partner. To do that, you need to spend time connecting with them.
- Avoid situations where you may be tempted to cheat
Don’t put yourself in situations that will lead to extra temptation to cheat! Don’t start hanging out alone every weekend with the same attractive co-worker. Don’t go out to bars with your friends and drink a lot if you know that you get extra flirty after a few. Bottom line? Know yourself. Know your limits, and then stay a couple of steps away from those limits.
- Visit often
Visit each other as often as you can without over-stretching your budgets and schedules. Spending time together in person will help you learn new things about your partner and remind you of why being in the long distance relationship is worth it.
- Plan ahead for your next visit(s)
Try to keep a visit scheduled. Even if it’s a couple of months away, knowing when you’ll next see each other and having a date to count down to will help.
- Aim for “balanced” visits
I know it’s tempting, but when you DO get to see each other, don’t spend the whole visit cuddling on the couch (or in bed). Make sure you get out and do something fun–hang with other friends, try a new restaurant, etc. Also try to mix in some normal life such as grocery shopping and cooking together.
- Manage goodbyes in ways that minimize pain
Let’s be honest, goodbyes suck when you’re in a LDR. You can, however, learn to say goodbye in ways that work for you (or, at least, work better).
- Treat yourself gently after farewells
Saying goodbye to the one you love when it’ll be weeks or months before you see them again is brutal. Plan ahead for how to best treat or support yourself during the first day or two after a visit ends.
- Plan ahead for periodic separations
Many couples nowadays do periodic stints of long distance. One way to reduce the stress of all that coming and going is to plan ahead together for ways to reduce the burden on the stay-at-home partner during your times apart. Spending some time on logistics before you leave will help them during your absence.
- Make a game plan for times you feel extra-lonely or sad
Everyone has days when they feel extra-sad or lonely. Plan ahead and know what might help you (and what definitely won’t help you) during those times. It may not be very wise, for example, to go hang out with an attractive friend at a dance club on a night when you really really want to be holding your partner close.
- Practice trusting
Being apart from the person you love makes everyone feel insecure at times. You can start to doubt everything from how your partner feels about you, to whether they are staying faithful. But unless your partner has given you reason not to trust them, take a deep breath and choose to trust!
- When something doesn’t seem right, pay attention
Don’t embrace trust so wholeheartedly that you ignore or miss the signs that something is seriously wrong. Being in a LDR can prolong a relationship that isn’t meant to be. Distance also provides more opportunities for deception. Don’t ignore your instincts if you sense something just isn’t right.
- Set a “move-by” date
If you really want to know how to make a long distance relationship work–look beyond being long distance! Research shows that LDRs have a better chance of working if there’s an end date in sight. Don’t rush into discussions (or decisions) about moving. Before too long, however, do start talking about how and when you might be able to close the gap.
- Consider getting counseling
If you’re feeling stuck about whether or how your relationship has a future, having a good therapist ask questions and help you think things through can only help. Counseling can also help you address and resolve issues related to jealousy, trust, insecurity, and some of the “blind spots” that can develop when you’re in a LDR
- Regularly ask yourself if you still want to be in this relationship
Seriously consider ending your LDR if it’s becoming too hard, too unhealthy, just too… much.
- Is someone moving? Recognize that this major transition will have ups, downs, and bumps along the way
Same-city living will usher in a whole new phase in your relationship. Think and talk together about ways to ease the stress of this major transition. Take it slow and recognize you may both need some extra time and space as you negotiate learning (or re-learning) how to share your space and lives up close and personal.
- Be prepared to learn new things when you’re finally together
You can learn so much about someone when you’re in a long distance relationship. In many ways, you can get to know someone more quickly and deeply when you’re communicating across distance. However, there are certain things you just can’t learn about someone when you’re in an LDR. Be prepared to keep learning new things about your partner when you’re finally living together.
- Ignore the haters–they just have no idea how to make a long distance relationship work
Lots of people say LDRs can’t work. They’re wrong. Maybe an LDR couldn’t work for them, or maybe they just have no idea what they’re talking about. Don’t listen to them. Plenty of LDRs work out in the long run, and many couples credit the time they spent in an LDR for teaching them invaluable relationship skills.