How to Navigate Long Distance Relationships
Long distance relationships are not for everyone. They’re hard, complex, and a constant challenge; requiring more than just unwavering desire and love. It takes continuous communication, trust, confidence, and effort from two people (among many other things). That being said, long distance relationships often get a bad rep. I’ve been navigating a long distance relationship over the past two years, and I always hear people say things like, “I don’t know how you do long distance, that must suck” or “I’ll never do it because those relationships never work out.” Sure, it isn’t the most ideal situation. Yeah, sometimes they don’t work out. However, long distance can be successful and enjoyable if you and your partner both learn to develop healthy habits and a positive perspective. In fact, I believe that long distance can even be beneficial at times. Whether you’re going off to college, starting a job in a new city, or entering into a long distance relationship for any other reason, here are some tips that you can implement to help navigate the distance and make it work.
Establish the “why” and “how”
First and for most, it’s important that both you and your partner know, and are on the same page about, why you’re wanting to do long distance. I think it’s safe to assume that 95% of the reason people do long distance is because they see a long-term future with their significant other. That being said, after you both understand the why, you need to establish the how. Are you both going to college? Is one of you moving to a new city? Are you both going to take turns visiting one another? Will it be every semester? Will it be once a month? Is long distance temporary? Will you both move to the same place when you get the opportunity to?
Asking these questions will not only help you get clear on why you’re doing this and how it’s going to look, but it also might help you realize whether or not you actually want to do this. You might solidify the confidence you have in your relationship, but you might also realize that you actually don’t see a long-term future with that person and that’s okay, too. Being honest and transparent with your partner about your goals and plans for the future is the only way to make it work.
Like most things in life, it’s all about perspective. Negative thoughts breed negative outcomes, so one of the biggest things you can do to make long distance work is to think positively. Instead of focusing on all of the time you’ll spend apart, remind yourself of the visit you have planned to see your partner. Think about how excited and how much fun you’ll have when you’re with that person.
It’s easy to have jealous energy and behavior when you’re navigating long distance. Seeing your partner have fun with new friends, or going out to bars on the weekends can bring up these jealous feelings. Guess what? You’re human. It’s natural and normal to feel this way, however, you don’t have to act on these feelings. Just because they’re normal doesn’t mean you have to give into them. Trust is a mindset, too. You can trick yourself into not trusting your partner, when in reality, they’ve done nothing to prove that true. Understand that long distance doesn’t mean the other person is putting their life on hold and remaining stagnant. Your partner needs to live their own life and grow individually, just as you do. Encourage that self-growth, don’t succumb to negative thoughts and feelings, and trust in your love and your person– your relationship will be better for it, too.
Sometimes I forget that communicating openly and honestly is difficult for people. I’m the person that will tell you how I feel or what I’m thinking, regardless of if you want to hear it or not. Sure, sometimes I share too much or come off too blunt. And yeah, sometimes the things I share start an argument. However, I’d rather get it off my chest and discuss the matter when I’m feeling it, as opposed to letting it build up. When you’re in a long distance relationship, you can’t let things build up and go unspoken. Since you’re mostly communicating through your phone, you aren’t able to use things like body language or tone of voice to help you uncover the way your partner is feeling. If something is on your mind, no matter how big or small, it’s important to call the other person and convey it to them before you start playing the, “what’s that matter” “why are you being short” “did I do or say something wrong” game. It’s a lot harder to argue and communicate in general over the phone, but it’s also a lot harder to make up and settle disagreements/fights this way, too. Tell each other how you feel– the good things, the bad things, the ugly things, everything. Communication is the key to a successful relationship; and if open, honest, respectful communication is lacking, your relationship will suffer.
give each other space
Quick disclaimer: I’m about to quote Ariana Grande’s song “NASA.” I promise it’s for good reason. “I can't really miss you if I'm with you / And when I miss you, it'll change the way I kiss you / Baby, you know time apart is beneficial.” Honestly, I couldn’t have put it any better. I’ll wait while you make fun of me.
Seriously though, I don’t think people realize that doing long distance doesn’t always mean you’re giving each other their space. I know so many couples that text every hour of the day. Two things: 1) Unless your life is that exciting and something’s happening every second of the day, what are you texting each other about 24/7? 2) Texting your partner 24/7 is not healthy. Like I said before, you can’t expect your partner to put their life hold, so you shouldn’t hold your partner back from living their life. I’m not saying that texting your boo means they aren’t living, but texting all day definitely distracts them and makes them less present with friends, class, their job, or whatever else is going on in their day-to-day lives.
When it comes to texting in my own relationship, we keep it at a minimum. In the morning, we call each other. We ask each other how we slept, we discuss our plans for the day, and then we let each other go about our days. Because we’re usually busy all day, we’ll pick up the phone and call each other at the end of the day. If we’re not super busy, we might call each other a few times throughout the day or FaceTime just to hang. But to be honest, the only reason we text is if we have something to remind each other about, if we have a question, or to figure out our plans for the rest of the day/when to call the each other later. Or to send each other Game of Throne memes. We don’t keep conversations going throughout the day over text. Giving one another the space to go about their day without having to be glued to the phone updating one another about our daily endeavors has been key. At the end of the day, we have things to talk about and update each other on.
Make time for each other
When you’re in a long distance relationship, it’s easy to feel like you’re not getting enough attention. Just as it’s important to give each other space, it’s also important to make time for each other. Think about it like quality over quantity. Would you rather text someone all day and receive short, arbitrary messages, or talk on the phone once or twice a day and receive someone’s undivided, purposeful attention? Talk to your partner and figure out when you both are free to talk without any interruptions. Maybe you FaceTime every Tuesday and Thursday night before bed, or talk on the phone for an hour each morning. Whatever you do, make sure you both find times within your individual schedules to give each other intentional, undivided attention.
Like I said, texting all day isn’t a thing in my relationship; so when we do talk to each other on the phone, we are attentive and thoughtful. Since you can’t give each other that in person intimacy, giving your partner your uninterrupted attention like this is so so SO important. It might not always be easy with busy, individual lives, but I promise you both will appreciate it if you make this time a priority.
adjust to your new normals
It’s most likely not just your relationship that is changing. Maybe you’re starting freshman year of college, maybe you’re moving to a different city, or maybe you’re new job entails a new schedule. Whatever it is, you’re probably going to have a whole new normal, and be in a totally different environment. It’s going to be an adjustment. You’re going to have to get used to your new routine, new people, new tasks, etc., as well as the way your relationship is now going to function. It is going to take time. Know that it’s going to be different. Accept that it’s going to be different. Allow yourself to be flexible and understand that things might feel weird or go wrong or you might not always feel good and happy. You’re both establishing your new normal, and it’s going to take time to get into the swing of things. If you prepare yourselves for the change by being aware of it, you’ll find yourselves a lot less anxious about making sure things are perfect and making the relationship work.
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
I got a lot of questions regarding my personal experience with long distance, the in’s and out’s, and how I’ve made it work, so I thought I’d answer a few at the end of this post:
When should you do/stop doing long distance?
People always told me before I left for college that going into freshman year with a boyfriend wasn’t a good idea. But I could never wrap my head around fixing something that wasn’t broken. I was in love, and going to college wasn’t going to change that until it did. What I’m trying to say is you need to follow your heart. Even though my boyfriend and I broke up for a period time after my freshman year of college, I don’t regret doing long distance. It worked for us, our break-up didn’t have anything to do with distance, and long distance is currently working for us now. So, my advice is to not listen to everyone’s advice. It’s great to receive input from the people who have your best interest at heart, but at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can make the right decisions for yourself. If long distance feels right, go for it.
As far as when to stop doing distance, I think if you’re currently doing it and wondering if it’s working, it probably isn’t and you might need to reevaluate your relationship. Like I said, you will know if it’s right or if it’s not. If you think that exiting a relationship is going to benefit you and the other person, then honor your thoughts and feelings. Again, only you can make that decision.
How often should you see each other?
It definitely depends on the person, your relationship, and what works for both of your schedules. Since I’m in college and so is my boyfriend, we probably visit each other around 1-2 times a semester. So, around once every 2 months. That doesn’t seem often, but it works for us. Again, I don’t think there’s really a right way to go about seeing one another. Definitely different for everyone. I would suggest, though, that you space it out because plane tickets or gas (if you drive) get expensive. Also, if you’re in college I think it’s important to not visit each other every weekend because you don’t want to take away from experiences, building friendships, and doing well in school. It’s about making both yourself and your partner a priority!
Are there any benefits to doing long distance?
To be honest, due to the point in my life that I’m at, I really love long distance. I’m young, and being in a serious relationship while still trying to find yourself, figure out what you want to do, and experience college to its fullest can be hard. Distance allows me to have my independence, hone my skills, and stay on track. I’m able to work hard, eliminate distractions, build friendships, and make myself a priority when I’m at school. Just because all of my energy isn’t going to my relationship doesn’t mean it’s not thriving. My partner and I both love how long distance has given us the space to make something of ourselves as individuals, while still loving each other. And when I do visit my boyfriend, we actually miss each other which keeps things fun and exciting. I think giving yourself and your partner space to figure out your lives individually is so beneficial for both you and your relationship.
I know for me personally, long distance is only temporary; so that definitely makes it worth it. If you’re about to enter into a long distance relationship, I hope my insight can help you, and just know that it can work if you’re willing to make it work.