Long distance relationships are becoming a far more common setup these days. I would define one not necessarily by literal distance but by how often a couple can feasibly see each other.
This actually happens to be the situation my girlfriend, Heidi, and I were in for the first year or two of our relationship. Aside from the first few months where we lived in the same city, we were rarely closer than an hour’s drive apart and were often up to three hour’s drive away from each other. We both made the relationship work because we both WANTED to make it work! Although every relationship is different, here are some general pointers for managing a long distance relationship…
Being realistic about the relationship:
Be realistic regarding your relationship as soon as possible and ideally before anything becomes too serious. Once people become too attached to one another, it’s a lot harder to think logically about specific terms and desires. Decide as soon as possible what is realistically going to work for you.
I had a client last summer who met a wonderful woman whilst travelling. They hit it off immediately and swiftly bound through the dating phases into a full blown relationship in a very short space of time. The overlooked caveat was that once their month-long trip together was over, they would be over 4,000 miles apart! Whilst they found it hard to admit, they both knew it was not going to work out once they had both returned home.
What it all comes down to is whether a long distance relationship is worth the extra commitment despite having less physical time together. Without tarnishing your time with someone so far, you have to decide if dating someone so far away from you subtracts aspects of your life and personal development. Ultimately, a relationship should be ADDING to your life, whatever the setup!
Be realistic with your current situation in life and if a monogamous relationship with someone at distance is not going to work for you, be honest with the other person involved. You can always keep in touch with them and you never know when your life situations may change and make things easier. However, I wouldn’t recommend waiting around for that time to come.
You should ultimately only be in a long distance relationship because you really see the relationship as something special. If it’s more a convenience issue or a lack of other options, then they are separate mindsets you should be working on.
One of the hardest things to deal with in a long distance relationship is trusting your partner explicitly. Obviously you won’t be able to know what your partner is up to one hundred percent of the time, so you have to deal with any breaks in contact without any judgement or jealousy.
On a similar subject, avoiding temptation might be a problem for you on occasion. There will be moments when you are feeling emotionally distant as well as physically distant from your partner. If these are more than momentary occurrences, perhaps you need to reassess your relationship as a whole. An article I wrote entitled Steps for finding the perfect partner should help you with this analysis.
I definitely advocate maintaining a healthy social life whilst you are away from your partner. It will keep your personality attractive as well as keep your relationship in perspective. In doing this, you will no doubt encounter other attractive members of the opposite sex. Keeping memories of your partner close in your mind will prevent them ever becoming too emotionally distant and hence void the issue of temptation.
Keeping in touch:
Keeping in frequent contact is vital for sustaining a long distance relationship. There are so many different ways to communicate over distance these days that there really is no excuse for not keeping in touch. Phone calls, text messages, emails and letters are all great ways to let someone know you are thinking of them.
Even when we are apart, I speak to my girlfriend every day and relish the fact that I can constantly be a part of her life, even when we are far apart. It’s actually a great test to know how perfect your relationship is: do you WANT to know everything they are getting up to? Do you ENJOY hearing about trivial things they’ve done each day?
You may find that the power shift in a long distance relationship changes more frequently than a couple who live together, for example. It is a lot easier to satisfy someone’s emotional needs in person and so your partner’s state can fluctuate greatly. Be considerate to this fact and although I wouldn’t advise being your partner’s “therapist” or outlet for emotional discharge, it is reassuring to let them know how much you miss them and talk about future times together to keep the relationship real.
The obvious deficiency with a long distance relationship is the lack of physical and intimate contact. Intimacy is one of the three factors of lasting love (along with passion and commitment) and so it would seem like this is unachievable if a couple are not physically together.
However, there are ways you can simulate physical intimacy until the times you are together and these are primarily achieved through verbal descriptiveness. This can be done through the use of intimate language when you speak to one another on the phone, which can even progress to the slightly taboo act of phone sex.
Use your imagination to think of other ways to simulate being together. One idea Heidi and I did early in our relationship was watching a movie simultaneously and speaking to each other before and after watching it (the movie was Disney’s Bolt if you want to know and it was magical).
Try to keep the relationship fun and exciting in any way you can, alongside making sure you still have the rapport of an intimate couple.
The positives of a long distance relationship:
There is one often overlooked positive aspect of a long distance relationship, that is far easier to consummate in such a setup. That positive involves not becoming contempt or needy with one another through overexposure. Obviously one could convey these things verbally but it is far easier to prevent the relationship becoming repetitive or boring by default.
One of the best things I remember about my relationship with Heidi during the early years was that when we did see each other in person, everything was really fresh and exciting. Try and turn any feelings of missing your partner into feelings of anticipation and plan ahead so that the time you do spend together is extra special.
Long distance relationships can definitely hold their fair share of tough periods but as long as they are handled with a conscious mind, they can be just as fulfilling, if not more fulfilling, than standard relationships.
I would be very interested to hear anyone else’s thoughts on this topic, especially anyone who has experience of their own long distance relationship. 🙂