Maintaining long distance relationships is more common than ever. My own relationship with my husband began as an LDR and I like to think I learned a thing or two about maintaining a successful one. After the jump, 15 tips that may help you, too, survive a long distance relationship.
1. Discuss options to move.
From the get-go, you need to be honest with each other about whether you’d be willing to relocate some time in the future. It’s never too early to discuss this. Drew and I touched on this topic on our first date when he said that he’d never leave New York City and I commented that I’d be finishing graduate school in a few months and would definitely be willing to relocate some time after that. If neither of you is willing to move, there’s no point in starting a long distance relationship and the sooner you’re clear about that, the better.
2. Establish an end date.
While it doesn’t have to be an exact date, a ball park idea of when one of you would be ready to relocate needs to be established from the get-go. Sometimes this date is dependent on factors like graduation or the end of an internship or study/work abroad program. In the event that the date is completely flexible, expectations need to be expressed by both parties. How long are you reasonably willing to “wait” to be together? One year? Eighteen months? Two years? Maintaining an LDR without an end date is like baking a cake without a pan.
3. Agree on ground rules.
Will you be totally exclusive? Allowed to date other people but not have sex? Does anything go? Will you have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy? Whatever works for you is fine, but make sure it works for your partner, too, and that you’re both on the same page. And if you decide not to be exclusive, revisit this decision every three months or so as your relationships grows and becomes more serious.
4. Plan frequent visits.
This should go without saying, but if you live far apart, plan to see each other as often as you can afford to. Try never to say good-bye to each other after a visit without having another visit already lined up. If airline tickets take a sudden plunge, or you find a great deal, buy a few tickets if you have enough faith that you’ll be a couple for a while. After Drew and I had been dating about seven months, there was a great post-holiday deal where tickets were, like, $78 round trip from NYC to Chicago. We bought enough tickets for bi-weekly visits for the next three months, which was how far ahead we were comfortable planning at that point.
5. Utilize technology.
With texting, Skype, digital cameras and recorders, IMing, and iPhone video calls, it’s never been easier to reach out and (almost) touch someone, so take advantage of all that technology, whether it’s simply to chat or to get a little sexy up in here.
6. Do things together.
Watching the same movies, reading the same books or magazine articles, and cooking the same recipes — even if you do these things individually — will help establish a feeling of togetherness and give you something to talk about during those long evening phone calls.
7. Communicate every day.
Speaking of long evening phone calls, make sure you’re making them as often as possible. If you don’t have time for a long call, make a short call, or text, or send a quick email. Communicating every day is key to staying connected and reminding one another that you’re in each other’s thoughts.
8. Enjoy the best of both worlds.
This is a wonderful time when you have the benefits of a committed partner, and get to enjoy plenty of free time on your own. Before long, your schedule will be filled with couple time, so until then enjoy spending your evenings and weekends exactly how — and with whom — you want to spend them. You’ll be making lots of compromises in that regard soon enough.
9. Trust each other.
Understand that your significant other will have plenty of opportunities to behave in a way that would make you cringe. If you can’t trust him or her to act appropriately and keep the best interests of you and your relationship at heart, there’s no point in being together.
10. Introduce friends and family.
As tempting as it may be to lock the outside world out during those times you get to visit each other, do step out and introduce one another to important members of your inner circle. Doing so will strengthen your bond and help to close the gap that long distances can create between two people.
11. Avoid guilt trips.
You’re in this boat together, so understand it’s not always going to be a smooth ride and it isn’t one person’s fault when it isn’t. Things are going to come up that make an evening phone call impossible, or visiting each other for important occasions not feasible (or at least not practical). A few months after Drew and I started dating, I turned 30. I really wanted him there for the big day, but his nephew — the first baby in the family — was due that same week (and was born the day before my birthday). I had to accept that I would have more milestone birthdays, but Drew would never again have the chance to be there for the birth of his nephew.
12. Send something tangible.
A love letter, some flowers, a mixed CD, some home baked cookies — any token of affection — is a sweet way to keep the romance alive across the miles and give your partner something to touch when s/he can’t touch you.
13. Discuss the future.
Making plans or fantasizing together about what life will be like when you no longer live in different cities will help remind you that there is an end date and that the other person is just as excited about starting the next chapter of your relationship as you are. It also helps to make practical plans, like whether you’ll immediately move in together and what steps you need to take now to make your fantasies a reality.
14. Avoid temptation.
If you’re missing the immediate attention and affection of your significant other, don’t be stupid and put yourself in a situation where the charms of someone else is a difficult temptation to resist. Acknowledge when you’re feeling lonelier or more vulnerable than usual, and stay away from people and situations that have proven to be trouble for you in the past.
15. Be flexible.
In an LDR, things are never ever going to be 100% convenient. Calls with be made super late at night, or super early in the morning. Visits will be planned during weekends you might have a lot of work to do, or a commitment — like a baby shower, or bachelor party — that can’t be rescheduled. When these things happen, it’s important to remain flexible, work with what you’ve got, enjoy whatever time you can spend with each other and not get too wound up about the things you can’t control. There will be a lot in your relationship that will be out of your control, and the sooner you learn to just go with the flow, the smoother the ride will be for everyone.