Making Long Distance Relationships Work

All relationships, whether partners are living long-distance or around the block, need nurturing. Talking together, spending time together, listening to one another and sharing special moments are all integral components of a successful relationship. Although it’s easier for individuals in a close-distance relationship to spend time together and nurture the relationship, a long-distance relationship can be nurtured too. In fact, because people in a long-distance relationship have to make a conscious effort to nurture, they are often better able to continue the practice when the relationship grows into a more permanent close-distance arrangement.

Don't read too much into that text!

Don’t read too much into that text!

All relationships take effort…no matter where or how long you have been together.

Communication is needed every day in a long-distance relationship. With facetime, skyping, calling, texting and emailing, there is no excuse for NOT communicating. It would be beneficial for you in a long-distance relationship to set expectations of how you want to communicate and when/where. Decide together if you will communicate every morning or every evening, 30 minutes or an hour. Choose a plan and stick to it. Be careful with texting and emailing; sometimes we tend to read an unintended tone in text-based messages…clarify and verify with your partner before you jump to conclusions.

Be specific about parameters, boundaries and expectations in a long-distance relationship. Do you both agree that you’ll be exclusive? If not, what are the parameters? Remember mind-reading is a cognitive distortion…no one has the skill of mind reading…we must verbally communicate our needs. When you do see each other face-to-face, decide in advance how the time will be spent, taking care to allow both parties to get what they want. Consider that your partner may have different expectations for how the time will be spent. One of you might think that you’re going to lie around with your partner all weekend watching TV while the other thinks, “I didn’t travel all this way to watch TV.” To learn how to love each other best when you do see each other, the book “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary D. Chapman is a great resource.

Often in my private practice, married couples will come and see me saying that they are not married to the person they were dating and are wondering what happened. For example, I’ve seen couples in counseling where one didn’t realize their spouse was an introvert and couldn’t understand why they needed alone time all of a sudden. When the couple spent time together during their long-distance relationship, they spent every moment together, but being together day in and day out revealed new traits that hadn’t had a chance to surface before.

It’s quite common for these kinds of surprises to arise when couples got to know each other through a long-distance relationship. In these situations, every weekend or whenever they did see each other face-to-face felt like Disney World. If you plan on being engaged or getting married to your long-distance partner, I suggest you spend plenty of time together just hanging out and being together rather than treating it like a vacation. Letting your partner know the real you will save you from being in my office for couples counseling.

The best takeaway to have a successful long distance relationship? Know yourself so you can educate your partner on who you are and what your needs are before you tie the knot!

holding hands


photo by Pablo


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