April 2 marked our 5 year anniversary. 3 months after we began dating, Kevin moved away for college while I stayed in our hometown, and we’ve been in a long-distance relationship ever since. It’s been tough at times, but it’s worth it. Here are some tips and tricks we’ve learned to maintain our relationship and overcome the obstacles of long-distance.
Disclaimer: This is based on our personal experiences and what we have found works for us. Every individual and couple is different. What works for us may not work for you.
Balancing school, internship, work, and a social life is hard. Throw in a long-distance relationship and suddenly it’s even more difficult. With our busy schedules, it’s not always possible to find time to talk throughout the day. Since communication is the foundation of long-distance relationships (and all relationships, for that matter), this can really put a strain on the relationship.
Solution: First and foremost, be understanding. While your relationship is a priority, it may at times be overshadowed by other commitments you and your partner have. That’s perfectly fine, so long as you both are empathetic and accepting of the fact that the other may not text or call that day in order to focus on something else. This, however, needs to be balanced out by making time for each other. Even if it’s at the end of the day right before you go to sleep, allot some time in your busy schedule specifically to talk to your partner, ask them how their day was, or share what’s on your mind. Communicating with your partner doesn’t need to be constant nor does it need to take up a lot of your time, just consistent and substantial enough to maintain your connection with one another.
This is perhaps the most obvious obstacle of long-distance relationships. Spending months apart, or even years in some cases, can lead people in long-distance relationships to feel very lonely. Seeing other couples who are able to be with each other regularly serves as a constant reminder of your partner’s absence. When you’re out having a good time, you randomly find yourself missing your significant other, wishing they were with you to share the experience. The loneliness becomes more pronounced during difficult times, when you long for your partner’s physical presence and tangible support.
Solution: Planning when you’ll see each other next definitely makes the time until your next meeting more bearable. And FaceTime or Skype helps when you especially miss your partner and want to see their face and hear their voice again. However, rather than thinking of your time apart as something negative, think of it as an opportunity to tend to the other relationships in your life. Strengthen your relationship with your family, and invest more time in your friendships. Most importantly, work on your relationship with yourself and learn to be comfortable being alone.
Arguments are inevitable in every relationship, but they can be particularly destructive in long-distance relationships. In a relationship largely based on technological communication, it can be easy to passively ignore your partner’s calls or leave their text messages unread instead of actively attempting to resolve the issue at hand.
Solution: Again, communication is key. Resist the urge to avoid conflict and address the problem immediately. Any concerns you and your partner make are valid whether they are voiced in person, over the phone, or through text message. Thus, arguments should be handled similarly whether or not distance is a factor. Give each other the courtesy of being able to express their concerns, listen to each other thoroughly, and try to reach a conclusion or compromise. It may seem trivial to argue back and forth over the phone or through messages, which can get drawn out for hours on end, but sometimes it’s the only way.
(Kevin added, “The girl is always right. Even when she’s wrong, she’s right.”)
Being exposed to different environments, different people, and different circumstances inevitably lead people to grow. You might discover new interests, your goals in life may change, and you will ultimately learn more about yourself as a person. But your partner will undergo changes as well, and you may not be as compatible as you were when you started the relationship. It’ll begin to feel as if you’re living completely separate lives, and you might begin to question if your partner hundreds of miles away is still the one for you.
Solution: Grow together. You won’t be the same person you were when you started your relationship, and neither will your partner. And that’s ok—you can’t expect them or yourself to stay the same forever. Both of you are constantly evolving, and your relationship should adapt to your changing lifestyles. To that end, it’s necessary to make an effort to be present in each other’s lives. Physical presence may not be possible, but emotional presence is just as, if not more, important. Express interest in your partner’s newfound hobbies and support them in their endeavors—even if they are otherwise irrelevant to your own—and, hopefully, they will do the same for you. And if you sense growth apart, communicate those feelings early on rather than allowing it to result in resentment or indifference. Change is inevitable; it’s how you react to the change that makes the difference.
Uncertainty about the future
In all relationships, there comes a time when you begin to wonder what direction the relationship is heading and if it’s something worth continuing to invest time and energy in. Especially in a long-distance relationship, it can be daunting to put extra effort into maintaining a relationship not knowing what the future will be.
Solution: Have a timeline in mind. Of course, this varies according to where you are in your lives personally, what stage of the relationship you are in, and how prepared all parties involved are to move forward. That next step might be moving to the same country, state, or city to be closer to one another. It might be moving in together, or it might be getting married. Whatever the end goal may be in your particular relationship, it helps to think of long-distance not as the permanent state of the relationship, but as a phase that will eventually pass. Planning out what you want the relationship to become helps alleviate any uncertainty and gives you something to look forward to or even work towards.
What are problems you’ve faced in your relationship? Do you have other ways of handling these issues? Leave them in the comments below!