Imagine your partner lives in another city or even another country. You’re sitting at home with a glass of wine, stewing over the photo they just posted from a party. You’re imagining them drinking, laughing, flirting…and it’s driving you crazy. You call and get voicemail, or maybe they answer and you hear someone laughing in the background. You have an argument and one of you ends up in tears. You’re starting to wonder if it was such a great decision to agree to a long-distance relationship.
Living away from your partner, whether for a short or long period, can cause expected issues and wreak major havoc upon a previously thriving relationship.
When my husband and I first got together, we were separated by work after only six weeks together. So I know firsthand the issues that can arise, and I’d like to share my top five essentials for success in long-distance love:
1. You need to have (and earn) trust.
Trust is such an obvious one, yet it’s often the biggest issue couples face when living apart. Building trust is very difficult—especially if your relationship wasn’t well-established beforehand. If you already have a trusting, open, and loving relationship, this won’t be as difficult to maintain—but the long nights alone can cause your imagination to run amok, picturing all the things your partner could be doing…with someone else.
Building trust can be achieved in numerous ways, and it’s a good idea to include all of them. First, you need to talk as often as possible and ensure you’re open and honest in all conversations. Keeping communication open is the best way to keep your relationship alive, as living apart means that you’re missing out on all the small details of each other’s lives—and while they seem insignificant, the normal things couples discuss on a day-to-day basis actually bond you.
Be reliable—answering the phone, returning messages, and keeping Skype dates. Leaving your partner hanging is the quickest way to get them worried, even if you know you’re not doing anything wrong.
Finally, make some ground rules and stick to them like glue. We had an agreement not to spend alone time with someone of the opposite sex, in a situation like a date (coffee, drinks, etc.). It will be different for every couple, but whatever you decide, don’t break the trust—even once—or it may be gone forever.
2. Be positive.
Assuming that the plan is to eventually live in the same place, it’s really important to stay positive throughout the period you’re apart. If you know in your heart that you have a beautiful future ahead of you, keep that vision in your mind. Genuinely celebrate your partner’s successes and enjoy the time apart to focus on your own career or projects. If you’re temporarily separated by work or family commitments, for example, know that you’re both working toward the same long-term goal: a life filled with love, laughter, and companionship.
3. Schedule online date nights.
Thank goodness for video calls—FaceTime, Skype, and so on. Having regular chats face-to-face is imperative to relationship success. You want to be able to see your lover’s face and hear their voice. You can show each other photos, blow kisses, or maybe do something a little sexier: It’s up to you. And if your internet plan allows it, your calls can be long and relaxed. Play music, play a game, talk about your dreams, and keep the camera on to chat while you’re folding clothes, making dinner, or simply lazing around in bed.
4. Visit whenever possible.
If budget and work schedules allow, this one will help a lot. Nothing beats physical contact with the one you love. When you’re apart for a long time, the other person can start feeling like just a voice or face on the end of the phone. Even if it’s a long way in the future, always have a date planned. It gives you something to look forward to.
Beware, though, that sometimes those visits can also be breeding ground for confrontations. For example, if the separation is forced because of work, and your partner is against it, this could come to the surface during a visit. It might be disguised as an argument over something silly and seemingly meaningless—because they’re unhappy and they miss you, but they can’t communicate it without having the same old argument about you working away, so they pick something small and it seems to blow up out of nowhere. Be gentle and kind to each other, and try to relax and enjoy every moment.
5. Plan for the future.
Thinking and talking about the future will help remind you both that this separation is temporary. Plan what you’ll do, where you’ll live, things you’ll enjoy. Make it clear to your partner that you’re in this for the long haul, and this is a temporary diversion on the way to your beautiful future together.
Living apart from your partner isn’t easy. There are countless opportunities for fights, jealousy, and misunderstandings. But many couples make this work, and it can even make you stronger in the long term.