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Relationship Science

How Can I Maintain a Long-Distance Relationship?

You may be out of my sight, but you’re all I see
Ahmad Shawqi (‘Prince of Poets’)

I exist in two places. Here, and where you are
Margaret Atwood (Poet and Novelist)

In true love, the smallest distance is too great and the greatest distance can be bridged
Hans Nouwens (Enterprise architect) 

     We have all heard the saying “Absence (distance) makes the heart grow fonder”, originating from Roman poet Sextus Aurelius Propertius. Many people agree with this as they feel that not spending every waking moment together makes the relationship stronger. This is because they have more to talk about and will be more interested in what their partner is doing. If you are not constantly immersed in your partner’s life it means that you have more to share with each other when you speak or meet. People find themselves in long-distance relationships for a variety of reasons such as online relationships, meeting on holiday or meeting while at university, and going back to their respective hometowns.

Long-distance relationships are not as easy as people might think. Some have the view that long-distance relationships are great as you have the emotional connection you desire, the physical connection when you see each other but you don’t have to spend all of your time together. Long-distance relationships can be notoriously difficult to maintain. Before discussing how to maintain a long-distance relationship we will first investigate what makes them so difficult in the first place. 

  • When a long-distance relationship is treated like a regular one. If you and your partner are in a long-distance relationship but have the expectation that it will work like a regular one you will find the relationship will not work. This creates some confusion which in turn will cause negativity. 
  • Physical intimacy.  It could be argued that a romantic relationship without physical intimacy is just a stronger friendship. We all enter into a relationship with the hope of being close to someone. We want to be able to hold them, kiss and be near them. Over time couples enter into a more intimate relationship, physically. If you are part of a long-distance relationship you will miss the physical aspect of being in a relationship. The biggest, physical, part of being in a romantic relationship is just being near to your partner. Yes, kisses, hugs, and sex are important but just being close to your partner is something we all love. Long-distance relationships mean this does not happen often at all. This makes long-distance relationships very hard because each partner will desire to be close to someone and have some sort of physical intimacy. This can either lead people to cheat or the relationship to come to an end. 
  • Excessive communication. In a regular relationship, communication is not much of an issue or thought about much by couples. This is because each partner can go about their day and just catch up at the end of the day. In a long-distance relationship, couples tend to compensate for the lack of physical contact and closeness by talking on the phone and texting excessively. No matter how often you call or how much you text your partner it cannot replace the feeling of being close to each other. This can cause the texts and phone calls to become continuous and almost nonstop. This means you do not allow each other personal space which can become suffocating. For a long-distance relationship, this suffocating behavior can begin to cause big issues for a long-distance relationship.
  • Unresolved issues. In a regular relationship, you can, more often than not, resolve any issues quickly as you are able to discuss them easily. Long-distance relationships can cause much doubt and concern and this is made worse when there are issues involved. Due to the distance involved, you may be unable to address the issues early. Any unexpressed feelings or unresolved issues will lead to an extremely unhealthy relationship. You and your partner may then grow apart, not just in terms of physical distance.
  • Putting pressure on your face-to-face time. When you are in a long-distance relationship you live for the time you get to spend together. However, people in long-distance relationships tend to put more pressure on this time together. Expectations go through the roof that this together will be full of amazing, exciting activities and that your time will be full of fun, laughter, and passion. This causes problems as it will create anxiety about making sure everything is perfect. The best thing you can do is act in the way you would if you were always together. If you set high expectations that are unrealistic it could leave you both feeling exhausted and possibly begin to resent your time together. 
  • You may miss the little things. When you spend lots of time together in a regular relationship you pick up on the little things about your partner. You know the sort of shampoo they use, their favorite sweets, or if there is a film or book that they are really interested in at the moment. Some of these things are not noticeable during a long-distance relationship as it may not be the sort of thing you talk about. This makes this sort of relationship difficult as you may miss bits of information. However, if you do know your partner well enough or you pick up on things they say you can use this information to strengthen your long-distance relationship. For example, if they are having a bad week and they’ve mentioned a favorite snack etc you could send a little package to show you are thinking of them.
  • There are always people who judge. Unfortunately, when you are in a long-distance relationship the people around you will, more than likely, judge your decision and will probably remind you of the fact that a long-distance relationship is hard. We know you understand how difficult it is already so the last thing you need is someone else reminding you of this. People reminding you of how difficult the distance must be will make your relationship that much harder as you will be constantly thinking of the negative aspects of your relationship rather than the positive. It is to remember that healthy, happy relationships are not a one size fits all affair, every relationship is different. Do not allow those around you to dictate how you feel or make you doubt your life choices. Obviously, it is good to listen to advice, especially when times are really hard, but choose wisely who to take that advice from. 
  • Flexibility may be difficult to achieve. When you and your partner are living together your routines tend to merge into one that works for you. Whether one of you goes to bed early and the other is a night owl or one of you is overly clean and tidy while the other is…..not so much you find a way that works. When you are in a long-distance relationship it is often the case that your routines will clash. Any spare time either of you have is usually set aside for communicating with the other. However, if one or both of you are not flexible then this can cause problems. If you go to bed early every night but your partner stays up this can limit the time you have to communicate. If one of you is not flexible then a long-distance relationship is almost impossible. It also means that you find getting to know each other's habits and ways of living harder to achieve as you are not there to witness everything.
  • Long-distance relationships are not for everyone. Long-distance relationships are based on mutual respect, dedication to making time, having an end goal in sight, and having the same, or at least very similar, expectations. The reason they can be so hard is when one person decides that they cannot have a relationship in this way anymore. They may care very deeply for their partner, maybe even love them, but the distance proves too much of a barrier. Many people need their partner close to them, to be able to hold them and kiss them. Long distance relationships become harder when one person enters into the relationship thinking they can cope when in reality it is not for them.
  • Communication often needs to be over the top. As you will read in many articles related to romance, relationships, or love, communication is key to ensuring that you and your partner feel valued, appreciated, and loved. However, in a long-distance relationship communication is possibly even more important than in a regular relationship. This is because you miss the facial cues and body language that would normally give you small signals as to how your partner is feeling or what they may be thinking. You are not able to read your partner’s mind, and they cannot read yours, which means that you need to make even more effort to communicate your feelings and needs. This is not easy to do as you may feel you are going on and on about how you feel. Your partner may also become frustrated with being repeatedly told about what you need or how you feel. 
  • Assumptions are easy to make but hard to recover from. You know the feeling, you send a message to someone and they do not reply quickly… Why didn’t they answer? Are they with someone else? Are they ignoring me? Did I do something wrong? This is made worse when you consider that some messaging applications will let you know that the other person has read them. In a regular relationship this is still a problem but can easily be resolved as, at some point that day, you will see each other face-to-face and will get an explanation which, more often than not, will be completely innocent. However, when in a long-distance relationship this is not the case. It can lead to one partner making assumptions about what may or may not be happening. This is made worse when you have been told about friends they have that you have not yet met. Despite them telling you that their lack of communication was completely innocent, possibly due to work distractions, etc, you will always have a small voice in the back of your head making assumptions, maybe there with someone else, they were probably seeing someone else. While assumptions are natural, a long-distance relationship makes it very hard to squash them and they appear far more often. 

While there may seem to be many reasons that long-distance relationships are difficult you must remember that they are not impossible to maintain. Many people make long-distance relationships work and they eventually develop into something that more resembles a regular relationship. The question that is asked though is, how do you maintain a long-distance relationship? Here we will focus on this question so that you are not put off from ever entering into a relationship with some distance involved!

  • Do things together, even when you are apart. This may sound contradictory but bear with us. In this day and age, modern technology has made it possible to complete many different activities with someone who is in another room, another city, or another country. Many online streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBOGO (and many more) allow you and your partner to binge-watch together with features such as the Netflix Party. This syncs your and your partner's TV’s so you can watch together in real-time. Doing this while in a video call together will make it feel like you are actually together, watching and discussing the program/ film together. You can also challenge each other to online games. Facebook, and many other sites, have lots of different games whereby you can challenge each other. Another fun idea for you to do together is to start a book club together. You can pick a book together and set a timeline. You can then discuss them together and pick out elements you liked, didn’t like, etc. All of the aforementioned activities, and more, can be done during your time apart and make you both feel part of your partner’s life. These activities will keep the conversations fresh and interesting and make your time apart easier to cope with.

  • Find the time to connect. In a regular relationship you, generally, have a lot of time to connect and really have a conversation with your partner. In a long-distance relationship, this can be harder to achieve. Sure, it's lovely to call your partner on the phone out of the blue for a chat. However, this can often result in a very quick conversation due to work or other distractions. In order to maintain your relationship it is important to set aside a good chunk of time to reconnect and spend some quality time together. It is so easy to do now with applications such as Skype and Facetime as well as video call functions for apps such as Whatsapp. Not only will these give you the opportunity to have a much longer conversation, but you also get to see your partner’s face, facial expressions, and body language. With many of these applications, you can actually schedule future conversations which are automatically uploaded to your calendar. Not only does this provide you with the opportunity to see and hear your partner but it gives you something to look forward to. 

  • Respecting the reason(s) for your distance. There could be a million reasons why you and your partner are apart, whether work, money, family, or that you met online. It is important that you both respect the reason(s) that you are a part of because, more often than not, they are completely out of our control. You do not want to rush your partner into moving closer to you or feel that you should move closer to them when you don’t quite feel ready. You choose this together and so you should enjoy and embrace what you have, make the connection stronger over time, and know that if the relationship endures the distance then that distance will eventually go, and there will be an end that results in you both being together. 

  • Find the right level of communication. While communication is definitely important when it comes to maintaining a long-distance relationship you must ensure that you set boundaries that establish the appropriate amount of communication. If you like to send and receive lots of messages a day then make this clear, if you don’t then say. You and your partner will not want to feel swamped or neglected when it comes to the amount of communication you partake in. You need to compromise so that you both feel comfortable and supported. It is also important to recognize that the desired level of communication can change weekly, monthly, etc. This could be due to differing schedules, work commitments, etc. Be honest and open about your communication needs and let your partner know if you will be more or less distant at any point. If you are going to change your level of communication for any reason make sure to explain this to your partner and reassure them of the reasons.

  • Try a little old school. Technology is an amazing tool and it really helps to make long-distance relationships much easier with instant messaging that can be done on numerous different devices. However, while this technology is a wonderful tool we can become over-reliant on it. Responding with a quick smiley face or three-word answer is not always the best way. You could, and should, use the forgotten art of writing a letter. They are far more romantic than a text and can capture deeper, more romantic feelings. They act as a way to keep your communication drawn out rather than always happening in an instant. It could also be said that the anticipation of writing or receiving a letter is just as romantic and exciting as actually reading a letter from your partner. We are not saying that this should be your number one form of communication, you should use this in combination with other forms of communication. Another bonus is that with a written letter you can add sketches, art, and photos…adding a more personal touch than a text message!

  • Setting boundaries. In any relationship, it is vitally important that you set mutually agreed boundaries. This is even more important when embarking on a long-distance relationship. Once you have decided on the right amount of communication you need to consider when the good times to communicate are. You may want to talk straight after work while they are too exhausted or have other plans. While you are a couple you still need to respect that they have a life away from you as well. Setting boundaries such as Friday nights being your social time with friends or not to call each other during work hours is crucial in allowing both of you to have lives outside of the relationship. Setting these boundaries helps you maintain your long-distance relationship because it will ensure that you are both on the same page and can be respectful of each other. While these conversations can be difficult they are worthwhile and will become easier over time. These boundaries will also help you establish trust. 

  • Your personal life is important. Just like a regular relationship, your independence is very important. It is important that you do not dedicate all of your time to waiting on the phone. You need to maintain your independence in order to maintain your identity outside of your relationship. Enjoying time with friends or partaking in a new hobby will also give you and your partner something else to talk about when you do communicate. It will also provide you with opportunities to distract yourself from the distance. If you dedicate all of your time to your phone, waiting, and/ or talking to your partner you could grow to resent them as you will see them as the reason that you do not socialize with anyone. In order to maintain your long-distance relationship you should also encourage your partner to be independent so that you are both in the same place. 

  • Make sure to actually meet up. While modern technology has made it so much easier to maintain a long-distance relationship as you can communicate anywhere and at any time. However, you must make sure to actually meet up in person so that you can maintain your physical and intimate connection. If the distance is very long, meeting up in person can be costly and take up a lot of time. Despite this, you still need to schedule some time together. It is important to schedule your time in person well in advance as it gives you both something to look forward to. Visit your partner's favorite places, meet their friends, and see their commute so that you can have an insight into their everyday life. It is also important to make sure that the traveling is not one-sided. You could take it in turns visiting each other so that one person does not soak up all the cost or do all the leg work.

  • The future is an important topic. Distance makes the idea of the future seem difficult but it is even more important to talk about than in a normal relationship. You need to make sure that you are both on the same page about where you see the relationship going, after…you will both want the distance to go at some point! You will eventually want to live with or near your partner. Obviously, you cannot put an exact date as to when the distance will no longer be a problem but you should discuss where you see the relationship going. You can begin discussing where you see yourselves living, who will need to apply for jobs when the time comes etc. This conversation is important as it will show you are both in agreement and working towards the same end goal. It will also mean that you do not have the possibility of the distance lasting forever floating around in the back of your mind. 

At the end of the day maintaining a long-distance relationship is difficult but not impossible as long as you respect each other and make sure you are on the same page at all times. If there is a problem make sure to discuss them, openly and honestly. The most important part of maintaining a long-distance relationship is ensuring that you can both see an end goal i.e. you both end up physically together with no more distance. Just remember, only enter into a long-distance relationship if you fully understand how difficult it can be to maintain and if you are both willing to put in the time and effort to make it work. 


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