How To Maintain a Successful Long-Distance Relationship

An image of a heart pushpin over the city of LA. A paper airplane is flying across the country to an unknown destination.

Making a Long-Distance Relationship Work

Society’s collective imagination tends to have very little optimism toward relationships that are separated by distance. After all, there’s a reason that so many long-distance relationships fall apart sooner or later. Long-distance relationships simply don’t have the ease of contact that close-proximity relationships benefit from.

This means that the people involved in a long-distance relationship have to work to maintain intimacy, but members of a proximal relationship can rely more on sharing space to help them maintain that bond. Additionally, because insecure attachment styles are common, long-distance relationships may require that both partners provide each other with more consistent reassurance to make up for the fact that they can’t spend time together physically. However, these unique challenges don’t mean that long-distance relationships are always doomed. With time, effort, and a willingness to adopt a strategic approach, it’s more than possible to strengthen and sustain a long-distance connection.

Approach Communication Intentionally

Discuss how often you would like to be in communication with each other. If you have different preferences, try to find a compromise so that no one feels like they have to completely sacrifice their desires. If either person’s life circumstances change significantly, don’t be afraid to reassess. Having different ideas about how much communication is desirable or realistic will strain your connection. Additionally, think about what kinds of communication feel good to you. Text? Video Chat? Email? Social media messages? Phone calls? Letters? Each of these methods has different benefits. Find the combination that works best for your relationship and watch your bond flourish.

Respond To Bids for Attention

In this context, “bids for attention” are all the different ways that people reach out and attempt to connect with each other. These can be obvious, like your partner saying they’ve had a bad day and asking you to call them. However, they can also be as subtle as your significant other sharing a funny video with you. Each time someone reaches out, hoping for any kind of response from the person they’re reaching toward, they’re making a bid for attention. While close-proximity relationships allow people to give physical responses to their partner, people in long-distance relationships must compensate using other methods. While it may be unrealistic to respond every single time your significant other reaches out for attention, make a point of noticing when they do so and make sure to at least touch base with them. This lets them know that they’re important to you, even though you can’t give them your full focus all the time.

Verbalize the Positive

Make a frequent, intentional effort to think about and share all the things, big or small, that you appreciate about your partner and about your relationship dynamic. Experiment with different ways of expressing your positive emotions. Text them first thing in the morning and let them know that you love waking up to the thought of them. Send them a letter (yes, in the actual mail!) with your most heartfelt thoughts about your relationship. Share a picture of a fond memory that you have with or about them, then express what you love most about it. If they’ve shown up for you during hard times, circle back to that and tell them that you really appreciate the fact that you can count on them. When both partners explicitly share their appreciation for each other, it helps them feel valued and secure in their connection.

Make Special Events a Priority

In a long-distance relationship, special events can be a good time to really celebrate your connection. Go all out when making festive plans for Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, favorite holidays, and other dates that are important to each of you. Special events are an opportunity to make powerful, lasting memories that will strengthen your bond. Remembering and commemorating significant events allows the two of you to anticipate and celebrate each occurrence as a couple.

Do Activities Together

Finding ways to share experiences with each other is a key part of keeping your long-distance relationship healthy. You can try playing games together on online platforms, or you can even try non-digital games like 20 Questions. You can also watch movies or tv shows at the same time while on the phone, enjoy a craft night together while video calling, read to each other, or cook a meal together while talking. Making memories and experiencing new things together will cement your bond and help you feel like you’re living a life together, even when you’re far apart.

Are You Willing To Make an Effort?

Long-distance relationships are hard work. The cultural narratives around them are generally pretty defeating. However, as anyone who has been separated from their loved ones knows, they’re sometimes the only option. Luckily, when they’re given attention and maintained properly by everyone involved, long-distance relationships can be successful, healthy, and fulfilling.

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