30 Ways to Have a Happy Long-Distance Relationship
Your foolproof plan for making it work.
Most people say they’d never consider a long-distance relationship (or, in abbreviation-speak, LDR). But that’s usually before they don’t have a choice. (Hey, life’s full of curveballs.) And while we can all agree that long-distance relationships aren’t ideal, they’re definitely not the end of the world—or even the death knell of your relationship. In fact, with the right mindset, the right expectations, and the right pieces of long-distance relationship advice, you can have an LDR that thrives and grows stronger over time. We tapped experts for their advice on the best long-distance relationship tips, what to talk about with your long-distance partner, and more ways to keep it interesting while you’re apart. So read on, and keep the spark alive!
Long-distance relationship advice from the pros:
1. Set clear personal boundaries.
One of the most important pieces of long distance relationship advice is to set boundaries. “First and foremost, you and your partner need to set some guidelines: what is acceptable, what isn’t,” says April Davis, relationship expert and Founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking. You don’t need us to tell you that boundaries related to fidelity are important, but it turns out that personal boundaries play a huge role in relationships from afar, as well. “Long distance relationships fail because of a lack of trust and invasion of space, even if it’s just virtual space.”
2. Pretend you’re single.
Yup, for real. Aside from actually having a physical relationship with someone else, experts say you can pretty much behave however you want—kind of like when you were single.
“Do what you want,” recommends Gabriella I. Farkas M.D., Ph.D., founder of Pearl Behavioral Health & Medicine. “Rejoice in your life and your accomplishments. Post pictures and statuses on social media about how you are and what you have been doing. Spend time with friends.” Basically, enjoy your life!
“The better you know and appreciate yourself, the better you can focus on knowing and appreciating your partner when you are together,” she says.
3. Never spend more than three months apart.
An important question everyone seeking long distance relationship advice asks is how long you can go without seeing your partner. “Ideally every three months is the minimum,” says Rami Fu, a dating coach and expert, although your timeframe can vary as long as you agree on it together. “This is so you don’t forget why you love that person in the first place, and get some sex. It will also allow you to see how they evolve as a person.”
4. Don’t talk every day.
You might think talking every single day when you’re in an LDR is a must. The truth is, experts say it’s really not necessary and might actually be harmful to your relationship. “You don’t need to be in constant communication,” Davis says. “Keep some of the mystery alive!”
If you go a few days without talking to your S.O., you’ll have a more interesting conversation to look forward to in a few days. Plus, keeping tabs on another person and providing them with constant updates can get exhausting.
5. Don’t rely on technology exclusively.
“In this age of electronic devices, you can connect more deeply with your partner by disconnecting,” notes Bonnie Winston, a celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. “Snail mail is underrated. Try sending a love note a spritz of your favorite cologne or perfume.” It’s one of the most touching pieces of long distance relationship advice.
6. Know what success means in you.
It’s hard to know whether things are going well in your long distance relationship if you don’t have a goal in mind. Do you want to make it through a short period of separation? Eventually get married? Stay married even though your jobs are taking you to different locations? Having an idea of what success means to you and whether or not you’re getting closer to it is key when you’re trying to evaluate whether things are “working” or not.
7. Flirt with other people.
In a way that doesn’t escalate, of course. “This may sound risky, but harmless flirtation, like giving your barista a lingering smile or offering a compliment to a stranger can be good for your relationship as long as you’re respectful of yourself, your partner, and the third party,” says Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “You don’t have to shut down your sensual side just because you’re separated by distance. In fact, some of the happiest couples use extra-relational flirting as kindling to fuel their own flirtation, seduction, and sexual spark within the relationship.”
8. Do things your partner doesn’t enjoy.
Maybe you love shopping, going to the gym, and seeing movies, and your partner doesn’t like any of those things. Why not take advantage of your time apart and do as many of those activities as you want? This is an excellent way to find a silver lining in your time away from each other, according to Dr. Farkas.
9. Tell people about the relationship.
If you’re wondering how to make long distance relationships work, you’ll have to come clean about the fact that you’re in one. “Most long distance relationships don’t seem as ‘real’ as in-person ones,” says David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert. “Part of this is that there is still some stigma associated with them. To make it more normal, make sure everyone that matters to you locally (friends, family, and people who want to date you) knows that you’re in a long-distance relationship.”
To be clear, you don’t have to talk about your S.O. all the time, but keeping them a secret or treating them as an afterthought is a quick way to ruin your relationship’s chances of succeeding, Bennett says.
10. Make sure you’re not being catfished.
This mainly pertains to those who start their relationship from afar, but with online dating being more popular than ever, it’s important to mention. “There are some amazing long distance relationships, however, there are many people who pretend to be someone they are not,” says Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT, author of The Art of Relationships: 7 Components Every Relationship Should Have to Thrive. “Before getting or staying in a long distance relationship, make sure the person is exactly who they said they are.”
11. Be sure you’re dating “The One.”
Real talk: “The only real reason to engage in a long distance relationship is because you believe they are ‘the one,’ ” says Kevin Darné, relationship expert and author. It’s true. “If you’re just dating for fun, you might as well do that locally.”
12. See fighting as a good sign.
This piece of long distance relationship advice will serve you well in any type of relationship. All relationships experience ups and downs, but a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that couples who use constructive strategies for resolving disagreements, like listening to each other’s point of view and trying to make their partner laugh were less likely to break up over arguments. So instead of skipping out on a conversation that would allow you to get some grievances off your chest, use it as an opportunity to work through things as a team.
13. Don’t give them the play-by-play.
Why? Well, it’s boring. “You don’t need to share every detail of your day in order to stay connected,” O’Reilly explains. “If you’re only going to talk about your agenda (what you did today and what you’re doing tomorrow), you may be better off skipping the phone call altogether. Sometimes updates are necessary and relevant, but if your conversations are reduced to agenda-setting, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel passion—regardless of whether you’re apart of together. Instead of sharing daily updates, talk about your greatest fears, celebrations and dreams. Talk about all the things you want to do (G-rated and racy) once you get together.”
14. Remember that your partner isn’t perfect.
“Some partners tend to idealize their relationship, and remember it as better than it actually is,” says eHarmony research scientist Jonny Beber. “Research has shown that couples with more idealization in their relationship are more likely to break up due to an unstable relationship.” When you remember just the good things about your S.O., you might be disappointed when you get the chance to see each other again. Instead of building them up in your head to be a perfect partner, try to keep things in perspective.
15. Don’t underestimate thoughtful surprises.
“Surprises are always welcome in any relationship, but long-distance ones may benefit more because the lack of day-to-day physical interaction,” says Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified. “Surprises can be anything from surprise visits to sending small gifts just for the heck of it. Long distance relationships suffer when one or both parties think they are being forgotten or ignored. Special treats say more than just a phone call or text because of the special attention and time you spent in coordinating it.”
16. Consider an open relationship.
True, they’re not for everyone, but if you’re really struggling with being apart, an open relationship may ease the solitude that comes along with LDRs. “Loneliness can be challenging to overcome,” Farkas says. “If you and your partner are both comfortable with and agree to it, you each can explore seeing other people in your area while still being a couple. You’d be surprised how many people are open to dating an already-committed individual.”
17. Don’t get hung up on your “schedule.”
“There’s nothing more painful than watching someone call their partner because it is 7:00 p.m. and they talk every night at 7:00 p.m.,” says eHarmony CEO Grant Langston. “It’s so rote and forced.” If you want to make it through this, you’ve got to keep things interesting.
18. Know that a bad visit doesn’t mean you’re breaking up.
If you’re in a long-term LDR, it’s normal to have both great and not-so-great visits with your partner. Sometimes the pressure of seeing each other after such a long time can cause tension, even when you’re actually excited to get to catch up with your S.O. If you have a visit that doesn’t go as well as expected, don’t jump to conclusions about what it means for your relationship.
19. Send sexts that require deciphering.
Let’s be real: In 2019, sexting is a required part of being in a long distance relationship. But relying on obvious tactics all but ensures things will get boring pretty quickly. “Instead of sending clear pics of your hottest body parts, send close-ups that require your partner to change angles and shift perspectives in order to make out the full image,” O’Reilly suggests. “Being playful and keeping your partner guessing are both key to passion in a relationship.”
20. Have a personal project.
If you were in a close-distance relationship and now you’re in a long-distance one, you’re going to find yourself with a lot more time on your hands. This is also true if you were previously dating around and are now pursuing just one person who lives far away. Whether it’s training for a marathon, brewing your own beer, or joining a bowling league, it’s a helpful distraction to have something you care about to invest your newfound free time in.
21. Understand that LDRs are actually pretty normal.
Research shows that 75 percent of all engaged couples have been in a long distance relationship at some point. When put in perspective, being in an LDR feels like a lot less of a big deal.
22. Have a sex strategy.
It might be awkward to talk about, but you’ve got to have one. “Sexual dissatisfaction is one of the main reasons people cheat in long-distance relationships,” Fu says. “The best way to work around it is to come to a sexual agreement. For some couples, it’s regular phone and video sex. For others, it’s an open relationship of some kind. There’s no best one, but you do need one.”
23. Forget about your relationship once in awhile.
“You probably have a lot going on besides your relationship, so focus on that,” Farkas says. “Take days where you avoid anything that reminds you strongly of them. Doing this a couple days a week can loosen some of the deep attachment such that you miss them less without loving them less.”
24. Keep calls short and sweet.
“Make sure that phone calls, texts, Skype or Facetime are engaging,” Lavelle recommends. “Skyping with your partner and being distracted by other things will have a much greater negative impact than doing the same while sitting next to each other. Make sure you engage.”
25. Reassure your partner—within reason.
“One of the biggest challenges of long-distance relationships is the question of fidelity and commitment,” Bennett notes in his long-distance relationship tips. “It’s hard never being physically present with someone you’re in love with.”
While you do want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself first and foremost emotionally, it’s also a good idea to support your S.O. when you know they really need it. “Give them extra assurance when they’re doubting whether it can work.”
26. Recognize that change is inevitable.
Research also shows that the most common reason for long-distance relationships not working out is that couples don’t usually plan for unexpected changes in the relationship. The amount of time you’re apart, your relative locations, and the circumstances of your separation might change over time. Be ready for this, and be willing to talk about it instead of shutting down when faced with an unexpected bump in the road.
27. Try having a digital date.
“Even if your significant other is 6,000 miles away you can still date,” Winston says. Instead of just having your typical phone call or video chat conversation, try having a proper date night. “Pour yourself a glass of wine and have dinner together. Even if it’s virtual, it can be a lovely experience. I advise my clients in long distance relationships to plan to do this to increase bonding and to feel connected.”
28. Don’t stress about the miles.
If you and your partner are within hours of each other, it’s not that hard to see each other regularly. But here’s a little glimmer of hope for those who are in bi-coastal or international relationships. A study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that couples with a further physical distance between them were more likely to have better outcomes. Even though it might get tough, it’s worth hanging in there!
29. Don’t make assumptions.
A lot of people think that all long distance situations are doomed to fail. This is definitely not true, but if you find yourself believing it, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Try to keep a positive mindset and remember that there are 14 to 15 million other people in America who are going through the same thing.
30. Place a time limit on the relationship.
Very few people are okay with being in an LDR forever. If you’re one of those people—great. If not, think about how long you’re willing to do the long distance thing. “Agree with your partner that if the relationship is worth staying in, you will close the distance by one partner moving or both moving to an agreeable location,” Jackson says. “Also, if the relationship does not grow by a certain time frame, feel free to end the relationship to avoid staying in something that is not suitable.” And for more on breakups, see these 15 Worst Reasons to Delay a Breakup.
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