The Secrets to a Successful Long Distance Relationship

 Read all about how to ensure a successful and lasting long distance relationship. It's not as easy as it sounds! Find out more at stayathomestraggler.com
 
This week, Mr. Straggler and I find ourselves (again) strewn across two separate continents with hundreds of miles between us. It’s only a week, it’s not forever, yet I can’t help but remember those long, and somewhat painful years we spent finding new ways to make our long-distance relationship feel more intimate and exciting.
 
This week we were back in action. I suppose we are so used to being apart that we instinctively knew how it was going to go. It didn’t have to be said that we’d Skype each other every night, and we both knew that we’d be messaging often, especially in the case that we discovered a new coffee shop or a particularly spectacular lunch spot. I have to admit, this week just felt…strangely natural.
  
But what if you’re new to the long-distance dating game? How do you maintain a sense of intimacy when you’re so far apart? And what about trust? How on earth are you supposed to trust someone that you can’t even see? I hear you. I’ve been there. But never fear, your long distance relationship is not necessarily doomed to fail. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard either.
  
I’m not a relationship expert, or an expert on long-distance dating, but I have survived almost five years of intermittent long-distance loving, and came out in the end happily married. If you consider this a successful outcome, I definitely have a few tips to share on how to get through it!
 
Incidentally, I also have a disproportionate number of friends who have also made the distance. I called on their collective wisdom to make this post as informative and ‘real’ as possible. So here it is, a collaborative guide to surviving long distance relationships!

 

The secrets to a successful long distance relationship

 
I want to kick off with this disclaimer: There is no guarantee that following this guide, or any other guide for that matter, will ensure your long distance relationship lasts the distance. It might, but it might not. It all depends on the state of your relationship in the first place. Most of all it depends on whether or not you are both willing to invest in each other, despite the distance.

 

So, how do you know the relationship is worth it?

Here are a few things you might like to consider, even before you go your separate ways.

  • Do you both want this relationship? Is it something you are ready and willing to work for? If not before, this needs to be decided soon after you are apart acknowledging the fact that it will be a rollercoaster ride of emotions, as well as difficult and frustrating at times (i.e. not unlike any other relationship!). I think it also goes without saying, you both have to be in it to win it.
  • Spend some time together before you part ways. A few months, weeks, whatever you can spare. My husband and I lived together for 3 months before our first long-term stint apart, and we often reflect on how invaluable this time together was. It helped us establish whether or not we were actually compatible as a couple, and make sure we wouldn’t drive each other crazy. It also gave us time to learn about each others quirks and intricacies, as well as make some happy memories together. It was these little things that helped close the distance between us when times got tough.
  • Are you on the same page when it comes to family, having kids, career, settling down etc.? Despite the distance, it is comforting to share a common vision and life rhythm with your partner.
  • How long do you see yourself playing the long-distance game? It can be a good idea to set an absolute end date, or at least have a backup plan. That way, both of you know what you’re in for and there aren’t any hidden expectations or surprises further down the track. 
Once you’ve established that it was meant to be and you’re both committed to making it work, consider how you will make sure your partner knows you are investing in them and taking the relationship seriously.
 
Again, how you do this depends on your specific situation, but there are definitely some tried and tested ways that really work.

 

  • Communicate, communicate and communicate some more 

Good communication is absolutely key to any lasting relationship, but it’s all the more crucial for those of the long-distance variety. During our stints apart, my husband and I would make sure to maintain contact once a day, at the very least, and as much as possible at the most. There really is no limit when it comes to communication! If in doubt, go ahead and shoot off that text message, or make that phone call. Even if they’re busy and can’t reply straight away, it’s never a bad idea to let your partner know that you’re thinking of them.
 
There are so many ways to keep in touch these days, that there really is no excuse. Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook etc. Video calls are obviously the best way to keep it more personal, and sending the odd photo or selfie never hurts either. Far from being a nice gesture that says ‘I wish you were here’ good communication is all about creating shared experiences that help to close the gap between you. Even short, seemingly pointless messages or random thoughts about your day can be re-visited in a later conversation or spark a discussion later on.
 
Speaking of which, a good partnership will never run out of things to talk about! The more often you communicate the more you will have to talk about. Consider it fuel to keep the fire burning. On the flip side, it’s not enough to just share little tid-bits from your day and leave it at that. The quality of the communication also makes a big difference. It’s important that the conversation goes both ways, that you are showing interest in each others views, plans and even discussing important issues that can be solved together.
 
On a side note, you don’t have to share absolutely everything with your partner. There are some things that are just better left unsaid, or at least un-emphasised. For example, if you’re out at a party and having the time of your life while you know your partner is spending a lonely night at home, you might want to keep the details of the party to yourself. Having said that, everyone is different and the more you communicate with your partner, the better you will be able to gauge their response and communication needs.

 

  • Learn each other’s schedules

We’ve already established that nothing is too mundane to be communicated with your partner, and the same goes for your daily schedule. It’s not about being controlling, it’s about knowing why they might not have replied to your message or picked up your call. It’s easier, on both of you, to know in advance that they’re busy at work, or have gone to the gym, rather than questioning where they’ve been afterwards.
 
A friend of mine puts it most eloquently ‘Tell each other what you’re going to do, not just what you have done, because even though it seems unimportant to mention that you’re not going to be home for dinner because you’ve decided to go out for drinks with workmates, it will ensure that your partner knows that you’re not intentionally ignoring their calls or texts – you’ve just gotten carried away at the pub’

 

  • A little bit of trust goes a long way

There is no better feeling than being able to trust your partner, no matter what. And there is nothing worse than losing that trust, especially when you have hundreds of miles between you.
 
Good communication, and investing the time to get to know each other in every way possible can go a long way towards establishing a solid, trusting relationship, but the best approach is to simply trust that your partner will do right by you.
 
Mistrust and suspicion is very easy to sense, even over Skype, and can very quickly unravel a relationship. You don’t want to be the one sneaking around or questioning your partner’s every move. It gets really tiring, for both of you. Instead, show your partner the trust they deserve and expect to receive the same level of trust in return. The rest is easy.

 

  • Maintain regular contact

And by that I mean, regular physical contact. Being in the same place at the same time. How regularly? I hear you ask. The magic number for me was at least every six to eight weeks. But it’s different for everyone, and in this case I would have to say, more is better!
 
It can be helpful to determine from the very beginning exactly how much time you are both willing to spend apart, then make the commitment to catch up within that time frame. And although you don’t want to be spending your precious few moments together planning your next holiday, pretty much everyone I spoke to recommends having the next trip booked, or at the very least to have chosen the destination before you part ways again. This gives you both something to look forward to during your stint apart.

 

  • Make a shared experience

This is the fun part of being in a long-distance relationship. There is no better way to close the gap than to create a shared experience. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, every little thing counts, for example:
  • Pick a movie to watch together, and hit play at the same time.
  • Have dinner or lunch together, over Skype or share photos of what you’re eating.
  • Go for a run together and keep tabs with an app like mapmyrun
  • Stop Drop Selfie. This was suggested by a friend of mine and I love the idea! It’s basically a pinky promise that some kind of selfie must be provided immediately upon request.

My husband and I used to always share our thoughts and travel plans on Google Docs (and we still do!). You can also check out apps like ‘Couple’ which are a bit like your own personal Watsapp channel, but it allows you to share lists, videos and other cute little fuzzies with each other whenever the urge arises.

  • Find creative ways to say ‘I love you’

It’s not always easy to express what you’re feeling when you’re so far apart, but you don’t have to wait for the next phone call or catch up. Nothing makes my heart burst more than finding little hidden messages around the house whenever my husband goes away. But that’s not the only way to do it. Think flower deliveries, surprise postcards, even a handwritten letter and some actual printed photos can do the trick. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to letting your partner know how much you miss them.
 
 

And some final words of wisdom…

 
‘while you’re apart, work hard at the part of your life that is the reason you are apart in the first place’.
 
 
I couldn’t agree more. And also remember that it’s not everyday you meet a beautiful soul, let alone one you have amazing chemistry with. Despite the distance between you, this is something special.
 
I can honestly say that my own long-distance experience taught both my husband and I how to communicate better, and subsequently strengthened our relationship more than ever. I doubt that would have happened had we lived together straight off the bat.
 
 
 
What about you? have you ever been in a long-distance relationship? Are you in one now? Share your experiences and tips for success in the comments below!
 
 
Also…stay tuned for Part 2 of surviving long-distance relationships: How to make the most of your regular catch up, because it really is the time you spend together that counts!
 
 

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