Nothing puts a relationship to the test like deciding to go long distance. Suddenly, seeing each other and staying connected is a much greater investment of time, money and effort than it used to be.

As a twentysomething student in a previous LDR where we talked every day and Skyped every night, I assumed that was all it took. Looking back, I’ve realised that this is only one side of what communication is all about. We’d never spoken about our goals in any serious way, nor discussed what support we needed from each other whilst living far apart – two subjects that all serious couples need to reach an understanding on. It was only in my later LDR that I finally got it right.

Before taking the plunge, you need to make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Here are five crucial conversations you should have before going long-distance.

1. How long will we be apart for?

Once things are serious with your long-distance partner (regardless of whether you started that way or went long-distance later on), it makes sense to have a rough timeline for reuniting.

When this can be will depend on why you’re long-distance in the first place and will be informed by those commitments – such as your job, family relationships, your education and your finances. But having a general date to aim for will keep you focused.

2. Are we exclusive?

Depending on where you come from, this might seem like a strange question, or it might not.

Generally, in the UK, if you’re “going out” with someone it’s normally assumed that you’re exclusive, even if you’ve never discussed it. In some other places, like the USA, exclusivity in dating is usually a conversation and an important milestone, rather than a given.

It’s important to discuss this, especially for long-distance couples, and especially because exclusivity means different things to different people. For instance, some couples may decide that watching porn is cheating. For others, it’s no big deal.

Be honest with each other now and you’ll avoid problems later down the line.

3. What support do we need from each other?

Before going long-distance, think about how you can be there for them and how you’d like them to be there for you.

What method of keeping in touch would be most meaningful ways to you? When you’re together, do you prefer to keep that time just for the two of you, or is it important to spend part of it with each others’ friends and family?

Everyone is different. Perhaps it’s vital to your partner that the two of you communicate every day, but it isn’t so important to you. If you know this about them, you can make sure to prioritise it, since you know it means a lot to them. If you really don’t like phone calls but love video chats, they can also be mindful of this for you.

4. How often will we meet and how will we handle travel?

This is especially important if you’re going to be living in different states or countries, where a flight may be your only option for travel. Before you live apart, look up how long it would take you to get there, how much it would cost and how often you can realistically make the journey.

One of you shouldn’t be doing all the travelling, unless there’s a practical reason for it (for example, perhaps one of you can work remotely but the other can’t). If you can, alternate trips.

Regardless of who travels more, you should share expenses in a way that makes sense for your particular situation. If your partner earns far less than you and is going to struggle to afford the travel, you’ll need to be okay with taking on more of the travel budget if you want them to visit you. If your finances are more equally matched, it makes more sense to go 50/50.

5. Are there any deal-breakers?

Depending on what’s important to you and your partner, deal-breakers might include things like one of you moving even further away, or your time apart being extended for much longer than you’d been prepared for.

Establish this now and you won’t have to play it by ear.

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