1. Swap emergency contact details ASAP
When my long distance boyfriend got seriously ill, we realised we didn’t know who we’d contact if something happened to one of us – so we shared our parents’ email addresses and phone numbers!
Don’t wait until there’s an emergency, do it as soon as you can.
2. Practice gratitude
3. You might run out of things to talk about - it doesn't mean your LDR is doomed
4. Switch up your communication styles to avoid getting stuck in a rut
5. Take the statistics you read online with a pinch of salt
I plan to write a whole post about this at some point – I haven’t yet because there’s a lot to say!
There is good research out there, but many of the stats you read online about LDRs are not super reliable or necessarily applicable to most couples. So don’t take them extremely seriously, unless they can cite an original study with a large, representative sample and good methodology. In my eventual post on the subject, I hope to compare and critique some of the existing research. Watch this space 🙂
6. Some people will never "get" your LDR
Even those of us who are lucky enough to have a supportive network of family and friends find ourselves having to combat stereotypes and assumptions about LDRs that just aren’t true.
If your family disapprove of your LDR, try to meet them halfway, but also accept that some people will never come around 100% to your way of thinking. Live and let live!
7. Introduce your long distance partner to your family and friends
One common problem long distance couples face is not really feeling like a proper item. In many cases, this happens because the two partners haven’t been mindful of making each other truly a part of their life – including introducing one another to their friends and family.
Make sure you do this as soon as things get serious. If it means a few awkward Zoom calls, so be it!
8. Talk about money at an early stage of the relationship
Like any relationship you need to make sure you’re on the same page about your financial future. Have an honest conversation about money early on and you’ll avoid plenty of guesswork further down the line.
9. Long distance isn't for everyone
Obviously I’m a fan of LDRs – I was in several and the latest one turned into the best relationship of my life, which is still going strong!
But it’s not for everyone. If you find that you’ve tried everything but you just can’t deal with the added time pressure of a LDR, or with the lack of physical intimacy, it might be time to think seriously about whether you can thrive in this type of relationship.
10. Introverts and extroverts experience LDRs differently
If you’re an introvert in a long distance relationship, you’ll probably find that some of it suits you down to the ground and some of it is a little challenging.
For me and my partner, we were both introverted, so it worked quite well. If you’re dating an extrovert, you’ll probably need to take some time to learn about each other’s individual needs and how you can best support each other to fulfil them.
11. Don't get serious if you haven't met yet
I will never say that love can’t blossom from a distance. But you don’t truly know someone until you’ve met. With that in mind, I don’t recommend getting into something very serious (i.e. being exclusive, saying “I love you”, making long-term plans) until you’ve met at least once – preferably several times.
12. Don't argue or discuss serious things over text
With the exception of times when you really, really have no choice, texting is for short and sweet conversations, non-serious stuff and sharing pics. Text is just too easy to misinterpret, so keep the heavy stuff to in-person meetings or video calls.
13. Have healthy boundaries and nurture your other interests and relationships
It’s really easy to isolate yourself when you’re in a LDR, but if you do that you’ll only end up resenting your situation. As easy as it is to retreat into a world of your own where all you do is text, call and hang out with your partner, you need to know when to draw the line.
Halt the late-night text marathons at a sensible time (that is, one that lets you get enough sleep), keep pursuing your individual hobbies and don’t neglect your friends and family.
14. Work towards shared goals
Having shared goals – even fairly superficial ones – will strengthen your connection and help you find out so much about each other. Goals draw upon our willpower, problem-solving abilities and resourcefulness, so make sure you’re always working towards something.
15. Self care is really, really important
You know what I said above about getting enough sleep? It bears repeating. You really need to take screen breaks, regardless of the time of day.
Be mindful of self care and you’ll have the best chance of thriving in your LDR – and as an individual.
16. LDRs can be really romantic!
For all their challenges, LDRs have some many of the ingredients of classic love stories – the heartfelt letters, the long goodbyes and the sweet nothings :). You might be separated for a time, but believe me: that time will fly by! So lean into it and be thankful for the memories you’re creating in the meantime.
17. Your relationship will change when you close the distance
To be fair, everyone’s relationship changes when they move in with their partner, but this is especially true when long distance couples close the distance. You might be surprised by some of your feelings – like the first time you need space, for example. But you’ll feel more like a team than ever before.
18. LDRs are different depending on your age
Some things are easier when you’re young and some things are harder. If you’re a 20 year-old college student without kids, you enjoy some freedoms you don’t have when you’re older, but you also have financial restrictions and are unlikely to know everything you want from a relationship. There are quite a few benefits to being in a LDR when you’re 30+.
19. You can balance a career with a long distance relationship - if you prioritise properly
Career is one of the most common reasons couples decide to go long distance, and you might worry if either your LDR or your work life will suffer when one of them takes over. The truth is, you will need to compromise sometimes, but you can maintain both and thrive in both, with some careful planning.
20. LDRs can be expensive, so travel wisely
Unless you’re blessed with a bottomless wallet, you need to be aware of how much your LDR is costing you and budget wisely. Travel will probably be the biggest expense, so make sure you spend smart and know the strategies for saving money on flights or rail travel.
21. If you're too busy to talk to your partner, make a little extra effort to make them feel special
22. Long haul travel is exhausting, so be extra grateful whenever your partner visits
Nobody feels good after a 10 hour flight, so when your partner arrives cranky and sore at the airport, make it a good experience! Be a bit more patient than usual, bring snacks and the promise of a hot bath when they get back to your place.
23. Be safe and sensible
Hopefully we’re all aware of catfishing in 2021, but it bears repeating: it’s very easy for someone to pretend to be something they’re not when there are thousands of miles between you. Don’t send money or reveal personal details to anyone you meet online and be very careful when meeting for the first time – such as meeting in a public place and staying in a hotel rather than with them.
24. It takes extra effort to be honest in a LDR
When your relationship takes place mostly through video calls, letters and text messages, it’s really easy to be on your best behaviour all the time. This can be a good thing sometimes (most things really aren’t worth arguing about) but be careful not to end up compartmentalising your life to such an extent that you’re a totally different person when you’re around your partner. As tempting as it is to pretend you have no flaws, the illusion will come crashing down when you close the distance, so keep it real.
25. A time zone difference can actually be a good thing
You might think a major time zone difference would make a LDR all but impossible – but that’s not necessarily true. In fact, for certain types of people, having your hours out-of-sync with your partner can add structure and help you find a good routine together.
26. Keep a little mystery
Although it can be tempting to give your long distance partner a complete play-by-play of your day, week, life… you don’t need to share every tiny detail. In fact, things will be more exciting and intriguing if you don’t. Even married couples need privacy and their own space.
27. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with
Some people are totally comfortable sending NSFW texts to their partner. Some people aren’t. Some are totally happy for their partner to use their phone sometimes, some are not. Stick to your principles and don’t do anything you feel uncomfortable with (and never pressure your partner either).
28. LDRs often develop an imbalance - so be mindful to address it
The “distance” part of a LDR can be excellent for some aspects of your relationship and not so good for others, so be careful to address any imbalances. For example, your intellectual and spiritual connection can thrive naturally during your date night conversations – but your physical connection is likely to require a little extra attention to avoid it being neglected.
29. LDRs can be toxic too
There may be space between you, but unfortunately people can be jealous, controlling and even abusive in LDRs. For example, a big red flag is if your partner wants to know and control every detail of where you’re going, who you’re with and what you do with your time. Be aware of the potential signs of emotional abuse (Relate has a great guide here) and get help if you’re finding it difficult to get out.
30. Consistency matters
It took me a long time to realise that consistency is the key to maintaining most relationships and making a success of them. Whilst there are relationship milestones where you reach new phases of love, being consistent provides stability and reassurance. So don’t blow hot and cold!
31. Connect with people in the same situation
It really helps to get to know some other long distance couples – you’ll feel less like the “odd ones out” and it can even be fun to have double dates together! Plus, you can compare notes on how to survive the distance.
32. Write love letters and send care packages
33. Prepare for the unexpected
Not everything is going to work out exactly the way you planned every single time. Perhaps you end up needing to extend your period of separation by a few months – or move closer sooner than you’d anticipated. Perhaps a worldwide pandemic prevents you from visiting each other. Plan as much as you can, but make peace with uncertainty.
34. Keep surprising each other in little ways
Whilst it’s important to find your rhythm and have a steady routine with your long distance partner, add in some little surprises to keep things interesting. There’s no need to overthink it – it can be something as simple as sending a text at a time you don’t normally, or changing up your hairstyle for your next FaceTime date!
35. Have an end date in sight
36. Pay attention to the words you use
When you’re in a LDR, you can’t communicate in all of the subtle, non-verbal ways that are available to regular couples, so your words really matter. Be descriptive and be affectionate – they won’t know how you feel if you don’t tell them! And don’t be afraid of emoji, they give your texts energy and personality 🙂
37. Discuss exclusivity
For some people, this tip won’t make much sense – I mean, you’re in a relationship, of course you’re exclusive, right?
Depending on your culture or background, exclusivity may or may not be a given. There might also be advantages to having an open relationship, if that’s what you both want.
Talk about it as soon as things get serious and you’ll avoid any misunderstandings later on.
38. Respect each other's communication styles
Do you prefer to have text convos all in one go, or is it acceptable to you to wait some time to reply, whilst you’re doing other things? Do you prefer long emails or long phone calls? Chances are you and your partner will have some differences, so be mindful of this and don’t jump to conclusions if they don’t text back right away!
39. Have set date nights (and be creative!)
Having a day or two in the week that are always “date nights” (or days – I’m a fan of breakfast dates) takes the pressure off always having to organise things on the fly. Don’t be afraid to be a bit cheesy – dress up and have a dinner date, cook together or do an escape room.
40. Keep something to remind you of each other
It’s even better if this is something you can wear or cuddle, like a cushion or one of their sweaters…
41. Play games together
Your virtual dates don’t always have to be super romantic or deep conversations. Sometimes it’s fun just to do something playful without any consequences. My latest favourite to play with my partner is Super Mario 3D world, and this can be played online too – another favourite is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You can also just play games like Words With Friends, Chess, Never Have I Ever or Would You Rather. Anything goes, as long as you can play it online!
42. Agree how often you'll meet
Just like having set date nights, having a schedule for visits will help you keep on top of your calendars and will also help you to budget.
43. Remember that it's really easy to idealise a long distance partner
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also obscures all of the little things that make a relationship realistic. Leaving the top off the toothpaste? Boiling the pasta too long? Snoring? None of those things are going to be present, so it’s easy to idealise. Nothing wrong with a little bit of fantasy, but be prepared for things not to be absolutely perfect when you meet, and be realistic about what things will be like when you close the distance.
44. Be honest about what you need from them
It’s not unromantic to discuss what kind of support you need from each other – so stop waiting for them to read your mind and just tell them what you need 🙂
45. It's totally worth it for someone special
I’m going to be honest here: if things are just “alright” but you’re not sure if they’re the one, the relationship might be more trouble than it’s worth. But if this is the person you want to be with for the rest of your life, don’t let anything get in the way of it – even a long period of separation won’t last forever and you’ll have the rest of your lives together afterwards. Believe me, it’s worth it!
46. Avoid negative clickbait about LDRs
This is one strategy I discuss in my post about anxiety and LDRs. Honestly, there’s a lot of fearmongering about levels of relationship failure and levels of cheating for long distance couples – and much of it is biased, unreliable or just designed to get you to click (makes sense – research shows that people are more likely to click on negative headlines than positive ones).
47. If one of you struggles less with the distance, that doesn't mean one of you is less in love
It’s not easy being apart, but if one of you handles it better than the other it can sometimes lead to insecurity for the one who is struggling more. If you’re having an easier time of it than your partner, it doesn’t mean you’re any less invested in the relationship – just that you have different lives and different coping strategies. Reassure your partner that you miss them, you love them and that your situation won’t last forever.
48. Have a strategy for resolving conflict
Long distance fights are difficult to resolve, because you can’t “read” your partner’s mood the same as you could if you were in the room with them. Therefore, it’s especially important to have a strategy for discussing things you disagree about and resolving conflict quickly when you do argue.
49. See it as an opportunity for growth
LDRs can teach you so much about yourself and how you express love. They give you time and space to reflect and work on your own projects as well as building a deep and loving connection with another person. So see it as an opportunity as well as a challenge. Honestly – you’ll look back and be amazed how much you discovered during this time.
50. Make friends in both locations
Feeling like a stranger whenever you visit your partner isn’t fun. Instead, make their place a “home away from home” and make new friends together, both where they live and where you live.
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