One of the best things about love is having someone to come home to. When you’ve had the worst kind of day and all you want is collapse on the couch and vent to someone sympathetic, it’s enormously comforting to know that your honey will be there with a cup of tea (or, perhaps, a gin and tonic) and a listening ear.

Well, you’re in a long distance relationship, so you can’t make each other a cuppa and run a bath. You can’t even give them a hug when they’re down. So what can you do?

Here are 7 ways to be there for your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend when they’ve had a truly terrible day.

1. Make time for them

If you can, clear your schedule for the evening so that you’re available to talk.

If you are unavoidably busy and can’t afford to cancel plans, let them know that you’ll be thinking of them in the meantime and that you’re looking forward to being able to talk properly later. Be as specific as you can about when you’ll be able to give them a call and then follow through – this helps to build trust and lets them know that they’re a priority.

2. Give them space if they need it

Alternatively, they may not want to discuss things immediately. If so, respect their decision and let them know that you’ll be there when they do want to talk.

3. Ask if they'd like to talk about it or to do something distracting

Sometimes, discussing what upsets you can be cathartic. Other times, you’d rather just forget all about it and do something light and fun.

Have a movie night, have a virtual date, or simply talk. You could also have an old-fashioned audio-only phone call – this can help if your S.O. is feeling self-conscious.

4. Let them vent if they want to (but don't let them take it out on you)

Sometimes it feels good to let off some steam. Absorb some of that, nod, be understanding, acknowledge their feelings. 

You can’t expect them to be upbeat and positive at a time like this – and indeed, it can be really annoying to hear comments like ‘look on the bright side’ or similar when you’re having a bad time. So try not to turn a negative into a positive. Instead, just listen. 

However, don’t let them redirect their frustration or negative feelings towards you. If there is something that bothers one or both of you about the relationship in general, address this at a time when you’re both calm. 

5. Actively listen and ask questions

Active listening is skill that can benefit pretty much every aspect of your life, so it’s worth taking some time to practice and learn.

Whenever you’re having a conversation, try doing these things:

  • Be aware of your body language and gestures – even if you’re just talking on the phone
  • Ask questions about things they have said
  • Don’t interrupt, but encourage them to continue with small verbalisations, like ‘yeah’ and ‘mmhmm’
  • Try to avoid assuming things and ask them to explain something if you’re not sure what they mean

Most of all, be aware of that feeling you get when someone is talking and you’re just bursting to speak yourself – it will come across even if you don’t realise it. Take a breath and bring your attention back to them. 

6. Follow up with something sweet

Next day, send them a morning text and ask how they’re doing. Perhaps pick up their coffee tab as well (you can use an app for this). 

7. Don't feel like you need to have all the answers

Often, we don’t want someone to solve a problem for us – we just want them to hear it and to share some of the frustration, disappointment etc.

Unless they directly ask you for advice, try to avoid proposing solutions at this point. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t give advice at a later time, but it probably isn’t going to be helpful when they’re in the middle of all these intense emotions. So hold off for now and just focus on being there for them.

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