There’s a special kind of agony that comes from living apart from the person you love.
Way back in the beginning of our relationship we did the long distance thing for about 6 months.
And like most long-distance couples, we were forced to confront some painful fears and insecurities:
“Are long distance relationships worth it?”
“Can this really work? Or develop into something meaningful?”
We learned a lot from that time – and made a tonne of mistakes along the way. Yet here we are 8 years later, happily married and living together under the same roof.
So we’ve combined the best of what we’ve learned with the strategies and practical tips we’ve developed for our relationship coaching clients. This is more than just the theory behind how to maintain a long distance relationship. It’s a step-by-step action plan you can use in your relationship right now.
You’re going to learn:
- How to stay emotionally connected in a long distance relationship.
- The most common long distance relationship problems and struggles (and how to avoid them).
- How to survive a long distance relationship for a long period of time.
Think of this as the ultimate evidence-and-experience-based guide to having a healthy, happy, and successful long distance relationship.
But before we get to that, let’s tackle this important question first:
Do Long-Distance Relationships Work?
When approached correctly, long distance relationships can strengthen communication skills, deepen emotional connection, and help you find a healthy balance between closeness and independence. LDRs can set you up for long-term success by bringing up underlying issues that many in-person relationships neglect to deal with.
Think of it this way – time spent in a long distance relationship is kinda like human years vs. cat years:
6 months in a long distance relationship can feel like 2 years of deep, focused, relationship work.
Which doesn’t always come easy.
But by implementing these long distance relationship tips, we believe you can drastically improve the quality of your long distance relationship.
15 Best Tips & Advice on How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #1:
Have an End Date
You know how looking forward to the weekend helps you make it through a boring work day?
Well having a relationship rendezvous to focus on can help you overcome the distance.
Big picture-wise you’ll want to have a plan about how to be together permanently. But prioritising the temporary times is just as important too.
Maybe it’s a holiday you’re planning together, or an upcoming weekend visit. Maybe there’s a family event, or a mid-week work trip that means you’ll be in the same city.
These visits break up the monotony and isolation and give you something to look forward to.
But as the craziness of 2020 has shown, sometimes these shorter-term goals aren’t possible. So if you’re not sure when you’ll have a chance to see each other again…
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #2:
Find The Certainty Within The Uncertainty
Sometimes it’s just not possible to sketch out a timeline. Sometimes the complexities of work, study, travel, or family get in the way.
And not knowing how or when you can be together is when things start to feel bleak and hopeless.
But not having a crystal clear plan for the future doesn’t mean your LDR is without certainty. Because here’s the thing:
Every time you show up for each other – on a video call or sending a message – you’re choosing each other. You’re making a big, bold, beautiful statement that says, “I’m still here… And I’m still choosing this.”
And that’s an incredibly valuable form of certainty and commitment.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #3:
Get Comfortable With Silence
There’s plenty of times in an in-person relationship when you’re just hanging out and not saying much.
But sitting in silence on Facetime in a long distance relationship feels kinda… weird.
Even though silence is normal and natural, it’s one of those unique long distance relationship problems that makes people question the health of their relationship. And worry that there’s something wrong.
So instead of seeing silence as a problem, try embracing it.
When you first get on a video call, try intentionally sitting in silence for a moment:
- Don’t just look at, but really notice one another.
- Pay attention to your body – your breath, your emotions, and any sensations you’re feeling.
- Also notice how you’re impacted by each other’s presence.
This might feel awkward at first. But you’ll be surprised by what it can open up between you.
Starting a video date with this online variation of ‘eye-gazing’ can help you feel more centred and relaxed. It also gives you an opportunity to appreciate each other and connect without words.
There’s a positive hormonal boost in this practice too:
Studies* on the neuroscience of eye-gazing show an increase in oxytocin (aka the love and bonding hormone) – increasing feelings of closeness and negating some of the negative psychological effects of long distance relationships.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #4:
Improve the Quality of Your Conversations
How do you stay emotionally connected in a long distance relationship?
Obviously communication is key. But communicating is more than ‘just talking’. It’s how and what you communicate that matters.
One of the simplest ways to improve the quality of your conversations is to improve the quality of your questions.
Instead of the usual, “How was your day?” conversation rut, try going deeper:
“What was the best thing that happened today?… And why?” leads to a much more fulfilling conversation.
You can also try more broad yet revealing questions such as, “What’s something that’s been on your mind a lot lately?”
Focus on questions that develop your understanding of each other: from current passions or struggles, their childhood, favourite movies or books, or these 36 questions in love. All of which help you update your Love Maps and deepen your emotional connection.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #5:
Make Video Calls Optional
A common mistake many long distance couples make is talking Every. Single. Day.
Now, staying connected on the daily is a beautiful sentiment. But it can also create a tonne of pressure and expectation.
Especially because there’s going to be times when you’re just not up for it.
Communication frequency in a long distance relationship is more art than science:
It depends on your individual lifestyles, communication styles, personalities… And yeah – your time zones.
To help take the pressure off, have a judgement-and-guilt-free ‘opt-out’ policy. It’s OK to decrease the regularity of your calls if it means increasing the quality.
Trust that you can give each other a bit of space, and savour the bitter-sweetness of actually missing each other.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #6:
Live Up The Single Life
No, we’re not talking about playing the field. (Gotta respect whatever relationship agreements you have).
But you know all the other cool stuff that comes with being single?
- Hanging out with friends and family
- Prioritizing your passions and hobbies
- Sleeping diagonally across the bed and giving zero fucks
You get to have all that AND an awesome relationship too.
The truth is, many people struggle with maintaining a sense of self and feeling freedom in a relationship. Which inevitably leads to serious problems down the track.
But a long distance relationship gives you an opportunity to excel at this from the beginning:
See time spent apart as an opportunity to become your best selves. So that when you’re finally together you’re coming together as two amazing, whole and fulfilled individuals.
Discovering and being yourselves pays dividends not just for you, but your relationship in the long term.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #7:
Slay The Paranoia Monster
We get it. Living the single life away from each other can bring all those anxieties and unhealthy attachment styles* to the surface.
Increases in jealousy and insecurity are common emotional and psychological effects of long distance relationships. But there are ways to prevent these feels from ruling your life.
One super-helpful commitment to make is giving your partner the benefit of the doubt:
If they don’t text back or missed a call you had scheduled – don’t jump straight to “They must have found someone new and don’t even want to be with me anymore!”
Instead, go with the more reasonable (and much more likely) explanation:
They’ve fallen asleep on the couch… They’re catching up on some work and lost track of time… They’ve got their time zones mixed up and are still cooking dinner.
Stay cool, calm, collected, and actively work to keep that Paranoia Monster at bay. Otherwise you risk creating problems where there are none.
Noticing an increase in anxiety or worry?
Try writing down your concerns and rationally working through them. When you speak with your partner, let them know that you had a visit from the Paranoia Monster and talk it over. Take ownership of your fears and insecurities, rather than putting the blame on their actions.
Talking honestly about your thoughts and feelings will not only help keep the Monster at bay, it also helps build trust and emotional intimacy too.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #8:
Share The Small Moments
Speaking of emotional intimacy, it’s often the small things you miss the most when you’re away from your partner:
- Sharing a coffee on a Sunday morning
- Snuggling on the couch watching Netflix
- Making dinner together
These everyday moments are incredibly precious to long distance couples. They help you feel more included and emotionally close to one another.
So take a cheesey snap of you and your toothbrush. Text them to let them know you’re watching your favourite show and thinking of them. (Even better, set up your video call so you can sit and watch the same show together). Send them a playlist of your favourite Spotify jams.
Some of the best ways to maintain a long distance relationship are actually the simplest.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #9:
Mark Your Territory
Similar to sharing the little things, having physical reminders of each other in your space can really help too:
Whether it’s keeping one of their T-shirts in your closet, their favourite coffee mug on the kitchen bench, or photos scattered around the house, these little mementos will help them to feel close to your heart.
A simple, sweet thing to do is to send each other little surprise items in the mail:
One of your hair clips. A book you’ve just read. Your perfume or signature essential oil. The little items that you’d normally see laying around that remind you of each other.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #10:
Speak Each Other’s Love Language
Love Languages are important in every relationship. But for long distance couples they’re an essential survival skill.
Don’t know what we’re talking about?
The 5 Love Languages* are from fellow relationship nerd Gary Chapman. Essentially, we all express and receive love in different ways:
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Qulaity Time
- Physical Touch
Knowing each other’s Love Language helps you both feel loved and validated. And they help a LOT when long distance gets hard:
Partner having a rough day? If their Love Language is Gifts, get a bunch of flowers or their favourite bakery treat delivered to send an injection of love their way.
If their Love Language is Words of Affirmation, a heartfelt text or letter is the way to go.
When you’re far apart from each other, knowing how to speak each other’s language is like having their heart on speed dial.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #11:
Partner just shared something on Instagram?
We’re betting there’s one Like that’s worth more than all the others combined.
It’s such a simple yet powerful way to show that you’re thinking of them. That you’re following along with their life and right there with them in all the moments.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #12:
Nourish Your Sexual Connection (18+ only)
Sexual intimacy is obviously an important part of any relationship.
And when you consider the lack of physical touch in long distance relationships – all the cuddles, kisses, and hand holding you miss out on – finding ways to connect intimately becomes even more important.
The challenge is finding ways to connect sexually that feels both comfortable and satisfying.
But there’s no shortage of options. It simply requires good communication, respect of boundaries, and a little imagination.
Need some inspiration? Here’s some ideas about how to be intimate in a long distance relationship:
Make sure you’re confident that any images or videos you send are for your partner’s eyes only. This might mean setting boundaries around how you want your images used and stored, and ultimately deleted if that’s what you want for any reason whatsoever.
And if you’re under 18 and you’ve stumbled upon this blog, know that sending nude images is considered child pornography and is illegal. Know your laws, and stay safe.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #13:
Get Clear on Your Boundaries
Speaking of sex, have you ever taken the time to define your relationship style?
Is your relationship monogamous? Open/polyamorous? Something in between?
What exactly do those words mean to you? And what agreements come along with that?
The thing is – most couples just assume they’re on the same page. But as the saying goes, “Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups”.
So even if you’re clear on your relationship style, you’ll want to further clarify what your boundaries and expectations are:
Explore questions around what flirting means to each of you – including what that looks like on social media. What exactly constitutes ‘cheating’? Is it sexual connection? Emotional intimacy? What does transparency and honesty mean to you?
These conversations can be difficult to have. But in the long term they’ll help build trust in your relationship, and help you feel more secure with the distance between you.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #14:
Prepare For Conflict
Misunderstandings in long distance relationships can spiral out of control – fast. And one of the most common reasons why arguments begin? Feeling out of sync with each other.
You probably know what it feels like:
- After a couple of bumpy minutes, it’s clear that you’re not on the same emotional page.
- Or you’re explaining something important, but they just don’t see where you’re coming from.
- Or for whatever reason, you can’t quite get into the story they’re telling.
The truth is, sometimes conversation and connection is awkward. Especially in a long distance relationship. And while you could try and persevere, sometimes it’s better to simply let it be.
Have a quick way to name it, so you can at least express your discomfort and manage expectations.
Don’t be afraid to say, “I’m not in the right headspace today. Can we try again tomorrow?”
Create a strategy for when you’re feeling disconnected, rather than trying to deal with it in the moment. By anticipating conflict you’re prepared and ready to deal when it does inevitably come up.
HOW TO MAKE A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP WORK TIP #15:
We’ve saved the best for last, because here’s the thing:
When it comes to relationships, most people just fall into them and make it up as they stumble along.
On the other hand, successful long distance relationships need much more planning and forethought. You have an opportunity here to get intentional – to set your relationship up for success in a way most in-person relationships never do.
This can look like a variety of things:
From sketching out your relationship agreements, to working out the big picture vision of your life together. It’s about designing a relationship – something we refer to as a Conscious Relationship.
With all of the conversation-focused time you have, there’s an opportunity to talk about the stuff that really matters:
- Your values
- Your big picture dreams
- Your hopes and fears for the future
- What you want to create in your life
- Why this relationship is important to you
You see, having these powerful conversations makes your relationship bulletproof. Yet many couples don’t have the courage or intentionality to go there.
To set you up for success, we’ve created an entire deep dive on this topic:
Here’s how you can create a conscious relationship that lights you up and fulfils both of your needs. (And don’t forget to grab the free step-by-step download at the end).
Hi, we’re Reece & Jodie. We equip singles & couples with evidence-based strategies to create kick-ass lives… and relationships that rock.
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