With the popularity of online dating — and let’s be real, some people in our generation’s lack of ability to socialize in real life — I see more and more of my family and friends dating long distance. Although there is still a negative perception of long distance relationships culturally, studies have found that those who are in these kinds of relationships may actually report higher rates of relationship satisfaction, as well as have more positive relationship outcomes, than those in same-city partnerships.
In my own life, I can say that my two long-distance relationships have withstood more and made me happier overall than my conventional relationships. I’ve seen how the distance between my partner and me forces us to address our issues and be more upfront in our communication — and that leaves little room for BS. If you have to put in a great deal of effort to see and spend time with one another, it really makes it hard to be complacent.
Both people have to really want to put in the work. Otherwise, the relationship breaks down a lot faster… which, I think is a good thing, because you can see if a relationship is really going to work a lot earlier on.
If you’re considering dating someone long distance, about to expand the geographic reach on your OKCupid profile, or just wondering what kinds of boundaries you should make in this area, here’s what you need to know about long distance love, from someone who has been there and back.
1. It’s Going to be Tough.
I’m not even going to beat around the bush with this one — long distance relationships are hard! Not only do you have to limit the amount of time you spend with your partner, but it usually takes a lot of work to actually see them. You might have to spend all of your disposable income on travel expenses, get used to the idea of having a house guest for weeks at a time, and also go through the long withdrawal of missing your significant other. Often, it’s not fun. Usually, it’s not ideal, either.
Knowing this though, there are precautions you can take to make the hardships a little bit easier. For one, you should talk about the boundaries of the relationship before getting in it. How often do you expect to see each other? Who is going to be doing the traveling and when? How are you going to communicate and get in quality-time when you’re not together, physically? Having these understandings worked out before passing Go and collecting $200 will save you a lot of grief later on.
2. Communication is Key.
You’ve probably heard a gazillion times that communication is the factor that makes or breaks most relationships. There’s a reason you’ve heard it a gazillion times, though, and that’s because it’s true, especially if your relationship is long distance.
Just like you should talk about when, how, and how often you’re going to see each other in person, you should discuss when, how, and how often you’re going to communicate when you’re apart. There’s also a lot more emphasis on this aspect when you’re not spending time together physically, since all you have is the phone, FaceTime, and texting to keep the relationship afloat — any issues that you’re experiencing need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Your partner also doesn’t have the benefit of reading your body language or reading into nonverbal cues outside of a webcam, so if you’re not saying something overtly, it’s probably not going to be heard.
3. You Should Have an End Point.
One of the key factors of a long distance relationship working out is having a plan to take out the distance factor, at some point.
If both of you are comfortable and settled into your respective cities and can’t see yourself leaving, you may just be delaying heartbreak by being in said relationship. However, if someone is willing to or wants to move to the other’s town, or if both of you want to move somewhere together, then there’s a goal you’re both working towards. As great as a long distance lover can be, it’s not a setup that can usually work on a permanent basis, no matter how great the relationship is.
4. It’s Important to Make the Most of Your Time Together, IRL.
When you two are actually together in person, it’s critical that you make good use of your time. Don’t make plans for a visit during a hectic work week, when there’s a boatload of family obligations, or you know you’re just going to be plain exhausted. Since you have such limited time constraints on when you can see each other, it’s important to treat your time as precious. Otherwise (trust me, I can speak from experience), you will end up resenting each other and spending your time fighting instead of enjoying each other.
5. You Need a Support System — and a Life!
It can be very tempting to spend all day, every day on the phone, Skype, FaceTime, or texting your every move to your partner. Making your life all about your significant other is a temptation for people in new relationships, if you live in the same place or not. It becomes even more of a problem when you’re dating long distance though, since spending time together ultimately means forgoing spending time doing anything else. You can’t exactly do joint activities, virtually!
That’s why it’s important to maintain your other relationships and keep your life in check. If you love to go to the gym five days a week, don’t forgo that to talk to your boo. If you have a standing brunch date with your girls on Sunday, keep showing up. Don’t make your life about sitting on the couch, Skyping for hours every night, or else you’ll lose what makes you, you.
6. You Will Learn and Grow as a Person.
Long distance relationships have a way of bringing out those demons you’ve locked deep inside your closets, as insecurity, jealousy, and impatience are often par for the course. If you think it’s tough to get a handle on your emotions in regular dating, just wait until you experience the realities of your partner being hundreds of miles away, while you try to grow the relationship.
You will be forced out of your comfort zone. You will have to challenge yourself. You will have to face your fears.