What Are Long-Distance Relationships?
Relationships can be hard. So what happens when you add the complication of distance? There are many reasons why people enter a long-distance relationship. Perhaps you meet at an event, like each other, but don't live close to each other. Maybe you have been dating someone who is sent on a six week assignment. Or worse yet, you are dating someone who is offered a dream job in another state.
All three scenarios are quite different from one another in terms of how to manage the relationship. It is easier to maintain a known relationship than to develop a new one.
So how does a long-distance relationship work? What are the pitfalls? The benefits? How can you make a long-distance relationship work?
What are the benefits of a long-distance relationship you ask?
Commitment: One of the biggest perks of a long-distance relationship is that it takes a lot of commitment to make it work. The time and investment that go in to maintaining a long-distance relationship are huge. Because you do not have the luxury of casual and frequent interaction, there is more meaning in the time you do have together.
Investment: Similar to the commitment, there is a lot of investment in a long-distance relationship. This investment may be phone calls, web chats, mail, presents, and plane tickets. However you make it work, there is investment in making it work, and often it requires physical, emotional, and monetary sacrifice.
Cherished Time: Of course I'd never implicate that time spent with your partner is wasted. However, for those who have only limited interaction, that time becomes really precious. Perhaps you only see your partner twice a year, once a semester, however often it is, it's never as much as you might like. So when you two finally do have the chance to spend time together, that time becomes gold.
On the other side of the coin, there are some difficult drawbacks to a long-distance relationship.
Loneliness: A long-distance relationship can be a lonely affair. It's easy to begin to miss your partner. Physical intimacy is important to any relationship and it brings a lot of comfort and closeness between two people. A long-distance relationship is not a physical one.
Idealization: The brain doesn't like when our expectations don't meet our reality. Idealization occurs when our expectations shift to explain away the difficulty of the reality.
For example, you miss your partner. You spend time thinking about him or her. Often we think about the positive aspects that we love about our partner. In your mind, you think about how great he or she is; how loving and caring and perfect this person is. You become excited for all the things you're going to do on the next visit. On the next visit, your partner is perhaps moody or unmotivated to do what you expected you'd do.
As you begin to feel disappointed, you recall the negative sides of your partner that you set aside in anticipation of a visit.
Expense: Because you live apart from one another, there is often increased expense associated with plane tickets or gas for travel.
How To Make It Work:
Okay so there are perks and drawbacks for a long-distance relationship. You may or may not have a choice. However, there are some tips and tricks out there for how to make it go more smoothly.
Define your expectations: This is a huge one. Because a long-distance relationship requires as much sacrifice as it does, and because it is HUGELY based on trust, it's important that you define your expectations at the onset. This includes if and who is moving, how often you plan to talk/communicate, how often you plan to see one another. These are all important aspects of making a long-distance relationship work. However, it can be done!
Communication: Let's face it. It's hard to read tone in an email or a text message. Regular communication is important to any relationship, but all the more so for a long-distance relationship. Be sure to clarify these expectations in terms of who is calling who and when, and try to make contact every day. If for some reason a communication is missed or skipped, instead of immediately panicking, do what you can to re-open the line of communication and get back on track.
Trust: Again trust is something that is vital to any relationship. However this can be a big big issue in a long-distance relationship because you are not there to monitor what your partner is doing. That said, to tie in to the communication piece, if your partner was supposed to call and didn't, don't immediately assume that he or she has run off with someone. It's a natural inclination to panic to a degree because you don't know what's going on. Focus on staying calm and rational until you are able to talk to your partner again.
The internet: We are fortunate enough to live in a time when we have amazing access to our loved ones. Done are the days of a 2 week letter. There are a multitude of options at your fingertips, be it calling, texting, letters, email, instant messaging, or video chats, use these methods to their fullest. However, just be mindful about managing conflict over email since it is hard to read tone and nuance.
Do things together: Even though you are far apart, you can still do things together. Plan "dates" to watch a movie, play a game, attend an outing, at the same time as your partner so that you two can discuss it later and so that you are still "doing things" with each other. This can also include pursuing your common interests. If you both like to cook, focus on cooking so that you can again share in the common time you have together.
Enjoy your free time: It's easy to become bummed out over the amount of time you spend "alone" because your partner lives far away. However, it can really help to find ways to fill your free time and look at the positive side of being able to spend more time with family and friends. It allows you to retain your individual self, which can sometimes become lost in an intense relationship.
Explore the future: Keep in mind that this is still a relationship and you still have a future together. What does that future look like?
Visit often: As often as you can. A relationship still needs a level of physical intimacy, and visiting as often as you can is important. Like other parts of the relationship, the physical aspects need boundaries and discussions as well. Communicate and discuss your expectations so that you can enjoy as much of your time together as possible.
Consistency: Consistency is the key to many relationships, and long-distance relationships are no exception. Stick to your guidelines of how often to talk or visit, and what you expect from the relationship.