Have a Game Plan
Setting expectations is the first and most important step in maintaining a long-distance relationship. Whether you’re in the same time zone or on opposite sides of the world, it’s best to talk to each other about realistic expectations in terms of communication, visits, and, well, everything else.
Do Not: Over-promise or break plans.
Do: Give each other the freedom and flexibility to change plans, but also emphasize the importance of setting expectations.
“Each couple who is in a long-distance relationship has their own unique needs, wants, and expectations, and it takes time and patience to figure out what works best for each couple,” says Dr. Kelifern Pomeranz, Psy.D., and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. “Communication needs to be on point in terms of expectations around daily/weekly contact, and what happens if one individual is busier than the other and has less time to devote to contact, visits, and how conflict will be managed.”
Questions to consider: How often will we chat for? For how long? How frequent will the visits be? How will visits be paid for? If there is a fight, what are our agreements about hanging up or not answering texts?
For many couples, being in a long-distance relationship isn’t a challenge: It’s precisely what makes the relationship work. But all couples who are trying to maintain their long-distance relationships should try to coordinate schedules so that their partner has time to feel like the priority.
Do Not: Call your partner in the middle of seven other tasks, or schedule your conversation for the end of the night when you know you’re likely going to be exhausted.
Do: Make sure you’re on the same page about when communication will be meaningful and prioritized.
“I recommend coordinating your schedules so you can have undistracted communication at a time of the day that works for each of you,” says Dr. Rachel Needle, psychologist and certified sex therapist. (Dr. Needle has also been in a long-distance relationship for the past three years.)
“Get into a rhythm of communicating with your partner that is comfortable for both of you. Work on having meaningful discussions at times, rather than just check-ins and catch ups so you can grow closer despite the physical distance,” she adds.
Have More Meaningful Conversations
When you’re talking on the phone consistently, you may run into a little bit of a conversational rut because you might not have something incredibly exciting to say. It’s not just you, most people don’t have something newsworthy that happens to them daily. That’s why it’s important to have more meaningful or at least different conversations, so you don’t grow bored of one another.
Do Not: Ask your partner the old “How was your day?”
Do: Ask an open-ended question that can lead to learning something new about your partner.
“Use open-ended thought-starters like ‘What’s something that made you laugh?, ‘What’s something you love that you’ve never told anyone about?’, or “‘What do you remember most about that time when…’” suggests Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist, relationship expert, and We-Vibe sex expert. “New questions will lead to new perspectives – and new opportunities to celebrate each other.”
Of course, don’t force it. You don’t need to have an earth-shattering conversation every single time you talk on the phone, but it is something to keep in mind when your daily calls start to feel tedious and underwhelming.
When it comes to relationships, technology can certainly be a silent killer—social media stalking, anyone?—but it can also be a relationship saver. With more ways to communicate now than ever before, your partner might live in Bangkok but look and sound like they’re in the same room. Video chatting is one of the most effective ways to build intimacy with long distance relationships.
Do Not: Stalk your significant other’s friends or followers and create stories in your head about how they might have met this person.
Do: Make time to look each other in the eye.
“I recommend using video chat to couples in long distance relationships,” says Dr. Tom Murray, psychologist and certified sex therapist. “Order the same meal at a chain restaurant and eat it together. This allows for a shared experience.”
For maintaining a sexual relationship—because, let’s face it, you’re going to be horny and alone many, many nights—Dr. Murray recommends couples masturbate with each other. Do it over the phone, or even better, with video.
Maintain Your Individual Lives
Wondering and worrying about your partner (where they are, what they’re doing) can become obsessive, especially if there isn’t enough communication or trust.
Do Not: Follow each other on Find My Friends. That is creepy and a little controlling.
Do: Maintain your own life.
“A common problem I see in long-distance relationships are couples that are enmeshed, meaning they communicate all throughout the day and spend hours on the phone or video chatting all night,” says Dr. Pomeranz. “This causes each individual to isolate themselves from their friends and can lead to increased feelings of insecurity and jealousy, particularly if their partner’s schedule becomes busier.”