I will be the first to admit that long distance relationships can be tricky. Both sides of the equation have to be wholly loyal to the relationship while also living a full life apart from their significant other. Communication becomes of the utmost importance, and sometimes sacrifices become side effects.
Recently, I've had a handful of friends enter into what are, or what will be, long distance relationships. Seeing as I have just completed my first full, and successful, year in one I wanted to publish my list of tips and tricks I honed during that time. Cheers to stability!
1. Communicate, and communicate well.
When you're living in the same area, or at least a drivable distance to each other, it's easy to shy away from truthful communication. It seems easier to bottle up emotions rather than to bring it up, especially when you can easily go home, cool off, and jump back into the normal relationship routine. Perhaps your significant other might notice a change in behavior or body language and even ask if everything is okay. These interactions don't happen the same when you aren't seeing each other regularly. For example, if you're upset with your significant other who lives 1,000 miles away, who you haven't seen in a few weeks and who you communicate with mostly via text message it's pretty easy to hide your feelings from them. Making texts sound normal and happy is much simpler to do than changing your body language. Often, they may not even know something is wrong. This becomes dangerous because those feelings can boil inside you for a while without ever cooling off or making it to the surface.
To avoid a passive aggressive meltdown it's best to focus on communication. Saying, "Hey can we chat about this one thing really quick?" is a much less stressful conversation starter than, "I've been upset for weeks. Why didn't you know?"
Don't fear your own feelings, for the good and the bad.
2. Get comfortable with video chatting.
Long distance couples have an appreciation for FaceTime and Skype that other couples could never even imagine. Sometimes you just need to see your significant other, and video chatting can fix that in an instant. My significant other and I made a point to call each other for at least ten minutes every night to catch up. Sometimes those ten minutes stretched into hours - and ended when I fell asleep on my keyboard - or they got cut short by an activity or event one of us needed to attend. What mattered most was the touch of reality you get when you see the other person. It's easy to begin to see your phone as your significant other, but talking directly to them can cure this. It seems, at least for the handful of moments spent in the chat, that the two of you have met up in your own special little location.
Setting aside times for online dates is key. You can sync up Netflix, or get a handy app to do it for you, play iPhone or online games together, and share even the most mundane details of your day.
3. Send each other cards or care packages.
There are few things cuter, and more exciting, than receiving a package or letter in the mail. It's a great way to surprise your significant other and remind them that you care. Sometimes I stick little gifts in the cards too; anything from a cool coin I found to a gift card. You can even take it to the next level and make a care package stuffed with everything you know to be a necessity for the other person. It'll bring a smile to their face, even when you can't be there with them.
4. Know as much as you can about the day-to-day life your partner leads.
The mundane stuff is the most important in long distance relationships. What is your partner up to today? What's their schedule like? Knowing this information can help you know what they're up to - which can quell anxiety, jealousy and nervousness that frequently occurs in long distance situations - and can open up opportunities for sending cute little messages of encouragement throughout the day.
When and if you're able to visit them on their home turf make sure to meet as many friends and see as many places as you can. This adds more humanity to a relationship based very much on technology. If you experience life with them as it normally is you'll have a greater understanding of those little details they tell you about.
Meet their friends. Go to the grocery store. Tour the new apartment. Go to their favorite restaurant or bar. See life through their eyes and connect through this common understanding. Be careful not to cram too much in though! Sometimes the most valuable time spent with your love is found during nap time or movie night.
5. Love isn't a game so there's no need to keep score.
I value texting much more than my boyfriend, so I'm constantly updating him that way. However, he visits me at my university much more often than I visit him at his. We aren't ever bitter about these small differences. We both do what we can to make everything work. Sometimes I'm much more able to use my phone than he is, and he has the financial means to get to me more often than I do to get to him. There's no score in this relationship, and no person is doing more than the other. We put in equal work in different areas to be successful.
6. Set boundaries.
Be honest with each other about what you are and aren't comfortable with. This goes along with the importance of communication. Don't forget the golden rule: walk a bit in the other person's shoes. If you wouldn't do it while they were there, don't do it when they're not. This helps build trust, and keeps the loyalty strong.
Trust is so important.
7. Be a source of support and love.
Often, in the hardest of times we turn to those we care about the most. It just happens that in long distance relationships the person you need can't always be there. It's important that both people do their best to support and be there for one another.
Make sure to always say goodnight and good morning. Check in with each other throughout the day.
8. There will be skeptics.
People will critique your choice to stay together. This doesn't matter as long as your relationship is healthy and well put together. Only you and your significant other can decide that it's the path you want. If you truly want to stay together you will have no trouble doing so.
9. Don't lose your independence.
You can't stop life to become your phone. Live your own life day to day, all the while counting down to the next time you'll see your significant other.
Don't sacrifice more than you have to. It's not healthy to become only your relationship, whether it's long distance or not, and it's exceptionally easy to fall into that trap when you aren't near each other. Have your own adventures and look forward to sharing them with each other on your night time video chat. Use that time.
Long distance relationships aren't always easy, but they can be incredibly rewarding. There's a special kind of strength your partnership gains from being tested in this way. Enjoy every second of it, you'll be a better two person team in the end!