While we usually think of a romantic relationship as two people who are dating and seeing each other regularly, some of us end up in a long-distance relationship. This can be a challenge, yet we can learn to make these relationships work well and be satisfying. What can we do to make a long-distance relationship be its best?
First, ask yourself what you might be learning by being in a long-distance relationship. Often you have the opportunity to wrestle with similar challenges as a person who is not in a long-distance relationship but in a more extreme way.
Obviously, a person would need to learn how to delay gratification to a greater extent than if you were living with your partner, or he or she was just down the road. Delaying gratification requires the ability to trust, to self soothe, and maintain a positive attitude even when situations are not as you wish. These skills are valuable in any relationship and in life.
Let’s look at trust. Do you trust your partner? Do you trust yourself? Are you okay when he or she is out with friends, and you cannot be there? If you trust each other, then you won’t be stressed when you cannot get in touch with your partner, or you are not able to participate in social activities with your partner. WeConcile helps couples develop trust.
Self-soothing means we tell ourselves we are okay and help ourselves stay present and calm. This is a great thing to learn. And with that, it is easier to bear the times we feel lonely and wish we could see our partner. WeConcile teaches self and other soothing.
Maintaining a positive attitude means we don’t get caught in worry and doubt or negativity. We know that our life is unfolding in a good way, and we are participating in that unfolding. This helps us tolerate times that feel less than optimal.
Another opportunity provided is learning to find meaning in your own life and learning to enjoy your life even when your partner isn’t present. It is much more difficult to merge with someone when your contact with them is more limited and less physical. Make sure you have developed a life that you enjoy and friends to support you. And don’t put your life on hold and wait by the phone. That doesn’t work in any relationship.
Secure attachment is the basis of a connected relationship. You can help create a secure attachment by being there for your partner. This includes making enough time for contact with each other. Consider each of your schedules. Make sure you make time for each other. Perhaps one of you has a tighter schedule. Can the other person be more flexible so that you have sufficient time to talk? What if one of you needs more contact than the other? Talking about our differences and honoring each partner’s needs is one of the ways we develop trust.
Communication is also part of a connected relationship. Learn not just to catch-up, but to talk about what matters to each of you in your lives. Quality communication is vital in all intimate bonds, including long-distance ones. Discuss how much contact you each need, both via technology and in person. With WeConcile, you will be learning new communication tools and practicing them.
Using video technology allows you to gaze into each other’s eyes. This kind of connection is vital and facilitates emotional intimacy despite the distance.
People need available emotional support in a connected relationship. Before the age of technology, couples sometimes built their relationships through letters, which could arrive very infrequently. These days, with technology, contact can be much more frequent, allowing for more opportunity to create emotional support with each other.
You may not be building a relationship so much as maintaining one. Many couples already had a relationship or marriage, and perhaps even children before they were in different locations (think of people in the service.) Those couples need to maintain, rather than build their relationship, but many of the same principles apply.
Do you have a plan for the future? Or are you living hoping things will change and that you will eventually be living in the same geographic area? It helps to talk about your goals, including your plans for the future and how and when you will ultimately move into a relationship that is not long distance. This makes your situation temporary instead of being in a permanent sense of limbo. Discuss how and maybe when you will create a life together in the future.
Remember the importance of the physical. Plan trips to see each other. Have something tangible of your partners, perhaps a t-shirt you can sleep in, for example. Occasionally send each other a gift. It is nice to have something that reminds you of your partner in a physical way. For some, having a pet can provide some of that need for physical touch that we have.
Phone sex may be important to one or both of you. Find times for this kind of intimacy. Make sure you are in agreement on monogamy if that is what you both want.
Finally, be at peace with your situation. If you have a safe attachment and trust, good communication, and a plan for what will be next, a long-distance relationship can be fantastic. If not, take this as an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop whatever of these relationship qualities you can.