Nearly a month ago I boarded a plane that would fly me farther and farther away from my boyfriend Marc. I had to say goodbye to him again, and while this was now the second time I’ve had to do it, repetition hasn’t made it any easier. I’ll be seeing him again in a few weeks, but the separation still makes time feel like it’s dragging unbearably slowly.
Most people I talk to about my relationship can’t believe how long we will have to go without seeing one another. The common response seems to be somewhere along the lines of, “How do you do it?” Typically, I just shrug my shoulders and say it’s hard — because it is.
As an avid reader of anything to do with relationship/social psychology, I’ve always been up to date on what it takes to foster a healthy relationship with a loved one. I’m well versed in Gottman’s advice on how to be present in your relationship. Theoretically, I know how to handle conflict with a loved one relatively well (whether in the heat of the moment I apply it is another thing), and I know all about the small things you can do to keep a relationship healthy and happy. These fundamentals have all become that much more important as Marc and I have been apart. Luckily for me, my partner is equally as interested in the psychology of relationships, and just as committed as I am to making the best of the situation.
For myself and my partner Marc, we recognize that we have something very special. We’re figuring out long distance along the way, but I think we’re doing a pretty damn good job of it thus far. For those of you currently going through a long distance relationship, or who may have to be apart from your partner for an extended period of time in the future, here is my unsolicited, and slightly educated advice about the topic: 7 points on how to endure them, and how to make the best of a sucky situation.
- Talk to each other every day; no exceptions
Communication is key to any relationship. It’s cliché, but it’s a cornerstone piece of advice for good reason. Take the time to schedule a part of your day and give your partner your full attention. You can’t physically be with them, so make sure they know you are there in mind, spirit, and heart with whatever it is they are dealing with; and expect the same in return.
- See each other’s face every day
This one follows from the previous point. Being able to see one another every day is a blessing that needs to be taken advantage of in this digital age. Facebook Chat, FaceTime, Skype — whatever your platform, take advantage of it.
Research shows that absence does not, in fact, make the heart grow fonder. In fact, in some cases, it can do exactly the opposite. I’ll say it again, schedule time to see one another, and do so without distraction. You and your partner deserve to have your undivided attention at least once a day to catch up and have an intimate discussion to foster feelings of closeness. The idea here is to emulate as much as possible the feeling of being together to make the time apart more manageable.
- Be honest about your feelings
Share with one another what you’re feeling, always. If you’re not comfortable with something, say so. If you miss your partner, tell them. If you are upset with your partner, bring it up right away in a respectful and constructive manner. The silent treatment doesn’t work with long distance; it doesn’t work period.
Distance is already a disadvantage in a relationship, don’t add to it by hiding your thoughts and feelings, it only puts more space between you and your partner. Remember the goal here? Minimize distance, emulate closeness.
- Plan trips to break up the time
If you are doing long distance for anything longer than two months, a trip to break up the time is basically required — in my humble opinion. I mean, I’m sure you could still do it without a visit, but they make it a hell of a lot easier.
I understand the cost of travel is a weighty financial commitment, and that it may not be feasible for some, but for myself at least, having trips planned to see Marc has made the time pass a lot faster. It gives me something to look forward to and makes the total length of time apart seem far more manageable.
I mentioned it above and I’ll say it again for emphasis. Absence, without a concerted effort to remain connected, DOES NOT make the heart grow fonder. It’s a lie, a terrible lie. I’m sure it goes without saying by now, but making the long distance seem shorter by breaking it up with visits definitely helps remedy this.
- Focus on a goal at home
The reason why Marc and I have had to do long distance is because his work brought him out east, and I had to stay back to finish school.
While neither one of us wanted the separation, it gave us an opportunity to take advantage of the time apart to really focus on advancing ourselves individually. I have been able to put 100% of my focus on school and career development. He has multiple projects he’s working on including home renovations, joining a new pipe band, and running a volunteer band with a close friend.
Staying busy helps to pass the time, it gives us lots of things to talk about, and it fosters independence while also strengthening our bond as a couple. I love seeing Marc succeed in his professional life just as much as he loves seeing me achieving my goals and starting a career that I’m passionate about.
Partners should take pride in one another, build each other up and always be encouraging of healthy pursuits. Relationships shouldn’t only be about the couple as an indivisible unit; each person should also have the freedom to pursue their own goals and ambitions.
- Be committed
The most important piece of advice I can give about long distance relationships is this: You must be 100%, unwaveringly, not a shred of doubt in your mind, committed to your partner, your relationship, and your decision to stay with them through the good times and bad.
There will most definitely be bad times when you’re away from your loved one, or they’re away from you. Conflict is harder to resolve, schedules may not line up, and if you’re anything like me, you will be insanely jealous of your friends who get to go home to their partner every night. But if you are committed, the time apart will absolutely be worth it.
- Learn new ways to show your love
Long distance doesn’t need to be a hardship; it can be an excellent opportunity to build an even stronger bond with your partner. For those of you who have, or are currently in a long distance relationship, be creative in how you show your love and affection to your partner, and know that you might have to alter the way in which you express this to bridge the distance. The separation may turn out to be a great growing opportunity for your relationship to seek new ways to show your partner you care for them.
Long distance is undoubtedly hard, trust me, I know. But if you are with someone you genuinely love and care for, when you are back together, it is absolutely worth it.
If you and your partner are going through a long distance relationship and would like to talk about it, or have more advice for people going through the same thing, I’d love to hear from you!
Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading, talk soon.