make-a-long-distance-relationship-work

8 Simple Ways to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work

Long-distance relationships can and do work, but they require special attention to make them last. If you want to make a long-distance relationship work, you will have to approach it slightly differently from a “normal” relationship. In this post, I will share with you 8 simple ways to make a long-distance relationship work, based on what I’ve learned when I started dating my now wife back in the day.

My wife and I saw each other quite by chance.

It wasn’t planned nor orchestrated by a friend.

But, once I did some investigation and got her phone number (I knew her brother quite incidentally), I started texting her.

I felt comfortable doing this because I knew she had enquired about me too.

So, it wasn’t like stalking her or anything like that.

I wasn’t being a creep.

I did my homework before making a move.

Fast forward some time, we started dating but there was one catch.

She lived about two hours and 20 minutes drive away from me.

Now, if you’ve ever dated someone you would know the problem this presented.

When we started dating someone, we want to spend every moment with them.

You want to be close to them, talk, cuddle, hang out, kiss (for hours at a time), and even smell them all the time.

We call this, “being in love.”

So two hours and 20 minutes drive presented a problem, which we had to navigate and overcome.

The great thing about being in love, however, is the fact that you would do almost anything to be close to the one you’re in love with.

In our case, I guess it was a good thing we had to make a long-distance relationship work while being in love, as no obstacle was too big of a challenge to overcome to be close to each other.

But, even with that being the case, it still took more work than some other relationships I’ve had in the past where my girlfriend and I were living in the same town.

I’ve learned that in order to make a long-distance relationship work, you cannot rely on all the same things than in a “normal” relationship.

Simply because the reality of distance is a fact.

One that you had to deal with.

And the best way we learned to deal with it was appreciating the value of two things specifically:

  1. Commitment
  2. Planning

Not being fully committed to making it work is the same as being committed to failing.

Not planning in a long-distance relationship is the same as planning to fail.

The reality is that most people have more going on in their lives than just managing a long-distance relationship.

This means in order to make it work you have to plan very well to juggle all the different balls in your life.

And in order to make that work, as it is very draining and tedious at times, you have to be fully committed to the process and the long-distance relationship.

Now, I cannot help you with the commitment side of things but, I can share with you a few strategies to plan better, keep in touch and help your long-distance relationship thrive.

These are very simple, but effective, and will help you tremendously over the long run.

In saying that, however, I obviously assume that your plan is to ultimately be closer to one another.

Like in, proximity.

Being in a long-distance relationship indefinitely might pose a whole another set of problems which we want to discuss in this particular post.

But, I can say that these next few strategies will also be helpful in a situation like that, even though you would have to take them to the next level.

So, with that in mind let’s look at 8 ways to make a long-distance relationship work.

8 ways to make a long-distance relationship work:

  1. Establish guidelines for contact.

It’s important to establish guidelines for how you’ll contact each other early in the relationship.

One of the most common concerns voiced by couples is working out a schedule.

Will you call or email each other every day?

What time of day?

Who will call when?

How about once a week?

When will you visit each other?

There are a lot of things consider when you try and align your personal schedules with each other’s.

But it doesn’t need to be overwhelming.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun.

Being in love is great, and enjoying the process is vital.

When it starts becoming a burden you have to stop those thoughts and feelings dead in their tracks.

A good rule of thumb when it comes to establishing guidelines for contact and working out a schedule is for both of you to be clear on how often you’ll speak with each other and see each other so neither of you has mistaken expectations.

Unclear or wrong expectations are often times a huge culprit in relationships.

Expecting something and not getting it can lead to all sorts of hurt feelings.

But, clear communication can easily fix this.

It’s also important to be very clear on the way you will contact each.

Back when my wife and I were dating we rely predominantly on texting and phone calls.

My phone and petrol bills were sky high but, that was part of the commitment I made to make our long-distance relationship work.

Long-distance relationships always have something that cost or ask a little bit more than in the case of a “normal” relationship.

Expecting that will save you a lot of frustration.

So, figure out WHEN and HOW you will contact each other and stick to that for a while to test it.

Which brings us to the second point …

  1. Discuss concerns as they arise.

As you set out to make a long-distance relationship work, you will no doubt encounter more challenges and problems along the way.

For example, the way you decided to contact each other, and committed to, suddenly doesn’t seem to work.

That then becomes a concern you need to discuss as soon as it happens.

Instead of waiting to talk about issues, try to discuss them right away to avoid resentment and anger in the long run.

One thing you have to realise about long distance relationships is that it’s very easy to get away with things that other couples don’t.

Because of distance, it is easier to remain quiet about things that bother you because you don’t see your partner that often or for that long.

Many couples who have had “successful” long-distance relationships suddenly find themselves in trouble once they are she start living together or spending more time with one another after the long-distance relationship.

Why?

Because suppressed feelings or issues they could get away with before now become a problem because it’s in their face all the time.

It’s important to learn from that.

Discuss concerns as they arise, and do not wait.

If there’s one thing you can learn from successful long-distance relationships, it’s the fact that long-distance relationships thrive on honesty and respect.

Clear communication is essential for maintaining any healthy relationship, but even more so for long-distance relationships.

  1. Discuss your goals.

It’s ironic how we have goals when it comes to other areas of our life like business or health.

The goal might be making an extra $50,000 this year or losing 20 kg.

It can be big or small, but it’s still a goal.

However, few couples in my experience, actually have a goal(s) for their relationship or marriage.

Having and discussing your goals, personally and for your relationship, are vital to making a long-distance relationship work.

The reality is, distance in a relationship can change people.

And as your relationship grows and evolves, it’s important to ask yourself whether your goals are still the same as in the beginning?

Discussing your goals can help you understand where both of you are at and thereby lay a foundation to establish a much stronger relationship.

It’s important to ask questions like,

  • Do you plan to move back together?
  • When?
  • Do you want to get married eventually?
  • When?
  • Do you want kids?
  • When?
  • Do you want to travel the world?
  • For how long?
  • Where would you like to live eventually?
  • What type of career would you like?

Now, in saying this, having serious discussions about your future are essential, but you’ll also want to talk about fun plans.

What goals or expectations do you have for your relationship now?

What would you like to do when you see each other on weekends (for example)?

What places would you like to visit together?

  1. Develop some common interests.

To grow your connection with each other when apart, you’ll want to have developed some common interests.

Why is this important?

Because common interests form deeper bonds in relationships.

Couples who share similar ideas and interests are more likely to stay together.

This is especially true in long-distance relationships.

When my wife and I started dating, we were both into fitness.

It created a common bond, even though we lived in different towns and trained in separate places and ways.

We could talk about it, share ideas, and feel good about the fact that we both had a common interest.

We also both liked fishing, even though she’s far better at it than me, but again it was something we had in common.

It really doesn’t matter what you decide to “do together,” as long as you find something.

  1. Get creative.

If a long-distance relationship goes on for a while, it can become quite taxing after a while.

Even if you’re deeply in love.

And since one of our basic human needs is the need for UNCERTAINTY or VARIETY, it’s important to mix things up a bit.

For example, talking to each other every day in the same way and at the same time can get boring after a while, so it’s important to come up with creative ways to communicate and connect.

Send your loved one a unique card or draw a picture.

Create a short video of your favourite moments together and get other family members to participate.

Sing a song and record it for your love, even if you suck at singing.

Something I did was surprise visit my wife from time to time.

I would leave work early and drive all the way to where she lived and then parked down the road from her apartment.

I’d then call her, asking her about her day and what she was up to.

Oftentimes she would be busy cleaning her apartment or watering the small garden in front of her apartment.

I would then sneak to her front door and knock on at only to be met with a massive smile, hard and lots of kisses once she realised it was me.

Doing this every now and again, created a sense of surprise and never knowing when I would show up.

She loved this.

Sometimes she would travel to my place after having had to work late, only to be met with a home-cooked meal when she arrived.

She really liked that.

It’s important to find what works for you.

But the principle of getting creative is something you absolutely have to apply to make your long-distance relationship work.

Without it, you do run the risk of becoming detached and the relationship becoming stale.

  1. You can also send things through the mail on occasion.

As I mentioned above, the element of surprise can help add sparks to a relationship.

We live in an age where communication has become very easy.

We can be constantly in touch with one another thanks to the Internet and all our awesome smart devices.

And I would agree, online communication is best for daily interactions.

It’s fast, convenient, and it’s the next best thing to actually having the person there in person.

However, because that is true, going “old school” is sometimes far more special.

For example, sending things via “snail” mail on occasion can make all the difference.

Because we aren’t used to getting handwritten letters or cards in the mail anymore, except from our mothers or grandmothers, this can have a really special element to it.

And even in this, technology helps us.

Mailing things like handwritten cards, letters, photos, and other gifts have become super easy and convenient.

You can mail something today and your partner can receive it tomorrow or the day after.

Use your creativity and give this a try.

Have a local flower shop deliver some roses to your partner’s workplace or home.

That always scores many points.

Buy him something he’s been thinking about buying himself for a while, and have Mighty Ape (New Zealand) or Amazon (United States) deliver it.

By the way, you can even do this when you DO live together.

  1. Visit each other frequently.

This is perhaps the most important way to make a long-distance relationship work.

In order to maintain a long-distance relationship, you must see each other as often as possible.

I cannot tell you how important this is.

Nothing beats being in each other’s physical space and presence.

All the other strategy so sheets so far, can supplement the connection in your relationship, but nothing gets close to being physically together.

And yes, that includes talking and interacting via video.

Even seeing each other live and in person on a screen does not beat being close to your partner.

Now, I know that depending on the distance between you, visits can be expensive.

Been there, done that.

But, as far as I’m concerned there are two ways to look at this:

First, it all comes back to the COMMITMENT we spoke of earlier.

It’s simply something that part of his deal.

Accept it and move on.

Second, to make it easier on your pocket, you may want to meet in the middle from time to time or split the petrol cost.

You are both in it so it only makes sense to both contribute.

Often times when I visited my wife I would spend my money on petrol while she would buy us dinner.

We split the cost in that way to make it fair on both of us.

  1. Discuss family and friends.

The big challenge to make a long-distance relationship work is finding ways to create and maintain a strong bond with each other.

Distance makes that difficult.

But, we have to use our commitment and creativity to get around that.

That’s the price of admission for any long-distance relationship.

And anyone that tells you otherwise is fooling themselves.

So another way to strengthen this bond with your partner that you only get to see every now and again is to also have conversations with and about your family and friends.

If your relationship starts with a distance element, like mine did, chances are that you both have very separate lives for most of the time.

This means that you most likely have different jobs, friends, and activities you enjoy apart from one another.

It is therefore very easy to keep these lives separate from one another and thereby lose the opportunity to grow closer to each other.

The vitally important bond you need with your partner doesn’t develop as fast or as deep as it should.

Therefore, having conversations with and about your family and friends, and also spending time with them together, it is vitally important to develop a stronger bond between everyone.

But especially for you as a couple.

You definitely want to experience your partner in the presence of your family and friends that know you and do spend a lot of time with you.

Things that you cannot learn about your partner in any other way, but in the interaction with family and friends, will become evident.

You’ll learn more about each other in this part process than perhaps any other part.

And again, anyone that tells you that the only thing that matters is the relationship you have with your partner, is fooling themselves.

We are not islands.

We are part of bigger relational circles with unique dynamics.

And unless you learn how to navigate your relationship as part of this, you will always run the risk of having a relationship that implodes at some point.

If you are serious about being part of each other’s lives, then you have to be committed to being part of ALL of it, not just some of it.

You can do this …

Having a long-distance relationship can be a lot of fun.

I know this for a fact because I lived it.

Not only that, our one ended up in marriage.

And am still happily married after many years.

So the reality is, you can make a long-distance relationship work if you want to.

But, these types of relationships need a little bit more special care and attention to thrive.

It’s not impossible, quite the contrary.

You just have to be super committed and constantly plan for the future.

Things that other couples can get away with you cannot, because of the distance factor.

It tends to intensify everything.

Maybe not initially, but eventually, it does.

If you don’t discuss certain concerns immediately, you might get away with it for a bit.

But, once it comes out, it will come out far bigger than usual.

So, commit and plan.

Sounds like a plan.

And remember, live and love fully.

It’s all fun and part of the journey.

PS >> If you liked this post, check out my eGuide FANNING THE FLAMES (with executive summary and worksheet) now.

Written by 

Gideon Hanekom is known as "the relationship guy" and creator of GideonHanekom.com – a top dating and relationship advice blog. He is a trained professional counsellor and one of New Zealand’s top dating, relationship, and marriage bloggers and coaches. His services include one on one sessions, running workshops for organisations, online digital products, advice and courses. He’s been happily married for more than eleven years with two beautiful kids. He lives in Northland (New Zealand).​​

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