I told my (long distance) boyfriend that I was writing this article and asked if he had any tips for others in our position. He had some advice. Three words actually: "Don't do it." And I'm not gonna lie, I pretty much agree. But if long distance love calls and you must answer, here are some tips from my/our experience.
Hone those communication skills. I'd actually never been in a long distance relationship before this one so I didn't really know what to expect. And let me tell you, it's not easy. I don't think I realized how much "normal" relationships are spent just experiencing life together. When you're in a long distance relationship you only have phone calls, texts, emails, and Face Time/Skype. Miscommunications happen and you have to be patient with each other. Some nights one person is way too tired for a phone call. Fair enough. But in these cases you don't have another option of watching a movie or doing work side by side. Imagine if every interaction you had with your significant other had to be a conversation or an exerted verbal effort. Yep. That's the definition of long distance. SO here are a few tips: 1) Be patient with each other and over-communicate. Saying "I'm feeling tired tonight. I want to spend time with you, but you'll really have to carry this conversation" is a better option than being blah or getting in a fight on the phone. 2) When you do fight or miscommunicate, learn how to apologize and work through miscommunication like the champs that you are. Be careful not to take things too personally. And 3) Take the time to fully utilize all forms of communication. Sending sweet texts throughout the day, sharing pictures of your daily life, and composing thoughtful emails all show the other person that they're on your mind and worth your time.
If possible, make big decisions in person. Since miscommunication can be common and as a result emotions can run high, I heavily suggest waiting to make any big decisions about your relationship until you are in person. Trust me on this one. From discussions defining the relationship to conversations about moving to the same city, plan to have those in person. And those emotional, late night, "maybe we should break up" texts. Not necessary. (Preaching to myself here).
Learn to ask (good) questions. Again, since your interaction is largely limited to conversation, make sure you keep the conversation interesting and purposeful. It helps if you ask good questions. For example, instead of just asking "How was your day?" ask "How was that meeting with X at work today?" This shows that you care about your significant other, are aware of their daily schedule, and want to be involved. It also helps jog their memory about their daily activities and gives them the starting point for a good, open, real conversation. Another example? Instead of asking "How's that book you're reading?" say, "Can you tell me what's happening in the book you're reading?" Again, this opens up a longer and more interesting conversation, shows you care and want to be involved, and gives your partner permission to really open up.
Find ways to experience daily life together. So far the theme of this article has been that "you only have conversation" as a means of hanging out. But after a few months of long distance dating my boyfriend, I have come to the unanimous conclusion that conversation is not enough. And this is what makes long distance so hard. We've made an effort to have daily experiences together even though we're 600 miles apart. If one person has to wake up early for work, we both set our alarms and call each other as a backup alarm. Though we are not morning people at all, a few wake up calls have turned into 45 minute conversations, because it's nice to start the day together. We have a book that we're reading together out-loud on the phone. We send each other pictures of our day and sometimes videos. We've made efforts to visit each other so that we recognize streets, restaurants, and people when we mention them in conversation. All of this can't replace being in person 7 days a week, but we're trying.
Speaking of being in-person, prioritize the visits! It's worth the time and worth the money. While we haven't nailed it perfectly, my boyfriend and I try to see each other every 2-3 weeks. This obviously isn't possible for everyone, but if it is, make the effort! And be creative. Is there a place you can meet in the middle? I live in NYC and my boyfriend lives in NC. One weekend we decided to take a day trip to DC. He drove and I took the train. Sounds crazy, I know, but it was so worth it.
Don't spend all of your in-person time one-on-one. When you haven't seen each other in a long time, it's tempting to want massive amounts of alone time just the two of you. And while this is important, it's also very important for your relationship that you spend time with other people. Your significant other should know your friends and you should know theirs. The best relationships are the ones that can be experienced in community. So, don't be hermits. Plus, it'll help your friends understand why you do this long distance thing if they know your partner. And it will help your relationship with your partner if they can picture who you're talking about when you tell them stories on the phone.
Keep in mind that you're different people. Different people with different needs, emotions, and tolerance levels. Being long distance might be really hard for one of you one day and easier for the other person. You might miss each other at different times and for different reasons. Study yourself and your partner. Learn what makes them tick. Learn their emotional needs. Figure out how you can support them from afar. Consider taking a love language test to see what makes each other feel the most loved. Does your significant other like presents? Send them flowers or cards. Do they need quality time with you? Try taking walks at the same time while you're on the phone with each other. Do they crave physical touch as a means of communicating love and affection? Understand that after a long day they might be sad that they can't curl up with you. Be patient with their sadness.
Discuss your relationship goals. Once again, long distance relationships are hard. And if you ask me, they don't seem very sustainable. At least not for my personality. Make sure you talk to your significant other about your hopes for the relationship. Do you want to eventually move to the same city? What's the timeframe? Or are you both ok without having a plan? No matter what you decide, I highly encourage you to have this conversation and attempt to be on the same page!
Enjoy life apart. When push comes to shove, reality is reality, and you don't live in the same city as your significant other. While sulking and crying can seem like a valid option, I'm here to tell you that it's not. Enjoy friendships in your city, go to parties and dinners, work your butt off at a job you love, and embrace your life as it is. Remember, whether your relationship is long-distance or not, you are a unique individual. So be the best you. Invest in life. Ultimately, you, your partner, and your relationship will all benefit.
Decide if it's worth it. After adamantly telling other people "Don't do it", my boyfriend added, "But you're worth it. Write that down." And I guess maybe that's what it all comes down to. In general, long distance might not be worth it, so you have to feel that your relationship is the exception. You have to decide that your partner is worth it. You have to prefer the pain of dating long distance with your person to the idea of a more simple life without them. So...what do you want? Who do you want? Try a long distance relationship and you'll figure it out.