“Whether you just met someone in a different city or your partner moved out of town for another job, long-distance relationships are common,” according to relationship advisor and therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch, Ph.D, author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. In fact, in our fickle economy, many couples find themselves separated because of their professions. Orbuch sees this long-distance situation most often.
Long-distance relationships create extra challenges and stressors. But couples can still cultivate a fulfilling and happy relationship. Here’s how.
1. View the distance as an opportunity.
Orbuch encourages “couples to write down the advantages of a long distance relationship, especially if it is only short term.” According to Orbuch, your list might include: extra time with family and friends; an opportunity to learn to communicate even better; the anticipation and thrill of weekend trips; maintaining your individuality; and spending more time on your own interests, goals and passions, such as “working on your next book, your art, your hobbies [and] exercising.”
2. Establish crystal-clear expectations.
Couples want to make sure that they’re on the same page when it comes to their relationship, especially since distance can lead to many mix-ups.
“These can be difficult and awkward questions to ask, but will save you great heartache and misunderstanding down the line,” Orbuch said. Get clear on things like how often you’ll communicate each day and how and when you’ll visit each other.
3. Have an end goal.
Orbuch strongly suggested couples talk about the future of their relationship and “when you’ll move back together again.” As she explained, this shows to both people that the “relationship is going somewhere” and your efforts are worthwhile.
It helps to agree on a timeframe, but Orbuch said that at least trying to create one is a good start. And “Be realistic in your assessment of this relationship timetable,” she added.
4. Communicate every day.
Let’s face it: Many partners don’t enjoy talking on the phone; some find texting irritating; and others can’t stand technology in general. But keeping that emotional connection is key, Orbuch said.
Of course, you don’t have to have long, heart-to-heart talks every time. Orbuch suggested the following: “telling each other about your little triumphs and tragedies, ask[ing] for advice [and] talk[ing] about your day.” Use your preferred mode of communication, whether that’s talking or texting on your phone, email or video chats.
And don’t forget about old-school approaches. “Also sending letters, notes and greeting cards are wonderful ways to surprise each other!” Orbuch said. Flowers and small gifts are great, too, she added.
5. See each other regularly.
It’s essential to make visiting each other a priority. Again, set clear expectations about how often you’ll visit each other and who’ll visit whom, Orbuch said.
6. Work on your trust issues.
According to Orbuch, jealousy is a common challenge for long-distance couples. “Each of you will go out with friends, stay late at work, or not be there when you call (because of a previous engagement/activity),” she said.
The solution? Communication and trust. “Talk often about how you feel toward one another, remember to trust each other until there is reason not to, and keep your suspicions out of the relationship.”
7. Make it to important events.
“One of the reasons we commit to a long-term relationship is to have someone there to share the good and bad times with us,” Orbuch said. Being there for special celebrations and engagements is an important way to support your partner and relationship.