You and your partner are in love, happy, and planning a future together. Then, bam! Someone gets a fantastic job opportunity... in another state. You freak out and begin frantically googling how to make a long-distance relationship work. But take a deep breath: The two of you can absolutely make this work if you really want to.
Although it may be a big change you weren't prepared for, the key to making a long-distance relationship work is how well the two of you prioritize it. Hopping into this transition and expecting it to just work out perfectly isn't the best idea, but there are things you can do now to ensure the two of you stay in your happy couple bubble. Here are seven ways you can start getting ready now to make your long-distance relationship work.
1. Discuss Your Needs
The first and most important thing you should do to prep your long-distance relationship is to discuss your needs with your partner. You will never get through this unless you can talk openly and honestly about how you feel.
Anita A. Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple's Guide to Lasting Love, says it's important to discuss exactly what you need so that you can prep your partner and your relationship for the transition. "If this is your first shot at long-distance with your partner, speak up for what you need and want from your partner," she says. "Be honest about your feelings and if you're missing something or want more from your partner."
Fran Greene, flirting, dating, and relationship coach and author of Dating Again With Courage And Confidence, agrees and says that talking about the distance is critical. "It is so hard, yet so important, to talk with your partner about your feelings about the separation. It starts with acknowledging and accepting that you will be physically apart and how it will affect you, your partner and the relationship," she explains.
You may just be feeling really scared and nervous, but either way, you should share that with your partner. You don't have to feel great about it to bond with your partner over it. The important thing is to talk it all through.
2. Define "Monogamy"
Are you planning to be monogamous while you are apart or are you keeping things open? No matter what you decide on, you need to talk about exactly what it means to the both of you.
Chlipala says that people often assume they know exactly what monogamy means in a relationship while never actually discussing it (which, of course, doesn't make much sense). Her advice? Talk about it in detail. "Define cheating and rules. Define or revisit your definition of what 'cheating' is and be specific," she says.
It may not be fun, but it's an important conversation to have before anything bad happens. And you can be as clear as you like, including differentiating between cheating and just behaviors that might ruin the trust in the relationship.
"For example, a drunken make-out at a bar might not be cheating for some people, but it would break trust," says Chlipala. "Also, discuss rules you have or want to establish – is it OK to be texting someone late at night or meeting them for a drink? Have conversations about what behaviors would cause you to worry or make you feel uncomfortable."
3. Open Up More Now Before One Of You Goes Away
A great way to start prepping for a long-distance relationship is to open up with your partner more — starting right now. The two of you are going to have to get used to talking a lot since you won't be able to see each other as much in person. Chlipala says you should make a commitment to "increase transparency" in your relationship, including being open about day-to-day things.
"Share more details about what you're doing and new people that you're meeting. This can decrease jealousy and worry and will also help maintain trust," she says.
Being open with your partner now will help the two of you get used to this type of totally free communication. You should feel comfortable telling each other everything, and also ask questions if you feel the need. The more open you can be with your partner now, the better prepared you will be for long-distance.
4. Talk About Prepping Date Nights And Time Together
Let's face it: The way your date nights look now is going to have to change. It'll be less "hopping in the car and going to see a movie" and more "scheduling a Skype call." Because of this, you should talk now about what your date nights will look like. And you should also schedule as far in advance as possible to try to get face-to-face time together.
Greene says, "Since spontaneity will be difficult, it's essential to let each other know about important upcoming events (i.e. a friend's wedding, your sister's surgery, your company's award dinner, your vacation dates, etc.) Knowing ahead gives each of you ample time to be able to plan to be together if possible."
Being together in person, of course, is the best option for a long-distance couple, but even if you can't, Chlipala says you should try to make the time you do have unique. "Make your Skype/FaceTime dates special, "she says. "Set the table, light a candle, even dress up! Couples can get complacent and slowly grow apart. Put in the effort to romance your partner and make them feel special."
5. Create Some Rituals To Keep Up Once You Start Long-Distance
Rituals are extremely important to "keep the love and passion alive," says Greene. Just because you no longer live in the same town doesn't mean you have to go without your special couples rituals. For example, it can be as simple as a wake-up text every morning or good-night phone call every evening. Having those little reminders that our partner loves us can make us feel connected, even over a long distance. Not only that, but it can also be something to look forward to.
You can ritualize your meet-ups, too, and you should. Instead of trying to plan for things here and there, set some regular times that the two of you will go to see each other. "Is it the plan that he comes to see you every other weekend, or you'll fly across the country once every three months to see him, or you'll rendezvous half way [...]? Whatever the parameters are, be sure to uphold your end of the plan," says Greene.
And of course, don't let the rituals get in the way of spontaneity. An unexpected text or phone call outside of your rituals is still going to be important and welcome.
6. Keep Things In Perspective
Things are going to be hard when you transition your relationship to long-distance — that much is true. It won't do you any good pretending it'll be all rainbows and sunshine, because the truth is, you will have to work at it. But it's also important to keep everything in perspective. If you and your partner are trying the long-distance thing, it's likely because you already have a really successful, committed relationship. Don't let the distance get in the way of that.
Greene cautions that the two of you should still maintain your life while you are separated, and that your life should not involve analyzing everything your partner does. "Do not scrutinize every Instagram post, Tweet, or Facebook post," she says. It'll only lead to frustration. Instead, Greene offers, "Show your genuine interest in [their] work/school/friends/family. That's what you would do if you were together, right? It should not be any different even though you're apart."
Although long-distance relationships are more difficult than in-person ones, they can also be worth it, especially if you've found someone whom you believe is "the one." By following the tips on this list before you become long-distance, you'll better set yourself up for future success.
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