3 Experts Reveal Their Best Advice For A Happy Long-Distance Love
A long-distance relationship can feel like a hell of a challenge, no matter how much you and your partner love each other. Coordinating meet-ups across cities, states, or even countries can be tedious. Combine that with the communication hurdles that can come with different schedules and time zones, and LDRs can feel like a lot to handle. But while loving across state or country lines won't always be a breeze, having a happy long-distance relationship is possible. It's going to take patience, trust, and solid commitment from the both of you.
As you embark on your LDR, it's very normal to be asking yourself questions like, "How are we going to make this relationship work if we're not physically together? What if our needs aren't met because we're not face-to-face? Is there any version of this that doesn't suck?" But know that the answers to those questions depend on you, your partner, and your joint willingness to make this whole long-distance thing work. I spoke with three relationship experts about what to keep in mind to help your long-distance relationship go the distance. For starters, take a deep breath. You've got this.
Be Open With Each Other
Carmelia Ray, a matchmaker and online dating expert, says open and clear communication is a crucial component in relationships that last long-term. Couples shouldn't "stone wall, suppress, or silence themselves or their partner," Ray tells Elite Daily. Rachel Dack, a licensed counselor and dating coach, agrees that good communication skills are key to helping LDRs thrive. "Keeping the lines of communication open is essential in keeping the connection going and promoting intimacy and closeness during physical time apart," Dack tells Elite Daily.
Most importantly, you and your long-distance partner should be on the same page about your expectations early on. This means hashing out how much contact you'd like to have, your preferred method of communication, and how often you'd like to see each other. "There’s definitely a balance of prioritizing your relationship and not neglecting the rest of your life to keep in touch," Dack says. "So, it’s important to be mindful of your time and have realistic expectations for maintaining regular contact."
Make Each Other A Priority
Another key element to making a LDR work is treating each other like a priority. People in long-distance relationships that work "take the time to check in with their partner on a regular basis to ensure the relationship is intact and each person is fulfilled," Ray says.
Dr. Emily Cook, a licensed marriage and family therapist, also emphasizes the importance of having a chat with your partner about what that could look like. "Clearly voice what your expectations are, what your hopes are, and how you will feel prioritized through communication with your partner while apart," Cook tells Elite Daily. She adds that outlining what you two will commit to consistently also helps. "Making your expectations known to and valued by your partner — and honoring theirs, too — is how you both [can] feel safe and secure," she says.
Ensure Mutual Respect
According to Ray, a couple who lasts long-term "respects one another, allows each person to pursue their own interests, and supports each other in the areas of life that matter to them." Similarly, Cook says, "Respecting your partner looks like honoring their expectations for the relationship, honoring their boundaries (such as needs for time with friends, work-life balance, or personal goals such as exercise), and honoring their needs for closeness."
Essentially, you and your partner can actively respect one another by giving each other space while still being supportive. Again, have a chat about expectations — this time about how you'll respect each other and the relationship. Talk to your partner about what constitutes cheating, how you will resolve conflicts, and the importance of upholding commitments to either touch base or see each other in person.
"Being respectful is the opposite of playing games, keeping your partner guessing, or not following through with commitments, such as scheduled contact or visits," Dack explains.
Work On Keeping The "Spark" Alive
"Happy couples participate in each other's lives and make it a point to do things together to keep the spark and bond alive," Ray explains. Dack recommends talking to your partner about topics that are both "light, fun and flirty," as well as those that are "more serious and deep in nature." Tell them funny stories about work or what happened in class, and talk to them about your thoughts, feelings, dreams and reflections on life.
And sext them, via FaceTime or another video chat medium, if you so please. "Long-distance couples can schedule regular video dates together. Flirting, keeping things sexy, and putting effort into your appearance before a video date can go a long way in keeping your spark alive in between in-person visits," she says. "Thoughtful gestures, such as surprise gifts or love letters, are also valuable ways to keep the spark alive and show love."
Check In About Major Decisions
As is the case with any relationship, consulting with your partner on major life choices will be necessary to avoid conflict, Ray says. "Big decisions like applying to new jobs or academic programs are important to discuss with your LDR partner, especially since those decisions might impact the future of the relationship," Cook says. Some questions she suggests asking yourselves include: Would a move bring us to the same city, or more miles or timezones apart? What are our hopes or goals for this relationship? What is our timeline for being in the same city, or do we not want that? Does this job or program get us closer to or further from those goals?
Dack echoes this sentiment, saying, "It’s absolutely essential to have check-ins about big life decisions and ensure you are on the same page about what the future holds. Knowing how you fit into each other’s present and future lives helps create trust and security."
Speak Each Other's Love Language
Both Ray and Cook agree that taking "The 5 Love Languages Test" with your partner can be game-changer for your relationship. "Consider understanding your partner's love language and be sure you are speaking in their language at least once a day," Ray recommends.
The five love languages are a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman, based on his 30 years of experience counseling couples. The languages are acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation. When you and your partner take the quiz, you'll find the languages ranked in order of preference, which can help you two figure out which one to focus on most.
Unfortunately, it can be tough if "physical touch" is your favorite love language and you're long-distance. But you can definitely find ways to perform acts of service, give gifts, spend quality time, and provide words of affirmation while long-distance. Book your partner's transportation or lodging next time you two are meeting up. Send them care packages in the mail. Spend a little more time with your partner via FaceTime. Give them compliments or send them that extra gushy sweet text.
Cook even recommends sending your partner a pillow to cuddle as a stand-in if your partner loves physical touch. By understanding each other's love languages, you and your boo can ensure you both feel appreciated and loved in your preferred way.
Looking at the big picture, LDRs can be a lot of work, and therefore, can feel daunting to take on. But know that the effort you and your partner put into all aspects of your relationship can ease some of the headaches and make closing the distance worth the wait.
Carmelia Ray, matchmaker and online dating expert
Rachel Dack, MS, LCPC, NCC, a licensed clinical counselor and dating coach
Emily Cook, Ph.D., LMFT, a licensed therapist