How To Have A Long-Distance Open Relationship, According To An Expert

by Ginny Hogan

No two relationships are exactly the same. A "normal" relationship can be different for every couple, although I personally have tried to model all mine off Meredith and Derek in Grey's Anatomy. (I am single, please don't ask for details.) For some, normal looks like a long-distance, open relationship, which might not always be easy. But according to a relationship expert, it's possible to make it work as long as both partners are on the same page about what they want. Still, it does present its own unique challenges. For tips on how to have a long-distance open relationship, I spoke with Dr. Joshua Klapow, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show. Remember: You deserve a love that feels right to you, so Klapow's insight might be able to provide some guidance.

Keeping communication open, but not too frequent, is important in all relationships, but particularly long-distance open relationships. I've personally been in long-distance relationships where I wanted constant communication because I couldn't see my partner, and it ended up making the relationship more strained. "Communicate often but not constantly," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. "Trying to make up the time you are not together by talking, emailing, and texting constantly simply creates a level of expectation that can’t be sustained. Keep it regular but regimented so that communication doesn’t take over your life."

In open relationships in particular, too much communication might make your partner worry you're jealous (or vice versa), which could put a strain on the relationship. Be sure to find a communication rhythm that works for both of you, and you'll likely have a better chance of success in your open long-distance relationship.

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Self-reflect and make sure you're in the relationship for the right reasons. "What often happens is that one partner agrees to the open long-distance relationship in order to hang on to the relationship," Dr. Klapow says. "If you are going to be long distance, and you are going to agree to date other people, then your relationship is only as deep and committed as your feelings for each other." This definitely doesn't have to be your relationship if you don't want it to be — only you know why you've decided to commit to each other. However, if one of you is in the relationship for any reason other than truly wanting to be in that type of relationship, then it might be time to reevaluate. Figure out what made you begin the relationship in the first place, and remember what drew you to your partner.

Have a way to cope with jealousy when it arises, and your long-distance open relationship is more likely to work out. Communication is critical, and if you have a strategy for telling your partner that you're jealous, you might not feel like you're keeping a secret from them. There's nothing wrong with being envious — it's totally normal, and it's especially normal if you don't get to see your partner as much as you'd like. Still, it's helpful to focus on your own life when jealousy arises. "Do things for you and only for you," Dr. Klapow says. "Focus on work, or school when you are not with them. Make friends and enjoy them fully, not as a stopgap for the relationship. The stronger your life can be in terms of activities, hobbies, and other people, the healthier you will be." Putting the focus on your own life can help keep jealousy in check, and being open with your partner can strengthen the relationship.

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Sometimes, it can be helpful to change the way you think about the relationship. "Don’t try to formalize something that is not formal," Dr. Klapow says. "An open long-distance relationship in practice means you are dating other people — nothing more and nothing less." Of course, only you know if your relationship is truly a relationship (and you get to decide what the term "relationship" means to you), but if it's easier to think of it as something else, be open to that as well. The two of you can be special to each other in whatever way you like, and sometimes the label of "relationship" puts a strain on the dynamic that you have. If you're committed to being in a relationship, that's wonderful, but if you're open to calling it something else to improve your connection, that might help, too.

Long-distance open relationships can succeed, but only you know if the relationship is right for you. If you and your partner are both fully committed and communicating about your needs, and you're both happy, then the relationship is healthy, and that's what matters most. Besides, them being long-distance gives you space to live your own life, and the openness allows you to meet other people. So enjoy the relationship, and happy dating!