Tips for Making Long Distance Relationships Work

By: Kylee Bush, Ultimate Spark Coaching! Junior Coach

My boyfriend and I have been together for two and half years, and have been doing long distance for the past year now, and I mean opposite ends of the country distance. It is something we both knew would happen as he planned to join the Army. We took the time to have a lot of really important conversations, and really plan how to make things work. We are in love and strive to continue to work on improving our relationship daily. We are both still learning new techniques everyday, and I am now taking a relational science course that has broadened my understanding of the topic even more. I hope I can give some great tips to help others venturing into this world, because I promise it is not as bad as it seems.

1. Learn each other’s love language: This has to do with understanding what makes the other person feel loved. It is important to have the conversation, BEFORE the distance starts. My boyfriend and I made the mistake of not having this conversation, because we figured we had been together long enough, but when there’s no physical aspect it is important to know, emotionally, what makes the other feel loved. I personally like knowing I am a part of his day. I would constantly ask, “So, did you talk about me today?” After asking a few times he decided to ask, “why do you always ask me this? You know I brag about you all the time.” I finally came out and told him that I am used to being such a big part of his day, and knowing that he still talks about me just makes me feel good, and happy. Now without asking he tells me anytime he brings me up. Even if it’s as simple as saying, “my girlfriend was a gymnast,” when an old meet was being played on the tv. Had we had this conversation prior it would’ve made things feel smoother from the get go.

2. Have a set date night: Now I know what you’re thinking, how do you have a date night when you can’t be together? Think of this as a subsection of tips on planning a date via facetime, zoom, or whatever you use. Watch a movie together. Netflix has a feature called “watch party” where you can sync whatever you’re watching with someone else’s account. This can be done with movies, or tv shows. Play games together. My three go to’s are: Uno, Trivia Crack, and Words With Friends. We each have our own deck of Uno cards, and play over a video call. It is loads of fun, but the two of us tend to go downhill, because we get a little competitive with it. Along with this we play words with friends, and trivia crack via the apps constantly. It is a way for us to interact and do things together while not being together. One last thing to do is to order takeout and just have dinner together. We usually only have dinner together for special occasions when in person, so we try and keep it that way to maintain a sense of normalcy.

3. Find ways to engage in conversation: You have to realize that once you know someone, it can be hard to have conversations everyday, but they’re necessary in order to keep a connection alive. This plays in with point 2. Some days it’s okay to just talk about your day, but not everyday. That conversation will probably be short especially if it was just a normal day. Find things to talk about instead. My boyfriend and I like to read books together, and watch tv shows together. This guarantees us something to talk about. We can always talk about the show we’re currently binging, or discuss theories on the books we’re reading. Doing this allows conversation to not feel forced. While we engage with one another. Nobody wants to sit in silence on the phone or a video call. Once you’re together a certain amount of time though you feel as if there’s nothing new to talk about. This allows you to have something you’re both informed on and passionate about to discuss. There are always things to talk about just sometimes you gotta be a little creative with it.

4. Create ground rules: When doing so, this is not a chance to be controlling. Be FAIR, if you wouldn’t be comfortable with following the rule, then don’t impose it on someone else. It could be simple things, like let me know when you get home from work, can we try and call at this time everyday?, and things like this. It should NEVER be about restricting them from being around other girls, or guys. If you cannot trust your significant other around someone else, and view everyone else as your competition, then you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship with them at all, distance or not. Either work through your own issues, or find someone who does not cause these issues to arise. Ground rules can be positive or negative, which is why it is important to be fair when coming up with them. For instance I am very time oriented so my biggest thing is having a general time as to when to expect a call, or when he’ll be off of work. If the time isn’t set in stone then I usually ask him to tell me once he knows. My other biggest thing is just asking that he doesn’t party around strangers. I ask that he get to know the people around him first, so he’s sure that they will have his back since I am not there to do so.

5. Become independent: it is impossible to do long distance, if you are dependent upon your partner for everything. I found that I was more dependent on mine than I wished to be. Lucky for me I was forced into that transition period very quickly. For those who don’t know, military basic training does not allow phones or computers, you communicate via handwritten letters, and the occasional phone call, that is usually scripted. Ten weeks of this is really hard. I remember the first night I received a scripted call at 3 a.m. just saying he arrived. I barely processed it, as I was half asleep, then woke up to my dog searching for him. The first couple days are always the hardest, but it is important to find things that you love to do, and to have a good support system. I had friends who did understand what I was going through, and those who did not, but the one thing they had in common was that they cared about me. I spent a lot of time talking to them and working hard. Along with this I spent a lot of time reading, and read 22 books during that time, as I was also on summer break. Eventually you will begin to feel more independent and less reliant on that person. This does not mean to fall out of love, but to create a new sense of normalcy. Don’t expect to have your partners help with everything like you did before. I am grateful in a way that I only got five letters, and a couple phone calls, because it forced me to adapt sooner, rather than later, and also made me realize just how much love I have for him, and how strong I am.

6. Plan for the future: This is something that is hard to do right now, but it is important to have some sort of end date for it all in mind. Even if right now you just have an idea, but as it gets closer the idea will turn into a more solid date. It gives everyone a light at the end of the tunnel. Another idea is to plan when to see eachother next, what trips you want to go on together, and things like this. The pandemic has put a damper on things, but it is not the end of the world. Transition these future plans to a later time that is more likely with the current world situation. Planning for the future allows for positivity. It is important to think only of the plans, and how amazing it’ll be, not how far away it is. Think forwards, not backwards. Positivity is the most important thing. Instead of thinking “we still have all these days left” try saying “we started with 70, and now there’s one day less” or “only 50 days left”. Do a mental check to make sure you’re not using pessimistic words, but optimistic ones instead. This is extremely important. The more mental checks you do, the more natural positive, forward, thinking will become.

I hope you can learn something from these tips that I wish I had sooner. Long distance is a scary idea, but really it is just an adjustment. Stay positive, and think forward, not backwards. When the distance ends it is important to realize that too is an adjustment. According to relational science, those first three months after distance are the hardest to get through, but three months compared to years of distance are nothing. Just remember things will not be back to how they were before, because during this time while you were growing together, you were also growing separate from one another. Don’t expect to fall back into normal routines, instead keep an open communication channel, and get to know each other's new behaviors, and remember the hard part is over, and this is just another adjustment.

~ Published By: Sahana Golla