10 Tips for Being in a Successful Long Distance or Online Relationship
How to Keep the Fires Burning While You are Apart
Many a long distance relationship has failed because of the sadness and frustration that comes from being apart: Romantic relationships are fed and sustained by physical presence in ways that other relationships (no matter how close) aren't.
Yet separations do happen, and couples need to make the best of the situation. Here are some tips, gleaned from personal experience as well as the experiences of friends, that can help you and your partner cope:
1. Set and adhere to a regular schedule of visits. Yes, travel can be expensive, but as noted above, physical presence is key to the survival of your relationship and a set schedule of visits can relieve tension by providing structure to your situation.
Also, if your work/sleep schedules often conflict (or if you are dealing with a major time difference), you might want to schedule regular "dates" via webcam, phone (Take advantage of VOIP services such as Skype), or instant messaging.
2. Be careful about being "too available" to each other online. Everyone needs their own time and space. If you were local to each other, or even living together, you wouldn't be talking to each other all the time. Yet it can be tempting to keep your IM client on whenever you are near the computer or to drop everything the instant you receive an email. But feeling an obligation to always be available and responsive is both stressful and interferes with productivity.
3. Make audio messages for each other. Email and chat are fine, but since you don't get a chance to "do" things together, using a small voice recorder can be a great way of recording what you are seeing and thinking as you go about your daily activities. Another option is to record messages for each other at night in the form of an audio journal.
4. Maintain a strong local social network. It's easy to become focused soley on your romantic relationship to the detriment of others: After all, you are missing your partner terribly and are thinking of them all the time. But you need the support of your friends while you are separated from your partner. Don't feel guilty about taking time for "real life" social activities.
5. Include your partner as much as possible in your social network. Mutual friends provide support and stability for your relationship. This is true even if you met your partner online. Social networking sites such as Facebook make it easy to introduce your partner to your friends, and chat rooms and games provide great opportunities for interaction and conversation.
6. Don't blame the distance for more serious relationship problems. If your gut is telling you that there is a problem in your relationship, don't ignore it. Yes, the distance is stressful, but the temptation to let "the distance" mask deeper problems can have disasterous consiquences.
7. Don't use the distance to avoid necessary confrontations. Don't end the relationship or discuss a "deal breaker" in email. If you can't visit in person to deliver bad news or talk through a difficult issue, schedule a good time to speak on the phone, in chat or via webcam. Don't "hit and run" just because the distance makes it easy to do so.
8. Expect a bit of dissonance when you get together in person, especially if you originally met online.
- Even if you previously dated in real life, don't expect to instantly feel as comfortable in each other's presence as you did prior to the separation.
- You are physical strangers to each other if you met online, and that feeling uncertain and uncomfortable with someone who otherwise seems familiar is normal.
- Most importantly, don't interpret the dissonance as something that is necessarily negative. Give your visit a few days before drawing any deeper conclusions.
9. Find a project that you can work on together. Whispering/typing sweet nothings gets boring after awhile. You need to engage in non-romantic, non-relationship oriented activities as well. Get creative!
- Do either of you write? How about working on a book or an article together?
- Playing online games together can be a fun.
- Is there a charity that you are both interested in? Volunteer to work on a project together if it can be completed at a distance.
- If you enjoy reading, agree to read the same book at the same time so you can discuss it regularly.
10. Set a relocation goal. If you want the relationship to continue long term, one or both of you is going to have to relocate. This will obviously require careful planning and some flexibility, but it is wise to set a "target date" for the move so that you have a goal to work towards.