Long Distance Relationships: How to Make Them Last
Long Distance Loving
When it comes to relationships, everyone has questions. They can be confusing, scary and exciting all at once, especially when they enter new territories. Literally. A long distance relationship can be one of the most challenging obstacles for any couple. But you shouldn't back out of something special just because they're afraid of the unknown. A long distance relationship can open up a world of possibilities - from a deeper understanding of yourself and you significant other to simply an excuse to take a vacation! Take it from a girl who knows. I've been dating my boyfriend long distance (500 miles to be exact) for the vast majority of our relationship, so I'd like to think I know a thing or two about what it takes to not only make your relationship last, but make it grow stronger as well.
What Do I Know?
Like I said before, I like to think I know a couple things about long distance relationships. If you don't believe me, here's a little background:
Lukas and I started dating in high school. He was a senior, getting ready to graduate, and had recently been accepted into the United States Military Academy Prep School. I was excited for him, obviously since it was a very prestigious school but also concerned - what did this mean for our relatively short relationship? Before he left for his basic training (3 weeks, no talking), we talked about what his leaving for school meant for our future. At first we decided to call it quits on our relationship but after thinking about it a little more, we decided to see how things went.
Lukas being gone for three weeks was tough to say the least. I missed him and worried about him constantly. After over two months of not seeing him, we were finally reunited - the best feeling in the world! Throughout the rest of the year, we worked on our relationship. He offered to come home several times but I told him no. I knew what he was doing was good for his future. But to be honest, I regretted saying that a year later. So let's fast forward. One year later, I was leaving for college myself and he was starting his freshman or "plebe" year at the United States Military Academy at West Point. That was a rough year made even worse by my parents announcing their divorce. There were many long nights, many tears (all mine) and many times that I asked him to come home to me. Despite all the difficult times that we went through that year, we still made it through. Now, another year later, we are still going strong. RIght now, we're in another two month stretch of not seeing each other and I'm busy counting down the days until he gets to come home. The time apart has allowed me to think a lot about long distance relationships - what they mean for me, what they mean for him, and what they mean for us.
After three and a half years, I'd like to say I know a thing or two. But read on and decide for yourself.
Love Tip #1: Log Some Face Time
Personally, I think that one of the most important things to do while in a long distance relationship is to TALK. You may think that this is common sense but you'd be surprised. Many couples lack communication and while this is a challenge in a normal relationship, it can be the end of a long distance relationship. Despite the importance of this, it is relatively easy to achieve. All you need is a webcam or at least a phone. Webcams are extremely helpful because talking on the phone and texting can be difficult. It can be hard to determine emotions by simply a voice or a couple words. Seeing each other's faces makes that aspect a lot easier. Plus, who wouldn't want to see their lovely boyfriend or girlfriend's face! Hint: It also makes flirting a lot easier!
To avoid conflict when it comes to talking, it's helpful to set aside a specific time to talk. In my relationship, we aim to hear each other's voices at least once a day. We call it our streak. But a different schedule may work better for your relationship. Whether it is once a day, once a week or every other day, find a talking schedule that fits your and your partner's personal needs and time schedule.
While talking, I find a couple things useful. First, come into the conversation with an open mind. You may be in a joking, playful mood but your partner may need to get some serious things off his or her chest. Be there for them! Listen to what they are saying and make sure you ask questions to show you are truly there for them. But things don't always have to be serious. When Lukas and I run out of things to talk about, we try to think up funny conversation starter questions to ask each other. For example, would you rather have a superpower but have to take a year off your life every time you use it or remain normal? As you can imagine, things get pretty ridiculous but they also provide lots of laughs and you learn things about your partner in the process!
Another thing that I have learned over the course of my relationship is to tell your partner right away when something bothers you. It took me a while to learn this but now that I do this, I avoid getting wound up and eventually angry over some of the little things. Of course, fights aren't always unavoidable. Trust me, I know. And fighting over the webcam or over text message can be even more difficult than fighting in general. Let's move on to some tips that I've found helpful over many, MANY fights.
Love Tip #2: Never Go to Bed Angry
While Lukas does not always agree with this rule, it is one that I have always stood by. My theory is that everyone sleeps better after they've said all they've needed to say and have gotten some anger off their chest. Plus, good-nights and I-love-yous are important. No one wants to go a night without hearing one from their significant other. But then again, not going to bed angry is a lot easier said than done. But here's some tips to make it a little bit easier.
First off, make sure you say everything you need to say. If you're like me and hate fighting, you want this argument to be over as soon as possible. That being the case, you don't want to go to bed, wake up and have to bring up the argument again because you thought of some more points you need to make. Make sure you say it all right off the back and then you can move on to reconciliation.
Secondly, don't say things you don't mean, no matter how angry you are. This is probably a good tip for all relationships, not just the long distance ones. Just remember that once something comes out of your mouth, it can't be un-said. And chances are, your partner will have a hard time forgetting you said something so hurtful. Another reason that this is so important in long distance relationships is because it can be hard to make up via webcam or phone. With the distance in between the two of you, hugs and kisses are impossible, and sometimes that's what you feel like you need most. So whatever you do, don't make your partner feel isolated or unloved. Let them know that even though you're mad, you care.
Also, make sure you're fighting for what you believe in instead of simply to win. This can make things really messy and bring up old fights as well. Realize that you may be wrong. And if this is the case, fess up. Be the bigger person and apologize for what you did wrong or acting the way you did. This is going to save you a lot of time instead of trying to convince your partner that he or she is the one in the wrong instead of you.
Love Tip #3: Everyone Loves Surprises
Unless your partner is one of those crazy people who claim they don't like surprises, everyone loves them! Surprises really let your boyfriend or girlfriend know that you care about them and are thinking about them even when they are gone. Can't think of any ideas of your own? I may have a few in mind...
Videos are probably the easiest way to go here. Whenever I have a chance, I like to record a short video on my phone and send it to Lukas. Usually it's just me saying good morning and wishing him a great day but it's an simply way to switch things up and give them a little surprise.
Care packages are cheap and easy ways to show your partner you care. They can be small or large and packed with anything - cds, movies, food, etc, etc. Make your care package personal and pack it with anything your partner is in need of. If your partner is in a place that takes a while to ship to, avoid sending perishables. I once tried sending Luke cookies and it took two weeks for him to get them! Not the surprise I was going for... If this is the case, look for companies in your partner's area that delivers food. I use LoveACadet which has homemade baked goods and deliver to West Point for free on the same day the food is cooked. Yum! Look for other companies like this for an easier way to send things. Also, florists have other things than simply flowers. Balloons, teddy bears and chocolates are always a sweet treat.
Surprise them...with yourself. Plan a surprise trip to see your significant other! This is probably the best surprise there can be! If you don't have the money for a plane ticket, look into Amtrak, Megabus, or carpooling - cheaper ways to travel.
Surprise parties are nice. This is probably one of my shining moments as Lukas's girlfriend, not to brag. For his 21st birthday, he was at school and (being a military academy) couldn't celebrate as much as he would have liked. So, two weeks later when he came home for spring break, he went over to a friend's house, thinking they would just have a casual night of hanging out and SURPRISE! All his friends were there along with a keg, cupcakes and plenty of Eric Church music (his favorite). Try to do something similar for your boyfriend or girlfriend. It doesn't just have to be a special occasion!
Love Tip #4: Secrets secrets are no fun...
Unless they are for everyone? Not necessarily. But it is important not to keep secrets from your significant other. Especially when it comes to other people as in cheating. In my book, cheating is a no no. No exceptions. It shouldn't matter that your boyfriend or girlfriend is in another zip code, if you're doing something that would bother you if their position, my advice would be don't do it!! But I do realize that every couple is different and it is important to talk about what is okay and what is off limits. For example, some couples may deem flirting as okay. If this is the case, flirt away. Just make sure that you're honest with your boyfriend or girlfriend about what you're doing while their gone.
One thing that I have found challenging in my own relationship is wanting to be noticed by other people. Everyone wants to feel attractive and it's especially hard when your significant other isn't there to flatter you. In my book, it's okay to get dolled up and appreciate the confidence you gain when members of the opposite sex notice you. What's not okay is leading that person on or lying to your boyfriend or girlfriend. To sum it up, it's alright to get attention, just don't give it back. Save that for you partner. We all know they'll love you for it.
This being said, if you appreciate the attention others give you, you can't get mad when others give your partner attention, too. The only time you should be worried is when he or she keeps things from you or when the other person is actually pursuing your girlfriend or boyfriend. In this case, an open conversation is your best bet. But just remember, you can't get too mad at someone for finding your significant other attractive - in reality, they're just complimenting your taste!
Love Tip #5: Spend Your Time Together Wisely
This can be a tricky subject - it's hard to find the perfect balance. When you and your lovebird are finally reunited, its reasonable to want to spend every waking moment together. If this works for the two of you, great. But everybody needs time for themselves whether it be to go to the gym, spend time with other family and friends or I don't know, um, shower. So just be careful when it comes time to see your significant other. Be sure that neither of you are feeling smothered and are on the same page in terms of spending time together.
If your significant other is simply away at school or some place else in which your home is still technically his or her home, make sure that when they come home, you allow them time to see their family and friends. Of course, this doesn't mean you can't join them in spending time together! This is one of those times when getting to know his or her friends can be very helpful. Also a group of friends or another couple to double date with can be a good way to combine time together and time with others. That being said, it's also important to make friends with the friends he or she has wherever they are away at. This can be really helpful in planning surprises, taking an interest in his or her life and possibly planning trips to go see you lover. Sounds like a win win to me!
Going the Distance
Long distance love can be tough but hopefully this advice makes your life a little bit easier. Just remember to enjoy the time you spend together and use your time apart to focus on yourself. But stay positive, if you're like me, long distance isn't forever and in the meantime, it's only making your relationship stronger.
I would love to hear some of your own stories about long distance loves, hear if any of these tips worked for you or if you have any advice of your own! Feel free to leave comments below!