Long distance relationships: what works and what doesn’t




I am about to celebrate my six year anniversary with my lovely boyfriend. People are often surprised to find out that he and I have spent the better part of our relationship living apart, not only in separate houses, but in separate towns. This is not necessarily by choice, but it just happened that our career and education choices have kept us stuck in various locations. I am often asked things like “Isn’t it just awful, living apart all of the time?” and “Are you ever tempted to cheat?” and “How do you keep it going after all this time?” The truth is, long-distance relationships are hard work, but they can also be very worthwhile.


The most important thing to note about long distance relationships is that I believe that they can only work with two people who are compatible, passionate about each other and are committed to working on their relationship. While long-distance relationships take a bit of work, if you are with someone who makes you truly love and care about, it will be worth it. If you are trying to hang onto a relationship with somebody that you have only lukewarm feelings for, you are likely to find that before too long, it all begins to feel rather like a chore.


Long distance relationships have a lot of advantages, such as:

– They allow you to maintain your independence. I have lived on my own for many years and I have developed so many skills that I probably would have let my boyfriend handle if we had lived together right from the beginning. You also have plenty of time to spend with your friends and working on school or work engagements.

– You can become intimate with a person in a long-distance relationship on a more emotional level, because you have to be more creative about how you communicate and you are more likely to discuss problems and achievements. Your relationship is less likely to be purely physical.

– You appreciate the time you do spend together that much more.


However, there are some downsides to being in a long-distance relationship. These include:

– You run the risk of being with someone who is good at presenting only their very best self, and it may be harder to weed out a loser.

– You will go through long periods of being apart, which means missing one another deeply, some loneliness and the temptation to cheat.

– You may not be able to see your partner on special days, such as birthdays or anniversaries.

– You are faced with uncertainty as to the future of your relationship.


Here are some very important pointers from a person who is very happy in a long-distance romance:

– Communication is key. My partner and I communicate every single day. It might be an hour-long phone call in the evening, a romantic email, a cute text message or a lovely letter or poem. You will need to be creative in thinking up new ways to stay in touch and let the other know that you are thinking of them and missing them. Talk about everything, from what you did during the day, to any problems or fears you are having. Don’t restrict communication to only the important stuff, because day-to-day banter will help you to feel more connected and involved in each others’ lives.

– Be honest with your partner. In the beginning, it might be tempting to tell them that you are a dancer on Broadway, or that you have your own fashion design business or that you spend every Wednesday night taming cougars in your backyard. It might also be tempting to fake an interest in their hobbies. DO NOT DO THIS. I can’t stress enough the importance of being yourself (in any relationship, not just long-distance ones). If you tell lies, you will be found out. If you tell the truth, sure, you run the risk of your partner not liking some of your qualities or interests, but if this is the case, they probably aren’t worth being with anyway. One thing I love about my boyfriend is that I feel totally free to be myself around him, and he truly seems to love me as I am (even when I sleepwalk or refuse to leave the house in flat shoes).

– Always plan ahead as to when you are going to see each other next. If you never see one another, it will be very difficult for your relationship to grow and progress. Everyone’s situation is different, and the period of time you spend apart will vary. It will help you greatly if you have an idea of exactly when you will next be together, especially on days when you are missing your partner.

– Make a special effort on birthdays or anniversaries. Even if you can’t be together, you could arrange to send a card, flowers, gifts or a barbershop quartet. My boyfriend once told me that he had an exam on my birthday and that he couldn’t come home, and I was devastated. That is, until he surprised me by picking me up from work the night before my birthday and spending the entire day with me.

– When you do see one another, don’t be tempted to always be on your best behaviour. Put an effort into your appearance and plan special dates and activities, by all means. However, I think it is just as important to spend some quality time in pyjamas, slobbing on the couch with a DVD as it is to get dressed up to the nines and head out for a five course meal.

– Share the work. If one person in the relationship is putting in all the effort, calling every night, planning dates, writing letters and travelling, they are going to get resentful after a while. Your personal situation will dictate how often you are able to travel or make a phone call, but do make an effort to disperse the administrative stuff, otherwise it won’t be too pretty.

– If you and your partner have a physical relationship when you are together, you are likely to get, well, a little antsy when you have time apart. One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to learn to take care of yourself sexually. It might be worthwhile engaging your lover in phone sex, or even skype sex if you have the technology. If you are a little anxious on the topic of self-love, check out this brilliant article from the lovely Violet Blue:


– Long distance couples face some problems that are different to those in conventional relationships, and some problems that are more typical. There are no avoiding problems in relationships. Always talk to your partner about any fears, reservations or anxieties you may be having, no matter how trivial. Not only will your bond be closer, but you will be able to work out a solution between the two of you. Don’t put on a happy face and pretend that things are O.K if they aren’t.

– Try to spend a large block of time together once in a while. This will give you a better idea of how compatible you are in an every day setting. If you only see your partner on the weekend, it may be easy to believe that you would get on great if you did move in together, when in fact you are wildly different and would drive each other insane within three days.

– Do your darndest to resist jealousy and clinginess. When you are spending long periods away from your lover, it is more important than ever to trust them. It is inevitable that your partner will come in contact with other women, and you will need to learn to be O.K with that. You can’t call or text your boyfriend every four seconds to check that he is alone. If you have any serious fears, tell him. Don’t get carried away and paranoid, because clinginess is one of the best ways to scare a guy off, pronto.

– As for the temptation to cheat, if you do feel like cheating, ask yourself why. If you feel lonely and miss your partner, go out with friends, call your partner or spend time with your family. If you are a little randy, perhaps you could take care of it yourself. If you seem to be more attracted to somebody else, and wish you weren’t in your current relationship, well, perhaps you shouldn’t be in your current relationship.

– As with any relationship, don’t get so caught up that you do nothing but think about, write to or call your partner. Make the most of the time you have apart from one another and spend plenty of time with your friends, taking classes, working, doing things that you enjoy. This is great for two reasons: firstly, it will make you more interesting because your life will have many facets and you will have loads to talk about; and secondly, you won’t miss your lover as much. You will certainly miss them, but if you keep occupied, it will make your time apart more bearable. Also, spending time on yourself will increase your feelings of self-worth, and you will be less likely to become one of those hideously boring people who define themselves by their relationship.


Overall, I firmly believe that a long-distance romance can be very beneficial, but it takes hard work to maintain. Hopefully, the long-distance part won’t last too long, and there will come a point where you will be able to be together, in one place, for a good long while (if not forever).


Have you ever been in a long-distance relationship?  Do you have any tips for keeping the love alive?


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