Romantic relationships often require maintenance and planning in order to keep them healthy and thriving. Especially if the relationship is long-distance...even more so if the relationship is not necessarily long-distance by choice. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take to make a long-distance relationship work.
In the early spring of 2020, many couples are experiencing unforeseen challenges due to shelter-in-place quarantine measures resulting from coronavirus. The present reasons for romantic distance may be new, but the tips for managing a star-crossed love haven’t changed much throughout the years. Whether you're divided by college, the military, the pandemic, or all of the above, it all comes down to communication and trust.
Even the smoothest of relationships can get bumpy when new stressors are introduced into the mix.
It’s hard enough to support a relationship when you live with a partner, or live nearby, and experience a shift in schedules that impacts the amount of face to face time you have (or don’t have). But what if you and your significant other don’t live in the same city, state, or even country? What if your ability to travel to see your partner at the drop of a hat is no longer as easy as it once was? Long-distance relationships aren't easy, but they're not impossible.
Jess Buslewicz and Natalia Iannucci, sophomores at Smith College, recently found their relationship turned upside down by coronavirus when the school sent out emails informing all dorm residents that they’d have to find someplace else to live. As The Washington Post writes, the couple had three days to box up their stuff, make new living arrangements, and prepare to enter a long-distance relationship.
The couple used to “drag their feet” when forced to walk from one end of the campus to the next in order to see each other, but now that distance is considerably further.
The Washington Post reached out to relationship expert Susan Winter for advice on new long distance relationships, such as the one above, and how couples can go about making them work. Winter’s advice was to use time apart as a chance to “tend to your current garden, but plant the seeds for the future” by communicating with each other about what is wanted and needed in the relationship.
Speaking with Psychology Today in 2018, clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior laid out ten essential tips for making a long distance relationship work. Among them, she recommends organizing your schedules efficiently, communicating to ensure your long-term goals are compatible, and working to recognize the positives that can come along with long distance relationships.
And although at times it might be difficult to see any positives in an LDR, research indicates long-distance relationships may actually be more satisfying than relationships in which distance isn't a factor.
One 2007 study showed that long-distance relationships have more relational stability and satisfaction with communication than non-LDRs. So even though loving from afar can be painful, distance also gives partners an opportunity to cultivate communication skills that will continue to serve them once they close the distance.
Following Bonior’s advice and keeping up with communication, honesty, and shared goals for the relationship will help you and your significant other stay on track. But what if extenuating circumstances, like a deployment, complicate your relationship?
Relationships where one or both partners are in the military often face different time zones, long deployments, temporary duty, and communicating from areas with weak internet or cell service. Huffington Post's Kelsey Borresen, who covers relationships, recommends that couples in military long-distance romances strive to maintain normalcy as much as possible.
That can include celebrating holidays together in whatever way possible, setting time aside to talk throughout the day, and doing fun little things like reading the same book at the same time.
A 2016 article written by Kirby Rodrigue gives a first-hand account of how to not only make it through a long-distance relationship, but how to thrive in one. At the time the article was written, Rodrigue was dating a naval officer, and putting the effort in to keep the love alive, even from 300 miles away.
“Just because you have time set aside to have a conversation via phone or FaceTime doesn't mean it's always going to be smooth-sailing,” Rodrigue warned. “You’re both continuing to live your lives. Just because it's time for your daily phone call doesn't mean you have to forget about your real-life problems. And you shouldn't expect your [significant other] to do that, either.”
Anyone who's been in a long distance romance will recognize the importance of maintaining your own interests and healthy social life aside from the relationship. It’s never a good idea to heap all of your wants, needs, and desires onto the shoulders of one person. That’s a good way to add even more stress to a relationship than the distance itself was adding all on its own.
One way to make sure you have support outside of your relationship is to reach out to friends and family who enjoy the same hobbies you do (bonus points if they appreciate the frustration of a long distance relationship). And if you do ever need to just vent to someone who gets it, online communities like r/longdistance can be a source of helpful advice, and an opportunity to commiserate.
Long-distance relationships are hard, there’s no denying that. But if it’s love … love will find a way.