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Making Long-Distance Relationships Work: How to Stay Connected When Your Love is Far Away

Finding love is tricky. Finding someone to love who lives nearby, or at least in a zip code not too far away, can be a challenge. But a long-distance relationship can present a unique opportunity to get close in other ways.

What if you connect with someone on every level, and you really like them a lot, but they are either moving away, or already live far away from you? What should you do? Keep dating them and get emotionally invested? What if it doesn’t work out? Should you continue seeing them, (gulp) long-distance? How does that even work? Can you get frequent-flyer miles for this sort of thing?

There are no guarantees that any relationship will work out in the long-run, so no one can give you a definite answer on that one. However, if you decide to go forward into a long-distance relationship with someone that you care about, there are certainly a few things you can do, to help your new love be as successful as possible.

Many years ago, back in 1998, to be exact, I was hanging out one night on my computer, in an AOL Music Trivia Chat Room. (they were all the rage back then) A man with the screenname “Wayabovepar” entered, and 5 hours later, we were still typing and chatting into the night.

He lived in Florida. I lived in NYC, and then New Jersey. We had a very happy (although challenging) long-distance relationship for almost 7 years, before he finally packed up his life and moved it to New Jersey, to start a new life with me.

We would marry in 2006, and live happily ever after, for 4 years and 9 months. He died at age 46, very suddenly, from a heart attack, and our time together was over. Would I do it all over again, knowing the ending? Of course. Love is always worth the risk. Every single time.

So, for those of you considering entering into a long-distance relationship, here are some ideas that should help you to navigate through it together, and to make it a successful love story.

Communication is key. You should do your best to start and end the day together.

Since you aren’t able to wake up in each other’s arms each morning, waking up to a good morning text or phone call is the next best thing for long-distance couples.

Know each other’s work schedules, at least generally, so that you can give your partner a nice greeting at the start of each day. “Good morning, sweetheart!”, is a lovely way to put a smile on your face, and begin the day with purpose. .

Create an outline or schedule that works for you both, a far as when you will talk each day. My late husband Don and I used to have a “nightly date” around 9pm each weeknight, where we would sit at our computers and talk on Instant Messenger. Then most nights, we would call each other for the last few minutes, to hear each other’s voices, and to say goodnight.

Set up something similar that works for the two of you, but make sure that communication is happening regularly.

Try to get as creative as possible, to make up for lack of physical time together.

It is really hard to not physically see the person you are in a relationship with, on a regular basis. However, there are several things you can do to help someone feel special, and to make up for the time you can’t be together in the same place.

My partner and I used to make care packages for each other. We would fill them with homemade cookies, goodies, magazine articles we thought the other might like to read, sexy or fun pictures (we didnt have cell phones yet, so we had to get pretty creative), and more.

We also used to make each other “mix tapes”, filled with songs we wanted the other person to hear. I used to mail him a few movies at a time that I owned, and he would watch them, and then give me his review. We would also send cards and love letters, quite often.

We would do these kinds of things spontaneously, in order to keep things fun and romantic, and to let the other person know they were being thought of.

These days, it’s easier than ever to find multiple ways to get creative. Talk to each other on Facetime or Skype. Play a board game or other game together this way. Watch a movie together on your laptops. Eat dinner together, or a nightly cup of coffee to talk about your day.

Make a short video for the other person, where you take them through a favorite neighborhood in your town, or where you just flirt with them for a few minutes and make them feel wanted. This kind of creativity is extremely important when you are miles and miles apart.

Cheerful young woman talking on phone

Have a plan in place for the future, and discuss your expectations.

This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many couples go into a long-distance relationship, without talking about their needs and wants for the future. If you are putting your time and energy into this person, you should at least begin discussing what your end goal is.

Will one of you be moving, eventually, to be closer to the other? If so, who? And when? Are you exclusive and committed to each other, even while this far away? How many times per month/year do you expect to see each other? Will you take turns traveling?

These are important things to know, because not everyone is capable of handling the same situation. Our long-distance relationship stretched over 7 years. I couldn’t have done it if I didn’t feel comfortable that we had a definite plan for him to relocate to where I lived.

Because he was leaving his life behind to come be with me, his expectation was that it was leading to marriage. He didn’t want to move his entire life somewhere new, unless this was the real thing. Both parties in the relationship need to be on the same page as to where this is going and when, in order for it to work.

Always keep each other in the loop when it comes to big life changes and events.

When you don’t see someone everyday, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks when it comes to information. If you’re having a bad day, or a hard week, or if you had a wonderful thing happen to you at work, or you have to attend a good friend’s funeral – your partner should know about all that.

The thing you want to avoid is your partner not knowing what is going on in your life, and you in theirs. Keep each other informed, and be there for each other, whenever and however you can. When you’re far away, it’s even more important that you feel like the person you are doing all this sacrificing for, has your back.

This is the part where I tell you to have phone sex or cyber sex together.

You knew it was coming.(Get it? “Coming?”) It’s vital that you make priority time for one another, to be intimate in whatever ways you can be together.

There are many ways to do this in today’s modern technology world, so find what works for the two of you, and go for it. Make sexy videos. Plan a hot phone call. Create fantasies together and then bring them to life. Talk about all the naughty things you want to do next time you see each other. You get the idea.

Bottom line: Sex is important, especially when you are in a long-distant relationship.

If visits are an option, do it as much as you can.

People are in long-distance relationships for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes visiting is not an option (such as a partner in active duty military). If you are lucky enough to have the option to make visits to one another, plan them as carefully and as often as you can, and make them a priority.

Each time you see each other again and spend more time together in person, you will discover new parts of this person, and you will learn more about them. This will help you to know what they might be like on a day to day basis, and may help you determine what will eventually come of the relationship.

If it’s with the right person, and you both work at it, long-distance relationships can be very happy and successful. If I hadn’t have been willing all those years ago, to be patient and date this person even though he lived far away, I wouldn’t have met and fell in love with, one of the most beautiful people I have ever known.

Love is always worth the risk. Every single time.

For more ways to make your relationship stronger, check out “Normal” Sex for a Long-Distance Couple5 Ways You Can Make a Long Distance Relationship Work, or Long Distance Relationships: Do They Make the Heart Grow Fonder?.