Long distance relationships have a bad rap. Probably because they can really, really suck at times. But, believe it or not, long distance couples have just as much if not more stability, satisfaction, and trust than couples who’re geographically close! (You can fact check me here if you don’t believe me).
DON’T GET ME WRONG – after spending the majority of the last few years in a long distance relationship, I definitely don’t want to have to do it again. But, I will say that there are a lot of benefits… it’s worth making it work if you love the person and know that you want to be with them. Your relationship will become a lot stronger as a result.
If you’ve been following my blog, you can probably already tell that this post will be a little different than what I’ve been sharing recently.
I was inspired when one of my favorite blogging podcasts mentioned the importance of writing about whatever it is that people ask you about most in your normal, everyday life. What kinds of advice do your friends and family come to you for? What knowledge of yours do they value and trust? This is what you should be sharing. If you don’t focus on these things, you’re not going to reach your full potential.
With this in mind, I decided to jot down some thoughts on something that I have been asked about countless times: my (used to be) long distance relationship.
First, a quick back story. My boyfriend Udenze and I started dating in 2010 when we were fifteen. We dated all through high school, and planned on staying together through college too, despite the fact that he was headed to Washington State University and me to Chapman University in Southern California. Freshman year began and we quickly realized how difficult a long distance relationship would be. We ended up deciding to break up, live our lives individually for a bit, and experience college… as hard as that choice was.
Every time we came home for breaks we were pretty much inseparable. It became clear that our feelings for each other weren’t going anywhere. Skip to winter break of sophomore year and we officially got back together. (Side note: I want to add that looking back now, we always say taking that break was the best thing we could have done for our relationship. It proved to us that we 100% wanted to be together). We were in a long distance relationship for the rest of college, right up until I moved back home to Seattle after graduating this past May. At one point, when I studied abroad in Prague, we even went a whole 4 months without seeing each other.
Our relationship is nowhere near perfect (no one’s is), but this journey with long distance really helped us grow and learn together.
Anywaysss, to the point: I feel like I have a lot to say regarding how to make a long distance relationship work. These tips are meant for anyone who is in a long distance relationship, might be in one soon, or just anyone who wonders what it’s like. I also feel like a lot of this insight can be beneficial for relationships in general, so keep reading even if you aren’t dating someone long distance!
Here we go…
1. Try your Best to Understand What Each Other Needs and Expects.
When you’re in a relationship, especially one that’s long distance, it isn’t all about you (surprise!). If you want it to last, you have to do what you can to understand the needs and expectations of the person you’re dating. Theirs are most likely different than yours, so it’s important to be observant.
A good example of this is love languages.
You might be someone who feels most loved when given a thoughtful gift; they might feel loved through words of affirmation. Get to know what they need from you in order to feel important and cherished, and act upon that.
Don’t be afraid to have conversations about this sort of thing… it will pay off!
2. Build Trust with One Another.
This is without a doubt the best advice I can give. The odds just aren’t in your favor if you don’t truly have a foundation of trust (the case for any relationship). It might be obvious, but don’t take trust for granted and screw it up… you’ll have to start from square one and build it again.
Trust takes two main things: time and effort. Stay honest, loyal, and committed and trust will grow naturally.
Second guessing each other when there’s no evident reason to is toxic. An example of this would be going through each other’s phones just because you wanna “check” what they’re up to. So many couples our age do this and I just don’t understand why! When you do things like that you’re basically saying you have little to no trust. Udenze and I have never found it productive to do that; we rely on our trust in one another’s word and character.
3. Practice Balance and Don’t be Codependent.
It is incredibly important to remember that you each have other things going on in your life that also need attention (work, school, family, friends, etc). Don’t feel like you need to be constantly texting/talking to one another, and don’t freak out if some days you are super busy and can only talk for a little bit! That’s healthy and it means you know how to be independent.
I personally had a hard time with this one; it was something that took me awhile to learn. Naturally I just wanted to talk to Udenze all the time, even when I should’ve been fully focused on what I was doing or the people I was actually with. It takes work!
If you become codependent and completely wrapped up in the person you’re dating like they’re the only thing that matters, you prevent yourself from living your life mindfully and to the fullest. Make sure that you’re prioritizing your social, mental, emotional, and physical health. Go out with friends, workout, read… don’t spend every spare second on the phone or you’ll regret it for so many reasons!
Know where to draw the line! Live with balance and be present wherever you are.
4. Find Ways to be Romantic and Show you Care.
This one looks different for everyone. Obviously physical touch and affection is a big part of a romantic relationship, & that’s not exactly possible when you’re in a long distance relationship. Find other ways to show your love.
One thing I loved to do was send Udenze care packages – especially when we couldn’t be together for special times like Valentine’s Day or his birthday. I’d send a letter, pictures of us, some of his favorite things… I would even make crafts sometimes (let me know if you need ideas for this kind of thing… I’m sure I can give you some inspo!).
I said this earlier: don’t hesitate to ask each other what would mean the most! This is where love languages come in.
5. Make Communication a Priority.
I don’t mean talk to each other 24/7… as I said above I don’t think that’s a great idea.
What I’m saying is that in order to stay connected from far away, you have to work harder on communication than you do when you’re actually together! Talk about the big things AND the small things. Even the tiniest detail about your day can be worth sharing. Letting one another in on the little moments will make you feel more connected and involved in one another’s lives.
Setting aside a specific time to chat can be a really good idea! We were really bad at this since our schedules were all over the place (mainly mine). Do what works for you, and remember to just call spontaneously once in awhile to check in!
It goes without saying, but there are so many factors that go into making a long distance relationship work, and they look different for everyone. Despite the fact that no relationship is the same, I have faith that these tips will help any couple! It all comes down to communication, compromise, and of course… love. (Cheesy I know).
If you love someone enough to make it work, don’t be afraid of long distance.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share with anyone you know who might benefit from this post!
Photos by Kara Nixon
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