This post is sponsored by CatchEye.
CatchEye is a free Skype plugin that helps you make direct eye contact during video calls.
Meet people where it matters most–eye to eye.
So you met someone online that you really click with… from a different country. Or maybe you started chatting to someone at a party and, then, three drinks and lots of sparkly chemistry later, they happened to mention that they live four hours drive away. Now you’re “dating” someone you barely know, someone who lives a long way away, and wondering how to survive a long distance relationship.
Maybe you’re second-guessing yourself and wondering if you’re crazy. Maybe you’re flying so high that you’re already picturing happily ever after. Either way, I want to share two things.
One: There is no way around it… long distance relationships are hard work. If you are in this relationship for long there will probably be times when you do second guess yourself and wonder whether you’re crazy to stick with it.
Two: If you’re a good match, happily ever after is definitely possible. (At least, a happily ever after that includes some arguing about household chores and–if you end up having kids–more sleep deprivation than you can possibly imagine in addition to all the fun stuff.)
I have been in several long distance relationships. Seven years ago I married my last long distance love—a man I met via email when we lived 7000 miles apart. Here are 15 of my time-tested strategies for not just surviving in a long distance relationship, but thriving.
1. Remember: Long distance relationships can totally work
LDRs—even those that start across distance—can lead to happy, healthy, long-term partnerships. It is important to hang onto this. Anyone who tells you that long distance relationships never work is simply wrong.
2. Be yourself
Don’t play games or make yourself out to be someone that you know, deep down, you’re not. Trust me, if you’re chatting to someone who loves hiking when you hate walking for more than 10 minutes at a time, don’t tell them that you love hiking.
This seems so obvious that I hesitated to include it. But it’s way too easy in a long distance relationship, especially one that starts over distance, to lead or allow the other person to believe things about you that just aren’t you.
Don’t play that game. Be yourself right from the start. Yes, this is sometimes a delicate balance. You don’t want to over-share too early in a new relationship, but you do need to be open and honest.
The whole point of dating is to find out if someone is a good match for you long term (and you for them). Keeping this in mind will help make it easier for you to relax and be yourself, because you win either way. You win if the relationship grows and develops into something solid and wonderful. And you also win (albeit more painfully) if the relationship ends, because if you’re not a good match for each other then you will be better off in the long run not staying in the relationship.
So don’t try too hard to impress, or work to become someone that’s just not you. Be yourself.
3. Start slow
Start slow. There are good reasons people make jokes about not sleeping with someone on the first date–you can throw a budding relationship off kilter by jumping into bed together too quickly. But did you know you can also throw relationships off-balance emotionally by spending too much time, too quickly, connecting deeply into someone’s life?
If you’ve just met someone online, remember: Don’t do casual intimacy. Don’t immediately abandon all restraint and pour out your heart and your secrets to someone you have just “met.” Don’t spend every spare moment talking, or make commitments just weeks after you start communicating. Casual intimacy is so easy to do in the online space, because it gives us all the happy-buzzy-feel-goods and it seems so safe and harmless. After all, you’re just “chatting,” right?
Well, not exactly. If you want to your long distance relationship to succeed, you are much better off establishing healthy patterns and boundaries around your communication from early on.
4. Be careful
If you meet someone online rather than starting your long distance relationship in person, be extra careful! Most people will turn out to be more or less who they say they are. Most people have generally good intentions. Most, however, is not everyone. So be smart about when and whether you give them information such as your address. Don’t send anyone money. And think before you meet, so to speak.
5. Beware the rose-colored glasses
In the early stages of a relationship, everyone is prone to seeing the object of their affection through rose-colored glasses. When we find someone attractive, we tend to assume that they are wonderful in all sorts of other ways as well. This means that when we are drawn to someone’s bright smile and shiny hair (or their saucy online banter) we tend to assume that they are also smart, kind, and interesting.
So, remember, if you are in a new relationship you are wearing a pair of rose-coloured glasses. And if you’re in a new long distance relationship, you’re wearing a pair of rose-coloured glasses with extra-thick lenses.
6. Meet in person as soon as possible
In a chat room or over a phone line it is practically impossible to gauge whether you’ll have that indefinable thing called “chemistry” when you actually meet in person. Don’t rush into meeting someone, but don’t delay too long either. If possible, meet in person before you have invested too much time or emotional energy in your budding relationship.
7. Talk often, but not too often
You don’t need to spend three hours on the phone every day to be truly connected. In fact, if you’re spending three hours on the phone every day, you might be too connected to be healthy.
I always found that touching base by email or text some days (or a quick 5-minute call) and then having much longer conversations several times a week worked best for me. This sort of rhythm allowed me to feel connected, but not smothered. And only talking at length a couple of times a week encouraged us to have more meaningful conversations during our “virtual dates.”
8. Read, watch, and listen to the same stuff
Watch the same shows. Read the same books. Listen to the same podcasts. Share news articles with each other. This sort of stuff gives you common “touch points” that will help you connect more deeply, especially when your day-to-day lives are very different. And when you talk about characters, themes, and current events you will learn more about how you both think and react. (Here are some more ideas for fun stuff to do together)
9. Learn more about communication
The greatest benefit of being in a LDR for a season is that it encourages you to communicate. The better you are at communicating, the better your relationship will be (both long distance and up close and personal).
So continuously strive to become a better communicator. Use this website and others to learn about the dynamics of long distance relationships, communication, and conflict resolution. Put this knowledge into practice with your long distance partner. And use this time when you are living far apart to ask lots and lots of questions. Getting to know your partner deeply and well will pay off big time in the long run.
10. Listen to what they are not saying to you
Pay attention to your how your partner treats you and talks about other people, not just what they say to you directly. Hopefully, everything they are communicating indirectly will match up to the sweet things they’re saying to you on Skype. If not, pay attention. Sometimes, what a person communicates indirectly will tell you more about their character than their actual words do.
11. Don’t allow jealousy to become a big problem
When you’re in a long distance relationship, feeling a bit jealous or insecure now and again is probably inevitable. After all, your partner will be spending more time with other people than with you. But when these uncomfortable feelings rear their heads, don’t hold them close and dwell on them for too long. Instead, acknowledge those feelings for what they are and then figure out how you want to deal with your jealousy before it starts to control you.
12. Have a life outside of love
Don’t put the rest of your life on hold. There is no need to reorient your entire life around your LDR—in fact, that will only hurt you and your long distance relationship in the end! So make sure you have other things in life that you love doing apart from talking on the phone to your significant other. Go to the gym, and to that cooking class (or wherever your hobbies take you). Join a new group or work on a new skill. See other friends every week.
13. Plan ahead for visits
Plan ahead whenever possible so that you always have the next visit scheduled. This will help you set aside the time and the money to make it happen. Having a reunion date on the calendar will also make the waiting easier. Knowing you have to wait three months before your next visit is really hard. Not knowing when you’ll see them again is harder.
14. Periodically ask where this is all going
You don’t need to be sure that you want to spend the rest of your lives together to stay in a long distance relationship, but you should periodically talk about your relationship goals, where you might be headed, and what you want in life and love. These conversations can sometimes be awkward. However, if you’re not on the same page (or at least reading the same book) in terms of timelines and what you want out of a relationship, then you should be asking yourself whether it’s even worth being in the relationship.
15. Make plans to bridge the gap
Long distance has a shelf life. Distance is something to grow from, but in every worthwhile relationship it is also something to be endured and eventually overcome.
Don’t rush into moving or other serious commitments. Do start talking from fairly early on about your relationship hopes and goals and how (all going well) you might eventually close the gap. Don’t then fall into the trap of talking about this all the time and focusing on it obsessively. Do have regular, open, honest conversations about possible next steps.
Over to you.
What is one of your best tips for how to survive a long distance relationship?
This post was sponsored by CatchEye
CatchEye is a free Skype plugin that lets you make eye contact and remove distractions in your video calls. It helps you connect more directly with the one you love. Here’s how Erin talks about the difference that this can make…
“Seeing someone’s face, even on screen, has a power that I can’t explain but that was critical for Ben’s and my long distance relationship survival. At two points, we nearly called things off, first him, then me. Both times, we had the discussion over Skype. For me, seeing his face and looking into his eyes while we spoke reminded me of why we were doing this crazy thing in the first place, and we decided to stick with it.” (Erin, long distance relationship veteran)
You can find out more and download the plugin at catch-eye.com.