Long distance relationships have probably been a point of contention ever since the human species evolved to have feelings. Anyone who’s experienced one knows they’re no fun at all, and anyone who’s watched a romantic movie or television show knows they’re fraught with drama. I’ve both dealt with a long-term long distance relationship myself, and watched a number of friends and acquaintances go through them—or at least attempt to. I’m not a psychologist or any type of relationship expert, but based on my experience I think I’ve found the secret to dealing with long distance relationships: don’t try too hard.
Let’s say you’re in a pre-marriage relationship that you’re thinking just might be able to work out in the long run, when suddenly life decrees that you and your significant other will either need to live apart or at least be separated for a substantial amount of time. You’re probably filled with frustration, despair, confusion, indecision, and all sorts of other swirling emotions. If you try to step back and take a practical look at the situation, you really only have to decide between two options: either this person is worth the wait, or he/she is not.
Yes, that’s a pretty dramatic simplification, but you might surprise yourself and come up with an honest answer to that question. It’s quite natural to be apprehensive about entering into a long distance relationship, but does most of your anxiety stem from the anticipation of missing this person, or from not wanting to deal with maintaining a relationship from afar? If you feel that the latter is true, forget the whole thing and move on. You may be thinking that’s not making a long distance relationship “work,” but I disagree; if you’re being honest with yourself, saving two people a lot of stress, and moving on to something better, that sounds an awful lot like “working” to me.
What if your honest answer is “I don’t know?” That’s fine! If you’re truly unsure of what you want to do, my recommendation is to give it a try. If you find that it’s not for you, you’re hardly worse off than you would be if you ended your relationship right from the start.
So, now let’s say you’ve decided to give it a shot. Not trying too hard is really the way to go. Of course the relationship will be difficult and filled with a lot of loneliness and longing, but those emotions don’t necessarily mean trouble. Just let your relationship progress naturally and try to look at it objectively once in a while. If you’re constantly missing this person, and always looking forward to your next meeting, it’s a sign that you’ll make it through. Don’t try to force it; just see if it happens. If you find yourself filled with more resentment than longing, or you’d rather satiate your longing with another person than with a spontaneous visit, accept it and call it quits.
If you decide you’re in it for the long haul, here are some tips to make dealing with the separation a little more bearable:
- If you can visit each other, try to alternate visits and schedule them at regular intervals (even if they’re far apart) so you’re never unsure of when you’ll see each other again. Having a date circled on your calendar gives you a tangible goal.
- Use Skype, or some other free video chatting program. It won’t cost anything, and you’ll be able to see each other’s faces.
- If you don’t have a webcam, at least talk on the phone regularly. Having a meaningful conversation will keep you closer than relying on texts or emails alone.
- If you come across some silly little thing during the course of your day that you know would make your partner giggle, even a little, don’t hesitate to share it. Sending little snippets between phone conversations can brighten a person’s day, keep you on his/her mind, and make you feel closer.
- On that subject, why not surprise him/her with a heartfelt Unvelope? Tell them you miss them, send a general love card, or say just about anything you want!
- Do something spontaneous every once in a while. Plan a surprise visit, or send an unexpected gift.
Basically, when you’re faced with entering a long distance relationship, don’t fret over whether or not you’ll be able to handle it. Just take a deep breath, give it a try, and see if it works itself out.
Obviously, my advice doesn’t cover all possible scenarios. If you’re in a forced long distance marriage—like if you’re a military spouse, for example—I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!