How to make a long distance relationship work

With many people maintaining long-distance relationships out of circumstance rather than choice, we ask the experts for their advice on how to make it work

Ellie Abraham
Wednesday 18 August 2021 14:34
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A desire for a greater or more defined separation between day-to-day life and love, work and family commitments, or simply falling for someone in a different city are just a handful of reasons why many people find themselves in a long-distance love affair.

International travel between a number of countries has now somewhat resumed (although many are subject to costly testing and local restrictions), but during the worldwide halt on travel during the pandemic, many people who might not have originally signed up for long-distance were forced into this situation.

And continued lockdown and restrictions in some regions, mean that for those living in different geographic locations, it still might be a while before you can be reunited.

Although technological advances mean that we’re able to stay in near-constant contact with loved ones who are distant, it doesn’t eliminate all of the challenges and work that go into maintaining a long distance relationship.

While every relationship has its ups and downs, it’s even more important that lines of communication and trust remain open for those separated.

The Independent spoke to dating experts to find out how best to make a long distance relationship work and grow.

Communicate

Communicating with your partner is pretty key in any relationship, but particularly one where you’re not physically together and may even live in different time zones.

According to experts, the frequency of communication is actually less important than the quality and depth.

Eharmony’s relationship expert, Rachael Lloyd said: “For a long-distance relationship to work, smart communication is key.

“For example, it could be helpful to decide whether a meaningful conversation before bed is more worthwhile than a stream of random texts throughout the day.”

Neil Wilkie, relationship expert and author of The Relationship Paradigm agrees: “Create time where you can really express your feelings and emotions to each other.

“Avoid going through a nightly routine on Facetime” - that could end up feeling like a chore - “instead, talk less often but in more depth”.

Connect

Being apart can make it more difficult to connect on a physical level, but emotionally, it’s vital to make the time. Experts suggest it’s good to keep continually learning about your partner to build strong bonds and familiarity.

This can be achieved by intentionally discussing a range of interesting and important subjects that tell you a lot about a person.

Dr Clair Burley, Chartered Clinical Psychologist at The Birchwood Centre for Relationship Therapy, said: “Explore topics such as life events, friends and family members, hobbies, current stresses, life goals and aspirations, values, fears, embarrassing moments, dream destinations, favourite movies and music, and so on.”

Burley also suggests that knowing each other’s love languages can help build strong connections.

Love language refers to the ways in which people like to give and receive love. The five languages are: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, touch.

Knowing what your partner needs to feel loved can help maintain a strong and healthy long distance relationship.

Burley said: “If your partner’s love language is touch, you might organise a massage for them, or buy them a weighted blanket.”

Despite the distance, sexual intimacy is not off the cards completely. Thanks to technology, there are ways in which you can achieve mutual pleasure with each other from afar.

Wilkie said: “Concurrent and shared self-pleasuring can be an erotic way of connecting.”

Show commitment

Like all partnerships, long distance couples need to demonstrate their commitment to the relationship.

With less face-to-face interaction, it can be easy for things to fizzle out or for your partner to feel less prioritised over things going on in your everyday life.

To avoid that happening, experts suggest demonstrating commitment by planning ahead for the future.

Setting certain steps or goals, and discussing what it will be like when you achieve them, can make long distance partners feel they’re on a shared journey.

Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn, said: “Don’t forget to keep thinking of that light at the end of the tunnel - we all need something to dream for and hope for.

“So, plan dates for the future and have a goal that you’re both working towards, whether that’s a holiday, a house, or a plane ticket to see one another.”

Have fun

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun. The whole purpose of a relationship is that it enriches your life, and one that is long distance should be no different.

Normal couple experiences like movie nights and dinner together can be achieved virtually.

Watch a boxset or film together virtually, or order the same takeaway and enjoy it over Zoom with a glass of the same wine.

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