How to make a long-distance relationship work
Ask anyone who is in one, and they will tell you it’s not easy to make a long-distance relationship work. Tones get misinterpreted via texts all the time, finding the right time to talk to each other is a nightmare, and the stomach-churning longing you feel when you miss your partner can make you question if it’s even worth it.
Though they’re not the best kind of relationships out there, sometimes they can’t really be avoided, especially when careers and emergencies get in the way. In such cases, understanding how to survive LDRs becomes paramount.
So, what exactly does it take? With the help of dating coach Geetarsh Kaur, founder of The Skill School, which specializes in building stronger relationships, let’s take a look at the tips on how to make such a dynamic work, so you don’t let a little bit of distance get between the two of you.
Long-Distance Relationship Challenges
Though the outcome of an LDR varies from relationship to relationship, one thing remains constant in all of them: the challenges a couple has to contend with. Studies suggest that there’s about a 40% chance of LDR couples breaking up. And that’s not all, this study suggests that when an LDR turns into a geographically close relationship, they have about a 37% chance of breaking up within the first three months. Some of the common challenges that LDR couples face include:
- According to the NYPost, the biggest challenge faced by LDR couples is the lack of physical intimacy
- Worrying about being cheated on or struggling with trust issues
- Communication problems
- Dealing with loneliness
- Impaired communication due to time differences
- Growing apart & losing the emotional connection
- Making assumptions and jumping to conclusions
- Experiencing insecurity
- Feeling alienated
- Becoming possessive, controlling, and over-demanding
The truth is, how long-distance couples navigate the highs and the lows they go through depends entirely on them. Some people learn to be independent and patient, and focus on hobbies or learning new things. Others let loneliness, insecurity, and lack of touch get to them. Geetarsh sheds light on whether a lasting emotional connection is possible in such a relationship, and what it takes to develop and sustain it.
“It’s possible, but with a lot of complications. A lack of communication may lead to tiredness, it may cause insecurities, and time management may suffer as a result. However, what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder isn’t just an old cliche, it’s a very true phenomenon.
“The distance between you two will only make you feel connected and excited to meet your partner again. You’ll always be looking forward to spending positive time with your partner and there’s always going to be a layer of excitement. Though geographic separation has its lows, you’ve always got to focus on the bright side of things,” she says.
Sure, there are challenges, but if a dating coach who gives long-distance relationship advice regularly says it’s possible, it’s possible. Plus, there are two ways to look at that statistic we mentioned above: about 40% of LDR couples break up, which also means that 60% survive. So, if you’re saying things like “I love him but I can’t do long-distance”, we’ve got you covered. Let’s get right into all you need to do.
17 Ways To Make A Long-Distance Relationship Work
Figuring out how to make an LDR work requires both partners to be on the same page about everything, from calling schedule to future plans. Being in sync is the first step to steering clear of the common mistakes couples make in an LDR. The next important order of business is to set some ground rules to make things seem effortless. Once you’ve laid the groundwork right, your long-distance love can find a way to thrive, even if it’s just through the screen of your phone (for now). To help you along the way, here are 17 tips to develop a healthy bond despite being geographically separated.
1. Communicate regularly
Good communication is the key to any healthy relationship. To stay emotionally connected, you need to really let your partner know about your feelings and emotions. If you have a bad workday, the person you rely on for support should be there to lend an ear, despite the distance.
In the physical absence of your partner, it is inevitable that you will have mood swings. In that case, you need to share those feelings with your partner to keep the emotional intimacy intact. The daily exchange of texts and messages along with video calls whenever possible will keep you connected to your partner and will take the edge away a bit from the physical distance between you. Keep the following things in mind to make sure you and your partner are able to communicate regularly and in a productive manner:
- Schedule any video calls or phone calls, don’t wait for an impromptu call
- State your expectations and needs clearly, encourage your partner to do the same
- Try to opt for more voice and video calls than text messages
- Support each other and reassure each other when needed
- Be an active listener
- Establish a communication style that works for both of you
- Make sure your partner understands what your message is, and don’t let any miscommunication cause problems
Related Reading: 18 Long-Distance Relationship Problems You Should Know
2. Make sure your “communication” is actually productive
Geetarsh talks about how “communication” in itself won’t solve all your problems, you must also look after the quality of communication you establish. “Communication has four T’s: timing, tone, technique, and truth. You must make sure that you’re wary of your choice of words along with the tone you employ.
“Since you are unaware of your partner’s circumstances, it’s going to be difficult to judge their mood. Miscommunication between moods can often lead to bad communication or arguments. Perhaps you wanted to share some exciting news but your partner hasn’t had the best day. Perhaps you want to talk about the future, but your partner is angry and wants to talk about that fight you two had.
“Try to gauge your partner’s mood based on how they’re communicating with you and get to the bottom of what may have landed them in this mood. Even if you want to share positive news, it may turn out disastrous if you don’t time it right or if you don’t use the right words,” she says.
Of all the things to make a long-distance relationship easier, effective communication tops the list. Make sure you and your partner both know how to talk to each other. Use the right words at the right time, and things will be smooth sailing. Well, for the most part.
3. Meet as often as possible
This will keep the physical connection alive and take care of both your sexual needs. Sex and physical intimacy are the first things to get impacted in a long-distance relationship so make sure to meet one another as much as possible. Not meeting your significant other is the worst mistake one can make. Work out your finances and ensure that you can fly down or take a train ride every few months to meet your partner.
Whenever you can, try to meet halfway for a short holiday or plan a road trip together. Sometimes you can go to see your partner in person, or your partner can visit you. Plan surprises, that’s also vital. We know this is a drain on the finances but look at it as an investment into your relationship.
Meeting each other might be a bit more difficult when you’re trying to make long-distance work in different countries. In such cases, patience is going to be your best friend. Don’t let the irritation of it all get to you. Remember the adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and bide your time.
4. Keep your expectations real
It is very natural to feel anxious, concerned, angry, or worried over the slightest disconnect in communication; for example, when you don’t receive an immediate reply to your texts. However, be realistic. S/he may be going through a bad day at work and is unable to reach out to you, or, the difference in the time zones might just be too severe.
“If it seems like your partner doesn’t want to communicate, it could also be because you might’ve failed to gauge their mood or understand that they just want some space,” says Geetarsh, adding, “Maybe they’re going somewhere and you just forgot. The point is it’s important to give your partner space. Just because you’re in an LDR does not mean you have to always stay virtually connected or keep score of how much you talk to each other.” If you’re looking for long-distance relationship advice, here’s a little nugget: be more accepting and manage your relationship expectations realistically.
5. Use some long-distance relationship gadgets
What’s the point of living in the most technologically advanced age if you’re not using it to its full potential? Sometimes, a few sweet long-distance relationship gadgets can help you get through those particularly painful days when you can’t seem to think about anything other than wanting to hug your partner.
When those days come around, you can keep the spark alive with some ingenious gadgets. Did you know that there exist lamps that light up in your partner’s room when you touch yours, even if they’re a thousand miles away? There are rings that can literally make you feel your counterpart’s heartbeat on your finger, and, well, some sex gadgets use the same principle. So, start exploring and get yourselves a few that best align with your personality as a couple.
Related Reading: Are Long-Distance Relationships Worth It? 15 Reasons They Are
6. Don’t shy away from sexting
Let’s pick up where we left off at the previous point. As we saw at the beginning of the article, lack of physical intimacy is usually the biggest issue couples who are not in the same location have to contend with. Though it’s not quite as good as the real thing, sexting can satisfy that itch, at least for a little while.
There are far too many long-distance apps that can make something like this a lot more accessible, but you don’t even really need one. You’ve already got the messaging apps on your phone, all you’ve got to do is get typing or hit video call and put your inhibitions aside. Just make sure you’re not connected to public wifi when you do. Oh, and, use protection. We mean a VPN, of course.
7. Plan and schedule all your voice and video calls
Especially when you two live in different time zones, you’ve got to decide when you can talk to each other instead of just waiting for an impromptu call from your partner. Even if it feels like you’ve turned into “one of those couples who plan everything and never do anything fun anymore”, you’ve basically got to do it to be able to survive the LDR.
Geographic separation makes communication extremely difficult. And if you start going days without talking to each other because of conflicting schedules, the resentment slowly begins to grow. Thoughts like, “Why didn’t s/he call me? S/he can’t take out 5 minutes while doing chores?”, can begin to eat you up.
Without ever properly talking about a fixed time for calls, you’ll keep waiting around, your partner will keep waiting around, and you’ll fight over your WhatsApp texts. Doesn’t sound like a sweet thing to do in a long-distance relationship, does it?
8. Have common goals
Long-distance love grows as time goes by, but there’s only so much it can grow if the foundation of your relationship is weak. Are you two even planning on living together after this bout of geographical separation? Is the separation even a “bout” or is there no end to it in sight?
It’s important to have these conversations and establish around three to four common, long-term goals, apart from wanting to live together sometime in the future. Ask yourself the following long-distance relationship questions to help establish some common goals:
- We eventually plan on living together, but where would we like that to happen?
- Do we see kids in our future? How do we plan on parenting them?
- What kind of lifestyle do you want to have with me when we live together?
- Is there a cause that we’re passionate about and would like to contribute toward together as a team?
- What short-term goals should we set for ourselves to be able to make sure that we meet our long-term common goals?
9. Get creative with the dates
According to research, 24% of internet users with recent dating experience have used the internet to maintain an LDR. Another study states that couples who spend more time using “computer communication” in an LDR usually experience higher satisfaction. So, despite not being in the same place, there are a whole host of ways you can have interesting conversations and find activities to bond over.
“You usually do things in such a relationship that you wouldn’t do if you two were in the same city. Whether it’s constant video calls or sending short videos to each other and communicating more often, these little things can make all the difference. Since the spark is always there, it’s always possible to make an LDR work even with a time difference,” says Geetarsh. Here are a bunch of ideas for some sweet things to do in a long-distance relationship:
- Schedule a video call date, and order your care package on your date
- Spend time on a video call trying to learn a new skill: dancing, cooking, yoga
- Stay connected with each other while you’re both doing your respective chores
- Make art together while on a video call
- Make the same meal and have dinner together
- Binge-watch your favorite TV show
10. Be empathetic
Sometimes if a person is having a boring weekend at home and finds out the long-distance partner is having a great time with friends without them, they get upset, which could even start a fight. “One of the biggest problems I have seen is how young companions let the FOMO get to them. They assume their partner is out there having the time of their life without them, and they end up overthinking it for hours. It’s vital to not let that get to you,” says Geetarsh.
Instead of feeling left out and starting an argument over it, or getting upset at your counterpart for being a Debbie Downer just because you’re having fun without them, practice empathy in your relationship. Try to understand where your partner is coming from and why they could possibly be sad. Put yourself in their shoes and try to look at the situation objectively.
Related Reading: Do Long-Distance Relationships Work?
11. Don’t try to control things
It is never easy to be far away from your better half. One tends to micromanage the relationship and make things go their way because of a paucity of time. Do not make the mistake of being a control freak. Let things unfold slowly. It will take you some time to get used to the distance. So be patient with yourself and your SO.
When your partner was with you, you probably decided together where you two would go for lunch. Maybe you decided on their outfit for that upcoming conference. But if you keep doing the same in a long-distance relationship, it could get really stifling. Perhaps you may even try to control things more when you notice your SO changing as a person.
In such situations, learning how to be mature and not letting petty things get to you will do you a lot of good. You have to let go to some extent. Your partner’s going to have what’s available for lunch at the office cafeteria and they cannot always stick to the healthy salad you made for them at home. Accept that and stop fretting, and you’ll find that you’re both on the same page more often than you thought you were.
12. Establishing trust
However tough it seems or hard it gets to be away from your partner, never distrust them or begin to lose faith in the relationship just because you can’t see him/her physically. Trust and faith are the pillars of strength in any relationship and have to be unconditional.
“Trust is the basic necessity for many long-distance relationships to survive. There will be times when you may feel that it’s not going the right way but you can’t let insecurities govern how you behave in your relationship. Don’t make the mistake of video-calling them out of the blue, in an attempt to see if they’re telling the truth about where they are. Especially when you’re trying to make an LDR work with a time difference, it’s vital to take a step back and trust your partner,” says Geetarsh. To establish trust when you’re not geographically close, keep the following things in mind:
- Remind each other about your long-term plans
- Talk about your future together
- Don’t let the paranoia or insecure thoughts get the better of you
- Talk about things calmly, discuss all negative assumptions you may have and dispel them
- Be honest
Related Reading: 18 Things To Know Before Starting A Long-Distance Relationship
13. Be patient
Long-distance tests your patience and tolerance as no other relationship. Learn to be calm, collected, and patient even when things seem rocky between you and your partner. Most of the stuff is because of the distance, do not take it personally. Another thing that you have to work on is not jumping to conclusions.
A few minutes delay in replying to a text and you jump to the conclusion that your partner is ignoring you. You hear the voice of a man in the background while she is on the phone and you immediately assume the worst. While you’re thinking your partner is cheating on you, it might’ve just been the pizza delivery guy.
Especially when you’re trying to figure out how to make an LDR work in college, it’s vital to understand the importance of patience. Let’s just say your “hormones” will be driving you crazy, and other college students may pressure you into things you don’t want to do. Keep calm and stay logical.
14. Let love be your guide
“I love him but I can’t do long distance,” said Jenna, talking about how she might have to leave her partner, Red, just because they now have to move to different cities. But of course, as Jenna soon came to realize, leaving someone you love isn’t easy, even if there are a million miles between you.
When Jenna and Red decided to make things work, they knew it wouldn’t be easy. However, of all the things to make long-distance easier, they realized that the only thing they could fall back on was the feeling of love they had for each other. When you go back to what brought you together, it’ll help solve most of your problems. Remember love can help you get through anything, even physical distance.
It is important to keep in mind that you came together because you love each other. When you feel low, think of all the good times you’ve shared so far. Or you can talk about your next meeting and make plans so that you have something to look forward to. Love is a strong emotion. It can keep long-distance couples glued to each other. To make a long-distance relationship work, you will have to depend on it.
Related Reading: How To Keep An International Long-Distance Relationship Alive
15. Give your partner more space than usual
When you’re thinking about how to make an LDR work, there’s a good chance that throwing more space into the mix might be at the bottom of your list. But once apart, it’s vital to avoid making each other feel claustrophobic. Find new hobbies or activities to enjoy your own company. Keep yourself occupied and get closer to your friends now that you have the time. Use this distance to grow as an individual.
“People struggle with the ‘how’ of it all,” says Geetarsh, talking about how personal space is a concept that leaves a lot of couples unnerved, “When you deprive your significant other of healthy space, deep down, you know you’re making a mistake. You may not like nagging your partner or getting into an argument, yet you may keep repeating the same behavior patterns. Why? One of the major triggers is trust issues. The idea is that you must not be possessive about your partner. Sure, it can feel like you’re drifting apart, but with the help of trust and respect, you’ll realize your bond is not that fickle.”
It’s important to be patient in an LDR. If your partner went out with their friends and didn’t text you till 2 A.M, let it go. You can always talk about it tomorrow. You’re probably not too keen on using your phone when you’re out with your friends either, are you?
16. Spend some time with yourself
While you’re giving your partner some space, put the time at your hand to good use and find a way to enjoy your own company. Learn a hobby, go out and have an experience, or do something fun, even if it’s just to have something to talk about with your partner the next time you talk.
Plus, the secret to figuring out how to survive a long-distance relationship is to understand that you both have to grow as individuals for the relationship to grow. When you both mature, the relationship matures. So go out there and hit up those friends who you so obviously ignored as soon as you got into the relationship and hope they take you back. It’s time to build yourself a well-rounded life.
17. Try to be secure in your relationship
You can try all the long-distance apps out there, or ask all the “long-distance relationship questions” you want to, unless the foundation of your relationship isn’t strong, you’re going to run into a lot of trouble. If you two had trust issues when you were in the same city, they’re bound to blow up.
Try to have excellent communication with each other, and establish bucketloads of respect, trust, empathy, kindness, and love. Of course, that can be easier said than done. When you’re struggling to understand how to make a long-distance relationship work, you can always reach out to one of Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapists and dating coaches to help guide you closer to each other, despite the miles between you.
Related Reading: 3 Harsh Facts About Long Distance Relationships You Must Know
Tips To Survive A Long-Distance Relationship
In trying to figure out how to make a long-distance relationship work, there are a few steps you can take to make things run smoothly. Geetarsh tells us that the most important thing you can do is find yourself outside your relationship. “Go out with your friends, pick up a productive hobby, and try to find yourself outside of just your relationship. The more time you spend with yourself, the better it’ll be,” she advises.
To make sure you leave here with bite-sized information about what it takes to keep things going, here are a bunch of tips on how to make an LDR work:
- Schedule daily video chats. It could at breakfast and in the evening when both of you go out for a walk
- Let your partner know about your plans in advance. You could be planning to watch a movie with friends or go out for dinner. But your partner shouldn’t find out about it when you’re already in the middle of it
- Don’t make the mistake of going out with the office hunk or touching base with an ex
- Send each other the perfect gifts regularly
- Keep them updated about new friends and colleagues. You can even introduce them over video chat
- Set a goal for when the LDR should end. You cannot be in one forever
- Good communication doesn’t mean texting 24×7. Prioritize quality communication instead
- Stop being possessive and don’t throw tantrums at the drop of a hat. You will both become exhausted
- Use this experience to become more independent and self-sufficient
- It’s definitely possible to make an LDR work, and you shouldn’t go into it with a negative mindset
- To make sure things go well, work on the basic foundations of your relationship, establish a plan for communication, and get creative with the dates
- Work on having some long-term goals with each other, be optimistic, and empathetic, and learn to let some things go
- Communicate effectively and consistently, keep sending each other gifts, and meet as often as possible, eventually you’ll reach a very secure place in your relationship
To make an LDR work, you have to be sensible and mature, which means not letting jealousy consume you when your partner is out having fun with their friends who you have no idea about. Avoid relationship mistakes, try your best to be supportive, and make sure you have some common long-term goals. If you’re not in it for the long haul, what’s even the point?
This article was updated in February 2023.
Quality communication and trust in your partner are ways to make an LDR work. Meet as often as you can and plan holidays together to bridge the physical distance.
According to a survey, 60% of LDRs survive while 37% break up within 3 months of getting physically close. Researchers have found sometimes such relationships have more longevity.
As we said earlier, LDRs can last even if people do not see each other for a year or more. There are also instances when people have been in LDRs for 20 years or more.
You should talk every day in an LDR. But a couple of times a day or even once a day is good enough. Don’t be clingy by double texting your partner. Give each other space but communicate every day.