Guide to a Successful Long Distance Relationship

man grabbing woman's hand to represent a long distance relationship abroad

Long-distance relationships can be tough. Navigating time differences, busy schedules, loneliness, and communication challenges can put a burden on any couple, no matter how long they’ve been together. Many OFW must manage long-distance relationships with their significant other, in addition to leaving their family and friends in search of better opportunities overseas.

The good news, however, is that according to psychological studies, “long-distance relationship quality does not differ significantly from geographically close relationships, and in some cases, it might even be better.” There are roughly 14 million couples dating from a distance, according to data from StatisticBrain. How do they make it work? The trick is to find the right balance of trust, independence, boundaries, and expectations. Follow these tips for a successful long-distance relationship.

Schedule regular communication time

Predictable, pre-scheduled communication is important in a long-distance relationship. It adds a level of security and stability that each person can rely on, and removes any confusion about expectations. Block off time each week or each day to focus on your significant other – time separate from speaking to other family members or friends. Keep in mind that while it’s nearly impossible to overcommunicate, there is a line between speaking regularly and stalking. Trust your partner to show up (physically and emotionally) for the time you’ve established, but give them a breathing room throughout the day when life might get in the way of responding to a Whatsapp.

Focus on quality time

As much as it can be tempting, and even necessary, to use your regular phone calls for logistics and planning, try to make your regular catch-ups more meaningful. 

“Realize that since you may not have the benefit of facial expression or physical touch, you’ll sometimes need to be a little more deliberate in the words you use,” write the experts at Psychology Today. “Understand the deficits of a phone call — or even a Skype session — and plan accordingly to make sure you say the things you mean to say. That can help you make sure that the most important, intimacy-building conversations are still being had, no matter how many states (or countries!) separate you.” 

Try to focus your regular communication on talking about deeper, emotionally-intimate topics. Long-distance dating gives you the space to listen to your partner and absorb the things they’re telling you. Take advantage of the opportunity to deepen your connection.

Go analog with your communication

Care packages aren’t just for college students! Find a way to surprise your partner or show them you’re thinking of them by sending a postcard, an unexpected gift, or transfer money for a specific purpose: virtual date night, a gift, or a family outing. Going analog with your communication adds another layer of thoughtfulness to your long-distance relationship, and can be especially meaningful when you’re gone for a long time. 

Share everyday details 

Quality time is important, but so is sharing your life with your person. As one person in a long-distance relationship notes, “It’s boring stuff, but if you were in the same place it’s all minutiae that you would be experiencing together, and that’s what makes a relationship (to me), so I think it was necessary.” 

Share things that help your partner understand what your life is alike away from them. What does your home look like? How do you get to work each day? Who do you eat lunch with? It’s these little things that keep partners on the same page and in sync with each other, even from a distance.

Find ways to “do things together”

Whether it’s listening to the same podcast, reading the same book, or watching the same TV series, find ways to connect over shared experiences. Play a game online, watch a documentary on YouTube at the same time, go online shopping together (and buy each other gifts). Seek out ways to share experiences without being in the same place – the more spontaneous and fun, the better. 

Set clear boundaries and expectations

When long-distance relationships fail, one of the biggest reasons is because one partner cheats on the other. Cheating at face value seems malicious – and is certainly devastating –  but it might be the result of not having clear boundaries and expectations from the get-go. Before you embark on a long-distance relationship, discuss with your partner what rules you would like to have, and what to do if one of you is struggling. Even with someone you trust, make sure they know what you expect of them and what they can expect of you in return so nothing gets lost in translation.

Make plans for the future

Long-distance relationships can weigh on a couple heavily. That’s why it’s so important to know when you’re next going to see each other and where the relationship is going. O Magazine recommends to “make a timeline so your significant other knows that things are moving forward and that the time spent apart, missing each other, will be completely worth it. If it’s not temporary, put some travel plans on the calendar so the two of you have something to look forward to.” 
Give yourself something to look forward to, and when the time comes to be together, make sure you have a plan. Depending on how long you’ve been apart, merging your two worlds back together can be a bit tricky. Be open to learning the ways your partner has changed and be transparent about how you’ve grown in the time apart. Your relationship will be that much stronger for it.