by Liberty Stembridge, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 13th November, 2018
Truth be told, there's no real way to tell whether you're ready for a long-distance relationship than to be in a long-distance relationship. Your success as a couple in a long-distance relationship relies on many different factors such as your ability to communicate, your trust in one another, your commitment to the relationship and the strength of your support system. Even if you have a perfect relationship, the strain of being away from each other will take its toll as the realities of being in a long-distance relationship mean that your ability to be there for one another and communicate freely are hampered by time and distance.
If distance is forcing you apart from your loved one but you can't imagine living life without them, there's no other option than to try. Really there is no such thing as failure in a relationship - if it doesn't work out, you will have learnt and experienced a lot and even though it may be painful, you'll have more knowledge for the future.
Before either of you go anywhere, it's important to set some ground rules, to make sure that you are both completely on the same page. If you're not, this can quickly lead to a disaster. Many people have vastly different expectations as to what a long-distance relationship looks like, and what the boundaries are. So, sit down with your partner and have a frank and open discussion about how you want to do long-distance. Listen to their concerns, their ideas and express your needs and desires openly. This is not the time for being coy, once you're away from each other it'll be a lot harder to communicate exactly what you expect from each other. For example, many people who start long-distance transition to being in a more open relationship where they remain a couple, while still being able to see other people. This might not be for you however. Set down this ground rules stating what you are and are not comfortable with, and then make a commitment to each other to stick to them.
As anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship will tell you, one of the most difficult aspects of being apart from each other is keeping up open communication. It can be all to easy to fall into the trap of telling each other how your day went, without ever delving into anything deeper or discussing the relationship itself. It's easy to shy away from difficult topics when you're far apart for fear of not being able to patch it up. If you do get into a fight, it's much more difficult to fix when you're thousands of miles away and this can lead to bottled up emotions. This is not good. Do your best to keep communication as open and forthright as possible, even if it seems almost brutally honest at the time. In the long-run, this will do you much more good than hiding your emotions ever will, and may stand to benefit you in the future when you are reunited.
Your attitude can make or break your relationship, especially when you're long-distance. Sure, you may not be in the most ideal of circumstances, but approaching the situation as an opportunity to learn and grow as a couple will help you much more than lamenting your situation and moping about. Whatever the reason for you being apart from your other half, focus on making the best of the situation, whether it be by getting your education, spending time with friends and family, working on yourself and improving your health or career. Try to approach this time spent apart from your partner with an "I get to" attitude rather than "I have to". For example: "Despite being away from my partner, I get to explore a new city and expand my horizons." Many couples who have been through long-distance and come out the other side say that having faith in you relationship and knowing that everything will work out the way its supposed to in the end is what kept them together, and ultimately, stronger for it.
Really, there has never been a better time to be in a long-distance relationship. Long gone are the days of sending letters or emails and waiting days for a reply, now you can see your partner on a screen, in the middle of nowhere, at the touch of a button. Utilize our species' incredible technological advancements as much as possible. Download every app you think might be useful, facetime each other, call as much as possible, send each other text updates throughout the day, regardless of where you are. You can even download apps that countdown the days you've been apart and until you see one another, or that allow you to virtually touch hands.
Even if you are hundreds of miles apart, don't let this stop you from doing activities together. Even simple things like going for a walk while video-calling, or watching a movie together at the same time all promote the feeling of being together and being involved in each others lives. Something as simple as a virtual date can help to maintain connection and trust in each other.
This goes without saying, but you should try to visit your partner as much as feasibly possible. Prioritising your relationship to make seeing one another a necessary expense financially will help to keep your relationship alive. Never underestimate the power of even just a short visit to see your loved one.
Try to create a timeline of how long you will be separated, how often you will be able to see each other and other important milestones in your long-distance relationship. This is important because it will help you to keep track of how far you've come, but also countdown how far you have to go. Having goals and events to look forward too will help to keep your hopes and moral up when you have down days or get into fights. Knowing that you have only a few weeks until you see each other, or until one of you completes that big milestone you've been waiting for can make all the difference in maintaining a positive attitude towards your long-distance relationship.
Having to be apart from your loved one's is never easy, even when you want to be. There's no denying it can but extra strain on a relationship, but this doesn't mean you have to spend all of your time worrying or waiting. You can still enjoy the time you spend away from your partner and use it to improve yourself and do things you otherwise wouldn't. Make new friends, connect with old ones, start going to the gym or reading more or the hundreds of other things that we all mean to do but never get around to because life gets in the way. Your partner should want the best for you, and you can still maintain a relationship while improving yourself at the same time.
When we're apart from loved one's, we tend to miss out on the small things, the little mundane details of one another's lives that we neglect to mention over the phone or text because they just don't come to mind when we're focused on enjoying the limited time we get to speak to one another. It's precisely these mundane little details that form the foundation of a long-lasting relationship. Most couples that either live together or close to one another see eachother everyday and know the other person's schedule and lives in almost intrusive detail. Just because you're long-distance doesn't mean you shouldn't still be involved and knowledgeable about the other person's schedule. Many long-distance couples like to sync their calendars or timetables so that the other can look and see what they're up to on any given day. This also has the added benefit of making conversations easier and less mundane. Rather than the standard "what did you do today" question, you can ask "how did your meeting with your boss go?" which instantly shows your partner that you're still interested and invested in their life.