A modern survival guide for long-distance love.
I have had two long-distance relationships fail. When I first went away to college, my first love was in his last year of high school. We stayed together throughout my entire first year, and let me tell you, we had FUN. It wasn’t always easy, but we were wild about each other, so the good far outweighed the few late night tears.
I can’t say I fully recommend starting college with a boyfriend (I think it can keep you from branching out as much as you would if you were single, but that’s another post!), but I don’t regret starting my four years that way at all. We parted ways my sophomore year because we were becoming different people with busier schedules that couldn’t always include the other. It was sad, and it took some time to get over, but looking back, I can see that I learned so much.
My second LDR (long distance relationship) ended for a whole different set of reasons. That one taught me a lot about the kind of person who isn’t right for me and the importance of trust and loyalty in a relationship.
While that particular “love” story would be an even longer blog post, I can tell you from hindsight that it made me mature and probably prepared me for the best LDR of my life: the one I’m in now.
Robert and I spent less than five fun, happy, can’t-stand-to-be-apart months together before my job took me 90 minutes away to Richmond, VA. Seventy-some miles isn’t the most distance couples endure by any means (125 miles is the average distance between LDR couples), but with our jobs and side hustles keeping us busy on weekends as well as M-F, we had our work cut out for us.
We eventually closed the gap (all the praise hands), but we’ll get to that at the end! Until then, here are some of my tried and true tips for making long-distance last:
Set Your Expectations
When you’re dating with distance, it’s so important to set your expectations for the kind of changes you’ll endure. Personally, I believe that all tension in relationships starts with unmet expectations. Before you commit to taking on the distance, have real conversations about what will change.
Especially if there is significant distance between you, start by setting the expectation of just how much you’ll be able to see each other. That way, no one is disappointed because they had more visits in mind than the other.
Some other things to talk about: What kinds of things will happen when you DO visit each other? Are you planning on overnight visits, or will you be keeping that kind of “togetherness” sacred? Will you be spending a lot of time with each other’s friends, families, or roommates, or will you be prioritizing one-on-one time? Setting expectations are key!
When it comes to long-distance, you have to get a little more creative with your “date nights.” It was so easy for me to get jealous of couples who could do cute couple things together like grocery shop or go to the gym or hit the local movie theater for $2 Tuesdays. Even seeing couples having dinner together during the week made me envious. That’s where a little creativity comes in.
Video calls or just regular phone calls can bring you closer together while doing any activity. Call while you’re on a walk or grocery shopping, or try Skyping during dinner or your favorite TV show together. When we still lived in the same town, Robert and I usually caught Jeopardy after dinner, so we planned nights that we could continue that tradition virtually. Trust me, FaceTiming during Jeopardy will start some interesting conversations about how on earth you knew that answer!
Don’t Rely on Texts Alone
Here’s the thing about our modern, fast-paced world: it is all too easy to start having text relationships. The problem is that so much nuance is lost in text messages. Especially if you haven’t had the chance to spend a lot of time together yet, it’s so tough to discern harmless teasing or sarcasm from slights and condescension. That’s why it is crucial to save your big discussions for the phone or video call. Never, ever, ever engage in an argument via text — pick up the phone and call.
Mark that Calendar, Baby
Video dinners and sweet texts will help your relationship, but they can only take you so far. While it may not seem ultra-romantic to sit down and coordinate your calendars, it’s crucial to surviving the distance and making time to have real face-to-face quality time.
With Robert and I working a lot of weekends, we decided to share a Google Calendar so we would always be up to date on when we could make time for each other. When we had everything in front of us, it was easier to spot free weekends!
Know When Enough is Enough
And I don’t mean know when to break up! I mean to know when you’ve had enough distance and it’s time to close the gap. After Robert and I had been together for three years (with most of that time being long-distance), we knew we were committed enough to each other for one of us to make a change. For us personally, it made the most sense for me to come back from the city for a lot of reasons. For other couples though, it may be a much bigger sacrifice for one person. Keep the lines of communication open and be honest with each other as you make this big decision together.
Sometimes relationships take work, and LDRs take a little extra. Remember to give each other grace and room to grow! I can’t tell you it’s easy, but I can tell you that with the right person, it is worth it.
Shalese Danielle is a wedding photographer and writer in Orange, Virginia. She is a frozen mocha addict and probably has chocolate hidden somewhere in her apartment. Connect with @sShaleseDanielle on Twitter and Instagram.