My first serious relationship turned into my first long-distance relationship. As you all know, it didn’t end so well. But even though long-distance relationships have a reputation for not working, they can work if you know how to navigate it.
Some of you reading this might be in the same situation I was in when I graduated. You met someone at college, and now you’re both going back home for the summer. You might live in the same state or even across the country from each other, and you might be wondering how to jump successfully over this sudden hurdle.
My ex-boyfriend and I lived about four hours away from each other, and even though that wasn’t much of a distance, I learned a few things about what it takes to keep long-distance relationships healthy.
1. Set expectations for communication.
When you are able to spend time with your significant other, you might not think too much about communication styles. Some people are satisfied with communicating primarily through text messages and social media. Others might rely more on phone conversations or Skype.
It will greatly benefit your relationship if you set clear expectations for how and how often you will communicate. Some couples flourish on a few phone calls a week whereas others need to communicate more often. It is important to talk about this early in the relationship instead of when communication starts becoming a problem. If you don’t share the same communication style, compromise. Once you know what your significant other expects, at least try.
2. Make time for date nights.
This can be the hardest concept to understand. You and your significant other are unable to go on real dates very often because of the distance, but it is important to set aside time for dates. Instead of always spending Friday night with your friends, set aside an hour or two every now and then to spend with your significant other. Watch a movie at the same time and talk about it through text messages. Share a coffee date by taking your computers to a coffee shop and talking over Skype.
If you were in the same city, making time for dates would be a no-brainer. Even when you aren’t in the same city, you still have to do it if you want the relationship to work. It requires extra effort and planning ahead, but it is important to give the other person your time and let them know they are a priority.
3. Have a clear vision for the future of the relationship.
Long-distance relationships can be difficult if both people are not on the same page. Dating without a vision, especially over distance, is like walking through a pitch-black tunnel with no light at the end. How often should you visit each other based on how serious the relationship is? How long will you date over distance? Who will move when the time comes? Are you even willing to relocate?
These questions are vital. Make a plan together for the relationship so you both know where it is headed. Maybe you plan on dating for a few years before thinking about engagement. Maybe you don’t intend to move for someone who isn’t your fiancé(e). Be clear with your significant other about your expectations.
I didn’t realize these things until it was too late. What have you learned from long-distance relationships that you wish you had known earlier? Or what are some things you learned from a successful long-distance relationship?
Copyright 2013 Amy Kessler. All rights reserved.