No relationship is easy. They all have their ups and downs and bumps in the road. Sometimes, one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face with your significant other is physical distance. I’m lucky enough to be in a strong, healthy relationship of almost four years. For the past three years, my partner and I have spent the school year 1,000 miles apart. Not every moment is perfect, but I really do believe that the distance and time we spend apart has made our relationship a lot stronger. My partner and I didn’t go to high school together, nor did we live in the same city. When we first started dating, we went to separate high schools and lived a half hour from each other. It felt like we lived a world away, mainly because neither of us were able to drive and we relied on our parents to drop us off for dates. Then, my boyfriend went to college. All of a sudden, I was a senior in high school with one of my biggest support systems 1,000 miles away from me. Luckily, we were able to adjust quickly. It felt like just as we were finally settled into a new routine, my partner came home for winter break. Surprisingly, the next year (my first year of college) was the hardest on our relationship. Here are some ways we were able to keep our relationship both happy and healthy.
Trust and Honesty
Since the beginning of my relationship, I’ve always trusted my partner. He’s never given me a reason not to. Your relationship should have a strong foundation of trust and honesty. Feeling as though you have to hide something from your partner is a huge sign that you aren’t in a healthy relationship to begin with.
Being upfront with your significant other is huge when you live or go to school far away from one another. The physical distance already adds uncertainty to the relationship and you don’t want to contribute to that by hiding something from your partner. It’s as simple as sending each other your schedules or saying that you’ll be out with your friends some nights. Keeping each other in the loop builds trust as well as an avenue to be more open in other aspects of your life.
Being honest about your emotions and communicating them to your partner is so important. If you feel uncertain about your relationship, open up to your partner about it. Have a conversation about why you may feel the way you do and what the two of you can do to alleviate that uncertainty. You have to be able to work together as a team to solve your issues, but that starts by being able to identify and communicate those issues with to your partner. If something doesn’t feel right, try to pinpoint what it is. Is your significant other not texting you enough throughout the day? Do you feel like they are hiding large chunks of their life from you? Do you just really miss your partner? Knowing what’s wrong when you go into a conversation streamlines the process and helps to prevent miscommunications. You and your partner can get to a solution quicker this way
(Photo provided by Sabrina Martin
Communication Is Key
Communicating often and effectively with your partner is important in any relationship. But in a long-distance situation, talking on the phone and texting are often the only forms of communication you and your significant other can have for extended periods of time. How can you make these interactions more personal and meaningful?
1. Set up a time to talk every day!
Even if you and your partner can only dedicate a half hour each night to sit down and talk on the phone, do it. Hearing each other’s voice and tone can be therapeutic after a long day of work or school. It also gives you a dedicated opportunity to discuss serious issues or topics.
2. Don’t talk about relationship problems over text.
No matter how many emojis you use, you will never be able to get your tone across properly in a text. Talking things out over the phone also gives you and your partner the opportunity to actually listen to the problem and the other person’s feelings. A lot of time over text messages, it’s easy to ignore parts of texts that you don’t want to respond to. Having to physically speak your response out loud forces you and your significant other to acknowledge what has been said.
An even better method is to use some type of video calling service like Facetime or Skype because you can see the other person and their reaction to what you’re saying.
3. Use Facetime or Skype as often as possible
Being able to see each other when you’re having a conversation gives you more intimacy. It can also be super fun and you can set it up as if it were a real date. Dress up and show each other off to your roommates! Get cozy in a sweater and drink tea or coffee while you talk. It’s up to you!
4. Send each other texts when you aren’t busy
Oh yeah, and memes. While you’re scrolling through Instagram and Twitter between classes, send your partner things that remind you of them, or just posts you’ll think they should see. This small form of communication seems insignificant, but in my experience, it is the easiest way to stay in touch when both you and your partner have packed schedules.
5. Make trips to see each other in person
Even if it’s just a for a long weekend, seeing each other in person is so special. Your time spent apart makes those small trips much more meaningful. It also gives you an opportunity to meet each other’s friends and experience their life for a few days.
(Photo provided by Sabrina Martin)
You both have lives
One of the hardest things to realize is that distance is only a physical barrier between you and your partner. Other things keeping you apart may be your jobs, school and other factors in your private lives.
You and your partner are both allowed to live separately from each other, have your own friends and spend time not talking or texting. Communicate to each other what is important outside of your relationship and how you can incorporate each other into those aspects productively.
For example, my significant other, who is a year ahead of me in school, helps me understand my coursework when it gets difficult. I help my partner proofread essays and technical reports, manage his time and so much else. We have been lucky enough to meet each other’s friends too! We use times like spring break to plan vacations and carve out “us” time. At the end of the break, we are ready to jump right back into our respective lives.
One last note
All of these points can be summarized by one word: respect. You and your partner have to respect each other enough to be honest, communicate regularly and effectively and allow each other to live your own lives.
Throughout your relationship, you and your significant other will outline what your boundaries are and what respect looks like in your relationship.
Relationships are complex, and none of them are the same. I hope you find something in this article that helps you to feel more prepared to have a long-distance relationship!