Healthy Communication in Long Distance Relationships

There’s no denying that a long-distance relationship is not an ideal situation for anyone involved. Trying to fit phone calls and skype dates into a college schedule can be difficult for even the strongest of couples. Sure the internet has endless lists of ways to keep both partners feeling connected, but putting those tips and tricks into practice can be a lot harder than it sounds. 

Over the last three semesters, my boyfriend and I have had plenty of experience dealing with an LDR and it’s taught me a lot of lessons about myself and our relationship. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far is that all those online articles were right about one thing: communication is key. This seems obvious to most people but what I think a lot of people are missing is the difference between talking and healthy communication.

Healthy communication doesn’t just mean occasional texts throughout the day and a phone call every other weekend, but it also doesn’t mean daily hours-long conversations picking apart every detail of the relationship. It’s a middle ground, unique to each relationship, that satisfies both partners.

Everyone communicates differently. Some people say exactly what they’re thinking at the exact moment it crosses their mind, others (like me) take a little longer to think through and figure out exactly what they’re trying to convey to the other person. If your partner communicates differently than you do, or if they have different needs when it comes to staying in contact, those are the kinds of things that need to be discussed when in an LDR. A good way to learn more about your current communication style is to take an Enneagram test. By answering questions about the way one acts and reacts in certain situations, the Enneagram assigns users a number 1-9 to describe their most dominant communication style. There are plenty of online sites and Instagram pages that further describe how to be most successful in communicating based on your number. Although this is a great tool, keep in mind that no one is going to fit perfectly into any of the categories, and healthy communication requires adaptation in every relationship.

After you and your partner have figured out how you communicate and what works best for you, the next step is honesty. Being honest with your partner, and with yourself, is key in any kind of relationship. In LDRs especially it is necessary to let your partner know what you need from them. Without the added level of understanding that being physically present with one another brings, a crucial part of an LDR is being able to honestly express what you are feeling, good or bad. You should be able to tell your partner if you feel as though you two aren’t spending enough time talking to one another, or if you feel overwhelmed by their constant influx of calls and texts. Expressing the good things you see in your relationship is just as important as expressing what needs to be worked on. You don’t want your honesty to only come in the form of ways your partner can improve -- you should be sure to let them know when they are doing a good job, too. 

The last and most important piece of long-distance communication is listening. In order to keep improving as individuals and as a couple, both partners need to be aware of the other person’s wants and needs. If partners in a relationship aren’t listening to one another, their efforts to communicate have gone to waste. Make sure you are always engaged when listening to your partner, ask questions to clarify what they mean and try not to act on any initial judgments or reactions you may have, as that can lead to arguments and tension. Listening also extends past when your partner first expresses something to you. Make sure after they tell you what they want, need and like (or don’t like) that you keep those things in mind so they don’t have to continuously remind you. 

Although they have their difficulties, LDRs can be incredibly rewarding if you and your partner are willing to put the work in and focus on healthy communication. Add in some Skype dates and a couple of trips to see one another, and your relationship will be stronger than ever.