Selena Gomez was right when she said “The heart wants what it wants,” and sometimes it wants someone who lives in a different state, country, or even continent. I’m sorry, but sometimes, we can’t help it! (Speaking from experience, I fell for someone a couple of states away, and now find myself in a long-distance relationship.) While there are some perks to the distance, those are few and far between, and it’s easy to feel the fatigue and let it strain your relationship.
For Gen Zers and college folks alike, LDRs are nothing new. In fact, they’re more common than ever among college students. (Thank you, internet!) According to a 2022 study at Cornell University, 75% of American students report having an LDR during their college years. Yet, uncommon unfortunately doesn’t mean easy; it takes endurance and commitment to have a successful LDR. Making time for your partner can be hard as is, and adding all of those miles in between can really take a toll on your relationship. The hard truth is that keeping a spark alive is already tough, and distance only makes that connection all the more tough. So, I spoke with Dr. Domonique Rice, a holistic sex therapist on how to not only maintain your LDR but also keep the spark alive.
- Pick a date night and stick to it.
Just because you’re not in the same city doesn’t mean that your weekly date nights need to hit a pause. “Allocate time for regular virtual dates,” Rice tells Her Campus. “Whether you’re watching a movie together online or having a video dinner date, try to create shared experiences, even from afar.”
A great virtual date idea, I’ve found, is curling up on the couch and hopping onto TeleParty (formerly known as Netflix Party) with your partner (so you can keep up with the series you started when you were in person).
But if you want to skip the movie night, there are so many online games and even escape rooms that you can play to keep some healthy competition going. I’m talking about Catan, Bananagrams, Monopoly and let’s not forget COVID’s favorite: Jackbox.
- Schedule some “relationship check-ins.”
We all know that being in an LDR is taxing and not something anyone would willingly choose. However, committing to an LDR signifies that you both have something that is worth the hardship of not being in person for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, that doesn’t disclude you from tensions that may arise from time to time — and you both will have to exercise even more patience and understanding because of the distance.
“Encourage regular ‘relationship check-ins’, discussing feelings, expectations, and any potential areas of concern,” Rice advises. “It’s vital to focus on quality communication that is substantive and meaningful rather than frequent and mundane.”
So, if you’re feeling a certain way about your partner’s lack of quality time, or are feeling insecurities within the relationship, don’t be afraid to voice them. Remember: communication is essential to lasting connections.
- Continue to set goals with your partner.
I know one way I survive my LDR is by having a countdown for the next time I’m going to see my partner. And sure, it’s important to plan future trips, but it cannot be the only thing keeping you both going.
“Discussing and planning future visits, or eventual moving-in plans, can bring a sense of reality and commitment to LDRs,” Rice says. “But also, try to focus on the positives of your relationship and the personal growth that comes from an LDR.” Just because you aren’t in person doesn’t mean you cannot push your SO to get that promotion or complete the marathon they keep talking about. It also doesn’t mean you cannot set goals as a couple, like maintaining a weekly date night, and how you will eventually close the distance in your relationship.
- Remember to celebrate milestones.
Now, celebrating milestones seems easier said than done. But, if there’s a will there’s a way, and with technology, there is most definitely a way. “One thing that often gets sacrificed in an LDR is feeling out of touch with your partner’s special moments, it’s best if you can find a way to still feel involved,” Rice says. “Whether it’s through a quick Facetime call during an event, or sending a handwritten letter with a picture.”
I must say I’m a sucker for a keepsake so why not take it one step further and make a digital scrapbook on Canva? This way you can hold all of your memories, together and individually, somewhere forever.
- Let each other grow in tandem, not entangled.
I know that when you’ve met your person, it can be very tempting to try to blend your lives together — I mean come on, working as a team is one of the benefits of a relationship. However, this could also be a slippery slope to codependency, especially if there is distance involved. Make sure to keep up with your friends, hobbies, and work.
“Building a robust foundation of trust by being transparent about your social lives, and involving your partner virtually in some social aspects when possible,” Rice advises. “Ensuring each partner also focuses on their own personal life, hobbies, and friendships outside the relationship is paramount.”
- And, yes, still prioritize sexual intimacy.
Even though you may have hundreds or even thousands of miles between you two that doesn’t make sex and intimacy any less important to a relationship… you’ll just have to get creative. When it comes to this kind of intimacy, the most important thing is consent and trust. Being intimate over the phone is extremely vulnerable, so always check that everyone involved is feeling comfortable.
Now, I’m sure we’ve all sent a flirty and explicit text before, maybe even hopped on Facetime but what if I told you there was a way to sync your pleasure with your partner? With technology, you can now get adult toys that are app-controlled — and they’re perfect for getting spicy in your LDR. No matter the distance, as long as you have internet you can foster a sense of closeness and be an active participant in each other’s pleasure. “This allows you to continue to share experiences, enhance emotional connectivity, build sexual intimacy and literacy, and facilitate unique interactions that might not be possible otherwise,” Rice says. “Engaging in mutual sexual experiences through the use of these toys helps maintain a level of sexual intimacy and satisfaction, which is often one of the challenges faced by couples in long-distance relationships.”
It’s clear that an LDR isn’t for the faint of heart, however, if you think you’ve met your person, what do you have to lose? “By weaving these practices into the fabric of an LDR, couples can fortify their connection, ensuring that the miles between them become a mere geographical footnote to their romantic journey,” Rice assures.
So, perhaps it’s time to get a little creative in your relationship and start establishing boundaries and practices that make your love stronger. After all, they must be worth it, right?