For three years I was in a long-distance relationship. I am not in one anymore.
Being in a long-distance relationship is one of the most difficult things to pull of successfully. Why? There has to be communication and, more importantly, there has to be trust. Without either, all you’re doing is meeting someone attractive on vacation, sleeping with them, and then lying to yourself for a considerable amount of time that being exclusive with each other is a really good idea.
So while I may not be the best person to give advice on maintaining a long-distance relationship, I can certainly tell you what does not work, and can offer solutions from real-life psychologists and relationship experts—many of whom are actually good at being in long-distance relationships.
Have a Game Plan
Setting expectations is the first and most important step in maintaining a long-distance relationship. Whether you’re in the same time zone or on opposite sides of the world, it’s best to talk to each other about realistic expectations in terms of communication, visits, and, well, everything else.
Do Not: Over-promise or break plans.
Do: Give each other the freedom and flexibility to change plans, but also emphasize the importance of setting expectations.
“Each couple who is in a long-distance relationship has their own unique needs, wants, and expectations, and it takes time and patience to figure out what works best for each couple,” says Dr. Kelifern Pomeranz, Psy.D., and AASECT Certified Sex Therapist. “Communication needs to be on point in terms of expectations around daily/weekly contact, and what happens if one individual is busier than the other and has less time to devote to contact, visits, and how conflict will be managed.”
Questions to consider: How often will we chat for? For how long? How frequent will the visits be? How will visits be paid for? If there is a fight, what are our agreements about hanging up or not answering texts?
For many couples, being in a long-distance relationship isn’t a challenge: It’s precisely what makes the relationship work. But all couples who are trying to maintain their long-distance relationships should try to coordinate schedules so that their partner has time to feel like the priority.
Do Not: Call your partner in the middle of seven other tasks, or schedule your conversation for the end of the night when you know you’re likely going to be exhausted.
Do: Make sure you’re on the same page about when communication will be meaningful and prioritized.
“I recommend coordinating your schedules so you can have undistracted communication at a time of the day that works for each of you,” says Dr. Rachel Needle, psychologist and certified sex therapist. (Dr. Needle has also been in a long-distance relationship for the past three years.)