Long distance relationships are something that I’ve got some experience with and I can’t believe I’ve left it this long to talk about because it’s such a tricky thing to do. I want to help some people through the same barriers that myself and my fiancée had to go through.
I’ve got my top ten tips I’ll try and whip through them as quickly as possible:
1. Before it even begins, accept that it will not be easy
It was surprising how hard it was, not just in terms of emotionally and keeping the connection relationship going but logistically planning and organizing. That was quite difficult.
You have to really want to be with someone to make a long-distance relationship work in a healthy way.
2. Get used to planned contact
When you’re in a normal relationship – as in proximal and physical contact with each other – you can just spontaneously have conversations and then spend time apart and go back and forth like this.
In a long-distance relationship, you’re going to have to plan and structure your conversations and your connections with each other.
It can be a bit awkward. It can be a logistical pain in the neck.
My girlfriend and I, we were opposite sides of the world, so the time zone was a nightmare to manage. But you’re just going to have to do it. And make sure you do it with – if possible – video calling. Video calling is better than any other form of contact.
You’ll want to set the camera up so it looks like you’re making eye contact with each other because I think the lack of eye contact is even more damaging than the lack of touch in the long-distance relationship. You need to be able to see each other eye to eye if you can.
You need to look like you’re looking into each other’s eyes or otherwise that video effect starts to create a disconnection.
When the person you’re talking to is always talking to you while looking down, it’s bizarre.
3. Your emotional connection is going to suffer
The distance does make a difference. But it doesn’t have to be detrimental. You’re going to have to try extra hard to be honest, to be forthcoming with information, to be compassionate, vulnerable and patient.
You’re going to have to put more effort in than you usually would in person, particularly because all your contacts will be planned. To some extent, this will feel a bit forced sometimes.
Silences must be made okay. You shouldn’t have to talk just because it’s your allotted time to talk. Remember that as one of the most useful tips for long distance relationships. Make it that you’re just going to be together. If one of you feels like staying silent, then stay silent, that’s fine.
You could even watch a TV show together while being online.
You don’t have to force a conversation. Once you get forced it starts getting fake. Once it gets fake, your emotional connection starts to wither. So if the call isn’t going well you can end it. If somebody doesn’t want to speak, they don’t have to.
Silences must be okay, and when you do speak avoid small talk and that drive to be superficial. Only say something if you got something meaningful to say.
4. Avoid written communication unless it’s absolutely necessary
Texting and all that kind of stuff should only be to organize calls.
I think in this day and age people really overdo written communication and it’s horrific for connections. 90% of your communication is lost when you write it. You don’t hear and see and feel it.
And it’s so easy – especially when you’re already emotionally strained from being apart – to misinterpret and get into arguments and kind of wilfully misunderstand each other.
So all written communication should only be logistical – “When are we going to talk?” or “Here’s that thing I’m going to send you.”
There are some exceptions to this: you can send each other videos if you just can’t find a time to meet. Record yourself; pretty much any Wifi can handle when you’re doing this, all the apps that you need to do it are free.
Record a nice little video for them, just telling them about your day. Send that to them – they can send you a video response. It’s so much better than writing things, especially text-style with emojis and shit.
You can send little pictures to each other. You can show each other the day that you’re having – little videos as you walk. Share as much as you possibly can and reciprocate because you usually spend a lot of time together and now you’re going to have to make for that with other means.
5. Don’t pine for each other
Go and live a rich and meaningful life. Do the active thing that you would usually do. Don’t give up your hobbies and your goals just because you need to fit in that call late at night.
Make sure you both have a real life around this thing. Make sure you’ve got new things to talk about. If you’re going to have to force a conversation it’s going to be a lot harder if you’ve got nothing new to say because you’ve just been sitting and waiting since the last call.
Have a real life that you can share with each other and that will also help with that missing feeling.
6. Remove pressure and obligation to stay in the relationship
This is a kind of counterintuitive one.
It’s really important. My girlfriend and I came to an agreement that neither of us has to continue this because we weren’t certain if we were going to see each other in real life. We spent three or four months apart on other sides of the world and we couldn’t be sure that we were actually going to end up back together.
So whenever we spoke we had this kind of rule which is: “Do we want to see each other again?”
And if the answer is yes, then we book another call, and we never really looked too much further past that, because if you try to say, “We must be together forever,” you’ll put a lot of pressure on what is already a high pressure and difficult situation.
So constantly discuss are you both still okay with this the way it is? Can you both still handle it for another day?
Allow yourself that freedom to not be stuck with this thing. If that pressure is off you’ll actually feel a lot more relaxed about continuing it. If you feel like you must make it work it’s going to ruin everything.
7. Keep focusing on letting go of control
This is a big one.
There are so many elements you can’t control when the relationship goes long-distance, especially with timezone shifts. Sometimes you just won’t be able to get hold of them; sometimes you won’t know what they’re doing. And particularly in my case; other people might try to intervene with this.
There will be people telling both your partner and you that you shouldn’t be bothering with this, that you shouldn’t do it. There are going to be people trying to fudge this thing. You’ll be able to set boundaries – and you should with the people on your side – but you won’t be able to control the people on their side.
You just have to keep focusing on letting go of control. Keep telling yourself, “Look, they don’t have to be with me, and if they want to be with me it will work out. If they don’t then I’m not missing anything, I’ll move on with my life.”
Just keep letting go of them so you don’t cling and become needy which is actually just going to drive them away.
8. Always have a set date for when you’re next going to see each other
Have something to look forward to.
It was something that we didn’t do for quite some time and it was devastating for me. I’m like, “I don’t even know if I’m in a relationship because if we’re not going to see each other ever again I don’t want to keep doing this.”
But it was always this maybe.
If I was to do it again I’d say, “Look, let’s set this date and we don’t have to follow through on it. If we come to the date and either of us or one of us doesn’t want to be there, so be it, but let’s just have this date in mind.” It’s something to look forward to.
So you’ve got the set date but no obligation to follow through.
9. Focus on your mission
This was particularly relevant to me. I had all this unused energy that I couldn’t put into the relationship, especially sexual frustration. I loved the touch and affection – all that was gone.
I had all this pent-up energy, so I turned it into my business. I threw it into my coaching, I threw it into my content creation. I used up that energy as much as I could.
Avoid the temptation for binge eating and porn and other crutches. It’s going to be so much healthier when you remind yourself that even though this relationship is largely out of your control, there’s still a lot of things that are under your control and you should focus your energy on them.
10. Prepare for getting back together in real life to be weird
When I finally got to see her in person, I was so excited. We had two moments, two times of being in long distance, and the second time I went to pick her up at the airport I was so excited. Then she arrives and I’m like, “Oh, this feels fucking awkward, I’m nervous!”
And I just wasn’t seeing this didn’t see their coming. I didn’t think I’d feel nervous and weird about seeing her. I thought I’d just be excited and happy, and I could feel that she was nervous and weird. It was too hyped up, it was too high-pressure.
But we talked it through. And you’ve just you’ve got to talk about it; whatever weirdness you feel, either during long-distance or when you get back together. Be open and honest about it. Don’t overlook it, don’t hide it. Get it all out, purge that kind of poison out.
And then you’ll eventually get back into your groove.
So those are my top 10 tips. There’s probably plenty of others I could come up with. This list just off the top of my head.
Long-distance relationships are hard. Try to follow these top tips for long distance relationships and if you want to get through them. Get in touch with me if you’ve got any further questions or want some support.