- Long-distance relationships require open and honest conversations about how each person is feeling.
- Learn your partner’s love language so that you can show them love in a way that they respond to.
- Creating rituals virtual rituals can also help keep the spark alive.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Relationships are hard work, and long-distance ones are no exception. They come with their own challenges that can make it even more difficult than a “regular” relationship. In order for a long-distance relationship to work, both partners must put in the effort to give the relationship a chance to thrive.
One survey of 1,000 participants in long-distance relationships found that long-distance relationships only have a 58% success rate. So if you want your relationship to flourish, you’re going to have to put in the work.
Here are five expert-approved tips for making a long-distance relationship work.
1. Learn to communicate well
Communication is the foundation of every relationship, but it’s particularly important in e relationships where you can’t always be together in person. Case in point, long-distance relationships require more explicit types of verbal communication than others, says Kate Engler, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
You also need to be open and honest with communicating your needs, because no matter how well your partner knows you, they aren’t a mind reader. For example, if you feel like you don’t FaceTime enough, bring this up to your partner so they know how you’re feeling. On the flip side, when your partner comes to you with their own needs, listen and honor them.
How to have difficult conversations in a long-distance relationship
Communicating well also involves learning to navigate disagreements healthily. Engler recommends the following steps for dealing with a tough situation:
- Let your partner know how much you care about them and that you want to understand.
- Make it your priority to deeply understand the emotional feel of the incident as experienced by your partner.
- Ask for clarification from a place of curiosity if what they say doesn’t make sense to you.
- Acknowledge their experience by reflecting back what you heard or showing empathy.
- Take accountability.
2. Learn each other’s love languages
Everybody gives and receives love differently, and understanding both your love language and your partner’s love language can help a long-distance relationship thrive.
“We tend to give love in the way we want to receive it, but that can be problematic when our partner has a different language,” says Engler. The five love languages are:
- Quality time
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
When you know your partner’s love language, you can tailor your actions to match and make sure your partner feels loved.
“This is particularly important for couples in a long-distance relationship because you don’t have the benefit of daily proximity, which can exacerbate feelings of disconnection, loneliness, and insecurity. Therefore, the types of interactions you have need to really count,” says Engler.
3. Be intentional with your quality time
Being apart physically doesn’t mean you can’t have quality time with your partner. Oftentimes, in long-distance relationships, people get caught up in their personal daily lives and forget about making quality time for their partner, says couples therapist Grace Dowd LCSW-S.
In order to combat this, Dowd says you must be intentional about scheduling quality time into your day, and reducing distractions during quality time so that your partner feels valued.
“We have to be even more intentional about limiting distractions in a long-distance relationship than in a ‘typical’ relationship because there are fewer opportunities for connection,” says Dowd.
Avoid multitasking while you’re on the phone or video with your partner so you can focus on them and nurture the relationship. While it may not be possible to limit distractions 100% of the time, try your best as often as you can.
4. Create rituals
Rituals are valuable in relationships because they can help create some structure and predictability. Engler says that in order for rituals to be successful, they must be repeated and have shared meaning.
You can have rituals for both when you’re together and when you’re apart. For example, you can decide on something to do each time you reunite, such as visiting your favorite bakery.”If you are consistent in the way you come back together, you will be excited to do so, and it will create meaning at the moment,” says Engler.
When you’re apart, you can create virtual rituals. For example, you can each text each other something that you love or appreciate about one another every day. This helps you both stay connected and feel loved.
5. Find activities to do together
Thanks to technology, it’s easy for couples to engage in activities with each other even when they’re miles apart.
Ask yourself what kind of activities you and your partner like to do when you’re together, and what some things are that you’ve both always wanted to try. Then, you can brainstorm some hobbies or goals that you can take on together.
Some activities you can do together while apart are:
- Training for a 5k
- Reading the same book and discussing it
- Taking a virtual class
- Cooking with the same recipe
Working towards common goals and sharing experiences will give you even more to bond over and help strengthen the relationship.
Long-distance relationships require a lot of work from both partners in order to thrive, but the work you put in can help nurture a healthy, lasting relationship. Focus on executing these five tips to make sure your relationship has a solid foundation that you can continue to build upon.
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