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Just a few decades ago, if you were in a long-distance relationship and wanted to talk to your significant other, the only way to do so was to make a call using a phone that was connected to a landline. Meaning, if you wanted to talk to one another, you’d actually have to be at home (or find a payphone), which required planning ahead. And if you were dealing with a time difference, you had yet another layer of difficulty to navigate when carving out time to connect.
But thanks to the technology of today, there are countless ways to stay and feel connected to your partner when you’re navigating a long-distance relationship. From tagging each other in funny memes on Instagram to sending photos, texts, FaceTiming and the list goes on, there’s no shortage of platforms and opportunities to be in touch.
However, even with all of the apps and technology available, maintaining a successful long-distance relationship is still no walk in the park. There’s the financial cost of visiting one another — and depending on the distance, it can add up quickly. And if your paid time off policies are less than generous, finding the time to see each other while balancing out work demands can also be draining.
So, why do people do long-distance relationships? Does it ever work out? Are there ways to make it feel easier? Here’s a look at everything you need to know about long-distance relationships.
- 1 Why Do People Do Long-Distance?
- 2 Can Your Relationship Handle Long-Distance?
- 3 How To Handle The Long-Distance Talk
- 4 What To Do To Make Long-Distance Manageable
- 5 Products To Help You Connect
1. Why Do People Do Long-Distance?
Rarely do people ever get themselves into long-distance relationships on purpose. Typically, what ends up happening is that couples become victim of circumstance, where one partner finds themselves needing to relocate. “An accidental long-distance relationship example might be a situation where two people are dating early on and out of the blue one of them gets a job promotion requiring him or her to relocate,” explains author Kevin Darné;. “Or someone is in the military at a local base and suddenly is notified that she or he will be deployed. Up until that moment things have been going very well between the couple and neither person has a desire to call it quits, so they strive to make a long-distance relationship work. It’s not what they signed up for but they’ll give it a shot.”
Another way that long-distance relationships get facilitated is when one person ends up spending a lot of time in a different state or city for either work or leisure, and forms a connection with someone there. “A spontaneous long-distance relationship could occur when one person is visiting another town, state, or country and ends up spending a great deal of time with a native,” Darné; explains. “Oftentimes there is romance and sex which contribute to them having a wonderful time together. As the end of the vacation draws near they spontaneously decide to remain in touch and see where things go.”
RELATED: Are Long-Distance Relationships Possible?
However, there are cases where both parties know that distance will be a factor they have to deal with before starting the relationship. “In a planned long-distance relationship, one example might be high school sweethearts who, upon graduation have plans to go to different colleges but vow to maintain their relationship until they get their degrees,” says Darné. “Another example might be two people who met online fully aware they live fairly far from one another where it’s impractical to see each other on a regular basis, but nevertheless decide to romantically move forward.”
As for how these situations differ in the way these relationships are carried out, Darné; says that it has to do with how long the distance is set to last. “In both the accidental and the spontaneous long-distance relationship scenarios, couples view their distance as a romantic obstacle they’re determined to find a way to overcome,” says Darné, “In their eyes fate simply dealt them a ‘bad hand.’ The biggest difference between the planned long-distance relationship and the other two is usually there is an end date set for when the couple plans to reunite permanently. Anything beyond one and a half years is usually too long for most couples.”
What Real Women Say: “We met on a dating site, so when you don’t set an amount of miles, you’re bound to meet someone long distance,” says Eileen, 41. “He was from Maine, an eight hour (or more!) car ride away. Emails turned to chatting, to texts, to phone calls. There was a connection. We met in person and decided we could give it a go. We didn’t really discuss what would have to be done, and that was a mistake. We only lasted a year the first time. The distance was too much and too expensive to maintain. About a year and a half later we tried it again. This time we were more conscious of what’s involved. There is a whole lot of insecurity that arises in long-distance relationships. Staying consistent helps — set phone call or FaceTime times. Have dates over the phone, watching the same movie together. See each other as often as you can. Texts throughout the day just to stay connected help. We now play words with friends together, and it just keeps us connected and lets each other know we are there. Surprising each other with a card or something in the mail or flowers at work is a great way to keep the romance.”
2. Can Your Relationship Handle Long-Distance?
Long-distance relationships have a shelf life, and the key factor that makes this type of arrangement work is having an end goal or date in mind when it will be possible for the two of you to be in the same place together — whether that means one of you eventually leaves the company you’re at after a period of time to look for work in the place you’re relocating to, one of you finishes school, or whatever circumstance is the main disruptor that’s keeping either of you from moving in order to be together. “long-distance relationships were meant to be temporary,” says Darné.
“The goal is to be with the person you love. Therefore, in order to maintain a long-distance relationship there has to be a ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ In other words, there must be a date established for when someone will be relocating to have a shot at lasting together. Without a light at the end of the tunnel it’s only natural for couples to drift apart. It’s the counting down of the months, weeks and days until one is finally done with the inconvenience of being in a long-distance relationship that keeps it strong. If you begin an online dating relationship and know in your heart you will never relocate there is a good chance you’ve already determined the outcome of the relationship — especially if she or he has solidly established themselves as well.”
Darné says to make sure that the motivation behind agreeing to get involved in a long-distance relationship are because you’re sure this person is — or could be — the person you end up with. “The only great reason for being in a long-distance relationship is because you believe he or she is ‘the one’ and vice versa,” he says. “If you’re just simply ‘dating someone’ you might as well do that locally.”
According to Grant Langston, CEO of eHarmony, another factor that has a tremendous impact on whether or not a relationship will be able to handle long distance is the maturity of both parties involved. “There is a certain amount of maturity that’s needed to even attempt a long-distance relationship,” he says.
“For example, high school sweethearts that go to different colleges and promise to keep the relationship going almost never keep that promise. The more mature you are, the more you can delay gratification and put in the maintenance you need to stay in touch over the months [when you don’t see each other]. You also have to be strong enough to resist temptation, which is typically more difficult that people think, and have tremendous trust in your partner. You’re going to have to believe whatever your partner tells you about their habits and social life, and some people have a hard time doing that.”
What Real Women Say: “In the beginning, the hardest part was just missing each other,” says Helena, 31. “As time went on, what became hard for me was him making new friends and becoming a part of a new clique that I didn’t quite fit into. I started to become jealous, snarky. That was new territory for me because I was always the ‘cool girlfriend’. I was angry with myself and he became annoyed with me (understandably). That eventually led to several ‘breaks’ and eventually the final break-up. If you’re going to try long distance, know that your relationship is going to change. Hopefully you’ll be able to evolve together instead of letting the distance push you apart. If things are serious and you see a future, make sure to keep the other person your priority. Introduce them to any new friends (because, inevitably there will be new friends), include them in any new routines, and visit as frequently as you can.”
3. How To Handle The Long-Distance Talk
Whether it’s accidental, spontaneous or planned, approaching the conversation about committing to a long-distance relationship with your partner requires a hard talk where you lay everything out on the table. “You should always approach a long-distance relationship with the end in mind and concrete steps to reach your goal of being together,” says certified counselor Jonathan Bennett. “The best practice is to simply be honest and straightforward. Some people won’t be able to handle a long-distance relationship, and they deserve to know quickly and bluntly so they can plan for the future. If they are content with long distance love, then they still need to organize practical matters like how often they plan to visit, how to keep connected, dividing up shared assets, and so on.”
Matchmaker Susan Trombetti says that this also requires embracing the possibility that the feelings won’t be mutual in your desire to continue the relationship over long distance. “You need to take a hard look at your relationship, your needs, where the relationship is going, and have a big talk,” she says. “Be honest. No hard feelings if this isn’t for the other person. You are sparing yourself the hurt and pain, so don’t try to talk someone into having a long-distance relationship if it isn’t in the cards for you. There are emotions which are hard to put aside to think what is best. Sure, you will miss each other if it doesn’t work, but you will hate each other if one winds up cheating.”
“It’s going to be hard and awkward,” says Langston, “just understand that. There is no choice other than sitting together and saying, ‘I’ve gotten a new offer and I’m going to move.’ Then the other person will say, ‘What about us?’ You can say, ‘It’s for six months and I love you. Let’s make it work.’ Then it will be about planning the logistics.” However, if you’re not interested in doing long distance, Langston says you need to be upfront. “You can say, ‘Well, I’m going to be gone for two years and I don’t think LDRs work very well over that time span. I think we need to stop seeing each other.’ If you try and wimp out with, ‘I don’t want to keep you from being with a great person,’ or ‘You deserve someone in town,’ they are just going to say, ‘No, let’s make it work!’ Just take charge. Be direct.”
What Real Women Say: “I honestly can’t remember exactly how the conversation went when I chose my college,” says Elyse, 31. “I think I do remember my awkward, insecure, teen self asking him if he would stay with me if I went away in our first conversation about my college choice. I also remember that, at the time, his answer was not immediate, or definitive. I know I was hurt by that at the time, but I think, looking back it was fairly mature of him not to lie to me. He had to think about it and decide whether or not he was willing to make that commitment. By the time I was actually leaving, several months later, it wasn’t even a question. We were both all in. We talked about it and expressed to each other that we were both willing to do whatever it took to make it work. We actually even sought outside counseling to prepare us for this big change.”
4. What To Do To Make Long-Distance Manageable
“When attempting a long-distance relationship, the most important thing is to try to make the relationship as ‘normal’ as possible,” says Bennett. “This means trying to share special moments, like holidays, birthdays, and the general daily joys and sorrows that couples who are together in person take for granted. Fortunately, technology makes sharing life moments easier than ever. Skype, FaceTime, and even various social media apps are a huge help. However, it still takes effort since the distance can make feeling truly included in another person’s life difficult.”
April Davis, relationship expert and founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking says working with your partner to set expectations can also help set couples up for success in a long-distance relationship. “First and foremost, you and your partner need to set some guidelines,” she says. “What is acceptable, what isn’t. long-distance relationships fail because of a lack of trust and invasion of space (even if it’s just virtual space). You don’t need to be in constant communication, keep some of the mystery alive! For these guidelines, let each other know when is and when is not a good time to chat. Keep it fun and interesting, use the space to your advantage to miss and want each other that much more.”
Despite the challenges, keeping things fun and light will make it feel less stressful. “One thing I advise is to always keep the relationship romantic and playful,” Bennett says. “This means not just sticking to facts and intellectual conversations, but being flirty, fun, and even a little naughty. This keeps the romantic spark alive and makes a naturally stressful relationship more fun.”
As for how to get your sexual needs met in a long-distance relationship, Bennett recommends trying your hand at sexting. “In a long-distance relationship, regular sexual intimacy is obviously difficult. Those rare moments of physical contact are extremely essential for physical and sexual bonding. Couples in a long-distance relationship must find a way to regularly express their sexuality with each other in a way that doesn’t involve physical contact. They can’t be afraid to embrace sexting and other ways of creating a virtual sexual connection.”
When you’re dating someone who lives in the same place as you, your conversations have the luxury of time. Meaning, you can drift off on tangents, discuss the most recent series you’ve binged watched at length and take your significant other through what happened at each and every point of your day. But Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist says that conversations with your long distance partner should be more targeted and meaningful in order to get both your needs met. “Don’t fall into the bad habit of making all of your phone calls about updates and agendas; you don’t need to fill your partner in on every single detail of your day,” she says. “Instead, talk about your most intense feelings, concerns, dreams and celebrations. Take turns initiating calls/chats; one of you may have more time, but you should both make an effort to be the initiator.”
What Real Women Say: “My husband and I were actually long distance all through college and part of law school,” says Julianna, 30. “There is no gadget that can help sustain a healthy, long-distance relationship other than constant communication, but the one thing that helped us specifically was that we scheduled time each week to have a ‘date’ on the phone, or Facetime. We usually ate dinner or lunch at the same time, creating an opportunity to fill that void of missing each other. Long distance isn’t for everyone and it isn’t something people just ‘set out’ to do, because it’s usually caused by something other than wanting to be apart.”
5. Products To Help You Connect
Keeping the spark alive in your relationship when you and your partner are living in two separate places is essential to making it work. Luckily, there are a few products on the market that can help you both feel more connected and make the miles seem less daunting. Here are a few products that go the distance.
Sex Toys You Can Operate From Afar
When you’re in a long-distance relationship, most of your sex life is going to involve solo play. But thanks to vibrators that allow you to control them from wherever you are, you can still get in on the fun of getting your lady off even if you aren’t there with her. “There are high tech vibes that can help with the distance,” says Rodriguez. “Both Mystery Vibe’s Crescendo and We-Vibe’s 4 Plus allow one partner to operate the vibe via smartphone app while the other enjoys it.” What a time to be alive, am I right?
$100.55 at Amazon.com
$179.00 at Mysteryvibe.com
A Subscription Box For Couples
Nowadays, there’s a subscription box for just about anything you’re into — whether you’re a devoted dog dad, an aspiring sommelier, a self proclaimed connoisseur of cheese, you name it. Want a box that will benefit your long-distance relationship? There’s a subscription for that, too. “For when telegram sexting just doesn’t cut the mustard, we offer alternatives for keeping it interesting from afar,” says Polly Rodriguez, CEO of Unbound. “The Unbound quarterly subscription is great for couples who want to encourage their S.O. to indulge in more solo play or simply get them excited about an upcoming visit.”
$65.00 at Unbound.com
An App For Sexy Time
This app acts as a screen time scheduler, voice recorder and video memo facilitator all in one. Plus, it respects your privacy. “Send closeups that exclude your face using a secure app (like In The Mood),” says Dr. O’Reilly. The app has it’s own set of emoticons and stickers that help set the mood, and it helps make the exchange of sexy photos seamless by working with both your schedules to find a time where each of you will be uninterrupted and able to give each other your full attention.
Download the app
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