It’s your first week apart.
Things are a little tough and your feelings are still fresh.
The separation anxiety is strong. You nervously await a reply to your messages or a call from them. You can’t wait to hear their voice over the phone again. To see them smiling widely over video chat.
Then you jump on a call with them and you feel stronger again – more uplifted, even excited to be sharing this new adventure together…
Most couples dive into a long-distance relationship with the best of intentions. Initially, their energy and enthusiasm is high. Then things start to peter out. Maintaining the bond and connection starts to take more effort and within a few weeks, the real test begins.
It’s normal and can happen to any couple, whether you’ve been long-distance since meeting or have suddenly found yourself miles apart from one another.
With a little planning, understanding, and the right kind of communication, you can find ways to stay connected and sustain your relationship over the long-run.
But first, it’s worth taking the time to set you and your partner up for success.
Lay the foundations with acceptance
Laying a good foundation can truly make the difference between a long-distance relationship that flourishes and one that begins to fall apart. And the key to this solid foundation is acceptance.
Accepting that you and your loved one will need to be physically apart for a certain amount of time can be instrumental in how you approach the experience.
It allows both you and your significant other to make positive choices and to take constructive action when it comes to maintaining your relationship. Most of all, it can help you to foster a much healthier perspective on your time apart - to reframe the experience as one you can share while living your lives in parallel.
Before you embark on your long-distance journey, it’s worth having an open and honest conversation with each other.
Do you see yourselves together in the long run?
Are you committed to one another?
Do you have any doubts about the viability of the relationship whatsoever?
Even if you’ve only just met (and don’t quite have all the answers yet), it’s important to have some of these elements in place before taking the plunge with an LDR. If not, you may be in for heartbreak.
While LDRs take serious commitment and dedication they can also be a surprisingly fun opportunity for exploring, traveling, and sharing new experiences together (whether that be digitally or in-person).
Here are a few more suggestions for staying connected and making the most out of your time away from each other.
Stay in sync
Different school timetables, work schedules, sleep patterns and conflicting time zones - these are all things to contend with when in a long-distance relationship.
Take some time to sketch out a communication plan that works for both of you. Find times during your days and weeks when the stars align - when schedules and time zones make it possible for you and your partner to properly catch-up. Be both consistent and mindful of what works best for both of you.
At the same time, make room for the spontaneous (e.g. a surprise delivery of flowers or a funny picture you just can’t wait to send).
Less is better than more
It can be tempting to try and fill the void of not being physically together with frequent calls or long texts or emails. Do this too much, however, and things can get old really fast as you run out of meaningful things to talk about.
It might seem counter-intuitive to reel back the amount of time you talk with your partner. But, this could make all the difference in building a healthy, well-balanced relationship during your time apart.
Agree with your partner on a communication pattern that feels right, and not like you’re trying to compromise for something.
Quality over quantity
While there are fewer opportunities for communicating when physically apart, there’s still a lot of value to be gleaned from these moments.
Perhaps, this is the greatest gift going the distance has to offer. Realizing just how few moments you have to connect makes things all the sweeter.
You learn how to really embrace the times you have together and not let them go to waste. To be intentional when you do get a chance to speak instead of frittering time away on things that are mundane.
Take some time to think about the things that are most important for you to share with them.
Share all the details
When all you have are video calls and messages, quality communication leads to better time spent together.
The richer you can be with the details shared during your conversations, the more engaged you’ll feel over the distance. Sometimes, the little things can really bring you closer; asking them about that podcast they’re listening to on their break, what their new favorite coffee shop is where they’ve moved, or telling them what you had for lunch.
Find interesting threads in the every day to keep your spark and interest alive.
Technology can be your friend...
When it comes to sharing all the little aspects and nuances of your day with that special someone, technology can be wonderful.
Sharing things instantaneously, as they are happening through a myriad of different mediums - photos, texts, calls, streams - means that it’s a lot easier for you to connect with your loved one and really experience those moments together.
...but technology isn’t everything
Just because it is so much easier to connect with technology when you’re miles apart doesn’t mean it’s the only way you can communicate. Sometimes having something physical that reminds you of them can be powerful, too.
A heartfelt gift, a pillow that still smells like them, a care package, or a special token that represents your love for each other can make you feel much closer to them. Even something playful or silly can make all the difference in brightening their day.
Send them small gifts and tokens of your appreciation to show just how much you care.
Be clear about the future
Often, most problems in long-distance relationships arise from lack of clarity about what’s in store for the long-term.
Being unsure about where the relationship is going can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despondency in any relationship. For some couples, knowing there is a set date in the future when you’ll be reunited and live together again can help put the entire experience into perspective.
…or, let go of expectations
At the same time, there’s something to be said for leaving your expectations at the door. Nobody knows what the future will hold exactly. In some cases, it’s better to have fewer expectations and simply use interest to move things along.
Plan things together
You might think that not being in the same place physically as your loved one means your options are limited in terms of what you can do together. Bedtime video and phone calls aside, there are lots of other ways you can enjoy each other’s company.
Long-distance couples are always finding creative ways of spending time together. Re-institute movie night by watching a film or TV series together over Skype. Engage in activities like online quizzes and multi-player games for some fun. You could even try meditating together over the phone or putting them on speaker phone when out to dinner with friends so everyone can say ‘hello’.
Savor the moment
When you actually do meet up in person again, it can be tempting to over-plan your time.
This is especially true if you only have a few days before being apart again. Before you know it, your schedules are chock full of activities you’ve planned together to make the most of this time. This can lead to a whirlwind of seeing people and doing things that are all very fun, but that can quickly devolve into stress and anxiety.
Take a few moments to slow down, breath, and simply enjoy each other’s presence. Relax over a nice glass of wine or go for a long, gentle walk.
Last but not least, remember to have fun
At the end of the day, remember that it’s all about how you reframe the experience. Being in a long-distance relationship can feel strange and uncertain at times. But it can also be an adventure peppered with fun and exciting surprises. Before you know it, the distance has disappeared and you feel closer than you’ve ever been before.
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