Most people say they’d never consider a long-distance relationship. But that’s usually before they don’t have a choice. (Hey, life’s full of curveballs.) And while we can all agree that LDRs aren’t ideal, they’re definitely not the end of the world—or even the death knell of your relationship. In fact, with the right mindset, the right tips, and the right managed expectations, you can have a long-distance relationship that thrives and grows stronger over time. So read on, and keep the spark alive!
1. Set Clear Personal Boundaries
“First and foremost, you and your partner need to set some guidelines: what is acceptable, what isn’t,” says April Davis, relationship expert and Founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking. You don’t need us to tell you that boundaries related to fidelity are important, but it turns out that personalboundaries play a huge role in relationships from afar, as well. “Long distance relationships fail because of a lack of trust and invasion of space, even if it’s just virtual space.”
2. Pretend You’re Single
Yup, for real. Aside from actually having a physical relationship with someone else, experts say you can pretty much behave however you want—kind of like when you were single.
“Do what you want,” recommends Gabriella I. Farkas M.D., Ph.D., founder of Pearl Behavioral Health & Medicine. “Rejoice in your life and your accomplishments. Post pictures and statuses on social media about how you are and what you have been doing. Spend time with friends.” Basically, enjoy your life!
“The better you know and appreciate yourself, the better you can focus on knowing and appreciating your partner when you are together,” she says.
3. Never Spend More Than Three Months Apart
“Ideally every three months is the minimum,” says Rami Fu, a dating coach and expert, although your timeframe can vary as long as you agree on it together. “This is so you don’t forget why you love that person in the first place, and get some sex. It will also allow you to see how they evolve as a person.”
4. Don’t Talk Every Day
You might think talking every single day when you’re in an LDR is a must. The truth is, experts say it’s really not necessary and might actually be harmful to your relationship. “You don’t need to be in constant communication,” Davis says. “Keep some of the mystery alive!”
If you go a few days without talking to your S.O., you’ll have a more interesting conversation to look forward to in a few days. Plus, keeping tabs on another person and providing them with constant updates can get exhausting.
5. Know What Success Means In Your Relationship
It’s hard to know whether things are going well in your LDR if you don’t have a goal in mind. Do you want to make it through a short period of separation? Eventually get married? Stay married even though your jobs are taking you to different locations? Having an idea of what success means to you and whether or not you’re getting closer to it is key when you’re trying to evaluate whether things are “working” or not.
6. Don’t Rely on Technology Exclusively
“In this age of electronic devices, you can connect more deeply with your partner by disconnecting,” notes Bonnie Winston, a celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. “Snail mail is underrated. Try sending a love note a spritz of your favorite cologne or perfume.”
7. Flirt With Other People
In a way that doesn’t escalate, of course. “This may sound risky, but harmless flirtation, like giving your barista a lingering smile or offering a compliment to a stranger can be good for your relationship as long as you’re respectful of yourself, your partner, and the third party,” says Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist. “You don’t have to shut down your sensual side just because you’re separated by distance. In fact, some of the happiest couples use extra-relational flirting as kindling to fuel their own flirtation, seduction, and sexual spark within the relationship.”
8. Do Things Your Partner Doesn’t Enjoy
Maybe you love shopping, going to the gym, and seeing movies, and your partner doesn’t like any of those things. Why not take advantage of your time apart and do as much of those activities as you want? This is an excellent way to find a silver lining in your time away from each other, according to Dr. Farkas.
9. Tell People about The Relationship
“Most long distance relationships don’t seem as ‘real’ as in-person ones,” says David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert. “Part of this is that there is still some stigma associated with them. To make it more normal, make sure everyone that matters to you locally (friends, family, and people who want to date you) knows that you’re in a long-distance relationship.”
To be clear, you don’t have to talk about your S.O. all the time, but keeping them a secret or treating them as an afterthought is a quick way to ruin your relationship’s chances of succeeding, Bennett says.
10. Make Sure You’re Not Being Catfished
This mainly pertains to those who start their relationship from afar, but with online dating being more popular than ever, it’s important to mention. “There are some amazing long distance relationships, however, there are many people who pretend to be someone they are not,” says Kiaundra Jackson.
11. Be Sure You’re Dating “The One”
Real talk: “The only real reason to engage in a long distance relationship is because you believe they are ‘the one,’ ” says Kevin Darné, relationship expert and author. It’s true. “If you’re just dating for fun, you might as well do that locally.”
12. See Fighting As a Good Sign
All relationships experience ups and downs, but a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that couples who use constructive strategies for resolving disagreements, like listening to each other’s point of view and trying to make their partner laugh were less likely to break up over arguments. So instead of skipping out on a conversation that would allow you to get some grievances off your chest, use it as an opportunity to work through things as a team.
13. Don’t Give Them The Play-By-Play
Why? Well, it’s boring. “You don’t need to share every detail of your day in order to stay connected,” O’Reilly explains. “If you’re only going to talk about your agenda (what you did today and what you’re doing tomorrow), you may be better off skipping the phone call altogether. Sometimes updates are necessary and relevant, but if your conversations are reduced to agenda-setting, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel passion—regardless of whether you’re apart of together. Instead of sharing daily updates, talk about your greatest fears, celebrations and dreams. Talk about all the things you want to do (G-rated and racy) once you get together.”
14. Remember That Your Partner Isn’t Perfect
“Some partners tend to idealize their relationship, and remember it as better than it actually is,” says eHarmony research scientist Jonny Beber. “Research has shown that couples with more idealization in their relationship are more likely to break up due to an unstable relationship.” When you remember just the good things about your S.O., you might be disappointed when you get the chance to see each other again. Instead of building them up in your head to be a perfect partner, try to keep things in perspective.
15. Don’t Underestimate Thoughtful Surprises
“Surprises are always welcome in any relationship, but long-distance ones may benefit more because the lack of day-to-day physical interaction,” says Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified. “Surprises can be anything from surprise visits to sending small gifts just for the heck of it. Long distance relationships suffer when one or both parties think they are being forgotten or ignored. Special treats say more than just a phone call or text because of the special attention and time you spent in coordinating it.”