Are you starting to wonder if whoever coined the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” was ever involved in a long-distance relationship? The truth is, when many miles separate you and your honey, keeping your connection strong is tough regardless of your fondness for each other. In the wonderful new film “Like Crazy,” Jacob, an American, and Anna, a British exchange, fall in love at school in LA. The couple is forced to try to maintain their relationship from a great distance when she is banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.
While you and your long-distance boo may not necessarily be separated by an ocean and the laws of citizenship, an LDR of any distance is still a struggle. By establishing a few ground rules and engaging in creative methods of communication, however, you can make a long-distance relationship thrive. Before you give up on fanning the flames of your long-distance romance, consider employing these strategies to keep your long-distance love hot.
1. Establish ground rules from the start. “Like Crazy”‘s Jacob and Anna were ripped apart without warning so there wasn’t an opportunity for them to sit down in person and discuss the terms of their arrangement. But whether it’s by phone, email, or, better yet, Skype, you and your mate must openly communicate about and mutually agree upon the ground rules and terms of your relationship. “Openly discuss topics such as whether to remain monogamous or not when apart, how often to communicate and how often to visit,” says DeAnna Lorraine, a San Diego-based dating coach. Do not assume anything, and leave nothing up in the air. “When there are no misunderstandings or bad feelings, both partners are on the same page, which is the formula for a strong bond,” she asserts.
2. Discuss a mutually agreed-upon end goal for your relationship. In order for a long-distance relationship to survive, Lorraine says that both parties need to feel that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. Unfortunately for them, Anna and Jacob are left with fewer options as a result of her visa issues, while Jacob’s booming career makes relocating to London not ideal. But discussing those options — even the less ideal ones — is something every couple in an LDR needs to do. “Whether it’s that one or both parties will relocate after your separation, that you’ll be seeing each other exclusively afterwards or that at the end of your separation you’ll get married, having something you can both look forward to when the going gets tough will remind you both why you’re involved in a challenging situation,” she says. When setting your end goal, make sure it’s one you both understand and on which you both agree. “Never establish an end goal thinking or hoping that you will change your partner’s mind along the way,” she warns. “Thinking or hoping your partner will move back or propose, for example, only sets you up for disappointment and resentful feelings.”
3. Avoid excessive communicating. While speaking to your partner every day may feel like the best way to stay close, Lorraine actually cautions against such frequent chat-fests. “I recommend having only one scheduled hour (or longer) phone call a week,” she explains. “By doing this, you’ll have more exciting updates to share and you’ll be much more excited and enthusiastic to talk to each other because you’ve been anticipating that phone date all week.” If one hour a week sounds too little to comprehend — and, if we’re being honest, it does to us! — at the very least try giving yourself a day in between calls. Less-frequent communication will not only keep you from growing dependent on each other, but also will provide you both with the freedom to grow independently and have your own lives and hobbies.
4. Alternate visits on each other’s turfs. Whenever possible, try to keep the efforts you both put forth traveling to see each other equal, ideally alternating visits to each other’s places. “This plan ensures you will spend the same amount of time becoming parts of each other’s lives and getting to know each other’s friends,” she explains. “If one person is doing all the traveling, this can not only create an unhealthy and unbalanced relationship, but it can also lead to a partner’s resentment.” “Like Crazy”‘s Anna and Jacob didn’t have the luxury of alternating visits, but that didn’t stop resentment from building between them. If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit each other, make the most of it and do it in equal amounts!
5. Raise your trust level significantly. Naturally, being separated from your significant other means you’re not as privy to his or her whereabouts and activities. “Not knowing exactly what your partner is up to all the time can create significant anxiety and insecurities in people,” she explains, “so if you want your long-distance relationship to survive, you need to learn to fully trust each other or it’s simply not going to work.” Grant each other the freedom to live your lives separate from each other and resist the temptation to vocalize jealousy and suspicions, become overprotective, or accusatory of the other. “This type of behavior will only breed contempt—aside from making you sound neurotic and unattractive,” Lorraine says.
6. Keep it sexy and spicy. Because time together is rare, when you do see each other, take as much advantage as possible of your ability to get intimate with each other. “Make sure your roommates or friends know your partner is going to be in town and keep the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign up!” Lorraine suggests. During those stretches when you can’t be with each other physically, use it as an opportunity to write a few old-fashioned love letter. Another idea: use technology to go on “dates” together. For example, watch the same movie at the same time and discuss on the phone after. Or make dinner and then eat together via Skype. There’s no reason to miss out on some of the better parts of dating completely just because you’re not physically together.
7. Live your life! One of the keys to surviving a long-distance relationship is to make sure you maintain your life, friendships and interests when your partner is away. For Anna and Jacob, their obsessive focus on finding a way to be together doesn’t allow them much time to cultivate other relationships and friendships. “Many people in long-distance relationships have their whole lives wrapped up in their partner, which leaves them terribly depressed when the partner leaves,” Lorraine notes. “This dependency stunts your personal growth, which will later take its toll on your relationship.” To ensure that you don’t lose sight of your goals and your life, use your separation as an opportunity to focus on your career or schooling without distraction and take advantage of your time away from your partner to develop strong friendships. “Being in a long-distance relationship actually offers a wonderful benefit that a close physical relationship does not: you can both continue to grow and richen your lives independently of each other while still being in a partnership,” Lorraine asserts. “If handled correctly, each partner can become much more productive and well-developed, and will have more to bring to the relationship in the end.”
This post is sponsored by the film “Like Crazy,” in theaters now, but the opinions expressed are our own.