Sorry, everyone. The title was a lie. It was clickbait. Long-distance relationships are a complicated issue, and there isn’t any quick and easy way to figure them out.
However, they can be worked out with plenty of thought and consideration — between both you and your significant other, of course. And I, the queen of “giving relationship advice while never actually having been in a relationship herself,” am here to help you out with 5 not entirely quick and easy steps — many of which can be applied to long-distance friendships or other romantic relationships as well.
1. First, you have to figure out what your own take on long-distance relationships is.
If you’re a complete and total cynic and you think that all LDRs are doomed to failure, this probably isn’t going to work out for you. Have some confidence. On the flip side, if you’re an idealist and you believe that love transcends all space and time simply by its existence, this also probably won’t work out. You’ve got to find a balance between pragmatism and romanticism. Although, if you do fit into the former category, I’d suggest you stop right here and think about going out with someone who might be a little geographically closer to you, for the good of all parties involved.
2. It gets harder from here, folks. Now, not only do you have to figure out your own opinions, but you have to get on the same page as your significant other.
For this to work, you both have to be invested in making it happen, and you both have to be realistic about the fact that it might not. Think about this very, very carefully. Do you care enough about your significant other and have enough personal willpower that (unless the both of you specifically agree that you’re not exclusive) you’ll ignore any other potential romantic interests if they come up? Are you psychologically prepared to subject yourself to probable heartbreak and emotional strain? Do you even have the time for this? Cold, hard reason is generally not something we’re comfortable applying to love, but sometimes it’s necessary. Both of you need to take a moment to just be purely rational about the entire situation and discuss it from a practical viewpoint.
3. If both you and your significant other have decided that, yes, you absolutely do want to do this, then you have to set the ground rules.
Refer to what I said above about establishing your exclusivity. I’m assuming that if you two are so intent on staying together no matter the distance, you probably do want to be exclusive at least to a certain extent, but I don’t know your individual situation. Discuss specific issues: Are you okay with the other person casually dating other people? Going to dances or events with a date who isn’t you?
4. Other logistics are important, too. You need to figure out how you’re going to keep in touch.
It depends on how geographically close you are to each other. An hour drive away? Inconvenient, but still possible to make fairly frequent visits to keep things going. States/countries/continents apart? Much more difficult. To the best of your ability, without completely straining yourself as far as time or money, try to see your partner as much as possible in person. If you can’t do that regularly, the following options work too. They’re listed in order of my personal opinion as to what’s most effective, but feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt.
- Skype/FaceTime: While not really the same as having a loved one physically near you, video calls are a fairly good stand in. You get their face and their voice and therefore all the subtle body language clues and facial expressions that play into a real-life conversation.
- Regular phone calls: These are good too, although they don’t come with the benefit of actually seeing your significant other’s face. Not great, definitely not preferable to a video call, but possibly easier. Phone calls are super easy to make; you can talk to someone while you’re cooking or driving or any other activity as long as you’re not too easily distracted.
- IM/Texting: Personally, I’m not a fan. Texting can be fun and great as long as you don’t go overboard. I admit I text my close friends kind of constantly. It’s perfect for communicating information. The thing it shouldn’t be used for: communicating emotions. It’s easier to be more emotional and say the things that are harder to say out loud rather than over text or IM, which can be okay in moderation. But it’s also easier to be less genuine or act differently because you don’t have to modulate your own tone of voice or body language when you say something. The verdict? Use with extreme care.
- Letters: Do people actually write letters anymore? I hope they do. I’ve always thought letters were wonderfully romantic. Not a very quick form of communication, so no immediate gratification, but still potentially extremely cute if used correctly. Consider also sending a care package and/or flowers.
- Email: Letters, only quicker, and minus the romanticism. Enough said.
5. Go and actually do what you’ve decided to do.
It’s easy to say that you’ll make this significant commitment to someone else, but it’s not as easy to actually put aside so much of your time and emotions for another person when you don’t even have their physical presence. If you and your significant other really believe the right thing is to stay together when living far away, that’s wonderful for you, but you have to make sure you hold up your end of the deal. Stay committed and make those regular phone calls.