I’m not sure there’s ever an ideal time for a long-distance relationship, but I assume one’s freshman year of college would come in last on a list of scenarios. That was my first experience with an LDR, but considering my school was a 1600 person, originally all-girls college with a 62:38 percent female to male ratio, I didn’t feel I was exactly missing out.
Nonetheless, while most of my new classmates were pairing off, partying, and meeting new friends, I was on my phone texting, twiddling my thumbs, convinced I was the only girl in the world that’s ever been in love and that I would never feel this way again about ANYONE...EVER. Ironically, after an entire year apart, we broke up one week before school ended. I told myself I would never do an LDR again. Two LDRs later, I stand by my word.
Jokes aside, while I still feel that LDRs just aren’t for me, love isn’t really in our control. So, when life introduces us to someone we’re crazy about, who also happens to live far away, but we feel the commitment is there, I do believe that we owe it to ourselves to see the relationship through. After talking with a few experts on the subject—a sexologist, an international long-distance couple (who are also business partners), and a few seasoned real-life LDR veterans—I got some tips on how to maintain an LDR and stay present in your day-to-day life without totally derailing your routine.
Contrary to popular belief, not all LDRs are doomed or inferior to geographically close couples. Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist says, “Recent research suggests that there is no statistically significant difference in relationship longevity between geographically close and long-distance relationships. Relationship satisfaction rates are also similar as well as intimacy, trust, and commitment outcomes which also happen to be the same regardless of whether you live in the same city or many miles away. People in LDRs worry more about their partner cheating, but affairs are no more common. One study found that long-distance arrangements encourage you to focus on positive memories; this “relational savoring” can be good for your relationship and make you feel closer to your partner even when you’re hundreds (or thousands) of miles apart.”
Dr. O’Reilly suggests these tips for happy LDRs:
Make time for one another
Carve out quality time or take time off of work to ensure your partner feels loved before your visits come to an end.
Connect while you’re apart
Make sure you both initiate phone calls and you both agree upon how often you’ll speak versus text so that one person isn’t left feeling as though they are carrying all the weight.
Emotionally prepare for your reunions
Often times, we’re so excited to meet up again that we don’t realize there is a serious adjustment period. Couples are often so happy to reconnect in the days leading up to their reunion, but then tension builds and fights are common once they’re back together. You have to prepare for this possibility to reduce its likelihood.
Have meaningful conversations on the phone, not just “updates”
Although you’ll want to fill one another in on your daily comings and goings, you also want to discuss deeper topics and share how you’re feeling on a daily basis. Talk about your triumphs and challenges as well as your fears, dreams, insecurities, and big goals.
Go on video dates
If you’re hitting up a new gallery or trying a new restaurant for lunch, bring your partner along via video chat. Wear headphones so that you don’t disrupt others in public spaces and enjoy experiencing something new together.
A great example of being able to go the distance is Emily Brockway and Marc Escapa, co-founders of the online travel service Noken. Partners in business, the two spent a solid amount of time being long distance during the early stages of their startup.
First working in different cities (Emily in NYC and Marc in Boston), and then in different time zones and countries (Emily in the US and Marc in Canada and Spain), Emily and Marc initially struggled to effectively communicate. However, after implementing some key practices, they were eventually able to iron out the kinks to ensure their business, and the relationship would be efficient and strong. Here are Emily’s and Marc’s top tips for successful LDRs:
Have a plan for when you can meet in-person
Soon after becoming long-distance, we learned the value of face-to-face time. While I (Emily) finished my second year at Harvard Business School in Boston, Marc spearheaded our app’s launch in New York. Prior to this, we were used to being able to meet up to chat, so when he moved to New York, we knew we still needed some in-person time and I started commuting back to New York for two to three days a week.
Check-in with one another to make sure you are aligned on priorities and goals
Marc and I (Emily) met weekly for 30 minutes to discuss larger priorities and goals while we were long-distance. It served as a great time to make sure our plans of action made sense and to confirm that we continued to agree on our future!
Be comfortable sharing when things aren’t working
One of the most unexpectedly difficult things for me (Marc) when becoming long-distance was not being able to understand tone. As a result, we’ve learned to be very explicit with each other when we do and don’t like an idea. Over-communicating is critical when you’re separated so you don’t make assumptions.
Figure out a communication system
Marc and I (Emily) developed a very clear schedule. Each morning we texted each other our most important items for the day in addition to sharing any urgent updates throughout the day to make sure we were both aligned. Without such a clear communication system, I don’t know how we would have gotten through long-distance!
Share your schedule especially if you have a time difference
For a significant portion of our time, Marc was in Spain. This made communicating prior commitments, and the times we were mutually available, particularly important! An easy way we managed this was by sharing our Google calendars with one another.
Not every relationship will be tested by time zones and business partnerships, but they will be tested. Here are some takeaways from three seasoned LDR veterans:
Megan, San Diego, California, 32 years old:
“For me and my partner, we pretty much always knew there would be an end to the distance because what we had found in each other was definitely different than anything else. We started talking early on about when we would live in the same city. I didn't want to be in an LDR where the future was unknown because I’d seen how hard it was for other friends. Surprisingly, I actually felt way more outgoing and social with my friends while I was in an LDR because I wanted to have stories to tell my partner on the phone. I didn't want him to think I was lame and sitting in every night because honestly, I was still trying to impress him. I looked forward to my mid-morning text that he would send when he woke up on the west coast. We did probably two calls a week that were about two hours or so. The time we were doing distance was the same time I went back to school full-time for one semester to do a web development course so I was already in a mode of, "I am bettering myself for the future". Also, getting to know the man I saw myself marrying during that time made me feel like we were both in this relationship equally and each doing what we can to set ourselves up for success.”
Sarah, Austin, Texas, 31 years old
“I’ve recently concluded that people who do open-ended, long-distance for years at a time just aren’t the right fit, or it’s not true love. That was the case for me at least. I think when it’s true love, you want to be with that person so much it’s not even a choice, you make it happen no matter what. But to better answer your question, I guess I’d have to say that always having your next time together scheduled, so when you say ‘goodbye’ you always know when you’ll see each other next.”
Rachel, San Francisco, California, 27 years old:
“My partner and I were apart for about six months. I always believed he would make the move cross-country, but thinking back now, I may have put too much trust in that and feel lucky that he actually did make the move. I can’t lie, I was not good at staying present in my life while we were apart. I think I did finally gain confidence and independence eventually, but it was more out of necessity than choice. I had to get to a place where I thought more about my life than what was going on with his, but I can’t say it was easy or intentional. Actually, I change my answer, Skype sex. That’s how we got through.”
On that note, after doing a little research, I was shocked to see how the advances in technology have significantly impacted the potential for a successful LDR and satisfying sex life even during the times that both are solo, and I’m not just talking about sexting and Skype sex sessions.
Today, there is actual Bluetooth compatible remote-controlled underwear. Yes, you read that right. These devices are considered Teledildonic toys, sex toys that are controlled through the internet. Say what? For example, a vibrator that you are using but that your partner is controlling via an app. Cray. So, if you’re looking to spice things up, these might be for you.
However, for those looking for something a little tamer or are just warming up to the idea of being on camera with your lovah, you can try an app like Gaze, which allows you to watch movies with long-distance partner or friend at the same time while communicating through webcam. That being said, whether you’ve tried LDRs in the past or have yet to try one, there are many ways to make it work if you both are willing to put in the work.