Ask anyone about a long distance relationship (LDR) and you will get any number of response from eyes rolling to wishes of good luck and more. Long distance relationships for a long time have been associated with doom, gloom and failure but that is not necessarily true.

In today’s digital world distance is becoming less of an issue as the world gets smaller and smaller through the devices and platforms we interact on (just think social media).

A long distance relationship can work if a couple is committed, and makes the effort to keep the relationship going despite the distance.

What are some of the common reasons that long distance relationships work?

Couples that enter a long distance relationship with realistic expectations are more likely to navigate the speed bumps ahead. Everyone knows a long-distance relationship is not going to be easy but many underestimate how difficult it really can be. Couples who have good communication, set boundaries and ground rules for their relationship, know exactly what is expected of each other are more secure in their relationships. It takes extra effort to keep the relationship alive as you are not sharing daily activities and events or in close proximity to each other. Communication equals connection, so it’s key to communicate everything about your relationship with each other.

What should couples be aware of or ready for when entering into a long distance relationship?

Trust is one of the biggest factors in a long distance relationship, because we are not spending our time together, sharing daily happenings and activities, we rely on updates from our partners to join the dots for us. This gives us a sense of sharing their world and being a part of their life. Always be honest with each other, even on those days when you may seem at your lowest and questioning whether it’s all worth it. This is how you get to be there for each other and support each other. Share a joint diary where you can schedule your visits whether that be taking turns to visit each other or meeting somewhere in-between.

Define the time period of your long-distance relationship, this helps to manage expectations, budget/finances, holiday/leave periods and important events and gives the relationship a ‘for now’ status as opposed to a ‘forever’ status. At some point a decision will need to be made as to how you are going to be together i.e. who is going to move where or are you both moving somewhere in order to be together?

Understand that you are both going to be living separate lives at the same time as you are in a relationship. In other words you will be involved in your own world, friends, activities and work so it is natural to feel excluded from what your partner is up to – make it a point to get to meet and know each other’s friends, work places, routines so that you can align and familiarise yourselves with each other’s world as much as possible while you are apart. Couples also need to understand and communicate how they are going to manage the physical aspect of their relationship whilst they are apart and are they comfortable with it (e.g. sexting, phone sex etc).

Things you need to consider when you do spend time together:

Of course when your partner comes home to visit you want to show them off to the world and whilst it’s important to socialise together as a couple, it’s also important to make the most of your limited time together. Find a balance between spending quality time together which helps to strengthen your connection and relationship and socialising.

Doing things together builds intimacy (which is different to sex) and creates shared memories. Intimacy is that sense of feeling close to each other, trusting each other, being connected, affectionate, loving, caring, knowing that we can rely on and depend on our partners to be there for us. Avoid jamming your time together with lots of activities, make a point of also having some down time or chill time together where you can be real with each other, talk about challenges you’re facing or simply just be with each other.

If you have a strong foundation in place, communicate openly and regularly with each other about where you’re at and what your needs are, have realisitic expectations of each other and are committed to making it work, there is no reason why it won’t.

A version of this article appeared in W24.co.za

Paula Quinsee: Relationship Expert, Tedx speaker and author of Embracing Conflict and Embracing No. Paula teaches individuals and organisations tools and skills to immediately and positively enhance the quality of their personal and organisational relationships. She was a consultant to SA TV show “Married at first Sight”, conducts monthly workshops, writes articles for a number of platforms and hosted podcasts for Niche Radio and UK Health Radio. More info: https://paulaquinsee.com/

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