The Rules: How to Have a Lasting Long-Distance Relationship


By Josey Miller on

Dating is hard. Doing it across state lines is harder! Follow these rules to keep it together even when you’re apart


    Agree on Your Commitment Level

    Couples in long-distance relationships know they’re taking a risk, not to mention making a few sacrifices. But if you see a real future for the two of you, the sacrifices won’t seem to matter. Still, before you get involved in a long-distance relationship, there are a few things you have to establish. Are you exclusive or are you seeing other people? Don’t assume that it’s one or the other if you’ve never discussed it, especially if you’re looking to keep things one-on-one. “With long-distance relationships, you need to have a detailed, intimate conversation, including whether the connection is monogamous or open,” says Tonya Reiman, author of The Body Language of Dating: Read His Signals, Send Your Own, and Get the Guy. “Confirming the level of commitment will help to avoid unnecessary jealousy issues and fights.” If you think this is the one, get ready for some hard, but hopefully rewarding, work. “The amount of time couples are able to maintain a long-distance relationship really depends upon how they nurture it,” says Reiman.

Don’t Keep Secrets

Honesty is paramount to any relationship, but especially one that’s maintained from different cities, states, even countries. It’s crucial to be forthcoming — especially about your own insecurities. As a matter of fact, revealing what makes you anxious can lead to improvements in the relationship, as well as a greater level of sensitivity from your partner. “Call when you get home from a night out, and tell your significant other, ‘I really wish you were here,’” adds Caroline Tiger, author of The Long-Distance Relationship Guide. Avoid constantly talking about one person your faraway mate may see as a romantic threat. “And don’t kid yourself,” says Tiger. “Spending all of your time with one person can easily lead to temptation, so make sure you hang out with lots of people.”


Surprise Each Other

Routine is actually a good thing when it comes to long-distance relationships. You can look forward to your next conversation or visit because you know exactly when it’s going to happen. But every now and then, step up the romance a bit. That means calling unexpectedly and “upping the physical anticipation with [phone] sex and saucy email banter,” says Tiger. But don’t invest your money in flowers: “Surprise

Schedule Daily Communication

“Speaking to someone on a daily basis is what keeps the conversation flowing. Sharing the minutiae of each other’s daily lives is what keeps a relationship strong and thriving,” explains Reiman. With email, IM, texting, Skype and the good old-fashioned telephone, there’s no excuse not to talk every day. And, yes, we do mean every single day. After all, if you lived in the same city or, better yet, the same home, wouldn’t you talk that often? Keep each other looped in to everything from the finer points on up to the broader news that matters to you most, and you’ll feel closer to one another, both literally and figuratively. “If possible, these conversations should be scheduled so the couple feels a sense of loyalty and consistency,” says Reiman.



Maintain Your Sex Life

Just because you don’t sleep in the same bed every night, doesn’t mean your relationship between visits has to consist of dry spell after dry spell. On the contrary, says sex expert Ian Kerner, Ph.D., contributor to, “Our brains are our biggest sex organ.” So use the distance to your advantage by stimulating each other mentally and therefore sexually. “Learn how to talk (and text) dirty,” suggests Tiger. “It doesn’t have to be overt — just enough to make each other wonder if you’re fully clothed.”


Plan Frequent Visits

Reiman recommends that long-distance daters see each other in the flesh at least one weekend a month. You know the excitement of being asked out on a second date while you’re still on the first one? Do the same here. Never finish a visit without planning the next trip. But, says Reiman, “If you can’t physically see each other as much as you would like, virtual dates can work wonders.” Skype, anyone?


Send Cards and Gifts

Texts, Facebook, Tweets — all of the electronic communication options at our disposal have made long-distance dating much easier, that’s for certain. But how did couples do it in the pre-email days? Introducing… the pen and paper! (Remember them?) “The major thing missing during a long-distance relationship is physical proximity to your partner,” explains Tiger. “Snail mail, while no substitute, brings you that much closer to your sweetheart, because you’re touching the paper he touched and reading the lines he wrote by hand.” How’s that for a romantic thought? And she even takes it a step farther: “This is why spritzing the paper — very lightly! — with your perfume or cologne is a nice touch, even if it’s a little cheesy.”


Trust Each Other

“Commitment is a statement of intention. If you know your partner well, and a regular routine is kept, issues of trust will not rear their ugly heads,” explains Reiman. That said, trust also means giving one another the benefit of the doubt. If your guy says he’ll call you after work around 6 p.m., but the phone doesn’t ring until 7 p.m., assume he was pulled into a meeting with his boss, not having drinks with that hot girl in accounting. Just because your imagination can have the tendency to run wild, doesn’t mean you should let it.


Stay Social

If it’s Saturday night and you’re watching Saturday Night Live with your cat because, le sigh, your boyfriend lives a few states away, it’s time to take a step back. “It is imperative that you each have a social life in your own city,” says Reiman. “Without your own world of opportunities and enjoyment, you lose your sense of security and independence.” Going out with supportive friends will keep you busy and in a positive state of mind. Building new friendships also boosts confidence, which can enhance your relationship. “There is nothing more attractive to a partner than someone who is confident,” says Reiman


Set an End Goal

How long is too long to be in a long-distance relationship? Well, that depends on you, your guy and your respective situations, but at some point you’ll need to live in the same city. (You may even expect to have a ring on your finger!) “There needs to be a light at the end of the tunnel, a time when you’ll be in the same place, or at least the understanding that one of you will have to move at some point,” says Tiger. “If you’re in a new relationship, this might be too intense a topic to broach for a while, but you can still talk about the fact that you’ll need to talk about it [eventually].” She suggests setting a deadline. For example, agree that after three months you’ll have a “state of the union” conversation. After all, if you’re both in it for the long haul, these are decisions you’ll want to make sooner rather than later. That way you’ll know the relationship is — or isn’t — right for you.


Itch: The Honeymoon is Over

Why: For the first few months of your marriage, everything is wonderful and exciting and new — then reality sets in. It’s really common for couples to suddenly feel like their relationship is more routine than romance. “When you’re dating and falling in love and planning a wedding and honeymoon, there’s constant stimulation and variety. It’s an adrenaline-filled period. Then you settle into more of a domesticated routine and you get more comfortable with each other,” Kerner says. As a result, life can suddenly feel boring and you may question why you decided on happily-ever-after with this man.

What to Do: Even though you’re busy establishing yourself as a married couple, it’s important to continue to grow as separate people, too. “Newlyweds often make the mistake of isolating themselves; they fall into the trap of doing everything together,” says Kerner. “It’s never too early to assert yourselves as individuals. Developing good relationship habits like this at the outset of the marriage is important. Just because you’re sharing a life doesn’t mean you’re sharing everything.” Krasnow thinks this advice is paramount throughout your union. “The real secret to having a long marriage is to find your own sense of purpose and passion outside of your partnership.” Try signing up to learn a new language or start a book club with your friends, and also encourage those beer-drinking-music-playing guys’ nights. It gives you time away from each other to grow and of course, miss each other. “Absence really does make the heart grow fonder,” says Kerner


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