Start slow, especially if you haven’t met
Don’t bare all too soon (literally or figuratively)! When you meet long distance it can be easy to jump in the deep end and move too fast in your new relationship.
During the early days (the first couple of months, at least) don’t rush into vulnerability, set a pattern of talking for hours every day, or make serious commitments.
Meet in person as soon as possible
There are all sorts of things you can only learn about someone face to face, but the initial reason why it’s a good idea to meet in person ASAP is simple: You may have great chemistry on paper or over the phone, and absolutely none in person.
Set up healthy communication patterns early in your long distance relationship
When you’re trying to figure out how to make a long distance relationship work, talk about how you talk.
Discuss some of your communication basics as a couple–how you generally prefer to connect (phone, VoIP, text), what times, and for how long. This can help set realistic expectations and avoid some miscommunications, frustration, and anxiety.
Prioritize talking with each other
It can take real effort to rearrange schedules and make time to talk, especially when things get busy or there is a time difference involved. However, if you can’t consistently make talking with your partner a priority, reconsider whether you should be in the relationship.
But don’t talk TOO much
Talking to your partner should be a priority, sure, but not your only priority. Do not overdose on talk-time. Don’t spend all your spare time talking or texting.
Give each other some virtual space
Don’t rush to reply immediately to every text, email, or message that comes in. And don’t expect your partner to respond straight away to every text you send or message you leave.
Be open, honest, and “real” in your communication
When you’re in a long distance relationship it’s easier to hide your weaknesses and put your best foot forward.
Unless you both value transparency and honesty more than making a good impression, you will have a much more difficult time figuring out whether you and your partner are a good fit for each other.
Learn to ask good questions and listen well
Communication is the bedrock of any relationship, but when you’re in a long distance relationship, talking is often all you have. Learn to listen carefully to your partner and ask good questions – questions that make them think and help you understand them better.
Find new things to talk about
Most couples in a long distance relationship will go through periods where they struggle to find things to talk about apart from how their day was. When these seasons hit, put a bit more effort into finding new and fresh things to discuss (or make it easy on yourself and check out the book below).
Don’t avoid the tough questions
Especially as your relationship deepens, don’t avoid topics and questions that could lead to uncomfortable conversations. Practice asking questions that make you feel vulnerable. Be willing to be transparent. If you’re in a committed relationship you should be able to talk about everything.
Read, listen to, or watch the same things
It’s easier to figure out how to make a long distance relationship work if you share some common interests. So recommend books, articles, podcasts, music, movies, news items, etc to each other. If you can read or listen to some of the same things, that will help you share experiences and give you new things to talk about.
Learn from other people’s stories
Lot’s of people out there have successfully closed the gap in their long distance relationship, or are making a long distance relationship work well for them now. Read up on some of those stories and learn from those who have gone before.
Get creative about connecting (and by “creative” I don’t mean “naked”)
You can share new experiences and build memories together even while you’re far apart. Talking to each other is great, but make that extra effort sometimes to try something new or go on a long distance date.
Write to each other sometimes
If you only ever talk to each other, try writing letters or long emails sometimes. When you write, you can think and express yourself differently than you do when you’re talking. Writing gives you more time and space to reflect on tricky issues, and letters and emails can become treasured keepsakes (or maybe even a book) in the future.
Discuss how you deal with pressure
Sometime when you’re not tired and stressed, talk about how each of you typically acts and reacts when you are stressed and tired. Tell your partner how they can best help you during those times. Ask your partner to share these things with you, too.
Learn more about how you both approach conflict
Conflict is inevitable in relationships, but being in a long distance relationship makes managing conflict well even more difficult. If you want to know how to make a long distance relationship work, learn some basic conflict-management strategies and discuss them with your partner before you find yourself mid-fight.
Discuss your big disagreements in person
Learn to recognize and control your own emotions
Don’t stonewall (and don’t passively allow your partner to give you the silent treatment)
Stonewalling is using silence as a weapon or an escape. It is controlling the situation by simply refusing to engage. Distance makes this particularly easy to do (hanging up or not answering or returning calls), and it can drive your long distance partner crazy with frustration, second-guessing, and self-doubt.
Practice taking your partner’s perspective
Try to see things from their point of view, especially if you’re having a difference of opinions. If you find yourself really stuck on something, you can even switch viewpoints and try to argue from the other person’s perspective!
Talk honestly about money
If finances are tight, money can become a major source of resentment–especially if finances are keeping you apart, traveling to see each other is expensive, and/or one partner has to spend a lot more money than the other to keep the relationship going. Tackling this hot topic directly can help avoid assumptions and conflict.