How to Stay Intimate & Connected In a Long Distance Relationship
By: Salena Fortich
Increasingly, couples have to deal with some sort of long-distance arrangement at some point during the relationship. It is estimated that 3 million Americans live apart from their spouses for reasons unrelated to conflict or separation.
The number of long-distance relationships is even higher amongst younger couples. Up to 75% of college students have been in a long-distance relationship at some point. Long distance relationships have the potential to generate downstream psychological effects related to physical separation such as concerns regarding loyalty, fidelity, and commitment to the relationship.
A key to maintaining a healthy and positive relationship is focusing on staying connected and intimate! Below are a few tips to help you navigate your long-distance relationship:
Have a Routine of Daily Communication
It isn’t a surprise that the greater distance and time between visits puts additional strains on relationships and leads to poorer relationship outcomes. However, technological advancement in the past few decades has increased mutual and immediate availability in communication in long-distance relationships.
Although you may not be able to see your partner every day, there is a sense of security made possible by daily communication. Phones and computers allow partners to communicate across long distances and share many experiences to help mitigate the effect of physical distance.3 So, how does one develop a daily routine of communication?
It is important to understand that intimacy in relationships is much more than sexual intimacy. Emotional intimacy is a key factor in maintaining positive long-distance relationships.4 Emotional intimacy is especially important in long-distance relationships where physical contact is limited.
Couples in long-distance relationships should fill their time with texts or verbal conversations when they communicate with each other. It is important to talk about your everyday lives and to explore each other’s separate lives to help develop emotional intimacy.
Making plans helps romantic partners to decrease the effects of uncertainty by creating structure and routines! Many couples engage in planning talk to help produce certainty about future face-to-face interactions.4 These conversations can consist of making actual plans for when you’ll see each other again. For example, you and your partner can develop a plan for a date night out or an activity to have something to look forward to the next time you are with one another.
When couples are apart, it is important to plan on having serious talks face-to-face via Facetime or other forms of video chats. Face-to-face communication – even when you’re not in the same room – allows for the most immediate and honest context. It also allows partners to feel more confident that they can understand one another when they are able to see facial expressions and body language.
It is important to have a routine when it comes to talking on the phone or video chat but also make sure it doesn’t begin to feel like a chore. Sometimes over-communicating, either over the phone or through text, can become overbearing; therefore, it is important to find a happy medium that works for both partners schedules when they are away from each other.
Set Clear Rules and Boundaries
In any relationship, but especially those that are in long distance, setting boundaries is a key component to a healthy relationship. Boundaries allow you to establish expectations of what both you and your partner want in the relationship.
It allows you both to explicitly state what you are and are not comfortable with in terms of both you and your partner’s actions.
First, it is important to discuss the status of your relationship. Before physically separating and going long distances, it is important to make it clear what both partners expect out of the relationship. Confusion can come when you think you are in an exclusive relationship – but your partner doesn’t – when you two are apart.
Regardless of whether it’s a non-monogamous or monogamous relationship, it is important to establish both of your sexual expectations. By clarifying the nature of your relationship and holding the space to discuss this, you are allowing for a safe and intimate space.
This is important to foster safety, commitment, and respect within your relationship.
In setting rules and boundaries, you must make sure you trust one another and are open with communication.6 Social media is a great tool to stay in contact and get to understand your partner’s life away from you. But it also can be difficult to navigate at times.
With the increased usage of social media and constantly posting, a common issue that arises in long-distance relationships is jealousy or insecurity. If you see a post or comment that may have made you question your relationship or feel yourself questioning it, it is important to speak up. It is easy when you are long-distance to let little things boil up. But it is important to communicate when certain actions bother you to avoid a snowballing effect.
Do things together when you’re apart!
One of the biggest challenges that come with long-distance relationships is the inability to share experiences together. While it is hard to be able to go on dates to a museum or to go to a stadium and watch a game, there are ways to try and maintain the novelty of dating. In today’s world, technology has greatly advanced the ways couples can interact even when they may be a couple of hundred miles away.
Facetime and video chat help keep the face-to-face interaction and allows for planned virtual dates. Although you may not be able to physically go to a restaurant together, a great alternative is to share dinners over video chat.
By pre-planning these virtual dinner dates, couples can see each other and get a sense of being together.
Creating a sense of being together is important since this idea of shared living over video chat allows for couples to see each other’s reactions and get a better sense of how each person is doing. Doing so allows a dimension of empathy that cannot be received simply through text messages or even simple phone calls.
Another idea of what to do together when you are apart is to plan to watch a show together. If a show plays live on TV every Monday, couples can plan to video chat and watch it together. This too, like the dinner dates, allows for each partner to feel more connected and get to experience the moment together. It is important to provide a sense of shared experiences with each other because it allows for growth in your relationship.
Staying Intimate and Connected in Long Distance
If you find yourself in a long-distance relationship and are struggling, just remember you are not alone. Remember, it is okay to feel uncomfortable and uncertain when in a long-distance relationship. It is also normal to feel that your intimacy is dwindling when you are not geographically close. However, if you can have a routine and communicate daily, establish boundaries, and incorporate activities to share even when apart, your relationship will continue to progress in a healthy direction. These three tips alone will continue to grow and help maintain that intimacy in your relationship even when you are hundreds of miles away.
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