I’ve always thought that I’d be most successful in a long distance relationship. Probably because I really hate sharing covers, I find things more exciting when I don’t have immediate access to them, and I actually really enjoy living alone. But I know I’m not the norm. Most people prefer to have their significant other where they can reach and see them whenever they want to. Not everyone is so lucky. Some people simply get pulled in different directions. But what's the best way to keep a long distance relationship going? What are the habits of successful long distance couples? How do they do things differently? What are the realities of being in a long distance relationship?
I spoke with four couples who have all been in long distance relationships for at least a year, to get to the bottom of how they stay happy while they're so far away from the one that they love.
Meet The Couples:
Dave and Elise were pulled to opposite ends of the country following their dream jobs, and have been together for six years - four of which, they've done long distance.
Sarah and Courtney are the product of the age of internet dating. They met three years ago, when Courtney was visiting Sarah's area, and have been together since.
Ruby and Ted had only been dating for three months when Ruby was offered a promotion at her job that came with a relocation. They decided to give the long-distance thing a shot, and are still together over a year later.
Nick and Brad have been together for two years, and continue living on opposite coasts.
1. Use The Phone
"Ruby hated talking on the phone so much before she moved, she was one of those weird people who wouldn't even call the pizza place to order," says Ted. "So that was a struggle for us initially, Because when you're in a relationship with someone, sometimes you just really want to hear their voice at the end of the day."
Ruby admits that it took her a while to come around to the phone end of their relationships. "It was hard!" Ruby says. "But it's definitely become one of the reasons that we're doing so well, a year into this thing. It's still not easy for me, but when you're in a long distance relationship, you make sacrifices. Learning to talk on the phone on a regular basis was my sacrifice."
2. Use Technology To Your Advantage
When phone calls become stale, or just aren't an option anymore, turn to other forms of technology. "Sometimes, even a few minutes on G-Chat can make me feel more connected," Nick says. "FaceTime is always good, because I actually get to see his face, and hear his voice. Technology has made our relationship much more functional. I can't imagine how people did this before tech got as big as it is."
"You can't be afraid to ask about using technology for parts of your relationship that aren't communication, you know?" David says.
3. Practice Trust
"I'm a naturally jealous person, so trusting Sarah completely while we live lives in separate cities has been a journey for me," Courtney says. "Relationships in general are so much easier when you have a certain level of trust with your partner. Sarah and I are completely transparent with our separate lives. If somebody hits on me, I tell her about it, because I don't ever want to be in a position where I feel guilty about something. I want her to trust me as much as I trust her."
"It's really hard when the love of your life is posting Instagrams in a bar with a bunch of people you haven't met, it's like the doubt-monster gets in your head and makes you question everything," Elise says. "I trust Dave, I do, which is why I'm always honest when the doubt-monster is getting the best of me. Once I'm like, 'Hey, I'm feeling irrationally insecure tonight,' I always feel better. Honesty is always the best policy, and trust is the number one key to having a successful long distance relationship."
4. Take Turns Traveling
"Atlanta to L.A. is a flight that gets obnoxious after a while, as I can imagine most cross-country flights do. Last year, Nick and I decided that we would start meeting in different cities," Brad says. "We can't do it every trip, but it is nice to get together in a neutral city every once in a while. In Atlanta, or in L.A., it can start feeling like we're just a temporary fixture in the other person's life. Meeting somewhere that neither of us call home was a way for us to compromise, and a way for us to really be able to spend our time together, instead of trying to fit the other into our already scheduled life."
"Splitting the trips 50/50 is the best thing for us," Elise says. "Every other trip, I fly to David. That way, the financial burden is split equally, and so is the time."
5. Be Independent
"You have to be able to keep having a life outside of your long distance relationship," Sarah says. "Friends, hobbies, classes, you have to take care of yourself, just like any other relationship. Don't lose yourself, waiting up for a Skype call."
"The first few weeks were rough," Ruby says. "But once I started actually doing things in my new city, my relationship was better off. It's not that I miss Ted less now that I have new friends, and things on my calendar, it's just that the distance is less of a strain when we both have lives outside of each other."
6. Keep The Romance Alive
“Nick flew out to L.A. and surprised me on my birthday this year,” Brad says. “I still don’t know how he pulled it off without me knowing, but it was a grand gesture, and it was crazy.”
“I love getting snail mail,” Elise says. “So Dave will send me handwritten letters, and that’s super romantic for me.”
7. Do Things Together
"We read books together!" Elise says. "It's like our own personal book club. Rather than spending our phone time talking about our separate lives, we have something in common to discuss. It might be a little dorky, but it's really nice to be able to have a common ground, even when you're hours away from your boyfriend."
"We watch certain shows together," Courtney says. "We'll either watch over the phone, or watch separately and then call each other to talk about it. I love to watch Scandal when we're on the phone together, because Sarah's reactions are the best. It's the little things that wind up keeping you connected."
8. Talk About The Sex Thing
"Talking about digital get downs can be weird at first," Nick says. "But once you put it out there, it's done. You figure out what you're comfortable with, what your partner is comfortable with, and then you learn how to dirty talk, or sext, or get comfortable with seeing yourself naked on FaceTime, and you go from there."
"Your sex drive doesn't just go away when you're in a long distance relationship. So you have to figure out a way to deal with it," Sarah says.
9. Have An Endgame
“Ruby’s contract is for three years. We’re one third of the way there,” Ted says. “I don’t know if I’d be able to do this, not knowing when it was going to end. People who are in long distance relationships with an undefined time attached, they’re the real heroes.”
“I love Atlanta, and Brad loves L.A. We know eventually one of us is going to make a move, we’re just not sure who yet. We’re both open to the possibility, and we both keep our eyes open for opportunities for each other. It’s a give and take. Obviously, we won’t be 50 years old, still living on opposite ends of the country, but for now, our relationship works the way it is. We’re both flexible, and that’s what’s important.”