I realize that long distance relationship advice is not a topic you were expecting to see from me today. How to store muffins? Sure. But how to survive a long distance relationship? Stay with me here.

Practical advice and tips for how to make a long distance relationship work. A must read for anyone in a long distance relationship! @wellplated

My experience in a long distance relationship isn’t something I mention often on my blog, but it’s topic I’m asked about frequently outside of it, because Ben and I—a happily married couple of four years—spent almost two years living in separate countries. To this day, I still receive questions and emails from friends (and friends of friends) facing long distance relationships of their own. Though each situation is unique, for the most part, every person who contacts me wants to know the same thing:

How’d you do it?

Over the weekend, I received a request for long distance relationship advice from a reader who spotted in an old post that Ben and I had spent a significant time apart while we were dating. When I found myself copy/pasting a reply about our long distance experience that I’d sent to a different reader a few weeks prior, I decided it was time to write a blog post sharing what we learned, with the hope that it might be helpful to others too.

If long distance relationship survival doesn’t interest you, feel free to grab a stash of peanut butter chocolate crinkle cookies and be on your way.

If tips for making a long distance relationship work does interest you, take a cookie anyway, and let’s chat!

How our long distance relationship came to be: A year after we started dating, Ben began service in the Peace Corps and was placed in the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, I lived in Minneapolis, working as an analyst for a Fortune 500 company. Our lives could not have been more different, but we managed to keep our relationship going despite living in what often felt like separate worlds.

Was it worth it? Yes, undoubtably.

What I can’t tell you: Whether or not you should stay in your long distance relationship. Every situation is different, and ultimately, only you and your partner you can decide if the relationship merits the difficulty, heartache, and financial sacrifice that come with making a long distance relationship work.

What I can tell you: Key tips that were critical to helping Ben and me make our long distance relationship (forgive me) go the distance.


9 Tips to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work

#1. Be Your Own Book Club (or participate in a similar, specific activity in each of your respective locations).

Ben and my day-to-days looked nothing alike. While he was teaching entrepreneurial classes in rural communities, I was negotiating production costs with international companies. Reading the same book gave us a relateable connection as we debated themes and empathized with characters. Watching the same TV series, listening to the same podcasts, and reading the same news articles are also excellent activities to share and discuss.

#2. Don’t Feel Pressured to Talk on the Phone for Hours Every Day.

Every day does not need to include an epic, heart-wrenching phone call in which you each feel a Nicholas Sparks-level connection to the other, and sometimes an excess of communication can be a bad thing. Feel confidant if you only have a few minutes to chat on light topics, or if you don’t chat at all. A simple text is an excellent option for those who are in the same country (a “thinking of you” or “miss you” can mean the world). Talking for a longer period a few times a week, versus every day, naturally leaves room for meaningful conversations that go beyond “So, what did you eat for lunch?”

#3. Bring Back Snail Mail.

Sure, texts and phone calls are nice, but a good, old-fashioned card or letter is a better way to demonstrate caring. It takes time to send, and that time will not go unnoticed or unappreciated by your partner. Plus, it’s nice for your partner to be able to pick up and reread a physical card or letter when he or she is missing you.

#4. Always Have Your Next Visit Planned.

I learned this one from my aunt who at one point weathered a long distance relationship from Texas to England. Although cards and a mutual Game of Thrones watch can be helpful, nothing replaces quality, in-person time. Invest weekends (and finances) in visiting each other. When you leave, have the next date on the calendar. That way when you part, instead of tearfully sighing “See you…soon,” you can confidently state, “See you in three weeks.”

#5. Don’t Give In To Jealousy.

It’s a reality of long distance that your partner will be spending more time with other people than he or she does with you. Don’t resent him or her for it. It’s important for both you and your partner to build strong, healthy relationships with friends and co-workers in your immediate vicinities. Long distance is difficult, and you will both benefit from having a strong support network to help you through it. Make an effort to get to know your partner’s friends as well. This way, when he or she tells you stories that begin, “Last night when Jim and I went out,” you’ll know exactly who Jim is and have a clearer picture of your partner’s daily life.

This idea becomes trickier when your partner is friends with someone of your same sex. Ben was close with several girls from the Peace Corps, and at times, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. What made a difference was a) my getting to know these girls and b) being committed to being honest about where our feelings lay. Ultimately, long distance requires trust, and if you are not willing to give it, then a long distance relationship might not be right for you.

#6. Stay Busy.

Don’t let a Skype date with your partner be the only thing you have to look forward to in the evenings. Long distance relationships are much easier to manage when you have a vibrant life outside of them. Join a new club, take an art class, or enroll in French 101 at a local community college. Enjoy your time with family and friends and with yourself too. Just because you are alone doesn’t mean you need to be lonely.

Staying busy is also important because it keeps your expectations for your partner reasonable. If you have commitments of your own, you will be less tempted to feel resentful when your partner needs to cut a phone call short to join friends for drinks.

#7. Video Call Whenever Possible.

Seeing someone’s face, even on screen, has a power that I can’t explain but that was critical for Ben’s and my long distance relationship survival. At two points, we nearly called things off, first him, then me. Both times, we had the discussion over Skype. For me, seeing his face and looking into his eyes while we spoke reminded me of why we were doing this crazy thing in the first place, and we decided to stick with it.

#8. Ask the Big Questions.

i.e. “Where is this going?” I don’t think you need to be 100% positive (0r even 80%) that a relationship is destined for eternity to try long distance, but I do think it’s important to have regular, clear, and honest conversations about what each of your relationship goals are. Can you reasonably see the other person as someone you could spend your life with, if life partnership is something you want? If not, it begs a different big question: “Why are we doing this?”

#9. Have an End Game.

A long distance relationship is not a permanent lifestyle choice. Eventually, you need an end date. This part is difficult. Eventually one (or both) of you will likely need to leave a job, network, and/or preferred city to be with the other. If that conversation feels like too much to tackle, consider setting a deadline for yourselves a few months down the line to have a serious discussion about your next steps, then stick to that deadline. As difficult as long distance relationships are, they are even more difficult when no end date is in sight.

What do you think? Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? If yes, what tips have been helpful for you?

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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56 Comments

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  1. I have certainly enjoyed reading your post and also all the comments left below. I am now in month 5 of my LDR. I live in the UK and he live in the US….4369miles apart. I must say that I agree with all your points. Communication is a big thing for us as is planning ahead. We plan to see each other at least every 3 months. It’s a big commitment financially but we have had open honest conversations about the magnitude of what we are doing and both made commitments to make it work. We met 11 years ago and that didn’t work out, we were both young and I guess on different paths. We always kept in touch throughout those years but when we started speaking a few months ago something just clicked into place. I love that we are on a journey together and that we are forced to discuss things other people may shy away from. Making plans helps so much and he is worth all the distance between us. Hopefully one day (for now we have a 2 year plan) we will be able to bridge that gap. So I am focussed on working towards that with him.

  2. Hey Erin, me and my boyfriend are in a long-distance relationship now. He lives in America for 10 months because of his studies and I live in Europe. Thanks for shaming your tips, unfortunately we haven’t skypen het because he hasn’t time for that. We uwe messenger and snapchat to keep in touch of eachother but it isn’t always easy.. He can’t always text back and sometimes there are days where I hear nothing from him. He’s friends with a lot of girls there so it isn’t always easy to bear, we’re now 4 months far so 6 months to go. I hope it Will work out. 

  3. Hi Erin,

    Thanks for sharing your tips.

    I’m just 3 weeks into LDR with my boyfriend of 1 year plus. This LD is supposed to last for almost two years with 6 hours time difference.

    It’s crazy already, but I believe we can do it.

    Thanks once more for sharing.

    1. Hi Camaa, I’m glad you found these tips helpful—as you already know, long distance is never easy. Wishing both of you the best!

  4. This article was awesome! It does male feel better about my boyfriend and my relationship. We do talk on the phone, when we can. And we just love video chatting. I love to video chat better than phone calls. I told myself I wasn’t gonna do another long distant relationship, but it was something different about him. We are in similar situations, we are both single parents. He is so much more respectful than the other guys I’ve dated. He compliments me everything we video chat or talk on the phone. And yes about the moving part of your article is what is on my mind lately, but I know we will work it out! Thanks so much for this article

    1. Alicia, thank you so much for sharing <3 And congrats on what sounds like a wonderful new relationship in your life. Wishing you both all the best!!

  5. Thanks for this advice! My boyfriend and I have been dating since January 1st, and I’m taking a break from college and he’s moving 4 hours away to a different college in August. I’ve been really worried about how to do long distance, but you’ve given me a peace of mind as we start the long distance relationship. 

    1. Madelyn, I am so glad this post was helpful to you. All of the best to you and your boyfriend! I know it’s hard but have faith that things will work out as they are meant to be.

  6. This is amazing. I started a relationship long distance and 8 months later, we’re still at it. But really struggling with the distance and we have an end plan if me picking up to move this summer. The 1 year mark. I’m saving this to my Pinterest board and going to write some questions down to ask him next time me FaceTime. Thank you for not being the majority that says “long distance NEVER works!” 

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