More and more couples today are choosing to date long distance, often in a bid to optimize their career growth without giving up on their most important relationships (Black, 2017). Of course, this comes with a host of challenges…but if you’re in a long-distance relationship, you might be happy to hear that the research shows that relationship quality does not actually differ significantly in long-distance versus geographically close relationships (Bonior, 2018). Plus, there are a multitude of tried-and-tested ways to thrive within a long-distance relationship. In this article, we’re going to explore what to do and what NOT to do in a long-distance relationship in order to make the most of it.
Tips on What Not to Do in a Long-Distance Relationship
DON’T send one-word texts (Chatel, 2015): Messages that say only things like “ha”, “yeah”, and “ok” can send the message that you’re not interested in continuing communication, especially if you send them frequently without following them up with something else. It’s totally valid to have other things going on in your life and to not want to be glued to the phone or computer screen all the time, but if you get busy mid-conversation, respond with a quick “busy, will respond later”. Save your real response for a time when you can put more thought into responding in a way that furthers communication and connection, rather than shutting it down. Of course, the occasional one-word text isn’t a problem, but making a habit of it can result in the distance between the two of you becoming emotional, and not just geographical.
DON’T be flaky: It’s important to be reliable in any relationship, distance aside. However, flakiness can be even more problematic in a long-distance relationship as opposed to a geographically close one. This is because without that physical proximity helping to keep you emotionally close, you need to try extra hard to go the extra mile and show your care and interest. Don’t forget when you’ve scheduled zoom calls. Absolutely don’t forget important dates like birthdays and anniversaries (Chatel, 2015). Don’t forget things you’ve said you’d do, even little things. Told your partner you’d find and send them a song they asked about, or a particular old photo? Do it without being reminded. It will go a long way towards showing interest and cultivating closeness even when you’re far apart.
DON’T hang up mid-argument (Chatel, 2015): This might be really satisfying for a split second, but you’ll probably regret it. Hanging up is the distance equivalent of storming out of the room, but it has the potential to be more damaging because you can’t simply hug it out later. Physical distance must be made up for with good, clear verbal communication. This is absolutely paramount in a long-distance relationship.
DON’T assume your relationship will be the same once you’re reunited: This one bears a little bit of unpacking. When you’re in a long-distance relationship, visits feel high-stakes and extra-special, which can lead couples to feel a need to ‘perform’ and entertain when they do get to see one another in person. Every visit might feel like an ultra-romantic, extra-special date (Kim, 2022). Alternatively, the opposite might happen when you visit–after being away from each other for a while, seeing each other for an in-person visit might feel awkward and weird. Both dynamics are completely normal.
However, when you finally reunite for good, things might feel REALLY wonky, especially if each visit was charged with extra intention and presence. Day-to-day life together will likely be more mundane than that and might even feel muted in comparison (Kim, 2022). That’s normal. If this happens to you, give yourselves time to adjust to the new dynamic instead of freaking out when things feel different. It’s also normal for the relationship to be different than it was before you started doing long distance. You’ve both grown and evolved, and so has your relationship. Of course, if you’re feeling like something is amiss, you should absolutely address it. But don’t mistake ‘new and different, need a minute to get used to this’ for ‘something is wrong’.
Tips on What TO Do in a Long-Distance Relationship
DO keep up with your partner’s day-to-day life: While it is important and interesting to keep up with things like one another’s big-picture goals and innermost thoughts and vulnerabilities, it’s equally important to keep up with what is happening in your partner’s day-to-day life (Kim, 2022). Some long-distance couples are good with keeping up with the more intimate and introspective sides of their relationship, but neglect the everyday.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the everyday. You might be less inclined to ask for updates on your partner’s new colleagues and friends and to know them by name than you would be when it comes to news about mutual friends and contacts. It’s more interesting to hear about people you already both know. However, it’s important to get interested about whatever and whoever is new in your partner’s life, too. If you don’t make a habit of keeping up with the little everyday things like office gossip, annoying bosses, and that absolutely awful new content management software that everyone is being forced to use, you risk slowly growing apart and then looking back and realizing you lack the context to understand what’s going on in one another’s lives.
DO plan time together–and make a budget for who will cover what visit-related expenses (Kim, 2022): There are some questions you should talk about and answer together, such as:
- Who will visit whom, and when?
- How long will visits last?
- Who will be paying for travel expenses? Will they be split 50/50? Will they be covered by the person traveling (or the person hosting)? Will travel expenses be divided based on income?
- Who will pick up the tab for excursions during visits?
Some couples might find it a little bit uncomfortable to broach such topics. However, being able to talk about finances clearly, directly, and transparently is extremely important in overall relationship success. And on the flip side, unclear or misaligned expectations regarding finances can wreak havoc on a relationship and cause resentment (Kim, 2022). Bite the bullet and have this conversation.
DO make extra effort to communicate honestly: When you’re apart, the distance makes it easier to avoid and delay dealing with conflict, talking about difficult but important topics, and confronting misunderstandings. Similarly, because in-person visits will likely be few and far between, you probably won’t feel like turning your reunions into conflict management sessions (Kim, 2022). However, you actually do yourselves a disservice by avoiding the hard stuff. Like a house, a relationship needs maintenance; ignoring a leaky pipe until you can’t anymore will cause more water damage than investing in a plumber sooner rather than later. Plus, while you’re avoiding difficult conversations, you’re normalizing not talking about sensitive topics. This makes it more likely that you’ll continue to do the same in the future and also makes future conversations surrounding conflict more difficult. Instead, normalize talking about touchy subjects as they arise. It might feel a little weird at first, but your relationship will be stronger, healthier, and feel safer because of this habit.
DO discuss how and when your time apart will end (Kim, 2022): If at all possible, reduce stress by starting your long-distance partnership with an end date in sight. Make a plan for when you’ll be living in close proximity to one another again, and how you’re going to make this happen. Frustration and feelings of restlessness or even hopelessness concerning the relationship can easily crop up without such a plan. If you’re living far apart because of one partner’s job, this conversation becomes even more important because you’ll need to decide which of you is going to relocate and find a new job.
Alternatively, some couples opt for ‘commuter marriages’ in which there is no stated end date for the long-distance relationship. This newer model works well for some couples, but is less advisable if children are in the picture (Kim, 2022).
Prenups and Distance Relationships
Living in separate states can make the task of obtaining a prenuptial agreement more complicated. When you’re getting married in a different state it’s understandable to get confused on what state you should get your prenup in. Whether you have a destination wedding or are just planning to move, it’s important to pay attention to choice of law.
If you’re looking for a fast and affordable way to create a prenuptial agreement, consider HelloPrenup – where you can create a prenup from the comfort of your own home!
Although these tasks may seem daunting, a prenup is very important to consider as it sets out the expectations of your marriage and divorce, if it gets to that.
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].