3 tips to master the art of the long distance relationship

Many people come to therapy wondering if their relationship will survive the geographic separation. They can ask questions such as:

  • “I have to move to a new state soon for work. My spouse and I don’t want to break up, but the distance makes us anxious. What should we do?”
  • “I met someone amazing online and I want to make things exclusive between us. The catch is that they live far away. Is it wise to pursue this?”
  • “My partner is moving away for a few years and suggests we take a break because of the distance. Are long distance relationships really a bad idea?
  • “I am in a long distance relationship with my partner. Recently, I no longer want to answer their calls. I still love them, though. Why is this happening to me?”

Long-distance relationships draw a lot of criticism in popular culture. As social animals, we are hard-wired to find the concept of being close to someone who is miles away rather counter-intuitive.

But the truth is that with a little work, long distance relationships can survive the test of time and can be just as rewarding as regular in-person relationships. Here are three things you can do to make your long-distance relationship thrive.

#1. Regularly engage in real-time, loving communication

Regular communication is crucial when it comes to long-distance relationships. Love talks, friendship talks, and problem talks are the three main types of communication that long distance couples engage in.

A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that romantic conversations are linked to higher relationship satisfaction in distance couples only when they are synchronous. In other words, when you want to express your love for your partner, make sure you are both present in the real-time conversation. If you’re in different time zones, set aside a few hours each week so you can spend time together.

With video calls, instant messaging, and virtual dates, the latency in your expressions of love and friendship can be reduced. Seeing yourself over video is also likely to increase the potency of your expressed emotions.

The study also found that problem talk (discussion of issues that bother you in your daily life) on real-time media is linked to lower relationship satisfaction as opposed to friendship or love talk. In other words, you want your partner to associate your presence with affirmations of love, not endless rants about your problems.

#2. Improve your own mental health to keep your long distance relationship healthy

One of the biggest fears people have about getting into a long distance relationship is losing the same level of intimacy with their partner.

However, a study Posted in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy showed that people with a healthy mind had success with intimacy even in long-distance relationships.

Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are known to kill relationships and can affect interpersonal communication, commitment, and sexual satisfaction. Such mental health issues can cause an emotional distance between you and your partner and can lead to a cycle of relationship problems that seem too complicated to solve on your own.

If you regularly feel anxious or depressed, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional. They can guide you towards a less stressful life and, thus, a more fulfilling relationship with your partner.

#3. Keep an eye on the price

If you’re serious about your partner, your long-distance relationship is likely temporary.

A study Posted in Quarterly communication found that partners who engaged in a long-distance relationship were more satisfied and less stressed when they both had similar plans for the future and viewed the long-distance relationship phase of their relationship as a minor inconvenience in the larger scheme of things.

Have you and your partner discussed ending the distance phase of your relationship? Do you like each other’s families? Do you see a potential future living with your partner?

Your answers to these questions will say a lot about whether your long distance relationship will be worth it.


Long distance relationships are too often dismissed as relationship killers. Instead, you should view distance as part of your relationship’s unique tapestry — and approach it without judgment or preconceptions. If you’re serious about your partner, make time to be present in their life (virtually) and monitor your own mental health.

About Oscar L. Smith

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