Long-distance relationships take some major adjustments and just like any relationship, there’s no sure way to predict how things will turn out. However, it’s important to remember that you’re both in control. Leaving it to chance makes it almost certain things will get ugly, leaving behind many regrets. Stay in control. Not of each other, but mindfully of yourself.
One way to do this is by exploring yourself, your partner and your situation with questions. Getting worries and fears out into the open. Not avoiding or letting them build. And making sure you’re both willing to do what it takes to make it work.
Questions to ask yourself and partner in a long-distance relationship
1. What are your expectations of the relationship?
Discovering your own expectations isn’t necessarily an easy task as some may be deeply rooted assumptions you’ve held for years.
Take some time out for yourself and try to imagine the future with your partner and what it would be like long distance. Do you see your partner calling every night? How often will you visit and vice versa? Do you envision texting throughout the day? Will you and your partner move closer after one year? Two years? Do you see yourself marrying after coming back together?
The images you come up with are usually where you will find those hard to find expectations. Explore them. Not all of them will be pretty. Or reasonable. Or realistic. Regardless, don’t judge. Be easy on yourself. Maybe make some notes, separating the unreasonable expectations (opportunities for self-growth) from the others.
The others, or the more reasonable and realistic ones are the ones you want to have a discussion with your partner about.
Making sure each partner knows what the other expects is crucial to making the relationship work and avoids getting too far along a dead-end relationship. At the same time, don’t go overboard trying to anticipate and iron out every future problem. Relationships are about discovering new things and getting through the unplanned surprises, not following some preset script.
Unreasonable expectations examples:
- When calling or texting, your partner will respond/pick up immediately
- Conversations will always be easy and comfortable
- You’ll always feel connected with your partner
- Your partner should know how you feel just by the sound of your voice
Reasonable expectations examples (Reasonable, yes. But, you still need to communicate them to your partner to make sure there is mutual understanding and acceptance.):
- Being respected
- Honest communication
2. What’s important for you to feel connected with your partner?
If the only answer is physical closeness, long distance is a going to be a big struggle. That doesn’t mean you should run just yet. It may be exactly what you need, and unless you are completely closed to discovering new ways of connecting with your partner, a long-distance relationship is a great way to deepen communication and learn new ways to connect emotionally.
The physical part of a relationship is very important, but many of us overemphasize the importance, relying on it too much to feel connected. Turn on the TV, go to a movie, or open up your computer; there should be no surprise where we get it from.
Sex can actually become a distraction from truly connecting with your partner, feeding into the illusion of being intimate, when in fact the two partners hardly know one another.
Hardly knowing one another may not be the case for you and your partner, but more than likely there’s room for growth in the relationship. A long-distance relationship is a great way to improve the non-physical areas of your relationship, which in return, will make the physical parts unbelievably better.
Start thinking about non-physical ways that are necessary for you to stay connected with your partner. Talk about it and listen to what your partner shares, as well.
Think about what causes the connection to feel broken. Talk about those, as well.
3. How will you handle the naysayers?
Unfortunately, when disclosing your long distance status to others, responses are usually far from encouraging:
“I can’t imagine if my boyfriend moved away. Are you going to be OK? That’s a long ways away.”
“That means you’re going to have sex about every two months, man! You really think you’re going to survive this?”
“I tried a long-distance relationship once. The plane tickets got too expensive and talking on the phone got old fast.”
“Ohhhh. That’s gotta be tough.”
Though intentions aren’t malicious, these comments usually instill doubt. The very last thing you and your partner need.
Engaging with the naysayers by attempting to give reasons or benefits behind your long-distance relationship only encourages them. It keeps the focus on you and your relationship, which really isn’t any of their business anyway.
Figure out responses that politely let the naysayers know that their input on your relationship isn’t welcome:
“A lot of people say it won’t work. I’ve been finding that hearing others’ negative reactions is really the hardest part of a long-distance relationship.”
Find others in long-distance relationships or others who simply don’t have an opinion about your relationship. The lack of judgement and support will feel refreshing. It also instills hope and strength, which will spill into your relationship.
4. What are your emotions telling you?
It’s essential to constantly evaluate your emotional health during the time you’re physically apart from your partner. There are likely to be some major ups and downs and your emotions may seem unpredictable at times.
The low times are very important to understanding yourself and your relationship more.
High emotions can be signs of hidden expectations (reasonable or unreasonable). They can also point you in the direction of long held insecurities.
It’s important to be easy on yourself and your partner. Sit with your emotions. Don’t blame your partner or yourself. Instead, explain to your partner what you’re trying to work through, reassuring him or her it’s not their fault.
Use your time “apart” as an opportunity to explore yourself, not as a time of waiting. You may learn a lot about yourself during this period, realizing that your sense of self isn’t fully dependent on your romantic relationship. When this happens you become more of an individual. You become more of yourself. The result is being someone more capable of being fully present and engaged in a relationship.