5 Tips for a Successful Long-Distance Relationship

Maybe you know the look: that mix of surprise and pity that comes over someone’s face when you tell them you’re in a long-distance relationship. “That must be hard,” they say, eyeing you as they wait for confirmation. Yes, you think, It is. Thanks for the reminder.

Add up the physical distance between partners, the need for consistent, quality communication, and the potential financial strain, and yes, it’s clear that long-distance relationships (LDRs) are not for the faint of heart. But LDRs don’t have to be a drain on your connection with your partner. In fact, time spent in an LDR could actually be beneficial to your relationship overall.

Instead of viewing spending a significant amount of time away from your partner as a detriment to your relationship, reframing your LDR as an opportunity to hone your communication and deepen your knowledge of yourself and your partner can make all the difference. Beginning a relationship long-distance may be even better in the long run, since partners are forced to learn how to effectively communicate with each other early on.

Looking for a healthy jump start to your LDR or realizing it’s time for a tune-up? Here’s five tips to help you reframe your long-distance relationship as an opportunity for growth and closeness.

1. Communication is king (and queen)

Dominque Samuels, PsyD., Emi’s in-house marriage counselor, says self-reflection followed by an ongoing open conversation with your partner about what works in your LDR is essential for a lasting connection. “All relationships need connection to stay strong. This can be especially hard for couples who are long-distance or physically separated a lot,” Dr. Samuels says. “Each person should really think about what makes them feel connected to their partner — is it words of validation? Touch? Checking in often? Once you figure this out, you can plan around it.”

2. Make rituals

Physical distance can sometimes feel like emotional distance, too. Keeping up with the little things you know work for you and your partner shows your commitment and deepens your bond. “Maybe set up video calls every few days,” says Dr. Samuels. “Text good morning and good night daily. Offer words of gratitude to each other.” Emi, a daily text reminder for people in relationships, can help you keep track of the ways you’re connecting with your partner, and offer suggestions, too. Maintaining whatever is best for you and your partner pays off in the long-run, whether you have years apart or just a few months.

3. Seeing each other is a top priority

Hectic work schedules and financial strain can make visiting a partner wherever they are is tough. But if you’re committed to seeing the relationship through, seeing your partner IRL as much as possible is key, and your time spent together is precious. Instead of offering vague ideas about when the next visit is, Dr. Samuels suggests always keeping a date on the table, so there’s something to look forward to. “Schedule when you will see each other again as much in advance as possible so that each of you can feel that the relationship is prioritized,” she says.

4. Work on trust

Being away from a partner can launch some people into surveillance mode, which is the last thing you want in a mature LDR. Avoid constant check-ins and let your partner tell you about what they’re doing in their day-to-day lives during your daily phone and/or Skype dates. LDRs are a chance to tune up your communication, but too much too quickly derails any good to come of it. Chances are, you’re separated because one of you is starting something exciting, like a job or new degree, and sharing that growth can be generative to your relationship, whether you’re a new couple or have been married for years.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of letters

Getting a grasp on someone else’s communication patterns can be difficult, especially when technology encourages constant, ongoing chatter. Do they text back right away? Do they expect you to? In addition to laying down your own communication tendencies, think about incorporating mediums other than text to your LDR routine. Emails provide for longer, more thoughtful conversations, and don’t require the same time-sensitive awareness of text. And don’t neglect the old-fashioned letter in the mail — you can send an email or text in an instant, but getting something in your mailbox feels extra special.

Read more about long-distance relationships and how to make them work for you and your partner at Psychology TodayMindbodygreen, and The Cut.