Up until a few years ago, I had never done the long-distance relationship thing before. Not really really.
My first real experience with a long-distance relationship was my current relationship: a beautiful love story that takes place between France and the United States. Though my partner and I are now at a point where we will be married and living in the same place together long-term, 3 years of traveling between two countries and sustaining a 4,000+ mile long distance relationship is no small feat!
So, speaking from personal experience, here are some things I’ve learned that make being in a long-distance relationship sustainable, and maybe even pleasurable:
1. Listen to your heart.
There will be many ups and downs. There will be the time when you’re about to be apart after some time together, and the thought of being without your partner seems unthinkable.
There will be times when things roll along blissfully, where you’re receiving all the good and none of the bad of a long-distance situation: you’re both in your separate worlds and you have more time with friends, more time for personal projects, and you feel an underlying assurance that your partner is still there for you and that you get to connect with them over video chat or via message when you want to.
Then there will be the difficult times – the times when you don’t feel as close to your partner, or maybe they say something weird at the end of a call and you’re not sure how to feel until you speak with them again. Maybe they don’t have time to call when they said they would, or maybe you forget exactly what your connection feels like in real life and begin wonder whether it’s all worth it.
Finally, there will be the times when you reunite. When your body and spirit is a typhoon of excitement and jitters. That moment when you see them again after days or months (or more) apart, and you feel yourself fall head-over-heels in love more deeply than you ever thought possible as if it’s the very first time you met.
The point is, no one can tell you the future of your relationship. It is up to you and your partner to write your love story. In my opinion, if your hearts is softly telling you, “it’s worth it,” then keep going. Let yourself believe. Which brings me to…
2. Develop the capacity to trust. And then do it.
I believe a great misconception about relationships in general is that trust comes from somewhere outside ourselves. It’s true that by trusting, we make ourselves vulnerable to being hurt by someone who may not be trustworthy. And yet, we can’t expect another person to come along and reassure us over and over (and over) again that we can trust them. It’s ok to ask for reassurance sometimes, but the real engine for creating trust comes from within ourselves, especially if we have been hurt in the past.
When we learn, somewhere along the line, that it is not safe to trust, it’s up to us to work with that part of ourselves that is afraid to trust again. If your partner has given you no reason not to trust them, and yet you still feel afraid all the time, it’s time to imagine and develop a sense of trust within.
What does trust feel like inside your body? Can you imagine what it would feel like to trust your partner deeply? And can you have faith that you are creating the relationship of your dreams, and that if for some reason you were not with someone you should trust, that that relationship will naturally improve or dissolve as you learn to feel trust and self-love more and more deeply?
I promise that if you practice actively feeling trust in your body, your partner will notice, consciously or unconsciously, and do more things that keep that trust flowing smoothly. Try it and see.
The counterpoint to this practice is…
3. Figure out what you need. Ask for it. And then give it to yourself.
In my opinion, asking for what you need and giving what you need to yourself are two sides of the same coin, and it takes practice and experience to strike a fine balance between the two. Don’t expect to get it right every time. If you play with these two ideas (the operative word being “play”), you will discover what works for you and your partner.
Need more connection time? Ask for it. Don’t expect your partner to have already read your mind, and don’t attack them for not having figured it out sooner.
Try saying something like, “I love when we talk and I feel so connected to you, I feel so happy. Can we do this more often?”
Notice how this request comes from a place of already feeling happy and fulfilled about something, not from a place of lack or complaining.
And the times when it’s simply not possible for your partner to meet your needs, for whatever reason, try giving yourself the feelings you would feel if your partner was able to give to you in that moment. That may sound silly, but what it does is keep you in a positive state of mind and ready to connect when your partner is able to come back around and connect with you. You then have time to reflect on any requests you would like to make in the future. And they will be happy to see you happy!
4. Remove blame from the equation.
Really, does anyone like to feel blamed? Ok, so maybe your partner did something you didn’t like. Or maybe they didn’t do something they said they would do. Maybe whatever it was wasn’t terribly important to them, but it was important to you.
Whatever feelings you have about the situation, they are valid. Learn to really honor your emotions and to really feel them inside yourself. Not to the extent that you traumatize yourself over and over again, but enough to be able to let them flow and eventually let them go.
At the same time, be willing to communicate what you are feeling without directly blaming your partner. Own your feelings, and then tell your partner what action on their part led to you feeling that way. Almost every time (with a healthy partner), the slight was unintentional and based on a difference in experience or perception.
Be willing to learn about your partner’s shortcomings and accept them without blame, and your partner will be more willing to learn what makes you truly happy, and over time their actions will support and reflect this level of care and understanding more and more. And often times, your partner will begin to learn from your improved behavior. This is what I have found to be true in a healthy relationship.
5. Learn to be ok with sometimes not being ok.
Once in a while, things will just suck, for lack of a better term. Long-distance relationships can be hard. Especially when the relationship is new, there can be a steep learning-curve around what makes each of you tick, and it may not be obvious at every turn what’s really going on in the relationship.
Learn to really hold yourself, both physically (i.e. wrapping arms around yourself or cuddling a pillow or stuffed animal) and emotionally (sending love in toward your own heart and being present with your emotions). During the moments when your partner is not there and you need love, becoming good at self-love is an invaluable skill. You can even imagine a being that is holding you tenderly, just to help you get the feelings of love inside of your body.
It’s ok for self-love to feel hard at first. Self-love is a skill that gets better with practice. However, all of your relationships will benefit if you learn to relentlessly love yourself no matter how happy you already feel in your relationship.
6. Develop the capacity for commitment. And then do it.
All relationships thrive with some form of commitment, but a long-distance relationship tends to make the need for commitment more obvious. Just like trust, if you want commitment in a relationship, you must first learn what commitment feels like within your own body.
I personally struggled for years in relationships where I did not feel like I was getting the commitment I wanted from partners. During the process I noted that I didn’t have any role-models in my life to show me what commitment looked like – true commitment between partners was essentially foreign to my nervous system.
At last, in my current relationship, it all began to click. I realized that if I truly wanted the kind of deep, lasting commitment I was seeking, it wasn’t just up to my partner to “give” that to me. I needed to first learn how to feel commitment within myself. When I began to practice feeling the feelings of commitment internally, deeper and deeper commitment began showing up in my relationship.
So there you have it.
I hope some of these ideas prove useful on your adventures in long-distance relationship! These are just some ideas based on what I found to be true during my time in a long-distance relationship. Since every relationship is different, your mileage may vary.
Have you ever been in a long-distance relationship, or are you in one now? What have you found to be helpful in creating the relationship of your dreams when you’re apart and when you’re together? What is easy for you as a couple? With what do you struggle? What other topics would you like me to cover in this blog?
As always, I welcome your feedback, comments, and questions.
Your friend and ally in love,