So you’re in a long-distance relationship (LDR)? Maybe you or your partner took a job or educational opportunity in another city, state, or country. Maybe one (or both) of you is currently deployed. Or maybe you met while living in separate locations and have each stayed in your respective cities. Whatever the reason, couples in LDRs know that maintaining a healthy relationship at a distance takes work! Of course every relationship requires effort, but LDRs have unique challenges to maintaining good relationship health.
Two major challenges in LDRs are how to maintain daily communication and a sense of closeness and intimacy when you’re physically separated most of the time. Maintaining that connection is more challenging when you’re long-distance, since some of the ways you might show closeness or experience intimacy you can’t do when far apart—a quick kiss, a light touch, or even eye contact.
Of course, it is very possible to feel connected to your partner while being geographically separated; the trick is to know what to do and when to do it, in order to maximize intimacy and closeness. Continue reading to find out more about what’s important.
One Way to Think about an LDR
Instead of thinking of your entire relationship as one big separation, it can be helpful to think about periods of separation (when you and your partner are physically apart for longer stretches of time). Each of these periods of separation also has a before and after. Let’s break this down.
Before separation. This is the time when you and your partner are together, but you’re anticipating the upcoming separation. Like the Monday morning after you’ve spent the long weekend together and one of you is driving or flying home later that day.
During separation. This is the long-distance part—where you are your partner are physically separated.
After separation. This is the period of time when you and your partner are physically reunited. For some couples this is one weekend at a time, whereas other couples might reunite for a month or longer, but then have longer periods of separation in between.
This before, during, and after separation is a cycle—you’re physically together, then you separate, and then finally (after what might feel like forever) you reunite. This cycle continues for as long as you’re in an LDR. So why is thinking about LDRs in this way helpful?
The most important reason for breaking down LDRs in this way is that what you do to maintain a healthy relationship looks different in each phase.
A lot of what is written about LDRs focuses on the phase of separation. Now of course this is important—being physically separated is probably most of how you spend your time (physically apart, instead of together). But the other phases are important to think about too. So let’s talk about what’s helpful, and what isn’t, in each of these time phases.