We’ve done it. We’ve reached the end of the academic year. As a result, many of us will be going home or to new places. Either way, many of us university students are either beginning or already involved in long distance relationships. Those are often pretty unpleasant and have rightfully developed a reputation for being difficult to deal with. However, they aren’t insurmountable, and I thought this week I’d share some information I’ve learned about making LDRs work.
First and most importantly, as is the case with just about every aspect of a relationship, communication is key. Fortunately, we live in the amazing 21st century, and communication is easier than it’s ever been before. Gone are the days of pining away for weeks on end, waiting for a letter to arrive in the mail. These days, Skype (or Gmail video chat, which I actually prefer), phone calls, texts and emails are your best friends. Set aside a regular time to make video calls or phone calls to your significant other, and if it is possible, try to text them moderately often. I’m hesitant to suggest literally scheduling a time, because some people like that while others think schedule=chore. So talk to your significant other and figure out what works best for you.
Lots of regular communication is crucial, and in all seriousness, being able to see the person’s face and hear his or her voice helps a lot. Webcams are cheap and often come preinstalled in laptops, and programs like Gmail video chat or Skype are free. Also, I would suggest as a side thing (especially if there is a marked time difference) to send random emails expressing affection and such. These can be a lot of fun, and a nice surprise for your SO.
Frequent, honest and open communication is key.
On the note of webcams and phones, let’s be frank here. If you are sexually active with your partner, webcam sex or phone sex is really important. I spoke with eight different friends in LDRs, and they all said webcam sex with their partner helps tremendously. While the concept may sound really silly, don’t worry about it, honestly. It isn’t silly, and it will make you feel better.
Also, I know I joked about not having to rely on snail mail letters, and while that is true, don’t neglect them. You recall how I said random emails to your SO telling them how much you care about them and are thinking about them? Do you know what’s even better than that? An actual letter.
One of my friends does really fantastic calligraphy and will sporadically send his SO hand-written calligraphy letters and orders of flowers, which is very romantic and always a big hit. When my girlfriend and I were dealing with a sort of medium-distance relationship, I wanted to do something like that, but my handwriting is terrible. So I actually wrote her a letter using a 1940s typewriter, which she thought was fantastic. Remember, romance is still important from far away, and gestures like flowers and real letters can contribute a lot to keeping it alive.
Next, it’s important to set realistic expectations about what you expect or need in the relationship. Those will obviously vary from person to person, but it is important to have this conversation.
An important issue that goes along with realistic expectations is time limits. Having a definite end to the LDR is a really big deal, and oftentimes that’s what makes or breaks it. I asked around my circle of friends, and the ones who had LDRs with time limits on when the LDR would revert back to a “normal” relationship, tended to actually pull it off. The ones who had LDRs that were lasting indefinitely have all ended up splitting up. Keep that in mind, and honestly, if you are heading off to something that will keep you away for an unknown number of years, it may just be better to part amicably now and agree to talk about getting back together in the future, if it works out that way.
Lastly, hope is something I wouldn’t recommend. I was recently listening to Dan Savage, and in response to a letter asking about LDRs, his default response was to adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and just have sex with random people on the side while you are apart. While I respect Savage and think he’s done a lot to help a lot of people, I think this is pretty bad advice.
Introducing other people into monogamous relationships, even when it’s “don’t ask, don’t tell,” is a really complicated and tricky prospect that often has unpredictable and dire consequences. So if that’s something you and your partner think you need to do, go ahead and discuss it. However, I won’t suggest that as a way to deal with LDRs. I really think that communication and the other things I talked about are a far superior method of dealing with missing your love.