99 problems but I can help with one: How To Make A Long Distance Relationship Work

It seems to be the relationship challenge of the millennial generation. You finally find the right guy and wham he lives in another city. Who knows exactly why this is happening but I sense it has to do with the utterly mobile times we live in and that everyone has to go exactly where work opportunities are no matter the personal consequences. Sound familiar? Even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were transatlantic until it all worked out. So if they can do, maybe you can too.

one problem: How do you keep the love and communications alive in a long distance relationship when you live in different states or even on different continents?

one solution: O.K. You’re in love and you live in different cities or you’re separated by a vast ocean. Chances are neither your fella or you enjoy these long hiatuses and honestly aren’t sure how to handle it on a long term basis. I’ve personally experienced it and decided to think back about how did we make it all work. After all, if you’re right for each other, who doesn’t want that happy ending.

First, let’s backtrack. It’s easy in the beginning especially when you are in the throes of passion and newly minted love. Both of you are willing to do whatever it takes. Seriously, whatever it takes. But the travel, the distance, expense and all those factors begin to wear you and the relationship down over time. It doesn’t have to be that way. You know skyping and texting can only take you so far. So how do you handle it all and get to an endgame that works? Here’s what I’ve learned from couples who are making it work.

  1. Prioritize Your Schedules. First things first. If you’re in different time zones this can wreak havoc on everything from your sleep, school or work schedules affecting how often you’re in touch. Try and plan semi-regular times to communicate but if it doesn’t happen don’t overthink it. Be spontaneous. It can be one of your best options especially if neither of you prefer to set specific times. Warning. Don’t talk endlessly about how you are not together. This is totally unproductive and also make sure there are no recriminations if you can’t speak quite as frequently. If you find yourselves in a communication rhythm that works, try and maintain it. Also, if either of you needs to cancel a trip, don’t let that throw you. If you were living in the same town the same thing might happen due to work or other personal obligations. Be understanding. Technology can’t make up for everything especially the lack of proximity but it can help maintain a certain level of intimacy.
  2. Use This Is An Opportunity. You and your partner need to decide if this is a temporary situation and a potential career boost. This makes everything much less stressful and prevents rehashing your present circumstances over and over. Essentially at some point in the initial period of your relationship there has to be a mutual agreement about whether this is a short-term plan (and that can even be up to a year or two). Just don’t rush that conversation as it takes time for the answer and subsequent solutions to evolve. Whether it is temporary or permanent, use this time to concentrate and accelerate your careers. The result can actually fortify and accelerate your mutual financial well being. If you’re building your career you can also have more options moving to a new location. It takes pressure off both of you by enabling you to work as a team towards a common goal. If you’re like me you also value your alone time so this may be a relationship plus versus a negative.
  3. Do The Little Things. Find ways to do small thoughtful things for each other as if you are in the same city. Maybe leave a keepsake or send small gifts once in awhile or something as old school as a letter. It’s crazy but there is never anything positive in the mail. It’s actually a huge surprise these days. One of my tricks was occasionally hiding a little love note or a small present in my partner’s luggage. They find it when they return home or while on a business trip. It’s a fun, expected surprise. Be creative.
  4. Don’t Try And Make Up For Lost Time. When you are both together, it’s OK to be a relaxed and laid back as if you were both in the same city all the time. Binge watch a program (or agree to binge the same program while apart so you can talk it and compile lists for each other) or frequent your favorite, low key haunt in your respective cities (and find new ones to surprise each other). It’s often the best way to increase your bond and share the small details of your life that help you both stay connected. It’s better to be more relaxed and without pressure than have a jam packed special schedule. Try to see each other at least every four weeks and look at alternating long weekend opportunities so you can spend more time together and have more of a routine together for a few days. It solidify’s your bond.
  5. Trust Matters. Over time, being in a long distance relationship can shift your perspective and suddenly your facing mind games. Instagram is often the culprit as you watch your significant other having a good time or an apparently intimate relationship with someone else. Be careful to not let your emotions run wild and project things from social media into something else. Chances are its not true. Instead, know the intimate details of each other’s life. It builds the bond of trust and prevents a lot of social media misinterpretation.

Finally, make sure your relationship is on solid ground and you are mutually contemplating a long term future before you have THE big discussion. Distance can make the heart grow fonder but figuring out who makes the big move and the potential sacrifice should wait until you both realize you’re on the same wave length. Don’t put yourself on a tight decision schedule. Let it work itself out over time. The less pressure is often the best way to make it all come together. Chances are the solution will slowly reveal itself.

As my mother used to say, be your own person and when you do, you can give the best part of yourself to a relationship. Be independent not dependent.  Most importantly, don’t put your life on hold for another person, you’ll grow to resent them. Great advice. Love you mom. I still miss you everyday.

97 Down and 96 to go


NJ Falk