Relationships can be difficult and adding the considerable strain of long distance can make it considerably harder. But if two people love each other enough, then distance shouldn’t matter, right? Yet despite all the ways technology can help us stay in touch, long distance relationships frequently fail to work out. We sat down with leading relationship experts to find out the secrets to maintaining long distance love and why it so often fails.
According to clinical psychologist, Dr. Rob Dobrenski, the largest barrier of long-distance relationships is lack of face-to-face communication. Couples invariably need not just emotional and physical intimacy, but also the ability to resolve conflicts. This is significantly easier when you can see your partner's facial expressions and non-verbal communication. Phone, text, email, Skype, Morse code, Instant Messaging, Facebook updates and carrier pigeons all still require a lot of guesswork to really gauge what's going on with your partner. This is especially true if couples aren't already the greatest at directly and confidently stating their feelings. Video chatting is a better option than a traditional phone call, as it allows you to read some of your partner’s non-verbal communication. Aside from just talking to each other regularly; use technology to do other things together, like play games online – this is a creative and fun exercise that can promote bonding. 'Loneliness will happen but it is important that you acknowledge and attempt to alleviate those feelings!'
Dr. Barton Goldsmith PhD, says 'one of the things that keep a relationship together is real chemistry. Touching keeps the brain chemicals, like Oxytocin (also known as the cuddle hormone) and Serotonin (as well as several others that make us happy and feel connected) flowing through our brains and bodies. When you don’t get to connect, it’s harder to feel the love because you’re not able to produce enough these happiness chemicals to make you feel good and most people start to look for ways to get their ‘brain-chemical fix’ from those who are physically available.' This is why it is essential to keep the physical chemistry just as alive as the emotional chemistry. Plan to see one another as often as possible. That may mean costly travelling every now and again so you can tend to your long-distance relationship. It’s not easy and both partners need to commit equally but in the end you might be grateful that you did.
Unfortunately, over time, many long-distance relationships experience a degradation of trust and confidence. As you and your partner develop increasingly independent tendencies, your roles in each other’s lives will change. New friends and colleagues will be entering both your lives and this can lead to partners quickly becoming jealous. Jealousy can lead to fights, resentment and eventually the demise of your relationship. It is important to prepare for these changes early on and commit yourself to becoming as trusting and as trustworthy as possible. The increased independence can be a good thing, if you let it, enabling you to continue growing as individuals while still remaining a couple. Eventually, the goal is for one or both of you to relocate to be together and, if you have trust in each other, you can get there.
Keeping a Plan
Maintaining a healthy long-distance relationship is all about establishing and sticking to regular achievable goals that you have mutually agreed upon so you both feel like you are working towards something. Never make promises or agree to goals you can't keep. Your word is your bond. A healthy plan and set of goals should include: a daily schedule for communication, a mandatory minimum on Snail mail and small gifts per month, frequency of virtual dates, a schedule for somewhat regular visits and, most importantly, deciding on your monogamy. Remember, things won’t always go according to the plan you’ve set so it is important to anticipate changes and deal with them together as they come up. While, absence may make the heart grow fonder, don't let your relationship linger in this state for years – have an end date in mind in case neither of you can relocate back to the other within a reasonable timeframe.