How To Improve Your Relationship With Your Long-Distance Partner
“Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”
–Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
In my entire dating history (which is about as old as a primary school child), I’ve been in three long-distance relationships. The first time was part of a long-term relationship and survived 365 days across two continents before ending on Malaysian soil.
The second was a closer distance but fell apart because it didn’t begin right and no one took the time to work on it. Currently, I’m in my third LDR and that’s been going great so far because experiences have taught me wiser. Also, I upped my standards. I mean, worked on myself.
Still, I’d like to think my past experiences gives me credibility when I say how much LDRs suck. No one, and I mean, no one, enjoys reducing their favourite person into their favourite notification for ages. And neither do we enjoy the heartache that arises from missing the person.
Yet, we endure. Why? Because love is always worth choosing no matter the time, distance or circumstance. At least, that’s what I learned from the hardships of loving from afar. If you’re in an LDR (or about to embark on one), here are some truths that should help your relationship go the distance…
1. Have faith that the relationship is right and will work out.
I find that the number one killer of LDRs isn’t distance but scepticism. LDRs carry a heavy reputation of being difficult to maintain, what with the challenge of separation, communication and lack of physical closeness.
And of course, the uncertainty.
Yes, that fine layer of uncertainty that ripples under all that love, affection and care. If allowed to collect, it becomes a dense layer of paranoid thoughts and existentialism. Like, when will this ever be over? Will they lose interest because we’re physically apart? Is the relationship even going the right way? Are we doing things wrong without knowing? Is the relationship worth it? WHAT IS OUR FUTURE???
In a mature relationship, it’s rare you’ll hit this red zone. Still, it helps to be optimistic about your relationship’s long-term success. Otherwise, any bump, any hiccup, any little niggly infraction becomes a reason why long-distance sucks and LDRs never work out. So, do all you can to inspire one another in the relationship. Plan creative dates. Show each other the sights. Have plenty of milestones to look forward to. And celebrate monthsaries! Don’t laugh. You’re not devolving back into your cringey sekolah menengah self.
Monthsaries are great for LDRs because 1) they log how far you’ve both made it and 2) it helps countdown the separation. One night down, one day towards. Once the first month is done with and survived, the next few will come with a boost of achievement and will continue so until reunion is permanent.
2. Make building a foundation the priority (if it isn’t yet).
Do you know what happens when your relationship has a solid foundation? Everything becomes easy. There will be honesty, trust and communication. You’ll speak to each other kindly, lovingly and with respect. There will be a sense of safeness. No secrets kept. No motives suspected. It is bliss.
The bricks that build a solid foundation is emotional connection. This means looking at the way you both connect, trust and bond as people before lovers. How do you relate to each other outside of the sex? What inner qualities of theirs do you appreciate? Can you both talk openly about feelings? How deep do you get?
Here’s where distance is a positive thing. LDRs create the perfect circumstances to deepen your emotional connection… Since date nights are restricted to whatever you can do on the phone or laptop (and there’s only so many movies two can watch), you’re left with little to do after that except talk. And what happens when people talk? Like really talk talk?
About feelings and aspirations, childhood memories and human idiosyncrasies… all the often overlooked things. You end up bonding meaningfully, adding more brick to your foundation. And a different kind of intimacy is created too, one that feels soulful and honest.
The word we’re looking for is, I believe, is vulnerable. <3
3. Boldly use the distance to learn, evolve, and GROW.
It’s not about how much you love each other but how you grow with one another. Sometimes this means going through tough stuff together. Other times, it means learning how to grow into a better partner.
In an LDR, you’re challenged on both.
Things like jealousy, anxiety, insecurity and distrust show up easier because of the distance. And so do miscommunications and loneliness. Undealt with, it stirs a lot of frustration and the emotional distance becomes wider than the physical one.
I resent this part of LDRs the most because it forces a person to take an honest look at the grime in their relationship and pay 👏 it 👏 attention 👏. A lot of it involves risking conflict, being vulnerable, and letting the other know, as instructionally as possible what they need to do to meet your needs or support you. It’s often not a sexy (or romantic) process
The reward, however, is a stronger relationship. That #CoupleGoal that can withstand the battering of life, work, bad days and rough mental health. It is real and I thank my LDRs for it.
4. And lastly, remember that the little things are mortar for long-distance relationships.
“I love you and miss you.”
“Saw this and thought of you.”
“Wish you were here.”
I used to think, the bigger the gesture of love, the greater it is. Turns out, it’s quite the opposite. The greatest reminders of love are the ones that are quiet and often less fanciful. The ones that are always somewhere in the background holding the relationship together.
You’d think that, in an LDR, reminding someone you love them requires bigger romantic gestures. Nay. You must go smaller, littler. When you’re separated by distance, it’s the thoughtfulness and conscientiousness of your partner that goes a long way (pun intended) than the good morning/good night texts or daily video calls.
It’s the way they think about what you might be going through and figure out how to help from their corner of the world. Like checking in to see if you’re coping with the distance. Or doing things that brighten your day. It’s the way they find ways to have fun and be playful despite their absence. Like sending postcards out of the blue, silly selfies, pictures of sunsets and surprise food deliveries.
Most of all, it’s in the way they can hold you despite not being there.
LDRs have a compelling quality to them. In that, they really test your ability to build a relationship and also your understanding of what it means to truly love. Yes, it sucks and makes you extremely moody from missing your person. But the love that results is a true, soul-bonded love that literally transcends time and distance. As author Dee King once wrote, love will travel as far as you let it. It has no limits.
Wishing you luck and love eternal, and shorter distances. <3
For further reading, check out these articles on practical pieces of advice for to-be-married couples and 4 reasons why your relationship might have become stagnant.