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Things To Do in a Long-Distance Relationship To Make It Work:

Jun 18, 2024
Things To Do in a Long-Distance Relationship

Long-distance relationships are becoming increasingly common, but they can face unique challenges that put a strain on the connection.

If you're just finding My People Patterns, I'm Oliver and I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles. I love helping people grow great relationships and sharing tools, tips, tricks, and research on relationships with anyone who wants to learn more.

This article gives you some of the nuggets of wisdom I've found from the research and studies you might like to know about that I've read and condensed below.

Long-Distance Relationships Are Not at a Disadvantage

First, the good news: a common perception is that a geographically separated relationship is inherently more difficult and less satisfying than geographically close relationships. However, studies challenge this assumption, showing no significant differences between LDRs and geographically close relationships in key relationship quality measures like intimacy, commitment, communication, and satisfaction.

This suggests that being in a long distance relationship is not an automatic disadvantage or hardship. Couples in LDRs know this already, that they can maintain strong connections and positive relationship dynamics on par with couples who live near each other. The physical distance does not necessarily equate to emotional distance or relationship struggles. With the right mindset and relationship skills, long-distance love can thrive and be just as fulfilling as any other relationship.

With the right mindset, communication strategies, and emotional skills, geographically separated connections can not only survive but thrive. Incorporating activities such as intimate phone calls, sending suggestive photos, and setting boundaries can help maintain the connection and keep the spark alive.

Relationship Characteristics Outweigh Physical Separation

Contrary to popular belief, individual attitudes and relationship characteristics matter much more than logistical factors like physical distance and frequency of visits. Consistently, subjective perceptions are stronger predictors of relationship intimacy, commitment, communication, and satisfaction than objective logistical variables. Couples who believe they will end up in the same place someday, feel satisfied with their sense of certainty about the future, and have positive attitudes about LDDRs tend to have better relationships, regardless of the miles between them or how little they see each other. On the flip side, being physically close is no guarantee of relationship quality if the couple doesn't have compatible attitudes and a healthy approach.

Implications for Long-Distance Couples

The takeaway here is that long-distance couples shouldn't get too hung up on the logistics of their separation, like counting miles or days between visits. While those things matter, what's more important is focusing on your subjective experience:

  • How do you feel about the relationship?
  • How certain and satisfied are you about your future?
  • Do you have positive or negative attitudes about making it work?

What Are Your Own Beliefs?

Nurturing the right mindset is key. If you're in an LDDR, examine your own attitudes and perceptions.

  • Do you believe you'll end up together?
  • Are you satisfied with the plan you have in place?
  • Do you think LDDRs can last?

Working on feeling united, certain, and optimistic with one anothoer can do wonders, no matter the distance. And if you're feeling doubtful or dissatisfied with the uncertainty, then you'll want to communicate that with your partner to get on the same page. Aligning your attitudes is more important than aligning your coordinates.

Mental Health & Psychological Distress Impacts Relationship Quality

When we struggle with anxiety, depression, or feeling overwhelmed by life, it's harder to be a good partner and maintain a strong connection. Our distress can lead to irritability, withdrawal, lashing out without warning or simply not having the emotional bandwidth to invest in the relationship. For long-distance couples, individual distress may be particularly challenging since partners have less face-to-face time and the

Prioritizing Self-Care

The lesson here is not that two people with psychological distress can’t have good relationships, but rather that prioritizing mental health and stress management should be part of nurturing a healthy partnership. This is especially vital for long-distance couples often dealing with the added stressor of separation. If you’re feeling distressed, don’t just grit your teeth and try to push through for the sake of your relationship. Be proactive about self-care and getting the support you need, whether that’s from talking to friends or therapy, stress-reduction techniques, a stronger social support system, or lifestyle changes.

Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish; it’s an investment in your most important relationships. And if you notice your long-distance partner struggling, encourage them to make their mental health a priority as well. Offer whatever support you can from afar, but also urge them to seek additional help if needed. When you’re both actively managing stress, you’ll have more emotional capacity to invest in each other despite the distance.

Texting in Long-Distance Relationship

Text messaging can be a powerful tool for maintaining relationship satisfaction in long-distance relationships. Studies have found that more frequent texting is associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and commitment in geographically separated couples. Texting allows partners to stay connected throughout the day by sharing their thoughts, feelings, and daily experiences.

A text message at the right time provides a sense of constant presence and reassurance despite the physical separation. However, it's important for couples to find a texting frequency and style that works for both partners, as excessive or imbalanced texting can sometimes lead to conflict or dissatisfaction. Overall, mindful use of text messaging to express affection, provide support, and engage in meaningful conversations can help strengthen the emotional bond in long-distance relationships.

Holtzman, M., Kraft, K., & Nguyen, H. (2021).

Daily Intimacy in Long-Distance Relationships

Maintaining intimacy is crucial in long-distance relationships, as it helps couples feel connected and involved in each other's lives, despite the physical separation. There's a concept that stems from this in LDR research called 'Daily Intimacy'. Now befoereyou start texting a running comentary on your daily life, you do have to check in to see how much contact is too much.

That being said, there is something about these small, frequent, consistent gestures that are foundational in fostering emotional connection and providing stability in the relationship, particularly if they become a ritual.

This routine could include morning texts, evening video calls, and sharing highlights of the day. Discussing and managing expectations about the frequency and nature of communication is also important to prevent misunderstandings and ensure both partners feel valued. By intentionally incorporating these practices into their daily routine, long-distance couples can cultivate a strong and intimate connection that withstands geographical barriers, enhancing overall relationship satisfaction and emotional closeness.

Jurkane-Hobein, I. (2015).

Savoring Memories Strengthens Long-Distance Relationships

Relational savoring, or savoring memories and experiences with one's long-distance partner, can have positive effects on emotions and relationship satisfaction. A study found that when individuals in geographically separated relationships engaged in relational savorings, such as reflecting on cherished moments with their partner, they experienced greater positive emotions compared to control conditions. This effect was especially pronounced for those with medium to high baseline relationship satisfaction.

Furthermore, the boost in positive emotions from relational savoring mediated an increase in post-stressor relationship satisfaction for those with average or higher baseline satisfaction. These findings suggest that relational savoring can be a beneficial practice for maintaining emotional well-being and relationship quality among long-distance couples, particularly those with a solid foundation of satisfaction.

Borelli, J. L., Rasmussen, H. F., Burkhart, M. L., & Sbarra, D. A. (2014)

Keep A Long Distance Relationship Interesting with Technology

Technological innovations are providing new ways for long-distance couples to share physical intimacy despite geographical separation. Researchers have developed devices that allow partners to exchange the sensation of touch, even from afar.

For example, one prototype device enables couples to feel each other’s touch during a video call, using sensors to transmit the tactile sensation bi-directionally. Playing online games together can also be a fun and effective way for couples to bond, improve communication, and strengthen their relationship.

The research revealed that individuals were captivated by the ability to sense their partner's touch through the device and believed it aided in bridging the physical gap between them in a significant manner. Other technologies, such as 'hug' shirts and pillows designed to transmit the feeling of an embrace, strive to enrich the emotional bond and sense of physical presence for partners separated by distance. While these technologies are still evolving, they showcase the potential for innovative solutions to tackle the challenges of physical closeness in long-distance relationships. By enabling couples to share touch, even via artificial means, these devices may help partners feel more connected, provide solace, and complement other communication methods to sustain a strong connection.

Harnessing Imagination in LDRs

Imagination and mental visualization can serve as potent tools for enriching intimacy and connection in long-distance relationships. Research indicates that partners separated by distance who engage in shared imaginative activities, such as mentally 'traveling' to the same location or envisioning future scenarios together, feel closer and more emotionally bonded. Couples can leverage their imagination to 'fill in the gaps' created by physical separation by envisioning shared experiences, from everyday routines to special occasions. This imaginative 'presence' of their partner can offer comfort, alleviate loneliness, and foster a sense of actively participating in each other's lives despite the distance. Nevertheless, it's crucial to strike a balance between imagination and reality, as well as direct communication. While imagination proves beneficial, it should complement rather than substitute for candid discussions about one's genuine feelings, needs, and experiences within the relationship. Ultimately, a blend of creative imagination and clear communication can aid long-distance couples in sustaining a robust, supportive connection.

Promoting Relationship Skills and Mindsets

The researchers propose that facilitating certainty in long-distance relationships, along with joint goal setting and cultivating positive attitudes, could bolster their bond. Therapeutic approaches involving solution-focused dialogues about the future and reframing cognitive perspectives on the challenges of distance could enhance stability and assurance in these relationships. In practice, this entails that long-distance couples may benefit from:

  • Engaging in regular discussions about their life plans and timelines
  • Establishing common objectives to strive towards together
  • Challenging pessimistic assumptions about long-distance relationships and nurturing more optimistic perspectives
  • Emphasizing the strengths and gains of their relationship rather than dwelling on the difficulties of being apart
  • Adopting a unified, team-oriented approach to navigating the distance
  • Scheduling regular virtual date nights to sustain romantic engagement

Empowering Through a Shared Approach

Promoting a feeling of “we’re in this together” can be empowering for long-distance couples and are a key to making long distance relationship work . When partners see the distance as a shared challenge they are tackling as a united front, it can provide a sense of meaning and solidarity. Couples can develop little rituals or mantras that emphasize their bond and shared approach, like:

- Syncing up certain daily activities (e.g., having morning coffee “together” over video chat)

- Sharing the same meal over a video call to create a feeling of being in the same room

- Creating a shared couple motto about conquering distance

- Wearing matching items or tokens that symbolize their connection

- Framing sacrifices as acts of love and commitment to the relationship

The goal is to shift from and “me vs. you” or “us vs. distance” mindset to an empowered stance of “we’ve got this together.” United, separated partners can go the distance.

Other Long Distance Relationship Fun Activities

In a long-distance relationship, finding fun and creative ways to spend time together to keep the spark alive is crucial. Here are some ideas to keep the connection strong on a virtual date night.

- Write Love Letters:

There's something special about receiving a handwritten letter via snail mail. It's a personal touch that can make your partner feel loved and appreciated and reading them together on a date night could be special. Bonus points if it's scented (see above)

- Virtual Museum Tour:

Explore new places on a virtual date night together through virtual tours. It's a fun way to see the world from the comfort of your home.

- Spa Night:

Have a relaxing spa night over video calls. Light a few candles, play soothing music, and enjoy a self-care routine together.

- Phone Sex:

Keep the intimacy alive with virtual sex. Phone sex is a way to maintain a connection despite the distance and puts the spice in a date night, and as an intimate conversation, it definitely counts as quality time.

- Video Call:

A regular video chat on a specified date night can help you feel closer. Share your day, laugh together, and just enjoy each other's company - video chatting is a great virtual escape from things.

- Play Online Games:

Engage in a fun game or even a multiplayer games or play truth and dare. It's a great way to bond and have fun and keep the relationship exciting.

- Care Package:

Send a care package or box of goodies filled with favorite snacks, a romance novel, or sweet love notes. It's a thoughtful way to show you care.

- Book Club:

Start a book club with your partner. Read the same book and discuss it .

- Online Class:

Take an online class together to learn new skills or hobbies. It's a productive way to spend time and grow together.

- Shared Journal:

Keep a shared journal where you both write entries about your days, feelings, and memories. It's a keepsake box of your thoughts and experiences.

- New Ideas:

Always look for new ideas to keep the relationship exciting on a date night Try new hobbies, watch a TV show or youtube videos, watch movies together, or engage in a wine tasting event virtually.

By incorporating these activities, you can make the time spent apart feel more meaningful and enjoyable. Remember, the key is to stay creative and thoughtful in finding ways to share your lives despite the distance.

### Conclusion

Long-distance relationships might seem challenging, but with the right approach, they can be incredibly rewarding. The key is to find creative and meaningful ways to stay connected. Make sure to look for opportunities to incorporate romantic gestures, whether it’s planning a virtual date night or sending a handwritten letter.

Talk openly with your partner about your needs and wants. This communication helps you both know where you stand and what you need to feel secure. Planning your next visit or virtual date can give you something to look forward to, making the times apart more manageable.

Remember, it’s about finding the best ways to bridge the distance. Whether it’s through video calls, sending a care package, or engaging in multiplayer games, every effort counts. Make sure to stay connected without feeling overwhelmed by the miles.

Long-distance relationships need extra effort, but they can thrive with love and dedication. When you know what works best for both of you, the distance can become just another aspect of your relationship, rather than a barrier. Keep the romance alive and always plan the next step to stay close even when you’re far away.


Here are the APA reference citations for the PDFs you provided:

  1. Holtzman, M., Kraft, K., & Nguyen, H. (2021). Text messaging is linked with higher relationship satisfaction in long-distance relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38(7), 2085-2105.
  2. Jurkane-Hobein, I. (2015). Imagining the absent partner: Intimacy and imagination in long-distance relationships. Innovative Issues and Approaches in Social Sciences, 8(1), 223-239.
  3. Borelli, J. L., Rasmussen, H. F., Burkhart, M. L., & Sbarra, D. A. (2014). Relational savoring in long-distance romantic relationships: How savoring a partner can enhance relationship satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 31(3), 1-23.
  4. Roberts, S. G., & Dunbar, R. I. (2011). Go long: Predictors of positive relations in long-distance romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 18(2), 352-369.

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