Ask Anna: The long-distance relationship survival guide: Tips, hacks and strategies for lasting love

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Dear Anna,

Hey there! So, I’m a 23-year-old woman and I’ve recently started dating this amazing guy, but the thing is, he lives like a thousand miles away from me. (Fine, like three hours, actually.) Ugh, long-distance, right? Anyway, I really want to make this work and build trust between us, since we can’t see each other as often as we’d like. Got any tips or advice on how to make our long-distance love story a success? Thanks a bunch! — Long-Distance Lover

Dear LDL,

Long-distance relationships can be challenging, for sure, but they also have some real perks and can teach you a ton about yourself, your partner, and foster better communication styles. LDRs force you to be very intentional — you can’t take your partner for granted when they’re not there. You have to really try and put in effort to make them feel special and vice versa. You also have the freedom, time and space to devote to your interests and other relationships. Plus, sex in LDRs tends to be amazing because you’ve got all this anticipation building when you’re not together. And when you are together, you appreciate that togetherness more.

With the right mindset, a healthy dose of independence and a bit of effort, you can totally make it work. So, let’s talk about building trust with your faraway fella.

Communication is key: You know what they say, “Communication is the lubrication for any relationship”? (OK, that’s not an expression, but it should be.) Make sure to set up regular video chats, phone calls, texts and sexts to keep your connection strong. Share your daily highs and lows, send jokes and memes, and random “thinking of you” messages throughout the week.

Honesty, always: Be open and honest with each other about your feelings, expectations and any concerns you might have. If you’re unhappy or missing your partner or if you’re disappointed, tell him. It’s better to address issues early on than to let them fester and turn into something bigger down the line. Of course, you can’t always be there physically when you want to be, but knowing, for instance, that your beau is having a hard time might prompt you to move up (or extend) a weekend visit.

Embrace the virtual world: Get creative with virtual date nights, which are now easier than ever. (Thanks, global pandemic!) Watch a movie together, play online games, have a dance party, do a DIY tasting or even cook the same meal while on video chat. This can help create shared experiences and bring you closer together.

Surprise each other: Send him a care package, a handwritten letter (scented with your perfume or something that reminds him of you) or even just a random sweet song or poem. These little gestures show that you’re thinking of him and can help strengthen your bond.

Plan regular visits: Having something to look forward to can make the distance seem more bearable. Plan trips to see each other when possible, and make the most of your time together. When I was in a LDR, I tried to see my partner once a month, and this helped fill the loneliness void. Also worth thinking about and discussing is the costs around travel. Is one person traveling to the other more often? Is one person paying more or most of the money to do so? Talking about this upfront can help prevent any resentment or financial strain that may arise from one person feeling like they’re shouldering the burden of travel expenses.

Set boundaries and expectations: Talk about your individual needs and what you both expect from the relationship. This can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure you’re both on the same page. Some boundaries to consider are:

—Frequency of communication: Some people love texting all day long, while others might prefer a daily phone call or video chat. Talk to your partner about your preferred communication styles and how often you’d like to be in touch. For example, you might agree to text throughout the day and have a nightly video chat to catch up and share your day’s highlights.

—Dealing with jealousy: Long-distance relationships can sometimes cause jealousy to flare, so it’s essential to discuss how you’ll handle these emotions when they arise. For example, if your partner is going out with friends, you might agree to send each other a quick text to check in or share a photo from the night to help ease any worries. (Read last week’s column for more tips on dealing with jealousy and insecurity.)

—Future plans: It’s important to discuss your long-term goals and how your long-distance relationship fits into those plans. Are you both working towards eventually living in the same city? What’s the timeline for that? Having a clear understanding of your shared goals can help keep you motivated and focused on making the relationship work.

—Relationship exclusivity: Are you monogamous or open to seeing other people? If you’re open, are you discussing this with your partner or is it a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation? Make sure you’re both clear and comfortable with the arrangement to avoid any potential heartache.

Trust yourself: Lastly, remember to trust yourself and have confidence in your relationship. You’ve chosen each other for a reason, so believe in your ability to make it work!

Long-distance relationships can be tough, but they can also be incredibly rewarding. Keep the lines of communication open, be honest with each other and never underestimate the power of a surprise package. Wishing you all the best in your long-distance love journey, LDL.