5 Pro Tips to Thrive in a Long Distance Relationship

By Claire Lam

We are never fully ready for half of the shit we go through, but believe it or not, our backs are built for it. The live and learn mentality runs deep in long distance relationships. These kind of relationships require great determination and desire to overcome the temporary limitations. 

Ultimately, they give you power to grow individually and together. You will live, learn, and grow in long distance relationships that’s for sure!

For the last 18 months, my husband has been deployed to Afghanistan, but on July 3rd, he will finally be home for good! Our long distance relationship (LDR as some of us “pros” call it) will come to an end, and we are both ready to move forward in our life together. 

We decided in June to collaborate on this piece for you. It’s our hope that by opening up and sharing our reflections that we will positively sprinkle some nuggets (or even crumbs) that might help you in your relationship - long distance or not. So, here we go: these are 5 nuggets that have helped us survive AND thrive during our 18 months apart.

#1 - Manageable Expectations - Keep It Real with Each Other

Friends, it’s crucial to commit together in the beginning to build your foundation with a strong and clear purpose. You can do this by demonstrating your willingness to be open, honest, and vulnerable with each other throughout the entire journey. Don’t be intimidated by or afraid of difficult conversations that set expectations early on and over time. Also, keep in mind that you both must be willing to revisit these along the way. It’s an on-going process, and problems can start occurring when complacency sets in!

Entering into a LDR without clear expectations makes it very easy for the relationship to become vague and frustrating - and it can happen quickly. In turn, this will spread into a wide array of problems like low self-esteem, tension, hostility, and doubt that usually sparks a break down. Discuss clear and definite distance timelines that include start and end points. However, remain adaptable and flexible. Having a strong foundation will help you navigate the twists and turns along the way - and trust us, there will be many! Your commitment and accountability should not waver.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
- George Bernard Shaw

*Pro Tip: Don’t make the mistake of omitting this first step out of fear or intimidation. Remember, keeping it real and specific is always the best idea!

#2 - Effective Communication - Find What Style Works for You

The word “communication” sounds universal and obvious when you first read it, right? (Oh, how I wish!) Girl, in reality, this can be one of the most complex exchange points. Not all forms of communication are equal or effective. In a LDR, you must communicate regularly with your partner - to the best of your abilities. This might be daily, weekly, etc… touch points depending on your particular set of distance circumstances. 

Be intentional when you communicate in any form. Think before you speak or write. Bottling up emotions or thoughts leads to a passive aggressive or explosive attitude. Data dumping leads to an overwhelmed, scattered feeling. Cryptic signals lead to confusion and (many times) let down. To avoid all of that unnecessary drama, be direct but always respectful. Keep control of your emotions and use them to help, not hurt, in dialogue.

Clear is kind.
- Brené Brown - Dare To Lead

*Pro Tip: Learn what style works for you both and stick to it. This could be phone calls, video chats, emails, texts, letters, etc… Communication in a relationship is golden!

#3 - Clear Goals - Include Them In Your Daily Routine

When clear goals are set up that you can achieve together, you will feel more connected while apart. These goals might be related to finance, diet, exercise, health, travel, skills, etc… The categories are endless, so there is truly something for everyone and every relationship. Don’t create excuses. Stop for a second and think - what is a goal that you could set up with your partner right now? Communicate that with them sooner rather than later!

*Pro Tip: Don’t make up bullshit excuses. Set the goal together. Plan time in your daily schedule to visit it. Actively think and work towards the goal together until it is achieved.

#4 - Accountability Partner - Don’t Goal Into It Alone

This tip piggybacks on #3. Ensure your daily routine incorporates steps to achieve these joint goals and hold each other accountable. Even small steps are impactful. For example, choose a book and read it simultaneously so you can have meaningful discussions about it. Even though this is an individual task, achieving the end result requires joint effort. This deepens your conversation and allows you to support, encourage, and challenge each other from afar.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

*Pro Tip: Focus on being productive rather than just busy. It will make the time go by much faster, and you’ll feel united through this collaboration. Once you achieve a goal, find another one together and repeat the process. This will nourish your relationship and contribute to your personal growth, too. Everyone wins here!

**Bonus Tip: Physically reward each other’s hard work. Surprise your partner with little “sirsees,” regardless of gifts being his or her love language. These will go a long way! For example: send handwritten letters, prepay for a bottle of wine at a special occasion dinner, have cookies delivered from a local bakery on a crappy week, or ship that neat something you found on Amazon to him or her. Since you cannot be physically there, gifts offer a meaningful, tangible “I’m thinking about you” touch when received, especially if it’s not expected!

#5 - Future Projections - Inspire A Positive Outlook

The idea of manifesting has taken the world by storm lately. And, it’s with good purpose. Wanna learn how to manifest? This is how! And, no joke, it’s so much more powerful when you are doing it together. Building future projections is one of our favorite tips. We thrived in our 18 months apart because of them. We deliberately planted these in our goals and conversations. 

Here’s an example for our fellow travel lovers. It has been a dream of mine to visit Barcelona and of his to visit Croatia & Montenegro. For many months, we projected a future that included these trips, we set goals, worked hard to hit necessary milestones, and in 2018, we visited Barcelona, Hvar Island, Budva-Kotor, and Dubrovnik. We made both of our travel dreams come true. You can do this, too, by projecting your dreams into your future!

Just like in #1, doing this requires openness, honesty, and vulnerability. If you want these to work, your future projections must be genuine and whole-hearted. When you communicate, envision a bright future together and talk about what you see. This will give you both something to look forward to when you’ll be physically back together. 

Positive thinking is healthy for your mind and body.

*Pro Tip: No one has a crystal ball. The future is unknown to us all, but that is not a reason to be scared of it. Be willing to travel outside of your “known zones” if future talk is not comfortable or natural. Nothing ever grows inside your comfort zone - that includes your future relationship.

Sweet friends, long distance relationships are challenging and, at many points, brutal AF on your mind, body, and soul. But, the good news is they are not impossible nor doomed! Overcoming the geographical realities between you is only as difficult as you both make it. Trust us when we say: commit, don’t quit!

We hope you found these 5 tips empowering. If you’re in a LDR, share these tips with your partner! Your LDR is most surely a 2-way street. Stay positive, focused, and have each other’s backs from afar until you’re reunited again.

XO,

Bear and Lam

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