Home Living Abroad Love, Marriage & Partnership The secrets to maintaining a long-distance relationship
Last update on March 10, 2021
Sophie Pettit Written by Sophie Pettit

Learn how to make a long-distance relationship work with these simple yet effective tips for couples living in different cities or countries.

One of the biggest tests that a couple will ever face is being in a long-distance relationship. After all, keeping the fire burning and maintaining a strong bond while living separately is challenging, to say the least. So what are the secrets to making your love last the distance?

Often with expat relationships, there comes a time when big family, money, or career decisions divide a couple geographically. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to throw in the towel and go your separate ways. This is especially true if you have invested a significant amount of time and energy into building a solid foundation together, and are determined to make it work. It will, however, take some patience and dedication from both partners to make love last the distance.

With this in mind, here are some strategies to help couples transform their long-distance relationship status from ‘treading water’ to ‘steadily afloat’ in no time.

Set up a stable routine early on

More often than not, the first month spent living apart from each other is the hardest. This can be particularly challenging if you have already been living together for some time. During this difficult period, it is important to establish a stable routine to maintain some normalcy in your relationship.

Skype call in bed

Once you are apart, work out a steady schedule of when you are both available to chat on the phone or via a face-to-face messaging app like Skype or FaceTime. Of course, you will need to consider the time difference and agree on a convenient window. Don’t panic if this takes a week or two to get right, too. After all, moving to a different country and setting up a new life involves a lot of hard work and logistics. But once the dust has settled, a regular pattern should emerge that works for both of you.

The next challenge is to stick to this routine as much as you can during your time spent living apart, making sure that you maintain a steady channel of communication. Even when you’re busy enjoying your new life in a foreign country, don’t forget about your loving partner back home.

Establish a reliable communication method

Naturally, one of the first things that you or your partner will want to do in your new home is to set up a reliable Internet and phone connection. While living apart, this will become your relationship lifeline, so you will want to make sure it is stable.

After all, the last thing you want to be doing is swearing at your router or throwing your smartphone at the wall while your partner is sitting patiently on the other end wondering where you are. But if you do run into technical issues along the way, try and remain calm and plan some back-up methods. That way, you will avoid letting frustrations mount, which only places additional strain on your relationship.

Try to keep the mood light

Drama is bad for a long-distance relationship and will only bring you both down. Similarly, always talking about how much you pine for each other will only make things harder. Instead of focusing on the negative things and what you are both missing, try and stick to subjects that you would normally chat about in person. Make jokes, share everyday activities, and reminisce about happy memories.

Smiling man on a video call

Remember, it’s the little things that count, so in between those lovely catch-ups, send each other loving messages or photos or share links to fun videos that you know will make them smile. Even sending a ‘good morning’ text or wishing your partner good night will remind them how much you love them. The simple act of randomly calling just to say ‘I love you’ can also make a huge impact on their day. Just bear in mind the time difference, if there is one. After all, the last thing you want to do is wake them up at god knows what hour reaffirming your love.

Find a comfortable way to maintain intimacy

Just because the two of you are miles apart doesn’t mean that the physical side of your long-distance relationship has to be put on the back burner. It’s important to have a discussion about each other’s needs and wants and find a happy medium that is comfortable for both of you. Preferably, do this before you separate.

It could mean sending a few coy, sexy photos – just be careful with your privacy (remember what happened to Jennifer Lawrence!). It could also mean getting more intimate over Skype – it all depends on your boundaries and what you feel comfortable with. Even if you only chat once a week, seeing your partner’s face can make all the difference, and if you want to take things further, the choice is yours.

Create a shared activity – and do it apart

A great way to create a strong feeling of interconnectivity and working towards something together is to find something that you both enjoy and do it together – apart.

Woman reading with dog

This could be anything from reading a good book or going for a run. Sharing your opinions of what you’ve seen or read, or comparing how far you ran and your little victories, will bring you closer together. Joint activities also allow you to challenge each other and stay motivated. This is particularly helpful on those tough days when one of you feels like giving up and needs a boost. Remember, you’re in this together.

Be honest and open with each other

Living apart can be challenging for couples; it’s only natural that partners will need some reassurance from time to time. The key to maintaining a strong long-distance relationship is complete honesty and trust. Very often being apart brings about feelings of jealousy, insecurity, or abandonment; if one partner does not feel secure in the relationship, it will quickly crumble. Therefore, it is vital that both partners are honest with each other and share their feelings and concerns; even if this makes for a difficult conversation. Remember, bottling up negative emotions never did anyone any good.

Make time to talk openly and honestly with each other, and try to be reasonable too. It helps to remain focused on your goals as a couple and look ahead to the time when you will be reunited. This isn’t always easy, but with time, patience, and understanding, things will all fall into place.

Take care of your own wellbeing

Quite often, when people are feeling run-down, tired, or lonely, their long-distance relationship feels like a tragic and dire situation. If these feelings continue, it can put added pressure on the relationship, especially when one or both partners feel helpless to comfort each other.

Stressed out man

With this in mind, it is extremely important that you both take care of your mental, physical, and emotional health. This is one of the best things you can do in order to remain positive, calm, and patient. Just as you would if you lived together, try to stay healthy and active, eat well, get plenty of sleep, and establish a good support network wherever you live. Putting good habits into place will help you maintain a routine and keep you moving forward, even on those tough days.

Learn how to argue well

While it’s perfectly normal for couples to argue, having distance can make it feel worse. This is especially true if you are having a dispute over the phone or via text. In this situation, you’re dealing with the added challenge of not being able to see the other person’s body language; that actually accounts for 55% of the information you receive in a conversation. This communication gap can often create a level of confusion and frustration during an argument.

Furthermore, if the disagreement escalates into a full-blown row over the phone, it’s tempting to just hang up and avoid dealing with it altogether. Try not to. As the saying goes ‘you should never go to bed on an argument’. Well, the same applies to leaving things hanging. If you think you might say something that you’ll regret later, ask your partner for a short time out. Take a deep breath, give yourself a moment to calm down, then continue the conversation. Clear communication is key to surviving a long-distance relationship; so if you can’t do it effectively, you won’t be able to reach a helpful resolution.

Remember why you love them

As difficult as it is in moments of frustration, reminding yourself why you love your partner can help overcome these negative emotions. Instead of focusing on the problems in your relationship, try to remember all the reasons you’re with them in the first place.

Couple taking selfie

These periodic reminders of your devotion to one another can help keep you grounded in times of separation. If you’re in a healthy, loving, albeit challenging relationship, making the conscious decision to stay by your partner’s side – even if they are 6,000 miles away – can make all the difference. Eventually, you will be back together again and it will all be worth it. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder – if you let it.