What Psychologists Say Really Makes a Long Distance Relationship Work

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While traveling to far away places, you happen to cross airways with a special someone. You feel an undeniable connection and share many interests, but there is one major kink in your future plans: you don’t share the same zip code. Or perhaps, time zone. Regardless if a state line, an ocean or a continent separates you and your partner, a long distance relationship requires different qualities than one where you can pop over and see one another whenever you would like. Many experts have warned against starting this type of courtship, for fear it would never gain the legs it needs to take off. But psychologists and psychiatrists reveal a silver lining: a long distance relationship can work—with the right advice.

As board-certified psychiatrist, professor and author Dion Metzger, MD explains, the greatest hurdle to overcome is the strain of disconnect most couples experience when they aren’t physically near. “As humans, we desire to be near each other, to build the emotional bond. That is lacking in a long distance relationship and forces the couple to compensate with connecting virtually, by phone and some even use the old school way, written letter. The further the distance, the more work the couple is required to put in to make it work,” she explains.

“The keyword here is just that: work. Long distance relationships require far more effort, strategy, patience and attention than those who can see each other on a whim“

So how can you successful maintain, grow and explore your feelings for one another in a long distance relationship? Here, experts share their unique perspective and offer effective advice:

You both must contribute equally

Perhaps your business requires you to travel more weeks than you’re stationary. Or, due to a turn of events, your partner’s company is relocating them for a few years. Maybe, you were never living in the same city to begin with. No matter how your pairing started or became a long distance relationship, Metzger stresses the importance of approaching the challenge as a team. In a general sense, this means both parties have to be 100 percent on board and 100 percent willing to work for the relationship. “The keyword here is just that: work. Long distance relationships require far more effort, strategy, patience and attention than those who can see each other on a whim. “

It’s possible but both parties have to be on board and willing to work for the relationship. “Long distance relationships crumble when only one person is making the effort. If only one person is traveling to see the person and initiating the FaceTime calls, it is doomed,” she explains. “Healthy long distance relationships consist of both people putting in the same work.” Before you decide to battle the miles between you, have a candid, honest conversation about what you each require to feel supported and loved. You should also outline what you will contribute, creating healthy expectations.

You keep communication open, vulnerable and honest.

Of all the parts of your long distance relationship that matter, communication is at the heart of what makes it a viable set-up. With a plethora of options today—from Gchat and WhatsApp to iMessage, Zoom, Skype and beyond—there is no excuse for not talking to your loved one several times throughout the day and night. While couples who are in the same city have the luxury of seeing one another once a long work day is over, long distance duos have to find other ways to detox and destress with one another. This might mean you both have to get a bit creative, but it also provides a surprising perk: because you must over communicate to keep your relationship strong, you are more likely to ward through fights with ease. This, of course, is dependent on how you handle confrontations.“ You must keep the communication lines open since you can’t just drop by each other’s house to kiss and make up,” she says.  She continues, explaining any sort of petty silent treatment, declining calls or other immature behaviors are a sure-fire way to end your long distance relationship quickly.

You prioritize intimacy.

This might seem like counterproductive advice since you aren’t physically in the same place, but psychotherapist and author Dr. Fran Walfish explains the most successful long distance relationships are where couples become experts on one another’s movements. After all, you aren’t just FaceTiming, you’re reading body language, facial cues and any other not-so-hidden messages that tells you how your partner is feeling. Your goal is to be master’s of indicating a dip in their voice, a sign on their brow and so on. Not only does this keep your glued to one another when you are countries apart, but it makes your visits together that much more special. “Just imagine how much better sex is with someone you’ve shared your fears, hopes, wishes, and disappointments with.  The more vulnerable we allow ourselves to be with someone the payoff is greater sexual gratification and pleasure,” Dr. Walfish explains.

You should also feel strong enough in your relationship that you can have intimate exchanges over video message, too. This allows you to keep your sexual fire alive as you learn one another’s bodies from afra. “No matter how much sexual experience you’ve had, good relationships include the discovery of every curve and nuance of nudity with your current partner. The adventure is a huge turn-on,” she continues. “Begin the process on Skype through talking, disrobing, and visually learning before touch and penetration is included when you meet again in person.”

You have a deep level of trust.

If you have ever asked couples who have been together for decades on the secret of their marriage, they’ll like credit trust as their essential foundation. Establishing confidence in one another where you can both are empowered to be your most authentic selves is hands-down what makes—or breaks—a long distance relationship. Metzger says because you aren’t in one another’s sight at all times, it is vital to know you can trust your partner to be loyal, to be ever respectful and to have your best interest at his or her heart. This is why setting rules indicating what your partner can and cannot do or who they can see, can put a limit on the level of trust you develop. “Forcing your partner to isolate because you’re in another state or country is selfish and ineffective. That person will eventually feel too stifled and want to be out of the relationship,” she explains. Instead, you should discuss what is acceptable and what you both feel comfortable with.

And at the core of your companionship, it’s important to dig deep inside and consider the source of your doubts if you have them. Is it an action your partner took? Or is it leftover baggage from a previous heart break you haven’t yet dealt with? Whatever the cause, addressing why you are struggling to trust one another can help you better understand if you’re meant for one another, or for a long distance relationship.

You have consistent, dependable visits.

Unless your partner is serving in the armed forces somewhere overseas, you should always know when your next meet-up will be. And if you take Metzger’s advice, your visits should be regular, scheduled and of course, balanced, where you trade off who makes the commute. The reason this is necessary is it allows you to express the physical affection that will strengthen the bond of your relationship. “It’s important to see each other as much as possible. It gives you something to look forward to and makes the distance significantly more bearable,” Metzger says. When there are several months lingering between your reunions, use technology to your advantage as much as possible by talking on the phone, having video calls and finding other ways to stay in constant communication. Nothing can replace human touch, but dependable check-in’s can do wonders.

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