How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work

This photo, “Relationship” is copyright (c) 2014 TRF_Mr_Hyde and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The end of February will mark the 5th anniversary of my relationship with D. Since he was a college senior when I met him, much of our relationship was long distance. He was in college for the spring and fall semesters of 2009 and graduated in December. It wasn’t until 2012 that I would also graduate and have the ability to live near him. During those years, we lived about three hours apart when I was in college and two hours apart when I was at my parents house.

I am a believer in long distance relationships. They require a lot of work, respect and trust, but they can work. Every relationship is different, but I still think people benefit from hearing about how others succeed. I’ve read up on how authors write their books. They all have different methods and take widely different amounts of time to complete a first draft. Each author’s process is unique. Still, there is something to learn there. I think relationships are the same.

Maybe yours is different from mine, but I hope you find something of worth here.

1.  Start the relationship reasonably close together.

Although we lived two hours apart over the summer of 2009, we have February through May and August through December together. We spent a lot of time together and found a real connection. I’m sure that, if we didn’t have that time to establish a connection, D and I wouldn’t be together a day.

2. Making visiting each other a priority, no matter how far away you are from each other.

I have a friend who defies my first rule. She went to college with me at The University of Iowa and met her now husband online.  This guy lived in the United Kingdom. That’s long distance to the extreme. Still, they made a point to see each other. I think he came to the states to see her at least twice and she traveled to the UK to see him as well. She’s living in the UK right now and they just got married. Clearly their long distance did not hinder them.

D and I made a point to see each other once a month when we lived far apart. We took turns. One month I’d go to him; the next, he’d come to me. Sometimes we’d have even more time together if it was a holiday weekend. Seeing each other was a priority. I can remember D going so far as to drive straight from work on Friday to see me. He’d arrive late at night, stay with me all day Saturday and Sunday and wake up painfully early to drive straight to work on Monday.

3. Don’t let the relationship get in the way of your goals and dreams

One of my greatest dreams for college was to study abroad. I finally did this in 2011. I asked D many times if he was okay with this. Would he be okay if he didn’t see me for six months. He was completely supportive. If he would have been against my trip, I would have ended the relationship. This was my goal and no one was going to hold me back.

On the flip side, I had a couple of friends in college who toyed with the idea of studying abroad but decided not to. They didn’t want to be that far away from their high school sweet hearts. That seemed unhealthy to me. A relationship should encourage you to do anything and everything. You should feel empowered. Most of all, you should trust each other enough to know that six months apart won’t destroy anything.

4. Prioritize your dreams

As we get older, dreams and life goals change. Some will never be accomplished because a new dream becomes a larger priority. I don’t think this is anything to be ashamed of. For example, a person may have a career goal, or plan to live in a specific city. A romantic relationship can change all that, especially if it’s long distance. What is more important to you, your current career goals or this relationship. All long distance relationships eventually become normal distance relationships. At the very least, someone will have to move to make that happen.

You should never ever have to give up your dreams. Instead, you need to prioritize them. Decide what is most important to you. If your relationship has become bigger than some of your other dreams, don’t think of it as ‘giving up.’ Instead, you simply have a bigger dream in your relationship.

5. Be painfully honest

I’d argue this is good for all relationships, but it’s especially important in a long distance relationship. Give voice to anything that worries you and makes you uncomfortable. It might be simple, like worrying about your car with all the driving, or it may be big, like jealously toward a friend he frequently hangs out with.

The key is to describe everything. Don’t just accuse him/her of cheating. Mention the friend and that you sometimes find yourself worrying he/she likes the friend as more than a friend. You don’t want to worry anything, but it is something you think about. Request that the two of you and the friend hang out sometime so you can get to know them. At the end of the day, trust them unequivocally until the prove themselves unworthy. If the day comes where they do prove themselves unworthy, it may be time to end the relationship. Sure, long distance is hard, but it’s no excuse for lying or cheating.

Don’t listen to anyone when it comes to long distance. Take it from someone who has been there, people will tell you it won’t work. They will try to destroy your trust. They will become jealous when you up and leave to go see your lover. Long distance relationships require a huge amount of mental strength and maturity. You have to put up with all the nay-sayers and keep believing in what you have. At the end of the day, a long distance relationship has the same potential of working out as a ‘normal’ relationship. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing a love you believe in.

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? Are you currently in one? What did/do your friends and family think of you being in a long distance relationship? What are the best tips you have for those trying to make long distance work? Do you think long distance relationships are worth the effort? If you’ve never been, would you ever consider a long distance relationship?


30 thoughts on “How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work”

  1. I was only in one long-distance relationship. I had met my cousin’s brother-in-law over the summer and we continued to see each other while I was in college. He came to visit me every three weeks and I spent some holidays with him. Biggest problem with the relationship is that at that point I was probably less enamored of him and more enamored of hanging out with my best friend and cousin, and having the four of us be a foursome (nonsexual, Just close friends). So I guess I’m not the best person to offer advice.

    1. I had a relationship a little like that, but it wasn’t long distance. When I was in high school, one of my good friends had a boyfriend. Her boyfriend’s older brother expressed interest in me and we dated. My friend and I would giggle about the possibility that we could be sister-in-laws one day. The idea that you have that kind of connect with a friend can be truly enticing.

  2. I’ve never been in a long distance relationship, but I have a friend who was here in America, dating a guy in Germany for several years. Eventually they got married, moved to Switzerland and had two kids. They are also (well she is) dealing with the backlash from being an interracial couple. He’s German. She’s Jamaican.

    1. It’s great their relationship worked out! More proof that long distance relationships aren’t crazy.

      I’m sorry they are dealing with backlash for being interracial. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I heard a lot about European racism when I studied there. Kudos to them for maintaining a healthy, loving relationship despite it all.

  3. I used to not be a believe in long distance relationships. I had two fail in the past and basically swore them off. BUT. My husband and I started out long distance. He lived in Birmingham and I in Atlanta. I would have laughed at anyone who said to me “in five years you will end up in Birmingham Alabama for a guy.” But, it happened. After 8 months of long distance, I moved to Birmingham, and now 4 years after our relationship started….we are married and happy!

    Long distance relationships work when it is the right person. Just like anyone relationship works when it is the right person.

    1. I agree. Relationships are always hard. They take a lot of work, trust and respect. No relationship would work without those qualities. I don’t think long distance relationships have any less chance of succeeding than others. Success meaning the two people eventually move close together.

  4. Australia >>> America.

    Oh about an 20 hour flight.

    It is hard. We communicate. A lot.

    I stay up way past my bedtime to get time with him, he does the same thing to talk to me. We are constantly texting each other when we aren’t actually talking on the phone.

    T minus 2 weeks and I’ll be over there. I cancelled a lot of my other visits to spend my time with him. Let’s see how it goes…

    1. I hope the best for you guys! When I was studying abroad, D and I talked two to three times a week. We used Skype and he often woke up extra early just so he could talk to me while I ate lunch (ah, time differences). Communication is key. In a way, long distance is a way of proving how committed someone is at making it work out. It’s no guarantee, but it’s comforting to know someone will go out of the way just to talk to you on a regular basis.

      1. Thanks TK – I’m hoping the best too =)

        Yeah, I hear you on that front. We actually talk every day and when we can’t at least every other day… Even if it’s just a quick hello, how’s your day going, what’s news, everything ok, touch base kinda thing.

        Plus, we still play final fantasy together, which is where we met after all!! I think that it does prove how committed someone is to at least try, definitely… even if it doesn’t work out I think he’s a lovely bloke.

  5. A friend of mine called me yesterday and said he met a woman in Peru (via the Internet) and they’ve been talking via Skype and he wanted my opinion on dating her ‘exclusively’…. to which I asked, “can you date someone exclusively that you’ve only ever met online? Do you have plans to go to Peru?” and other questions like that…… apparently some friend of his married a woman from Brazil and they’ve been happily married for ten years….. and I know that kind of thing can happen…. but its definitely go to be hard to keep a dating relationship going when you’re separated by 2000 miles…..

    I only say all that to make a point; perspective.
    Some people would think that your two hours apart from D was really far and they could never date someone who lived that far away…… but compared to dating someone in Peru or Brazil… all of a sudden two hours away seems like a simple brisk walk! 😉

    1. Like I said, I had a friend who dated someone from the UK online and now they’re married.

      It’s all about communication and trust. Even the people who dated oceans apart talked to each other every day. They made a point to see each other in person as frequently as possible, taking turns on who visits who. If you would have asked me two years ago if my friend’s relationship would work, I would have had strong doubts. Yet, now they’re married.

      If the person in Peru is important to your friend, it’s worth a shot. It’s going to be extra hard, but that doesn’t make it impossible.

        1. As a nerd and a fangirl, I regularly fall in love with video game and book characters. So all I can say to that is that you at least had a chance. A person who lives in a book is a little too far away to be possible. ^_^

          1. Lol good point TK…… although I do fall in love with movie characters. Like Kate Hudson’s character Penny Lane in Almost Famous; god I wanted to marry her… and once in awhile I might fall for a character in a book but its been awhile 😉

  6. Like your friend my boyfriend and I also defy rule number one. I live in Canada and I met my boyfriend (who lives in the UK) online. He flew to America to see me, then I flew there and we now have our next trip booked! I’ve never been happier. I never feel like I’m alone because he reminds me of his love everyday. He is seriously amazing.
    For the first time I am with someone who my friends and family approve of; because I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, love-conquers-all type I don’t even think any of them were all that surprised. They thought it was a little crazy but I think they figured if anyone is gonna do it it would be me. They’re just glad I’m with a man who treats me really well. My family can see that I’m really happy; some have even said I’m like a different person now that I’m in a healthy relationship. My parents are always saying what a nice boy he is and that he’s so good to me and I met his family this Christmas and they treated me like one of their own; said it’s as if I’ve always been a part of the family :). Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
    As far as tips go, I think being with the right person is the number one thing. You can have communication and commitment and love til the cows come home but if you aren’t with the right person it will not work (distance or no distance). Other than that I’d just say daily communication (whenever possible) is key, (and if not possible there should be a good reason and notice ahead of time!) As is doing sweet things for each other to remind them of your love. We write letters and send surprises to each-other in the mail fairly often. We keep things fun and spontaneous (one of my favourite things is when I had a pizza delivered to his door and he had flowers delivered to mine); I love the chance to be creative like that.
    If you’ve found the right one for you, long distance is definitely worth the effort.

    1. “If you’ve found the right one for you, long distance is definitely worth the effort.”

      This is why I think long distance relationships stand just as much of a chance as any other. In a way, they act as a good filter. You know right away where you stand in a person’s list of priorities based off of how often they visit and communicate with you. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but I’ve seen enough to know that no one should shy away from a relationship just because it’s long distance.

    1. It stands just as much of a chance as any other relationship. I mean, the very act of falling in love is taking a chance. There are no 100% guarantees. But, love is so awesome that the chance is worth taking.

      1. Again, In full agreement here. I never regret the people I fall for. Love is worth it, even with the pain that comes with it. It’s worth it because you know the eventual outcome is more than beautiful

  7. Thanks for making my day a little brighter, but I have to admit you are 100% correct. Long Distance takes effort but it’s not impossible, on the other hand I would also have to say that you need to find someone that is not already turned off to the concept. On a side-note I have found that telling a lady “I’m in country 9 weeks a year, and that’s not consecutively” is not a way to earn points, on the other hand I’d rather be honest up front.


    1. Honest is always best. Long distance or not, we all deserve to find someone who wants the same things we do. I imagine that would be hard if you’re lying to someone about what you want.

      Being in country only nine weeks of the year is rough. I’d like to say I could handle that, but I don’t know. I don’t think I could handle it forever. All I can say is thank God for Skype. It’s not the same as being there in person, but it sure is better than no contact at all.

      Lastly, even if you lose points for the distance, I’m sure you can more than make up for it in other personality traits. At the end of the day, if the person is worth waiting for, you’ll wait for them. You’ve already gained a ton of points in my book of being a self-proclaimed nerd of the sands.

      1. I agree, to be honest from a personal viewpoint I have stopped dating at this point in my life. It is something I can’t dedicate a lot of energy to, and frankly something that whole search for the proverbial “one” well it’s shot me in the face so many times that its about time.

        Skype is a lifesaver absolutely, so are regular emails, sms messages (and flower delivery’s), oh and amazon can’t go wrong with occasionally sending a gift out of the blue. Well at least in my book.

        Thank you I’m always glad to earn respect with someone, and I’m just one small piece in a much larger tribe. In the meantime even if I don’t find someone that wants to date me, I always meet new and interesting people, and I’m ever so slowly developing a network of pen pals. Who said two people having long drawn out email conversations was a thing of the past.


        1. I’m a big fan of the wait and see method when it comes to relationships. In my experience, the second you become completely satisfied with single life someone will come to ruin it all – in a good way.

          Besides, what’s more attractive than a person out enjoying life? When the time is right, you’ll run into that special person. Chances are they’ll take you completely by surprise.

          1. Your about the millionth person that has told me that, I guess the votes have it that is true.

            As for me I just do my own thing, there are a few people I have reached out to in the past, sometimes you make a friend and sometimes you don’t. Either way the road is long and full of adventures, whether I have someone there or not it’s best to keep going.

  8. At first, I’m not a believer of LDR. Maybe because I’ve had one before but never worked. We tried, but it never worked. I understand that maybe it wasn’t just meant to be. Or maybe, not everyone, like me, is good at that kind of relationship. And I’m super impressed with those who can manage to keep their long distance relationship strong. Just like my mom and dad, they have been in a ldr for 12years now and I can attest that their relationship is going even stronger than before. My mom said, it really takes a lot of courage, sacrifice, patience, trust, and love to make this kind of relationship to work. And I believe her.

    1. It’s hard as hell, that’s for sure. I think they only work with the right people. The wrong type of relationship or the wrong type of person won’t make it work. That’s not a bad thing either. We all require different things in our relationships. Some need to be geographically closer than others. I don’t think I could ever have a 100% LDR. At some point, I’d want use to live to to or with each other.

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