Not all of you may know this about me, but my partner and I were long-distance for about a year and a half in the beginning of our relationship before I moved to Denver.
We met while I was living and working in California, and he was here in Denver. We had mutual friends and a shared network, but we didn't meet in-person until after we had been talking online for a couple of months, via FaceTime and over the phone. Because the first year and a half of our relationship was long-distance, we had to find a way to get to know each other and to establish a shared relationship foundation in spite of the distance.
The tips I'm sharing below played an instrumental role in building our partnership into the strong, solid bond we have today.
1. Be Playful.
Don't forget to have fun! Long-distance relationships don't have to be all catching up on each other's days and heavy "where is this going"-type conversations - it's essential for the relationship to be a place that you two can come to relax and enjoy each other as well.
Try setting up weekly virtual "date nights," text each other memes, have inside jokes, watch movies together, flirt, and be sexy! You're together because you enjoy each other, so incorporate that enjoyment into the limited time that you do have together.
My boyfriend and I both love memes, so when we first started dating, we used to text each other every single meme we saw that reminded us of the other person. It made us feel like we had hundreds of secret inside jokes, just for the two of us. Now that we live together, we still send each other memes - it brings us back to the early stages of our relationship and feels like a special, private moment that's only for us.
2. Visit Regularly.
Especially as your connection deepens, the time between your visits can start to feel longer and longer. When thinking about how frequently it makes sense to plan visits, it's important to factor in both partners' needs for togetherness and space, as well as practical concerns like work schedules, finances, and vacation days.
If you have the budget for it, it can also be helpful to make a few of your scheduled visits somewhere fun - they don't always need to be to each other's home cities. As long as you're buying a plane ticket or getting in the car, why not make a getaway out of it? Planning a trip together allows you to build shared memories and enjoy the newness of your relationship - even if you can't do regular in-person dates, you can still have adventures and create new memories together.
For my partner and I, we tended to plan visits about every other month, although sometimes we saw each other less frequently, and sometimes more frequently. We usually traveled to each other's home cities, but we also took a few trips and explored the US. Talk to your partner and come up with a plan that makes sense for both of you and that accounts for each of your needs as well as limitations.
3. Create a strategy.
Creating a strategy that takes into account what both parties need in the relationship and that sets up shared relationship "milestones" can contribute to a relationship "story" that the two of you build together. Having a sense of deepening intimacy and progression keeps your connection strong.
To do this, try to sit down together (over Zoom is great!) and plan how you want your time apart, and your relationship trajectory, to look.
4. Agree on an end date.
Most couples don't go into long-distance with the expectation or hope that they'll be long-distance forever, even if they aren't sure yet when the distance will end. If you and your partner are long-distance indefinitely, it makes the relationship significantly more challenging. It's like running a race and realizing midway that there's no finish line - it's exhausting just to think about.
Having an end date both parties mutually agree on gives you hope and a shared vision for your relationship as a couple. In my own long-distance relationship, we agreed that our "end date" was me moving to Denver after I had met certain financial and career milestones. We then celebrated every met milestone with a little something special - a Zoom date, a visit, or even just a phone call over a celebratory cookie.
5. Negotiate communication.
At this point in your relationship, talking is your primary form of communication - so make the most of it! Calling, texting, Snapchat, FaceTime - whatever works for you, use it! Communicate with each other your needs for how frequently you talk - you may have different needs, and that's okay. What's important is that you each at least try to work towards meeting the other person's needs.
I'm a big believer that long-distance relationships can work, but I also acknowledge that they aren't easy. I really believe that the built-in challenge of long-distance relationships - to get to know each other in spite of the physical separation - can be a hidden opportunity to create strong communication habits from the beginning.
Getting to know, and starting to build a potential future with, a new special someone remotely can be challenging, but it has the potential to endow you with communication superpowers that can serve you (and your relationship!) for years to come.