So you're involved with this amazing person.
He is everything you want in a love partner. She is so exciting, loving, and beautiful.
When the two of you are together, it's magical. You want to spend every moment together learning more about each other and deepening your intimacy.
But there's just one problem . . .
You live far apart.
Not just across town far apart. I'm talking hundreds of miles away far apart. In another city, another state, or even across the country.
Both of you see the potential for a serious, committed relationship. Maybe you already are serious and committed.
But you don't get to spend much time together due to your careers, education choices, or simply the uncertainty about whether you are committed enough for one of you to pick up and move to be with the other.
You might see each other every other weekend, or maybe once a month for a long weekend.
The physical separation is gut-wrenching for both of you. It's hard to be apart from the person you love or care about deeply.
By the nature of being separated for long periods of time, your relationship is bound to develop more slowly and haphazardly.
You don't have hundreds of daily face-to-face opportunities to connect, touch, reassure one another, and work through the inevitable differences and conflicts of any relationship.
You don't get to observe one another often enough in the real-world situations that give you insight into your lover's character, personality, and ability to deal with stress.
There are so many built-in strains and potential pitfalls with a long-distance relationship that can tear the two of you apart.
Miscommunication, jealousy, boredom, and frustration can take a toll on your motivation and commitment to stick it out.
But even with these difficulties, it is possible to make a long distance relationship work and to thrive as a couple.
If you are in a long distance relationship, here are 20 ways to stay connected and nurture your love:
1. Discuss your levels of commitment.
A long distance relationship can't work unless both of you are on the same page about your commitment to each other and to keeping the relationship healthy.
If one of you is completely committed and monogamous while the other wants the option to see other people, the relationship is doomed to fail.
Talk honestly about your willingness and motivation to make the relationship work, and define specific ground rules related to monogamy, communication, and visits.
2. Communicate daily.
Make the effort to connect every day, even if you only have time for a quick call or text. Staying in touch keeps you in each other's thoughts and hearts so that “out of sight” doesn't devolve into “out of mind.”
If possible, try to use Facetime or Skype so you can see one another when you talk. This makes your communication more intimate and real, as you can see each other's expressions and gestures.
In the morning, share your plans for the day. In the evening, talk about how your day went, your feelings about interactions and events of the day, and anything interesting, funny, or unusual that you experienced.
Even in regular relationships, communication takes some time and effort, but it is key to building intimacy and growth in the relationship.
3. Schedule frequent visits.
Try to spend time together as often as possible. There's no substitute for face-to-face interactions.
Make a plan together about how often you will visit one another and who will travel when. Discuss the costs of traveling and how you both can to contribute to a travel fund.
If money is tight, brainstorm ways to make travel more affordable (ie: driving rather than flying) or how you can save or earn extra money to see each other.
Schedule your trips far in advance so you both have something to look forward to.
4. Ask each other questions.
When you aren't together (and even when you are), one of the best ways to get to know one another and to become closer as a couple is through mutual questioning.
By asking each other insightful and probing questions, you'll learn more about your partner's deepest desires, fears, motivations, and needs. You'll also become more self-aware as you look within to answer these questions yourself.
If you'd like some great questions for couples to build intimacy and trust, check out my book, 201 Relationship Questions: The Couple's Guide to Building Trust and Emotional Intimacy.
5. Know each other's love language.
You may have heard about the five love languages, popularize by Dr. Gary Chapman in a book by the same name.
Our love language is the way we prefer to give and receive love, and they include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
Both of you can take Dr. Chapman's quiz to determine your primary and secondary love languages. Once you do, discuss your love languages with each other and some of the specific ways you'd like your partner to express these to you.
Brainstorm creative ways you can give your partner what he or she needs, even long distance.
6. Deal with your own fears and frustrations.
Being in a long distance relationship is going to exacerbate your relationship fears and anxieties. You may worry that your beloved will forget you or grow tired of not seeing you.
You may worry that he or she will meet someone else, someone who isn't “geographically undesirable.”
You may feel frustrated, lonely, and unhappy with the situation at times.
All of these feelings are normal and expected, but unless you have a real reason to worry that things are on the rocks, try to find ways to manage your feelings.
Talk to friends or a counselor about your feelings. Try to keep your thoughts positive rather than dwelling on negative possibilities or frustrations.
7. Share mutual interests — even long distance.
Just because you're apart doesn't mean you can't do things together.
You were probably attracted to this person in the first place because of your mutual interests. Even if you can't participate in these interests side by side, you can both pursue your interests and discuss them when you talk.
Maybe you both love movies or reading, so share what you have watched or read. Maybe you both enjoy running or playing a sport. Support one another in these efforts.
Cultivate closeness by cultivating these interests, so when you are together, you can pick up right where you left off.
8. Talk about your hopes, dreams, and fears.
Vulnerability and openness are key to emotional intimacy in a relationship.
By sharing your innermost fears, desires and dreams with your beloved, you are drawing him or her closer to you.
Discussing your hopes and dreams together and actively listening to each other's thoughts helps you build trust and attachment.
When you share your insecurities, you create a loving, safe space that only the two of you can enter.
9. Discuss your approach to conflict.
Conflict is part of being in a relationship. There will be areas of disagreement and misunderstanding between the two of you.
In the early stages of a long distances relationship, you are still showing your best side to the other person.
Everything is new and exciting, and since you see each other infrequently, the time together is more like a honeymoon than a seasoned connection.
But at some point, something will happen that causes conflict, and it may take you off guard. That's why it's important to talk about how you both will approach conflict before it happens.
Discuss how you've approached conflict in past relationships and what your mutual goals are related to dealing with it going forward. How can you manage conflict in an emotionally mature and healthy way?
10. Work through big problems in person.
If you bump into some major areas of conflict or disagreement, don't try to sort through them by text or phone. This is the time when a face-to-face discussion is necessary.
Don't avoid these conversations or minimize them because you don't want to upset the fragile equilibrium of your long distance connection. If you do, you'll open the door for resentments and simmering frustration.
Handle big problems as quickly and forthrightly as you can — in person.
11. Continue to discuss your couple status.
From time to time, take the pulse of your relationship by discussing your status as a couple.
How are things going between you? What might need to shift or change?
Do you both still feel the same way you did when you first agreed on a long distance relationship? Do you feel things are growing closer between you, or are you stagnating?
Make sure you are still both on the same page related to your commitment, and if you are, discuss how you can make the connection even stronger.
12. Develop your personal interests.
When you miss your partner during times of separation, it's easy to put the rest of your life on hold until the next time you see him or her.
You might neglect some of your previous interests and passions because life just seems bland and empty without your beloved.
For your own mental health and for the sake of the relationship, don't neglect your outside interests. Even if it feels like nothing else matters except your lover, you will be a more engaging, interesting person when you are engaged in life.
13. Spend time with family and friends when together.
Reinforce your “coupleness” by spending time with one another's friends and family when you are together.
These important people may hear a lot about this amazing person in your life, but if you hide away when the two of you are together, you won't feel like a real couple experiencing normal couple interactions.
It's valuable for your special people to get to know the man or woman you love and for you to see how he or she interacts with them. It's also important to see the kinds of people your guy or woman has chosen as friends.
14. Spend time with family and friends when apart.
Your friends and family can be a great support for you when you are separated from your partner.
Don't neglect these important relationships because you are “biding time,” waiting for the next visit from your beloved, or because you feel sad and lonely without him or her.
When you're involved in an exciting, new relationship, it's easy to get so wrapped up and distracted that you spend less time with the other important people in your life.
With a long distance relationship, you have the time to maintain your friendships and connections — so take advantage of that.
15. Keep the sexual spark going.
Absence can make desire grow stronger, but the times in between can be frustrating and difficult. You both need physical intimacy to keep the fire in the relationship going.
Depending on your comfort level and creativity, use technology to have long-distance dates that involve virtual physical intimacy.
Send each other suggestive texts or talk on the phone to relive your last real encounter. Maybe even mail old-fashioned love letters that spell out your desires and fantasies.
16. Avoid tempting situations.
If you are committed to maintaining your long distance relationship, then don't put yourself in situations where you are tempted to stray.
Yes, it does get lonely, and it is challenging to be so far apart. Yes, there are many other attractive and interesting people who surround you every day.
But if you compromise the trust and integrity of your commitment, then your relationship won't survive.
17. Be a “safe space” for each other.
The emotional intimacy and security you create for one another will help protect your long distance relationship from the challenges you face being apart.
Says Chris Prentiss, author of The Laws of Love: Creating the Relationship of Your Dreams, “Creating Safe Space requires nothing less than becoming the kind of person who looks with perfect equanimity on the shortcomings of your loved one – the kind of person who sees the seeming mistakes, omissions, blunders, failures, and even the intentional hurts and transgressions and makes them all okay.”
When you offer this safe space, you empower each other to be authentic, secure, and completely honest. You both feel accepted, cherished, and embraced even when you're miles apart.
18. Do something surprising.
Did you know that being surprised activates the pleasure centers in your brain? Novelty, mystery, and a feeling of anticipation builds excitement and attraction by increasing dopamine levels.
Surprising each other can enhance your long distance connection and protect it from the “out of sight, out of mind” infection that occurs when boredom and loneliness sets in.
You need predictability and comfort to build trust in your relationship, but too much predictability can be boring and bland.
Do something unexpected and out-of-the-blue for your partner when you are apart. Send a singing telegram or a care package. Create a CD of love songs or send your favorite sweatshirt for your guy or woman to sleep with.
The ultimate surprise? Show up at your lover's door unannounced and deliver the sweatshirt yourself.
19. Never assume.
If you begin to feel disconnected or maybe a little paranoid that your partner is pulling away, don't assume that things are on the skids.
It's hard to read your partner's moods and reactions when there are miles between you. What you might be reading into a certain tone of voice or fewer daily texts could just mean he or she is having a bad day.
Rather than assuming the worst, check in with your partner in a non-accusatory way. You might ask, “You seem a little distant. Is everything good between us?”
Keep the lines of communication open so you don't fret about things that may not be true.
20. Have a plan for being together permanently.
A long-distance relationship is not an ideal permanent situation, at least not for most couples.
If you want to build a life together and remained a committed couple, you need to be in the same location.
Having an open-ended date for being together is unsustainable. According to some statistics, 70 percent of long distance relationships break up when the couple has no plans for changes in the situation.
Discuss how long you can handle living far apart before you make a decision about being together for good — or at least living in the same city.
If you are married or engaged, have a plan for ensuring you are together as soon as possible so you have a solid date to look forward to.
The good news is that many studies show that long distance relationships can be happy and satisfying, especially if the couple maintains a positive attitude about the situation.
If you and your partner work to stay connected, committed, and optimistic about the success of your relationship, your time apart might even bring you closer.