We’re not going to mince words. Long distance relationships are difficult. You miss your partner, you might often find yourself lonely, and you don’t have anyone to Netflix and... nap with. You may be wondering, “Can long distance relationships last?” The good news is that, with plenty of communication (and the occasional thoughtful gift), it is possible for them to thrive. In fact, a 2015 study from Queens University suggested that distance can actually lead to a deeper connection and a more fulfilling relationship overall. Awesome, right?
And while we couldn't tell you for sure what percentage of long distance relationships actually last, because each one is so unique, Dr. Zhana Vrangalova, NYU professor of Human Sexuality says the most important thing of all is that you believe your relationship can stand the test of time. “Cultivate positive attitudes in yourself and your partner about your relationship's success and satisfaction can come."
So if you find yourself feeling anxious about what the future might bring, read on. Physical distance doesn’t mean you can’t experience a world of adventure, laughter and pleasure together—especially now at a time when Zoom dates and virtual happy hours are so much more commonplace. In fact, you might venture to emotional depths that you wouldn’t have otherwise. We summoned relationship experts for their best long distance relationship tips to help keep you emotionally connected despite the miles between you.
First, long distance relationships can work.
That is, as long as each partner is willing to put in the elbow grease. “Every relationship is different, so you need to clearly communicate your values and what is most important to you," says clinical sexologist Lucy Rowett.
“In recent research, those in long distance relationships reported higher levels of love for their partner, said they had more fun, better conversations, more dedication to their relationships, and lower levels of feeling trapped than couples in more local relationships," she says.
But, success requires communication and intimacy.
In order to stay emotionally connected you need to be...literally connected, which means speaking a few times a day, even if it's over a simple text.
“Be consistent and include the person in your everyday life. We already get the ‘highlights’ reel on social media so it's valuable to set aside time to chat about what's going on,” says Pam Shaffer, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Sharing the good and the bad helps to build intimacy with your partner and gives them the insider view of your world even when you're far away.”
Marriage therapist Jenni Skyler, PhD, agrees that keeping up with communication is a vital component of healthy relationships. “Even though it seems like a lot, I like to encourage couples to FaceTime at least once a day." Use these sessions like you would any other scheduled date. “This can help foster security in your relationship, which will also come in handy when you're in the same geographic location,” says Shaffer.
Send each other (actual) mail.
Acts of love are a great way to bring a smile to your partner's face while increasing intimacy and bonding. Send your partner “care packages” as a way to remind them how much you love them.
“Since much of life revolves around our phones, it's nice to get a surprise in the mail,” says Dr. Kristie Overstreet, PhD., a board certified sex therapist and psychotherapist. “Whether it's a card, letter, or package, it shows that you took the time to think about them.”
And there's always...sexting.
Though it may not come natural to you—at all—explaining exactly what you want to do to your partner, whether it’s inspired by a romance novel or a real life past sexual experience, is a simplified way to ease into dirty talk without feeling awkward. Vrangalova suggests describing a steamy dream you had, too.
If you're up for something live action, when it comes to FaceTime, experiment with different camera angles. Before your "date," figure out how to place the phone so you feel confident.
Take it slow. Start with sharing a fantasy, and go from there. Remember, this isn’t a race. It takes time to ease into this.
Anne Hodder-Shipp, ACS, sex and relationships educator, suggests setting up a confidential WhatsApp account so you can send each other fantasies on a whim—without the risk of accidentally texting your parents or boss. Plus, she adds, “It can feel a little naughtier this way and up the turn-on ante.”
And, get creative with toys.
“You can try writing your own erotica of what you want to do to your partner and emailing it, texting it, or telling them on the phone. Or you could order a pretty sex toy online and have it delivered to them,” Rowett suggests.
Today, companies are making toys that are specifically designed for long distance partners. The We-Vibe Sync has an app that allows your partner to control the vibration of the toy from anywhere, letting them tease you from far away. OhMiBod has similar haptic sex toys for long distance play, with additional app features specially designed for sexting. The app is compatible with most OhMiBod vibrators, so you can pick and choose.
Other toy options include Lelo's Smart Wand, LOKI Wave prostate toy, and the INA Wave, a rabbit toy for both internal and external stimulation. These toys don’t have remote capability, but all come in larger sizes, perfect for video chatting.
If that's a little advanced, you could always inspire intimacy by sending a sultry snap. And yes, it can be of your face.
Keep things exciting by experimenting with theme date nights.
Tina Wilson, founder of Wingman dating app, suggests breaking up the monotony by occasionally introducing themes into your virtual dates and sexting rendezvous. For example, you could stage a romantic Parisian date night with a virtual tour of the Louvre, a shared playlist of French love songs, and a candlelit spread of cheese, warm baguettes, and wine. Or, seeing it as an opportunity to learn new things about the other’s history, you could take turns crafting a menu and selecting a movie or two inspired by your childhood favorites. Then, come together over a Netflix Party or the HBO browser extension that allows you to stream (and chat) simultaneously.
Regardless, whether elaborately executed or something as simple as a sexy dance party in your pajamas, you and your partner could have a blast celebrating your different interests.
Livestream something funny.
You don’t need to be in the flesh to bond over a good giggle. Recent studies have shown that laughing with your partner has a potent effect on relationship-building, so don’t let the distance stop you from experiencing its benefits.
Compile a list of your favorite feel-good comedy series or uproariously crude films, and slowly go through them together. Or, as Wilson suggests, explore iconic stand-up archives or catch a live-streamed show (Stand Up NY is one of many great options).
Go stargazing "together."
Make a romantic date with the cosmos. Spread a blanket out across your patio or find a secluded spot. If you’re living in the same area of the globe, you can guide each other through trying to locate your favorite constellations or simply marvel at the crescent moon. But, if your daytime is your partner’s nighttime, you could take turns painting a visual of your current view of the world. Most importantly, remember that, despite the miles preventing you from being in each other’s arms, the same sky always hangs above you.
Make plans for the future.
In most cases long distance is a temporary situation that will be resolved eventually. And if that's the scenario, make a timeline so your significant other knows that things are moving forward and that the time spent apart, missing each other, will be completely worth it. If it's not temporary, put some travel plans on the calendar so the two of you have something to look forward to.
“Plan what you’re going to do the next time you’re together, as well as what you want to do in the more distant future,” says Dr. Justin Lehmiller, a psychologist and research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of Tell Me What You Want. “This not only gives you something to look forward to and helps to build anticipation, but research has found that couples who make future plans are more committed to one another and have longer-lasting relationships.”
Have some friendly (or, ahem, sexy) competition.
A little light-hearted competition never hindered anyone’s love life. Wilson suggests checking out apps like Jackbox that boast a fun collection of games, allowing users to compete against each other via Zoom. And if a romp with twisted humor is your idea of a solid date night, you and your partner could always play Cards Against Humanity online for free. Or, check out some of these fun online game options.
Feed your emotional intimacy by asking deeper questions.
While keeping the playfulness alive is beneficial to your relationship, so is going deeper. In the 1990s, psychologist Arther Aron teamed up with a few colleagues for a study of intimacy in relationships, and determined that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness and love. The result was a list of 36 questions designed to build exactly that. So, grab your digital devices and take a deep dive into each other’s psyche. You might be delighted by what you discover about someone you think you already know so well.
Hodder-Shipp says to keep in mind that deep exploration of your partner’s dreams, ideas and longings about the future could accomplish more than you might imagine, perhaps serving as the ultimate aphrodisiac—even from afar. “Emotional connection is an important part of a strong sex life,” she says.
Make an effort to stay in tune with your partner’s surroundings.
Stay informed about their local news and weather forecast. Be aware of any exciting events or festivals happening in their city or town. Tap into their neighborhood scene and memorize the activities and places they most enjoy frequenting. This will give your partner the feeling that you’re with them in spirit—dodging the rain, being blasted by the sun or navigating the traffic.
Surprise your long distance love by “showing up” unexpectedly.
Whether a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, a chocolate croissant from a neighborhood bakery, or their special triple-shot morning latte, you could find something within your budget and send it straight to your partner’s door. This will let them know how much their happiness is always on your mind.
Or, you could simply drop them a text message or an email that says, “I hope you’re enjoying your smoothie right now!” or “I’m right there with you, cheering you on through your entire presentation.” Regardless, find ways to either physically or digitally “pop in” and announce your love, support and thoughtfulness. Hodder-Shipp says it’s crucial to remember that long distance relationships experience the same struggles as same-city relationships, which is why it’s vital to “get creative with ways to meet each other’s needs from afar.”
Share in each other’s self-care rituals.
For one, you could help each other sweat… from the other side of your screens. With so many streaming workout options available, Wilson suggests you and your long distance love take the same class remotely. One week you might try meditative yoga or barre, and the next you could sign up for something that appeals to your partner. While it's not the same as going for a walk, or run together, you'll both still benefit from the serotonin boost.
Or, if you prefer to work out solo, you and your partner could introduce each other to various aspects of your self-care practices—whether listening to a motivational podcast or virtually engaging in a spiritual practice.
Don’t forget the fun of double-dating…even if via Zoom.
Studies have shown that spending time with other couples may amplify the attraction and passion within your relationship. So whether you and your plus one live in separate cities or are physically separated for other reasons, Wilson suggests asking another couple to join your next virtual happy hour. “Long distance relationships can sometimes feel isolating since you don’t necessarily share the same social network,” she says. “So inviting friends or other couples along on virtual double dates can help bring your long distance partner into more facets of your life.”
And remember that couples therapy works virtually, too.
Amy Cirbus, PhD, LMHC, LPC, Director of Clinical Content at Talkspace says that couples in long distance relationships most commonly initiate counseling “to break through communication barriers or find ways to maintain their feelings of connection and intimacy while apart.” So if you feel like you need the voice of an expert to guide you, it’s not at all a signal of impending long distance doom.
Cirbus adds that, for newer couples, commitment level is the most shouted concern, but for couples who have a long history together and are forced apart for new circumstances, there is often a natural urge to seek a third party to advise them on how to stay in each other’s daily lives and “maintain their bond without the proximity and rhythm that they're used to.”
In essence, it’s about leveraging technology to stay emotionally connected.
Cirbus emphasizes that whether you decide to cook dinner over Zoom, go on a virtual voyage across the globe, or take up couples counseling with your partner, achieving long distance relationship success is essentially about channelling the same effort and energy that you would otherwise give to them in person, and executing it virtually. “Simply transfer what you would normally do together into the online space and have fun,” she says.
A healthy, fulfilling relationship is about quality over convenience.
“Distance is not what makes relationships deteriorate; complacency and lack of communication play more of a role in that than mileage,” says Hodder-Shipp.
Wilson adds that, while the majority of her app users are most inclined to search for a mate who is ‘GD’ (geographically desirable), “more than two-thirds of them are open to the possibility of dating someone who lives 300 or more miles away—especially if the chemistry and compatibility are off the chart.”
And, in some cases, the distance might make you even closer.
“According to our feedback, 80 percent of our app users in long distance relationships admit that time apart makes them miss each other even more,” says Wilson.
Hodder-Shipp’s observations are aligned with that finding, believing that absence truly can make the heart grow fonder. She stresses that when we are constantly breathing the same air and bumping up against each other, that lack of personal space can serve as a spotlight to our most unflattering quirks. “That sense of mystery and distance can help build desire and excitement for a partner. As long as you’re both committed to being a team and open to exploring, there are so many ways to connect, keep it fun and strengthen the relationship.”
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