Conducting a long distance relationship can be a real challenge. Here are some tools to help maintain a healthy and successful long distance relationship.
The first key to success with long distance relationships is effective communication. It is important for both parties to be able to feel that if they need to talk or write to the other person, communication will be welcomed and met with active communication from the other. The quality of the relationship is more likely to increase if both people develop the ability to share feelings openly with each other.
The second key to a successful long distance relationship is a demonstrated commitment to the relationship by both parties. What kind of commitment, and how serious or light it is, will be different for different couples. Being so far apart can be a scary and risky endeavor for most couples.
The third and fourth keys are a willingness to take risks, and the presence of a solid and secure trust between the two people. This doesn't mean that each person needs to skydive from a plane, but rather, that each will trust that the other person's social life in his or her own town will not be a threat to the relationship. Trust is so important that if it isn't strong, you can make a conscious effort to work on it, both on your own and together. This point leads to the fifth point: independence for each person, with a healthy level of dependence upon each other. When these are present, there is a balance of power in the relationship between both people, and each person can be autonomous but still get emotional needs met by the other person. Furthermore, with an appropriate balance of independence and dependence, each person is allowed, even encouraged, to grow and change as an individual; which everyone needs. It is, therefore, wise not to expect that your partner or yourself will always stay exactly the same as when the relationship started./p>
When these aspects of the relationship are healthy, the sixth key element tends to be naturally present - mutual respect. Finally, none of these other elements can offer the relationship success if the seventh key element is not there - clear expectations on the part of both people. It is so very important that you figure out your own personal expectations of the other person and the relationship, and then discuss them with the other person so that both of you are clear and/or can work out differences in expectations. Without this, each person is working on a very different relationship than the other, and problems are likely.
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One last thing to keep in mind about long distance relationships is the need for quality time together and build in some "alone time" during visits. Do things that draw the two of you closer, rather than emphasize the distance between you.
Strategies for Coping
Pro-active things to be doing as on-going maintenance for yourself:
- Get involved in organizations or causes that you personally believe in. Put meaningful things in your life other than your significant other.
- Help those who have challenging life circumstances. For example, volunteer at a nursing home or orphanage.
- Make sure there are supportive people and places in your life.
- Every once in a while, do something that is atypical of yourself, although not self-defeating. For example, go to a movie on a weeknight or get your hair cut.
- Tend to your spiritual needs.
Specific strategies to try when the depression of missing someone hits you:
- Let out the emotions: cry, scream, sing, exercise, go for a run, play a sport, take a walk
- Write a letter to the person, whether you send it or not, letting her/him know how you are feeling
- Write poetry or a journal entry or both
- Go watch a sporting event
- Come into the Counseling Center to talk about it
- Go see a movie: comedy to make you laugh, adventure to take you away, tearjerker to help you cry
- Go to the TV lounge or study lounge to have other people around you; don't stay alone in your room
- Call, visit, or study with a friend
- Take homework to a restaurant and do it over coffee or a meal
As if relationships weren't complicated enough, having them across a long distance is extremely challenging. However, throughout time, couples have had to be miles apart and have been able to maintain a solid, happy, successful relationship until they could be together again. In order to find success, there are some key elements that are necessary, which have been explained above. Without these key elements, relationships may endure, although they may not be healthy or fulfilling ones.