If you would've told me in my early twenties that I was going to meet someone, have a long-distance relationship with them for almost a year, and eventually marry them, I probably wouldn't have believed you.
At the time, the idea of being in a long distance relationship was new to me. I was reluctant and skeptical at first when Eric (my husband) mentioned it to me. I figured the "normal" relationships were hard enough, so a long distance relationship was going to be that much harder.
I learned very quickly, however, that you can't expect different results using the same habits. Clearly, the things I I tried before didn't work. So, I was at a point in my life where I was willing to try something new and different, and apparently my husband (and boyfriend at the time) was too. Now, almost twelve years later (ten years married), I can attest to the fact that long distance relationships can work if you put in the work.
Go the distance – literally and figuratively.
The author Shonda and her now-husband Eric
In other words, put in the effort to not only make the relationship work, but by actually making plans to go and see each other. When Eric and I were dating, he was roughly 900 miles away from me. He promised me that he would come see me as often as he could, and he kept his word. Eric made that long drive and came to see me every month, and he arranged it so that I was able to visit him as well.
Make the best of every moment and every in-person visit by avoiding majoring the minor issues when you're together.
Nowadays, there are so many more options for traveling than there were when we were dating. Hence, there's really no excuse as to why you can't see each other more often. Remember, you can tell how much someone is interested in you based on how intentional they are towards you.
Dare to be different. Be open-minded and optimistic.
As soon as someone hears that you're interested or in a long distance relationship, it's likely that they'll tell you all the reasons why it won't work. They will try to convince you as to why you shouldn't do it, but your life is your life. Just because something didn't work out for someone else, doesn't mean that it won't work for you. Although it takes a considerable amount of effort to make a long distance relationship work – as does any type of relationship – there are people who have made it work.
Part of the reason why I think the long distance was successful for Eric and I was because: 1) Both of us were committed to making it work despite the skepticism, and 2) we understood that in order to get something different, we had to do something different. So, be willing to change it up, channel your faith and courage, and take a chance.
Let the technology work for your relationship.
Not only do we have FaceTime via iPhone, but video chat apps like Marco Polo, Skype, and so many more make it so much easier to talk and connect. Eric and I constantly use FaceTime to talk when we're traveling and away from each other. Moreover, you can use technology not only to stay in touch, but to have fun too – whether it's to play games with each other or via an app, and even if you're looking for ways to keep it sexy and spicy (if you know what I mean).
When you're in a long distance relationship, you don't have the convenience of having date night in person or connecting physically as much as you would if you were in the same location. Consistent communication helps you connect and get to know each other on a deeper and more intimate level. Not only can it help strengthen the bond, but it can help you feel more secure about the relationship.
Strive to begin and end each day with each other in some way. Regular calls, video chats, texts, and photos can make the relationship feel real and ordinary, as well as build trust and confidence in the other person and the relationship.
Where there is consistency, there is commitment.
Step it up when it comes to being sentimental and romantic.
Whether it's through something like a photo, a piece of jewelry, or an intimate item of clothing – you can make the relationship more sentimental by incorporating an item that means something to both of you. One of the things that helped Eric and I stay connected was a ring that he purchased for me to have while he was away. It was his way of letting me know that although he was physically distant, his heart was with me. Whenever I felt lonely or missed him desperately, the ring was a friendly reminder of our love. It often helped me feel as if he was in the room with me.
Furthermore, long distance isn't an excuse to disregard romance. With a few clicks, it's easier now more than ever, to send gifts, flowers, edible arrangements, and so much more as a sign to let someone know that you're thinking of them, how much you care, or simply just because.
Clearly communicate your expectations and boundaries.
With most relationships, it's fairly easy to end up with "blurred lines" when people neglect to effectively communicate their expectations. Nonetheless, one can imagine how important it is to communicate expectations and boundaries even more so when you're in a long distance relationship.
A lot of this will flow and happen quite naturally, but if it doesn't, you can ask questions like: What are you looking for? What method of communication do you prefer most? How often do we want to communicate? What are your expectations for this relationship? Where do you see this relationship going? Is the plan to be exclusive or to date other people?
Make the relationship a priority, but keep living your life.
Trust and know that there will be bouts of loneliness knowing that they're not there with you physically. That's why it's important to stay busy. Don't become so preoccupied with waiting by the phone or waiting to hear from them. Never become so engulfed in someone else's life that you forget to live your own. Yes, it's important to be available when you can, but it's also important that you continue living your life. Besides, you will have that much more to share when it's time for you to talk again.
Be practical, yet purposeful, about the relationship.
For some people, a long distance relationship will likely be their reality for a long time for whatever reason. For others, like Eric and myself, long distance was always temporary because we knew eventually we wanted to be, and would be, in the same city. Depending on your goals and timing of the relationship, consider how the two of you will make the transition. If it's worth it and both parties are willing, start planning today for what could eventually become an everlasting love story.
For those of you who have been in a successful long distance relationship, feel to share what has worked for you in the comments down below.
Featured image courtesy of Shonda White