Focus on the Big (and Little) Picture
To avoid this early pitfall, Sussman warns you can’t just go with the flow in a long distance relationship. She recommends being direct and setting up your expectations and boundaries early on. Sussman encourages her clients to not be shy about asking questions like: “Are you looking for a serious relationship? And would you want one with me?”
It might be a touch clingy to ask about these things in a relationship with a local, but if you’re going to make the investment in a long distance relationship, it’s better to put all of your cards out on the table. “Play fewer games,” Sussman advises.
While you’re busy chatting about the bigger picture, don’t forget to talk about the small things. Loving encourages people in long distance relationships to talk about where they went that day, who they hung out with, even what they had for lunch.
“It’s all of those little day things that really connect us to people,” Loving notes. “There’s something powerful about knowing that you can spend time with somebody when it’s not always exciting and new and fresh.
That kind of realness is precisely what Ben craved. After four years of living in different countries, Ben found the hardest part was, “I couldn’t share the daily random things with my girlfriend. That really annoyed me.”
Jackie had a similar concern about missing out on the little things when you’re in a long distance relationship and only see each other on a handful of weekends. “That day-in, day-out time together says so much more about a person than how they are when you’re only with them for 48 hours,” she says. “Anyone can be fun, sexy and interesting for 48 hours.”
It’s funny to think about, but the boring routines of everyday life—grocery shopping or hitting up Bed Bath and Beyond together—can become a bit of a fantasy for those in a long distance relationship. In a proximal relationship, you’re constantly sharing the mundanity of a trip to the grocery store or unwinding on the sofa after a long day at the office. You want to find ways to share that normalcy with your long distance partner to cultivate closeness.
Of course, the best way to keep your bond strong is to visit each other. That’s sounds like a “duh,” but it’s easy to get complacent about spending time together in person when you have such easy access to Skyping and texting. But they’re no replacement for face time. Loving argues, “The Internet hasn’t been around long enough in our evolutionary history to say that we’ve adapted to substituting Skype for skin-to-skin contact.”
The Challenges of Being Apart
Dawn*, 38, started to feel like Skype was a “chore” in the long stretches between visiting her boyfriend of almost two years. She started missing the ability to have physical contact, and the natural lulls in their video chat conversations made her question their compatibility. When they would visit each other, she would get caught up worrying about how little time they had to spend together before it was time to head home again. “I felt like I was missing out on being able to spend time together without thinking that every moment is extra important,” she says. “From the time one of us arrived to see each other, we were already counting down the minutes until we had to separate again.”