How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Actually Work

It’s happened! You’ve found someone who has long-term potential…but they live hours, maybe even states, away from you. As head over heels as you are, job, school, or family obligations may be keeping you tied to your current city, or you may just be playing it safe and smart and taking things slow.

Long distance doesn’t have to mean doom. You really can make long distance work! It just takes a little more TLC. Here are some tips to make your long distance relationship actually work.

Couple holding hands looking at the city through a big window

Consider How Long You’ll Be Apart

Does this sound like a strange way to start? Sure, but it’s a vital first step. What goals do you and your partner have? Do they match? For some people, a long distance relationship—aka the LDR—is about biding time until you and your partner can move in together. For others, a long distance relationship is something to take at face value: two people who care for each other, but are independent and content to get together when time permits.

If one half of the couple sees the distance as a waiting game and the other sees it as perfect compromise, things are bound to go sideways—and since it’s a long distance relationship, if you don’t talk goals from the outset, the potential for years of buildup only to be disappointed can result in years of avoidable heartbreak.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

“Communication is key” isn’t a cliché. It’s the foundation of any relationship, no matter how much distance lies between. How much you communicate is up to you and your partner. While some of us keep a constant daily text chain to maintain a feeling of closeness, others will want to maintain a bit more independence and catch up less frequently.

No matter how often you plan to stay in touch, keep those commitments and make time for regular communication.

Make Time Together IRL

This seems like a given, but carving out time together is vital. Depending on the distance involved, this can be tricky, and quite possibly very expensive. The reality, though, is that it’s likely neither of you signed up for a permanent pen pal. Distance, work schedules, and other priorities can rule out weekly visits, so it’s important to plan ahead so you can make the most of your time together. Ask for time off far in advance, and keep your eyes peeled for cheap train fare or plane tickets. Making a relationship work means prioritizing your partner.

Plan for How You Travel

Do your best to keep your trips to see your partner from feeling like a chore. No matter how deeply in love you are, a long commute or navigating air travel can feel like a grind over time. Find new audiobooks for the trip, or let one of your favorite podcasts stack up and let that be your travel soundtrack.

Consider treating yourself to some crave-worthy food on the trip, as well. Grabbing a gray, limp cheeseburger as you run through the airport terminal puts an automatic damper on a significant part of your trip. Why not stop at your local gourmet market and pick up some prepared food or sweet snacks instead?

Bottom line: If you’re going to be on the road for hours at a time, make it as fun and pleasant as possible, so you can make the most of your time with your partner once you get there.

Mix Things Up A Bit

One of you may live in a more exciting place than the other. Maybe you live in a large city but your sweetheart lives in your old hometown. Don’t default to the more attractive locale every trip.

Take turns visiting each other’s homes, and try a vacation elsewhere every now and then. That will keep one of you from feeling like a perpetual guest and keeps your partner from having to do a marathon housecleaning every visit. A vacation to a neutral locale that allows you time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

“What If I’m Worried They’ll Cheat On Me?”

If you’re not in each other’s sight lines daily, it can be tempting to worry that your partner may be fooling around on you. Trust is twofold here: trust your partner to be honest about how they spend their time away from you, and trust your gut when you’re genuinely convinced they’re hiding something from you.

If you start to wonder if something isn’t on the up and up, keep your eyes and ears open before confronting your partner. Long distance dating isn’t easy. It can be harder to read the signs when something’s wrong. Listen for any inconsistencies, and ask questions without accusing. It’s just as likely their schedule has gotten hectic.

“How Can I Afford To Keep Up A Long Term Relationship?”

One of the things that’s least talked about with long distance relationships is the cost involved. Gas, plane tickets, a time off from work all impact your wallet, and no matter how in love you are, travel often enough and you’ll start to feel the pinch.

Be realistic about what you can afford, and if the relationship begins to turn into something long-term, consider asking your partner to split the costs with you. If you use a credit card, look into signing up for one that has travel perks—points to use for travel, or special partnerships with airlines or hotel chains.

It may take a bit to see the benefits, but if you’ll be traveling either way, you might as well take advantage. And if you can swing it, try traveling during the week when airfare costs a little less.

“Should I Surprise My Partner By Showing Up Unannounced?”

It sounds romantic to surprise someone, especially on their birthday or for some other special event. Still, if you hadn’t planned to visit, it’s best to stay home, especially if the relationship is somewhat new.

While they may be thrilled to see you, they may have other plans that need to be canceled if you surprise them. Reservations for a fancy dinner with friends, tickets to a basketball game, or even plain old alone time can be disrupted buy an unanticipated visit.

Long distance relationships can be tough but not impossible. But if both of you work together to make things run smoothly, you can be sure it’s worth that extra effort.