Long Distance Love: The Rules

With online dating, jobs-on-the-move, and far-flung second homes, it's easy to find the person of your dreams-and then find out they live somewhere else. Being geographically challenged doesn't mean you're unlucky in love. Here, six ways to nurture the relationship across the miles.

Reach out and touch someone…
Many couples create a schedule for talking on the phone. Though spontaneous chats are always welcome, a set time provides both partners with some security in the relationship. It's also particularly useful for couples in different time zones for whom "checking in at bedtime" doesn't apply. "Keep each other informed about your friends and activities in your home town," says Dr. Judy Kuriansky, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dating. Sharing mundane details integrates your partner into the rest of your life, which increases your staying power once you two are in the same area code.

Visit often
When it comes to physically connecting, take a cue from Hollywood: Actors on location frequently see their loved ones at regular intervals. For instance, Leisha Hailey stars in The L-Word, which shoots in Vancouver. She and her girlfriend in L.A. honored the "two-week rule" when Hailey shot season two, seeing one another at least that often. Caroline Tiger, author of The Long Distance Relationship Guide, suggests meeting at a geographical halfway point. Neither partner feels put out, and the place you visit can always be "your spot." Always having an in-person meeting scheduled gives you something to look forward to during the long times in between.

Beam yourselves up
One accidental plus to long-distance relationships (or LDRs) is that you're often first to adopt new technologies. "You're able to do things that used to only be on Star Trek," says Aaron Larson, director of The National Long Distance Relationship Building Institute and the Healthy Marriage Institute. A digital camera shows off a new haircut the same day, and you can IM someone in another country more than you chat with your boss one cube over. And as tech prices quickly drop, long-distance couples can upgrade often.

Date outside the box
Creativity keeps your relationship alive. While same-city couples can easily wind up watching Friends reruns together, LDRs mean you maximize the time you do have together. For example, Charlotte Johns' long-distance partner had a layover in New York on a trip from Italy to L.A., so Johns, who lives in Brooklyn, hailed a cab and went to the airport. Two hours in an airport lounge might not seem romantic to most couples, but Johns loved their impromptu date (and the Prada shoes she got as a gift). You can even go on virtual dates. Explains Larson, "One person goes to an ice-cream parlor in New York, and the other goes to one in LA, talking the entire time on your cell phones."

Fight fair-and fast
Distance can intensify a budding relationship because the emotional connections thrive and you crave the other person. But on the flip side, a tiff that might be resolved with a quick hug or a sincere "sorry" can be exacerbated by distance. "Because there's no inflection or body language to provide context in e-mails, a message can easily be misunderstood," says Tiger. Rest assured, these snafus happen in every long-distance relationship. To resolve them quickly and calmly, explain why you're upset during your next regular phone call. Calling immediately can make a partner feel ambushed, especially if they're at work, and e-mailing can create more misunderstandings. If things do escalate, stick to a rule: "When it comes to telephone conversations, it's okay to take a break and arrange to call back later, but never just hang up," says Larson.

Plan for the future
"Every once in a while, have a DTR-or define the relationship talk-so that both individuals are on the same page," says Larson. If neither person plans to move for the other, for example, it's vital to know that so you can evaluate your future. Tiger suggests scheduling talks when you can take stock of what's working, what's not, and what you both want to happen next. There will be some stumbling, but that happens between people who live mere minutes apart, too. Remember: What matters isn't where your perfect partner lives, but that you've been lucky enough to find one another.

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