Schedule Regular CallsJess, a 28-year-old in Kenya who has been in a long-distance relationship for the past five years, cautions against relying on texting to keep in touch, since this can lead to miscommunications and make conflicts escalate. “It's not very easy being in this situation, so you have to absolutely communicate,” she says. “When you have misunderstandings, don't argue over text.” Emma suggests finding time to talk every day to hear each other’s voices and promote better communication. “Finding online activities to do together is a must,” she adds, sharing that she and her partner watch shows and play video games remotely together.
Establish what you expect from each other sooner rather than later.Whatever the exact frequency of calls, having some kind of routine is important, says clinical psychologist Jaime Zuckerman, PsyD. Zuckerman recommends scheduling a set time that you’ll talk every day or week. “It removes the guesswork and allows you to prioritize your relationship within your busy schedules,” she explains. To make the most of your time talking, she suggests thinking of topics you’d like to talk about and stories you can tell your partner to fill them in on your life beforehand.
Discuss Your Expectations Early OnIf one of you is expecting a certain form or frequency of communication from the other, it’s important to establish that before resentment can build up. Ciara, a 34-year-old registered nurse whose husband used to live in Denmark while she was in New York City, knows this firsthand. “Early on, I would get upset because I would see he read my WhatsApp messages and didn’t respond,” she remembers. “But he had looked at them quickly in the middle of a busy travel day and was waiting for a good time to respond thoughtfully. To me, it felt like I was being ignored. So, I told him, ‘Hey, just shoot a message that you’re busy and will respond later.’” The moral of the story? Establish what you expect from each other sooner rather than later. Zuckerman recommends discussing what frequency and means of communication, frequency of visits, and level of exclusivity you expect as soon as possible.
Nip Conflicts in the BudWhen you’re not seeing each other often, it can be easy to let conflicts go undiscussed. You may feel like something’s not worth addressing if you’re not in the same place, or like you want to spend your limited interactions discussing something positive. However, those little things that bother you will build up over time if you don’t talk about them. “If you are upset, maybe feeling disconnected from the daily ongoings of your partner’s life, don’t hold back,” says Zuckerman. “It’s still just as important to communicate your feelings in a long-distance relationship.” One thing Deb recommends for preventing conflict is to learn each other’s communication styles and ask for clarification if you’re unsure what your partner means by something. “This way, you prevent as many ‘I thought you meant this, not that’ type of arguments along the way,” she says.
Find Ways to Be RomanticYou may not be able to go out to candle-lit dinners together (in person, at least), but that doesn’t mean you should forget about any and all romantic gestures. “It’s always a good idea to keep things interesting,” says Caleb, a 24-year-old lawyer in Nigeria who has been in an LDR for four years. “Go on dates together even if it's online. Buying romantic gifts for each other is definitely another way to keep the spark going.”
When you meet up, don’t put pressure on yourselves to have sex right away.A few other ways to create a sense of romance in an LDR are to have Zoom dates like dinner, watching Netflix, or even just doing laundry together, sending your partner flowers or other gifts, or sending surprise notes, letters, or postcards, says Zuckerman.