How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work, According to an Expert

Do long-distance relationships work?
on June 17, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Laura Caruso LMHC

Whether they like it or not, long-distance couples find themselves constantly under the microscope. As they deal with the distance, they are also faced with scrutiny and pressure, with questions like “How do you do long-distance work?” or “Are you worried that the distance will eventually be too much?” 

If you find yourself battling these questions away on a daily and are starting to let the LDR haters get you down — we’re here to help. 

With the advice of relationship expert Laura Caruso, we discover how to make a long-distance relationship work, with tips and advice to help LDR couples go the distance… in spite of the distance. 

Do long-distance relationships last?

Long-distance relationships get a lot of bad press, with many people believing that they are destined for failure from the outset. 

However, while they have their humps and hurdles, many couples have experienced periods of long distance in the name of love. A 2005 study revealed that 10% of couples actually began with a long-distance dynamic, with an additional 14 million couples in the US currently in an LDR relationship. 

No matter what the circumstances are that pull couples apart, it’s the dedication to making a long-distance relationship work that keeps them together. While physical distance certainly contributes to many additional relationship challenges, studies show that long-distance relationships can last, with 60% making it through! 

So, if you’re thinking about signing up for a long-distance relationship, it might be reassuring to keep that positive figure in mind. 

How do you keep a long-distance relationship going?

Now that we know it is in fact possible to make a long-distance relationship last… How do these couples do it? 

While every couple finds a rhythm that works for them, there are a few things that you have to be willing to accept if you’re embarking on a long-distance relationship journey. 

Namely, while we can all accept that long-distance relationships are far from ideal, you have to make peace with the dynamic from the outset. Every LDR couple will have their tough days, but complaining about the distance every day or taking your frustrations out on your partner is a big no. 

Saying ‘I miss you’ might be completely justified, but making it your only topic of conversation is not a positive path for relationship longevity. It’s about making the best of the situation you’re dealing with, and if you’ve signed up for distance, you have to give it your best shot. 

That means committing to coping strategies and communication patterns that suit your new dynamic and being willing to try and try again when it comes to maintaining your emotional connection. 

What are effective communication strategies for couples in long-distance relationships?

While long-distance lovers of the past had to settle for an occasional love letter, modern technology has given us an array of avenues to bridge the communication gap. 

No matter your chosen method, whether it’s video chat or texting, it’s all about making the effort to communicate in a way that suits you. 

“Long-distance relationships thrive on intentional effort,” says Laura Caruso, a licensed mental health counselor, relationship therapist, and psychotherapist.

“Establishing schedules, using different communication tools, and exploring typical relationship activities with creativity all help to sustain a long-distance connection.”

When you’re dealing with distance, it’s easier to omit information or allow yourself to drift apart. If you let this pattern continue, all the things you don’t say to one another start to build those walls between you — which are difficult to break through. 

This is why it’s important to establish a routine that works for you and check in with your partner to ensure that your new primary communication methods are working for you both!

What are some tips for making a long-distance relationship work?

  1. Be intentional with time. To make your long-distance relationship last, you need to make time for one another consistently — even if you’re battling time zones or busy schedules. “Set up specific times for video calls, phone calls, or chats,” says Caruso. “Regularly scheduled interactions help maintain a sense of routine and anticipation.” While virtual dates aren’t the same, spending time together remains important. 

  2. Mix up the methods of communication. “Use video calls for face-to-face interactions, text messages for quick updates, emails for more detailed conversations, and even snail mail for a personal touch,” says Caruso. 

  3. Transparency is crucial. To combat any insecurities around your physical distance, it’s important to remain transparent about your day-to-day activities. Make your partner feel like they’re still your confidante. “Share your feelings, concerns, and daily activities honestly. It helps build trust and understanding,” says Caruso. 

  4. Keep them updated on your daily life. While you can’t foster the same kind of shared experiences, it doesn’t mean your partner should be left in the dark about your life. “Talk about your day-to-day life, no matter how mundane it may seem,” says Caruso.  “Sharing the small details keeps you involved in each other’s lives.” 

  5. Plan visits in advance. While video chat is helpful, they don’t replace the power of an in-person visit. Make the extra effort to always have a date in the diary for your next rendezvous. “Having time IRL to look forward to can give both partners something tangible to hold onto, making the distance feel more bearable,” says Caruso. 

  6. Always have short-term and long-term plans. When you’re in a long-distance relationship, it’s important to have relationship check-ins and ensure you’re working toward longer-term goals as a team. “Make sure you know when the next visit is, your timeline for moving closer together, or personal goals to support each other in achieving to better manage expectations,” says Caruso. 

  7. Surprises. Surprising your significant other will give you both a thrill! Whether it's a care package or an out-of-the-blue phone call, these moments have even more impact when distance is getting you down. “Send surprise gifts, and letters, or plan unexpected visits. Small acts of love and care go a long way in keeping the romance alive,” says Caruso. 

  8. Get creative with long-distance date nights. While Facetime or Skype dates are great, it isn’t going to cut it for every LDR date night! “Stream the same movie, play online games, or cook the same meal to create a sense of togetherness,” says Caruso. 

  9. Use a digital calendar to keep track of each other’s schedules. Instead of keeping tabs on your partner on social media, be transparent about your upcoming plans. “It helps in planning calls and visits and being aware of significant events in each other’s lives,” says Caruso. 

  10. Active listening. When you’re apart, it’s easier to drift from conversations to pay a little less attention, but active listening is essential to preserve your emotional connection. When communicating, listen attentively and respond thoughtfully. Active listening ensures that both partners feel heard and valued,” says Caruso. 

  11. Take the good with the bad. No one said that dating someone long-distance would be easy! Remember that while no romantic relationship is straightforward, long-distance will naturally come with hurdles. “Long-distance relationships come with their own set of challenges,” says Caruso. “Practice patience and empathy, understanding that there will be tough times.”

  12. Focus on individual growth. While working on your romantic relationship is important, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be working on yourself. “Use the time apart to focus on individual growth,” says Caruso. “A stronger, more fulfilled partner contributes positively to the relationship.”

  13. Regularly discuss your future together. Every healthy relationship should have goals, with open communication about the kind of future you want to have together. “Having a clear vision and understanding of where the relationship is heading provides reassurance and motivation,” says Caruso. 

  14. You don’t have to do it alone. While being away from your long-distance partner can feel isolating, it doesn’t mean you have to take it all on alone.Leverage apps and tools designed for long-distance couples, such as shared journaling apps, countdown apps, and even virtual reality experiences,” says Caruso. The Paired app is invaluable for long-distance couples, as it enables you to continue to build your emotional connection despite the miles between you. 

  15. Stay positive. Being away from your loved one will always feel tough, but constantly being down about it won’t help either of you! “Maintain a positive outlook and focus on the positives of the relationship,” says Caruso. “Celebrate the love and connection you share, despite the distance.

When should you end a long-distance relationship?

With all of these expert tips in mind, it’s possible to find a rhythm that works for you to make the miles between you feel somehow insignificant. 

However, while it’s possible to make a long-distance relationship work, it doesn’t mean that it will. According to research, if a long-distance relationship is destined to fail, it will usually only last 4.5 months. This doesn’t mean that if you make it past this milestone you’re out of the woods, but it’s more likely your long-distance routine is working. 

When you’re long-distance, it’s more important than ever to have consistent relationship check-ins, so you can iron out the kinks as you go. 

“Always check in with how a relationship feels,” says Caruso. 

“Overall, your relationship should feel more ‘good’ than ‘bad,’ or more connected than disconnected.” 

If you’re not happy with how things are going, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. It’s perfectly normal and healthy to admit that you’re struggling without your partner by your side! After all, if you didn’t miss them at all… That would be a different issue!

“If you find yourself questioning the longevity of your relationship, talk to your partner and attempt to resolve the issues together,” says Caruso. 

“Commit to a timeline for repair before reconsidering if the relationship is worth ending.” 

Before you throw in the towel, be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling and put realistic goals in place for you both to work toward. If nothing changes, then you can have the conversation about whether the distance is truly too much for you both to tackle. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you show affection in a long-distance relationship?

    While physical touch may be off the table, it doesn’t mean that LDR couples have to be totally deprived of affection. There are so many ways to showcase your love for your partner, even if you’re apart. It could be as simple as a daily good morning text, or a quick check-in before you go to sleep each night. By showing your partner that they’re a priority, they will feel more fulfilled and cherished — even without the cuddles.
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