The Elusive LDR

Long Distance Relationships (LDRs for short) are an interesting beast.  These romantic relationships are ones where the couple has decided that even though distance separates, the commitment will continue.  They are not impossible, but LDRs present their own set of difficulties.  Recently, I had the chance to interview a college senior who has been in a successful 3 year LDR.  I used the opportunity to pick her brain about what she believes are some practical tips for maintaining a healthy relationship over the miles.   While she stressed that normal relationship qualities are important like commitment, fidelity and love, she also had some great specific advice for LDRs.

Facetime/Skype/Google + Hangout – Seeing the person’s facial reactions and being able to read social cues are much better than when you are reading or listening.  Technology has made this even easier as newer smartphones can stream video chats with a Wi-Fi connection.  She said that Facetime has better video quality and the calls aren’t dropped as often as Skype.  She also told me that even though she may have an iPad or a computer, she prefers using her iPhone 4s because it is so portable.  We aren’t in full hologram mode, but the race is on between Google and Apple to see who gets there first I’m sure.

Leading a Normal Life – She stressed that leading a normal life outside of the relationship is essential.  Being active in school and with her social life help keep her from missing her relationship as much and help her establish a good balance.  She acknowledges that at times she has had to accept being the 3rd wheel with a good spirit.  I thought this was pretty refreshing because she admits that there are tradeoffs to the LDR.  Not everyone likes 3rd wheel status, but if hanging out with your friends is the priority, then you have to suck some things up!

LDRs won’t work without seeing one another – It is important to keep up regular intervals where you see one another.  Ultimately, the relationship needs physical contact and shared experience.  Not breaking these commitments is important and she stressed that it “has to be kept even.”  If she went to visit him this time, then he is coming the next time.  That way they don’t worry about if someone is more committed than the other.  This advice seems simple, but I think it taps into a big fear that couples have going into and even in the midst of an LDR.  Negotiating how long between visits and keeping it even can go a long way to introduce more stability into an unstable equation.

Taking Advantage of Longer Stretches – When visiting, it is rare that actual face time is more than two days.  Her insight was that anyone could put on a good face for 2 days, and that doubt can creep in.  “Do you really know the person?”  Her advice was to take advantage of breaks when you are able to spend more time together so that you can get to know each other outside of these short stints.

Worlds Colliding – Making sure that visiting weekends are not only date nights has worked for this relationship.  This student said she usually spends one night with her boyfriend and one night with her boyfriend and his friends.  This is the same when he visits.  That way they are able to integrate and get support from their friends when there is distance.  I felt like this was the best piece of advice that she gave.  When she told me this, she was clear that this process was purposeful, and it makes sense.  It can be really easy to get wrapped up for the short period of time that you have together and not acknowledge the life that one another leads when you are gone.  I feel that this can also be helpful in combating the inevitable creep of jealousy that happens in LDRs.  If you hung out last weekend with all the people who tag your significant other in Facebook photos, it is a lot easier to talk yourself down off the jealousy cliff.

What I really liked about the combination of these pieces of advice was that it really showed a nice balance between connecting with your partner and accepting the role that distance plays in the relationship.  Like all LDRs, she hopes to break up with Distance one day soon and be monogamous with her boyfriend.

-Logan Williamson, LPC


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