Relationships are tricky things. Having to maintain the balance of togetherness and intimacy with each partner’s need for space and independence, negotiating the turbulent waters of monogamy vs. open relationships, dealing with jealousy, possessiveness… it’s no real surprise that 50% of relationships end in break-ups1.
Now imagine trying to manage a relationship over a distance of 80 miles. Or 400. Or 4000.
In an ideal world, couples would find happiness and success together and live happily ever after. Unfortunately real world factors, including work, education or even health can lead to couples having to spend time apart… sometimes for years.
Can a couple manage to weather the storms of a long distance relationship and come through whole? Is it possible to maintain true love even over the great divide?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The first rule of every relationship is communication, and this goes doubly so for long distance relationships. When physical intimacy is no longer a part of the relationship, you are going to have to work twice as hard to maintain your emotional connection.
On a strictly technical level, it’s easier now than ever to stay in contact, even internationally. Where once lovers were restricted to physical mail and sporadic – and expensive – telephone calls, we now have a panoply of options. Email, texting, instant messaging, VoIP calling and video conferencing… these are necessary tools in the arsenal of every long-distance relationship. And you will need to use all of them.
As I have said before, humans rely on physical, non-verbal communication as much as we do our voices. Things as minor as eye-contact or stroking one’s hair or a hand on the small of the back can completely change the tone of an interaction between two people. Removing these from the equation means that you will be missing incredibly subtle nuances of communication; even a video chat is a poor substitute for sitting on the couch, holding hands. That absence means that you will have to be absolutely clear with one another, because you’ll have no other way of conveying meaning.
Establish a schedule of contact and stick to it. Whether it’s three times a week or twice per day, the more regularly you can expect to hear from one another, the better you will feel. If for whatever reason you know in advance that you’re going to miss a scheduled phone call or Skype session, let your parter know in advance and make arrangements to make up for it later.
You will have miscommunications. You’ll both misunderstand what the other means and you’ll argue about the endless possible interpretations of a tone of voice or a particular choice of phrase. As frustrating as it can be, your words are all you have and you’ll have to make the most of it.
(Phone) Sex On The Regular.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of talking dirty, then you’d better learn to get over it, fast.
Sex is an important part of maintaining a pair-bonded relationship. The physical act releases oxytocin and vasopressin in the brain, the hormones that stimulate and promote intimate social bonds between individuals. Sex is an emotional release, and a method of sharing intimacy and passion. If you haven’t made arrangements for a more… relaxed… view on monogamy during your time apart, you’re going to be finding yourselves missing that physical connection more than anything else.
So what do you do when you’re in a long-distance relationship?
You use the tools2 you have at hand to keep the bond going as best you can. And that, my friends means phone sex, cam shows via VoIP, sexting, hot e-mails, cybersex, teledildonics… any little method your dirty minds can come up with for the two of you to get off together, remotely. The Internet is for (homemade) porn and that’s going to be part what keeps you sticking together3.
It’s utterly vital that you schedule these sessions, rather than trying to start when the mood strikes; not only is regularly scheduled sex better for a relationship than spontaneity, but trying to juggle two schedules (and libidos) remotely is a recipe for disaster.
If you don’t have an exhibitionist streak, you will feel a little awkward and more than a little silly. Work your way through that and soon you’ll come to realize just how hot it can be.