Communication problems are inevitable road bumps for every relationship and long-distance ones are no exception. But when you throw in the time differences, wifi interruptions, and going what feels like ages without seeing each other, well – love is a battlefield on a completely different level.
Luckily, there are easy, everyday fixes you can start practicing to streamline your connection (personal, not wifi). Here are 8 exercises to boost communication in your long-distance relationship:
1. Regularly schedule your time "together"
Timing tends to be one of the biggest struggles with long distance relationships. Sadly, there’s no magic, easy solution. We’re all busy and have our own lives – and that’s true of everyone, whether their partner lives a block away or across the country.
Stick to a set, agreed-upon schedule
The key to resolving timing conflicts is to set aside a designated time period every day (or every other day, or whenever you both can manage), and stick to that same time period consistently until it’s routine. It may even become a habit!
Treat it like brushing your teeth, or taking a shower (but, you know, fun!), and make sure you’re both each other’s #1 priority during that scheduled time.
Can't make it to your together-time? Send a video instead!
If something comes up (and it will – that's life!) and you’re not able to make it for your video or phone session, send a pre-recorded note instead. It can be a detailed recap of your day, an audio recording of you singing in the car, or anything else that you’d normally share with your partner IRL. This sends the message, “I didn’t forget about you and I didn’t want to miss our time together!”
2. Send physical gifts and care packages
There's obvious joy in online communication – memes, gifs, and silly selfies are a real treat. But one of the biggest challenges with long-distance relationships is a lack of physical connection. And while there’s no substitute for being together in-person, the next best thing may be thoughtful care packages.
While the contents of your care package are up to your discretion, some starter ideas include:
- A book that you can read at the same time (bonus points if you include an inscription!)
- Everyday items that will remind them of you – could be as simple as a to-go mug, or as thoughtful as a hand-knit scarf that you’ve spritzed with your perfume/cologne
- Your favorite tea or packaged cookies – get some for yourself, too, so you can enjoy them at the same time!
The long-distance relationship gifts you send your partner will remind them of you every day, and give them a small feeling of your physical presence.
3. Assign each other cute, personalized pet names
“Pet names are so much fun!” says Melissa Kester, a couples therapist in Manhattan. “Our lovers are special – and, as long as they are okay with it, pet names highlight our intimacy and unique relationship.”
After all, finding creative ways to build intimacy is the name of the game for long-distance. Assigning each other special nicknames – and keeping those as their contact info in your phone – in your phone keeps the relationship adoring, fun, and sentimental.
4. Get creative with communication
In addition to your scheduled video calls, try incorporating fun, unique ways to communicate. There are a bunch of apps specifically for long-distance couples to boost their relationships.
Give these apps a tap:
- Couple: Creates a private social network for you and your partner for life updates, photos, videos, and other sharing. A guaranteed “like” every time!
- LokLok: Lets you send doodles to each others’ screens (only available for Android users).
- Rabbit: Watch Netflix and movies together from anywhere in the world, thanks to this app that helps you stream shows at the same time.
5. Do things together!
Sure, you might be miles apart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together! Depending on how drastic your time zone difference may be, take a walk in a park in your respective neighborhoods at the same time to share your surroundings with each other through a video call.
As long as you’re sharing an experience with each other, you’re able to simulate going on dates and doing fun, couple-y activities together.
6. Prioritize voice and video calls over text messages
Sure, texting is quick and convenient – but it leaves the door open for dangerous miscommunication and confusion. (“Why did she use a period? Is she mad at me?”) Even with so many emojis and Bitmojis to pick from, using your voice and facial expressions are the golden standard of communication.
When it comes to long distance relationships, there’s no substitute for video calls, phone conversations, and just generally hearing each other’s voices.
7. Practice active listening with each other
Kester recommends practicing active listening regularly. “Try not to move focus back to you immediately,” she advises. “Acknowledge what your love is saying to let them feel heard and loved.”
Whether your partner is talking about their classes, their workday, or general family drama, make sure they feel valued and heard. Try restating what your partner tells you, offering validating responses, and encouraging them to tell you more.
8. Plan occasions to see each other – and share the planning equally
For most couples, what makes a long-distance relationship possible is knowing that you’ll see each other again at some point in the near future.
Everyone’s schedule, availability, and finances vary, but try to plan weekend or holiday visits whenever you’re able. Whether your partner or partners are a two-hour drive or an international plane ride away, be sure to share planning responsibilities (an app like TripIt can help streamline the process) for any potential vacation getaways.
Long-distance relationships may not be easy, but if you’re with the right person, they can be worth it. With effort, clearly articulated expectations on both ends, and honest, fun, and frequent communication, you can build intimacy and a sustainable and lasting love with your partner – no matter how far they may be.
And if you find that you’re really struggling being apart from your loved one, know that it’s understandable. Speaking with a professional about your feelings is a great way to process through what’s going on in your head and figure out some next steps in making long distance feel a bit less, well, long. Using Zencare’s therapist directory, filter by Specialities to find a list of high-quality therapists that might be just right for you.