(ARA) – You finally met the person of your dreams. There’s just one small problem — you live hundreds of miles apart and neither of you is able or willing to move. You face the challenge of the “long distance relationship” — a lifestyle choice for about 25 million people around the world.
Long distance relationships (LDRs) are on the rise and a diverse range of people are involved. About 15 million people in the United States consider themselves to be in some form of LDR, according to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships. Of those, 3.6 million are married people who live apart for reasons other than marital discord, and about 4 million are college students in some form of premarital LDR, studies show.
“Greater economic migration, online dating, the need to travel for work and increased military deployment have all contributed to the increase in the number of LDRs in our culture,” says Dr. Michelle Callahan, celebrity relationship expert, developmental psychologist and co-host of the hit reality-show competition “Queen Bees” on The N. “Commuter marriages and the concept of ‘living apart, together’ are gaining social acceptance. Society has accepted long distance relationships as viable options.”
Contrary to what was once popular belief, studies have shown that long distance relationships can, and often do, succeed — at least as well as relationships in which the couples live together or live close to each other. Nor are couples in LDRs any more likely to cheat on each other than are “proximal” couples, although the LDR mates do tend to worry more about the risk of an affair, studies show.
So how do you make your long distance relationship work? Dr. Michelle offers 10 simple tips to manage long distance relationships:
1. Understand your relationship. Don’t make assumptions about the exclusivity of your relationship. Get to know each other well and when the time is right, discuss where things are going. Try to be understanding of your partner’s needs and whether a long distance relationship is going to work for each of you.
2. Communicate regularly, whether by phone, e-mail, webcam, etc. Share the mundane and routine as well as the special and significant.
3. Use technology. Video chat programs such as ooVoo have become best friends to those in LDRs since you can connect to anyone in the world for free. Connecting face-to-face is significantly more intimate than having a phone conversation. You can see your loved one, read his or her body language and pick up on subtle messages that can be lost over the phone or misinterpreted completely via e-mail or instant messaging. In addition to enabling you to chat live with your sweetheart over the Internet, ooVoo also allows you to record one-minute video messages to send to your loved one. Visit www.ooVoo.com to learn more.
4. Do things together despite the distance. Watch a TV show or movie simultaneously and video chat about it after or during. Read a book at the same time. Exchange recipes and prepare meals at the same time while on the phone or on ooVoo. Parents can use video chat to read to their children.
5. Send care packages every once in awhile. Pack it with unexpected surprises that remind them of you, like books, music, puzzles, candies, flowers, gift cards, a movie ticket or a personalized poem. The more personalized you make the gifts, the more impact they will have.
6. Remind yourself of the advantages of being apart, including more time with friends and family, no arguments over bathroom time or conflicting habits, the ability to maintain your individuality, possible financial benefits and the pleasure of seeing your loved one again after a long absence.
7. Don’t be afraid to disagree. Conflict is a normal part of any relationship and can be healthy if managed properly. When it’s time to confront your partner, do so over video chat rather than by phone or e-mail. Written communication can be misconstrued and never taken back, and verbal conversations alone lack the visual cues needed in emotional situations.
8. Visit as often as budgets and schedules allow, but avoid placing too much pressure on physical meetings. If a visit does not go well, it doesn’t mean the end of the relationship. Even close proximity relationships go through peaks and valleys.
9. Jealousy, over-control and drama are poison to a relationship. Be realistic — just because you can’t be together all the time doesn’t mean either of you should live in social isolation. Accept that your partner needs an active social life, just as you do.
10. Know when to call it a day. We’ve all stayed in relationships after they have ceased to be healthy, and LDRs are especially susceptible to the problem since warning signs can be missed or confrontation avoided.
“Like traditional, close-proximity relationships, long distance relationships require hard work and communication,” Dr. Michelle says. “But with modern technology making it easier than ever to stay in touch with loved ones, there’s no reason why you and your significant other can’t enjoy a very happy life together . . . apart.”