Welcome to the next installment of the "What Do I Do When..." series. This time we are going to take a look at the issues that arise from having a long distance relationship - and the five things that you can focus on to make sure that your relationship has the best chance of success.
Dear Tucumcari Tarot,
Hi there Angie! Thanks for submitting your question, it is a really good one. Over the last year as nearly every part of the globe has been dealing with the pandemic dating has taken on a whole new look. Online dating has soared in popularity and long distance relationships have become far more common. However there are some serious considerations when we are talking about distance between a couple.
Having a relationship with someone hundreds or even thousands of miles away from you is starting the relationship with the deck stacked against you unfortunately. Only about 58% of LDRs (long distance relationships) will be a success. The relationship starts out well, but once you hit that four month mark often problems start to set in, and before you know it you are stressing about what he is doing and who he is doing it with.
The concern that I hear the most from clients is that they are worried about their partner cheating. And this is probably the most common factor in the break up of the relationship. 1000 couples were questioned about their LDR, and what their biggest concerns were - 66% of them struggled with the lack of physical intimacy. This includes hugging, holding hands, and yes - sex. Since many couples go months or even a year between seeing each other this lack of an intimate connection can be devestating, and trust issues are really common.
Communication is another important peice of the puzzle - talking to someone via text and email makes it hard to access those non-verbal cues that help you to foster that connection with your partner. You can't hear their tone (to know if they are joking or sarcastic), see their facial expressions or even their body language. It is really easy for something said to be taken the wrong way - misunderstandings are frequent, and can lead to big fights.
Another complaint that I hear frequently is about the response time of their partner - "I messaged him this morning and he hasn't answered me yet - why isn't he talking to me?" There are a number of people who feel that when they reach out to their partner that they need to respond right away, or there is something wrong with the relationship. This is an unrealistic pressure that can cause the relationship to fall apart. It comes across as clingy, and is one of the fastest ways to kill a relationship (this goes for all relationships - not just LDRs!)
So how do you give your relationship the best chance of success? Here are 5 tips to get you on the right path:
1. Know each other's schedules
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people overlook this. When you have a partner who lives so far away it is important to keep in mind where they are. If they are in the same country as you perhaps they are in a different time zone. If they are in a whole other country they might even be a day ahead or behind you. Knowing that information as well as work schedules can help minimize fights about response time to a message. As a general rule it is not worth getting concerned about if someone takes 24 hours before they are able to respond.
2. Set ground rules early on
Everyone is different, and therefore they have different expectations for a partner or a relationship. Setting the ground rules early on is important. I once had a client who said "Well he should just KNOW what I want" - but people are not mind readers or crystal balls... you don't know what you don't know. If you want something then you need to get comfortable with being open about it. Set your ground rules about how often you will communicate, what makes you happy, and what things are deal breakers for you. Otherwise you are setting each other up for failure.
Another important ground rule to establish early on - will this be an exclusive relationship or an open one? I can already hear you saying "well of course I want it to be exclusive" but there are people that cannot deal with a lack of intimacy (and not just sex) Having an open relationship doesn't have to mean that you are out there sleeping with someone - but set the boundaries so there is no confusion.
3. Make communication a priority
The average successful LDR couple spends 8 hours a week commincating with each other. This can be text, email, facetime.... If you are not talking regularly you are never going to be able to move forward. Mix it up and use different methods to keep it fresh - I even have clients who decided that in between the texts and phone calls that they would sit down and write an actual letter to their partner! It's not as important HOW you do it, but that you do it often. Talk about your day, your dreams for the future, even a TV show that you both love. The key component is in making it a habit.
Another component of communication is how you handle arguments. No relationship is going to be sunshine and roses all the time, and you WILL fight about something at some point. Learn how to fight fair, and also be willing to compromise.
This is an important one - so perk up those ears and pay attention. You HAVE to spend actually physical time together to have an authentic relationship. When you are not together it becomes really easy to idealize the relationship - you develop unrealistic views of the other person because you are putting on the best face in the limited time that you talk.
You should ideally never spend more then THREE months between visits. There are even some relationship gurus out there who will say you shouldn't go more then a month - but to be honest, depending on the distance this can be unrealistic. Your schedule will depend on what your needs are. Alternate visiting each other or agree to meet somewhere in the middle so that no one person is bearing all the expenses.
5. Create a timeline
If you take nothing else away from this blog post take this. You NEED to create a timeline for your relationship. You cannot realistically live the rest of your lives in different places - it isn't realistic. Creating a timeline helps you to stay on track, but more importantly it keeps you from getting stuck in a relationship that is going nowhere. Think about what you want from the relationship, and where you see it headed. Same for your partner.
In this plan there needs to be a moving plan. What I mean by this is that after a certain amount of time there should be a plan for one of you to move to where the other is, or for both of you to move to a location together. Say you both decide that in three years someone is moving - having that goal to look forward to not only helps guide the relationship but also allows you to break that into smaller timeline events like when you need to have money saved by, when to start looking for a new job, etc... There is nothing worse then getting into a relationship thinking that someone is in it for the long haul, and three years later you are still no closer to being together. That is time that you can't ever get back.
So Angie - it sounds like the issues that you are having with your relationship are pretty common ones, and it is fairly normal to have concerns when there is that much distance between you. Sit down and have a chat with William about your fears, and make sure that the two of you are on the same page. It is also important that you trust that when your partner tells you something that you believe them - if you continue to push it you are telling him that you think he is a liar and that is relationship kryptonite.
Here are some more tips and tricks for making the most of a long distance relationship:
I am also working on a mini-class on strengthening your long distance relationship. Comment below if that is something that you would like to see!
24 years of tarot experience, 20 years experience as a mom, and a lifetime of knowledge is just rattling around in here!