The most rapidly increasing relationship challenge in our modern world is distance. More and more couples are coming to us trying to make their relationship work from across the country and sometimes even across the globe.
As many of you know, Fatima and I were in a long-distance relationship (about 1200 miles apart) for 3 years. While it came with its challenges and wasn't always easy, looking back, it was a huge gift and we're both immensely grateful for it.
There were many times that we didn't know if we were going to make it, but overcoming each of these challenges and consistently demonstrating our commitment to each other built a powerful foundation for our relationship. In some ways, the trust that we created through the process brought us closer together than if we had lived on the same block. What began as a challenge ultimately became a huge gift.
Anyone who has successfully had a long-distance relationship, or even attempted to be in one, will tell you it's not easy. And as couples continue to work at preventing the physical distance between them from becoming a barrier, we thought we would share some guidelines that we know first-hand will keep you together, even when you're far apart.
#1: Understand that you will each have a life of which the other person is mostly not a part. That's why you have to intentionally create a life of which they are a part.
Day in and day out, you are not a part of each other's life. You go through your daily routines and interactions and little to none of that has to do with your partner.
This tends to create the feeling that you are not even in a relationship or that somehow your relationship is not "real". This is when your mind begins to say to you: "Who are you kidding? How could this ever work?" You start to feel like you should just cut your losses before you get more attached. It feels hopeless.
In the beginning, when it's new and exciting, it's usually pretty easy to stay connected. Over time, what begins to happen is that the life that is occurring right in front of you starts to become most important and the relationship moves to the background. When you feel disconnected from each other, that's when you want to give up.
Connection is key to any relationship. When there is physical distance between you, you may have to get creative about how you connect or be willing to be silly sometimes and do some things you wouldn't normally do to keep the connection between you alive.
You have to make the relationship a priority. Just like you would if you lived in the same city, you must take time every day to create connection.
Be creative in the ways that you spend time together. Talk on the phone or video chat every day. Make time for this--don't let other things become more important. If you allow the fact that they aren't there in person to prevent you from spending time with them, it's the equivalent of going out with other people every day, while they stay home by themselves. How could you ever expect a relationship to work like that?
In three years, there were only maybe two days that Fatima and I didn't talk on the phone. We would cook and eat together over FaceTime. We would sync movies to the same timing and watch them together over the phone. We each took time out of our busy lives each day to be with each other just as we would if we were local.
#2: Create the promise of a future together. You have to know that the distance isn't forever.
If there is no end in sight, it will become exhausting and you'll eventually give up. Even if the end is years down the road, the sense that you're working towards something together, that this distance will not last forever, is especially important to the relationship succeeding.
Someone, or both of you, will eventually have to move. Decide who that will be and start to create a plan. Even if you're only 6 months in, it's OK to start to say that if it works out, one of you will make the move. Start talking about how you're going to handle that, what is your plan, and so on.
What are the things that both of you need to do to be ready for this to happen? Allow bridging the distance to be something that you're both invested in, and working on it becomes a team effort. In this way, the distance will bring you closer together.
Don't just leave it to chance. Create milestones and work together to achieve them. Consistently prove to each other that you're doing what needs to be done to have your life together work.
Every time that we each took a step along the path that we had worked out together, it created more faith in the relationship. It helped us to believe in "us". It didn't always go as planned and we certainly had setbacks along the way, but the faith and the trust that we created going through the process together got us through the challenging times.
#3: See each other often.
Long-distance is not an excuse to never be together physically.
No matter what it takes, find ways to see each other as often as you can. For many of the couples who have come to us in long-distance situations, the biggest problem they're having is that they never see each other. They go sometimes months without ever being together in person. If that's the case for you, it will be next to impossible to feel as though you are even in a relationship. Feeling like you are sharing your life with someone is critical to the success of any relationship.
If the relationship means that much to you, you'll find a way. If you don't want to hear that, it's because the relationship isn't important enough to you.
If that's so, that's OK. You may simply have other things in your life that are more important, but you can't expect your relationship to thrive without investing some serious effort into it.
Having our long-distance relationship succeed meant making huge changes in our careers. We both had to find situations where we could work remotely and be out of town for weeks at a time. There were financial challenges involved, as we spent a lot of time and money on travel, at times working less. We simply made the relationship more important than all of that.
By the end, we rarely spent more than a week apart and the majority of our time was spent together. As a result of the changes we made, we both started making more money and experiencing more freedom in our lives overall. In that way the relationship was a huge support to our personal lives, but that only happened because we were committed to the success of the relationship first.
We didn't know it would happen that way and there was a lot of risk involved. We did it one plane ticket at a time. If we had made our need for security more important than our relationship, we would not be together now. End of story.
If you're committed to having your relationship work, you'll find a way to spend time together.
Which leads right into our last point:
#4: Always have the next trip planned.
Perhaps the most common struggle we see in long-distance couples is that they often don't even know when they're going to see each other again. They have nothing to look forward to in the relationship and this makes it feel incredibly bleak.
There wasn't a single day in the 3 years that we were long-distance that we didn't know when would be the next time we would see each other.
We recognized early on that if we didn't make solid plans backed by money paid for plane tickets, a week could go by and then a month, and before we knew it, it would be a long time since we had seen each other.
When you get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of your lives, the relationship will start to feel like too much work. The longer your time apart, the more disconnected you'll be from your life together, and the more your life circumstances will start to look more important than the relationship. But when the next trip is planned and booked, that makes it very simple--you just get on the plane (or train, or car) and go.
We made a promise that we would always have the next trip scheduled and booked before the current one ended, and that is a promise we kept without fail. There were times when we were both stressed out, disconnected from each other and our life together, and the only thing that kept us going was the promise that one of us would be getting on a plane and we would soon be together to reconnect.
Once we did, it all seemed possible again. We would remember what we have together and would reaffirm our commitment to having it work. If we hadn't had those trips planned, it would have been really easy to give up on the relationship altogether.
Each of these 4 ideas was essential to the success of our relationship and will most likely make or break any long-distance relationship. If the person is that important in your life, you'll do whatever you have to for it to work.
It certainly wasn't easy for us--it isn't easy for anyone--but it was exceptionally rewarding and we are both tremendously grateful for all that we learned and how the travel supported our relationship growing and thriving.
If the person is worth it, then the effort is as well. If you're feeling discouraged in a long-distance relationship, know that there is hope. Just by following a few simple guidelines, the whole relationship could turn around.
Love is worth having. So if you don't have it, why not?
We are not gurus. We have nothing that everyone else doesn't have and no secret tricks that will magically solve your love life. All we've done is learn to navigate the wild waters of relationships in a way that led us to find and create the love we've always wanted.
And we're still working on it Every. Single. Day.
The way that we, as a culture, have learned to do relationships is not the way to find True Love. Most of us have a lot of relationship-bad-habits and it's time to unlearn them. When you do, you'll find that the love you are looking for is well within your reach.
We've found a new kind of relationship, a departure from the modern dating drama and toxicity that so many people have come to accept as normal. And our methods have helped hundreds of individuals and couples navigate these challenging waters themselves to find the love they're looking for.
To find out how you can work with us and create the relationship that most people only ever dream about, click here. And if you found this post helpful, please share it with someone that you know can benefit from it!