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Dating Long Distance

By David Pekema
Quick Tips
  1. Is it serious? – If it's clearly not meant to be, break it off immediately. Both members will be much happier moving on with their lives.
  2. Set some grounds rules – You don't have to set a 9 o'clock phone call every night, but being on the same page about what is and is not "appropriate behavior" during the separation can nip a lot of potential problems in the bud.
  3. Stay in touch – Call, write, email, smoke signals, whatever. Let your partner know you're thinking about him/her.
  4. Make the relationship a priority – It only takes five minutes out of your day to make that call or write that email. Don't blow it off—long-distance relationships usually fizzle out slowly and painfully, so avoid long periods of "radio silence." The mind plays tricks...
  5. Set an end date – Whether it's two months, a year, or four years, as long as there's a realistic end date in sight, the time apart will be much easier to bear.

Relationships are hard work. And they only become that much harder across state lines (or international borders). But this isn't the 19th century, and even thousands of miles of separation can't sever the bonds of true love—you’ll just need to make some adjustments. Long-distance relationships are especially common amongst recent grads as college sweethearts try to make a go of it and many people move to new cities or go abroad. Throw in some new pressures about finding "the One" and "figure your life out," and these once easy and casual love affairs can often become something else entirely. There are no "rules" for a successful LDR, and like any relationship the key is communication and being honest with yourself. However, here are six steps that should save you a lot of headaches (and hopefully some heartache, as well).

Step 1 – Lay Some Ground Rules

There are two types of LDRs: the remain-completely-faithful variety, and the casually-date-other-people-and-see-what-happens type. Both clearly have their drawbacks.

The former is bound to bring levels of loneliness and an absence of intimacy that phone calls and e-mail likely cannot overcome. The latter will breed jealousies and suspicions that are sure to poison even the healthiest relationship. Call me old-fashioned, but if you’re not prepared to be completely faithful to your partner, it’s probably time to go your separate ways.

Step 2 – Keep in Touch (Every Day)

The only way to keep a relationship meaningful is to work at it every day. Maintaining some form of contact doesn’t mean a boring schedule of evening phone calls discussing the minutia of your workdays and the variety of Hungry-Man you ate for dinner. Something as simple as a text message during lunch, a thoughtful e-mail, or a sexy voice mail is proof that you’re thinking about your mate. Web-cam dates (weird as they are), love letters, or a daily blog are other creative ways to bridge the intimacy gap. Here are some simple questions to make an LDR more intimate. If she's abroad, send her favorite magazine. If he's across the country, buy him a subscription to a "quality" website. Needless to say, mixes featuring Sade and LSG are always a good look.

Step 3 – Get Physical

What fun is a relationship if you’re never actually with your partner? I mean, we all have needs.

Getting together for the occasional romantic weekend, and spending a week together during an exotic summer vacation will remind both partners why the time apart is worth it. (We’re talking conjugal visit-esque stuff here, but obviously there will be plenty of time for meaningful conversations in between.)

All this travel can make your wallets long for singledom, so make sure neither person bears the brunt of the expenses. Take turns visiting each other's city, choose neutral sites in between the two, and don’t be afraid to purchase tickets at the last minute if a good deal becomes available. A surprise weekend is that much more enjoyable. Check out our guide to finding online travel deals.

Step 4 – Find the Time and Make It a Priority

More so than with conventional relationships, LDRs will take a conscious effort to keep the juices flowing. A long day at work followed by drinks out with the fellas makes forgetting to phone your sweetiepie easy. All it takes is five minutes out of your day to type an e-mail or make that call. If you start to ignore her, a separation of 500 miles won’t make her any less mad than if she lived five miles away.

An easy way to squeeze in some time together during a busy day is to watch a favorite TV show together. Just set the phones on speaker, and make sarcastic remarks about how annoying those Grey’s Anatomy girls are (seriously though, could they be any more annoying?)

Step 5 – Think About the Future

A LDR may be fine for the short term, but it obviously can’t work forever. There has to be an end date in sight, with one of the partners making an effort to move to the other’s chosen city. The graduation of a younger beau is often the holdup (and a very clear end date), but if two successful jobs are the cause of the separation, difficult decisions will need to be made. Just remember, jobs are easier to replace than soul mates.

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