5 Things You Need To Make a Long Distance Relationship Work
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By Michaela Mitchell, Featured Columnist - September 20, 2015

635541868073210464Fotolia_48501559_XS.jpgAfter my marriage ended, as well as my first rebound relationship, I became a magnet for men in the process of divorce who lived hundreds of miles away. I say “magnet” but I probably sought these men out and viewed them as safe.

They were unlikely to meet my children, and they were unlikely to want a long-term committed relationship. You can't get much safer than that.

But, as with many things in life, the third time is the charm even if it is a long distance relationship.

I met John through an older blog of mine when he commented on something I wrote. I was going through a devastating break-up and wasn't looking for romance. He was in the last months of a miserable (for both of them) marriage.

What began as an innocent friendship between two lonely people soon morphed into something much bigger and more meaningful. We're living proof that long distance relationships can last and become something more. If you find yourself in a long distance relationship, there are a few things you're going to need to make it work.

1. Be willing to use any method of communication.

We texted, emailed, phoned, and chatted online. We even used the comment sections of our own blogs. If there was a way to communicate with one another, we used it. I'm sure if the electricity had gone out, we would have figured out how to use smoke signals.

Our relationship was based on a willingness to talk to each other. When you can't go to the movies or grab a bite to eat together, you're left with words, thoughts, and feelings, lots of them. Our daily routine soon revolved around when and how we would talk. Thankfully, we had plenty of tools at our disposal.

2. Be ready to talk a lot.

Once we realized we were much more than friends, our routine for speaking to one another had already been created. He called me on the way to work each morning – 5am my time. (Since I'm not and never have been a morning person, it must have been love.) We texted and emailed throughout our day and into the evening. He called me on his lunch break – he took a later lunch so it would match with mine. We spoke on the phone on my way home from work and again before bedtime.

If it sounds excessive, then you may never have been in a long distance relationship. There are no random moments to see each other. There's no promise of a conversation the next day. All you have is the time you can carve out in an otherwise busy day – and a lot of talking.

3. Be honest and open.

It sounds silly, but in the beginning some of the questions looked like an elementary school interview for “The Person You Most Admire.” I wanted to know what his favorite color was, what his favorite food was, what his hobbies were. Sometimes, our conversation was simply a game of 20 Questions. And yes, I asked the hard stuff like, “Are you really leaving your wife?”

In long distance relationships, you don't see each other a lot – or as often as you'd like. You don't get to read body language or facial expressions. Neither do they. Trust takes longer to gain and it's only maintained through open and honest communication. You have to be willing to share the good and the bad.

4. Understand visits go both ways.

John made the trip to see me more often than I came to see him. I'm a mom with two children, and last I checked, leaving two kids under the age of 7 alone for a weekend was a no-no. Out of necessity, he came to visit me more often. It helped that he had several weeks of vacation time throughout the year and the flexibility to travel. But I still traveled to see him. One time, I even packed the boys into the car and drove seven hours after a long day of work for a long weekend. Seven hours in a car, two tired kids – there was no doubt it was love.

Everything about long distance relationships is hard, but the finding the time and money to visit is often the most difficult. You're going to need to be willing to sacrifice time and money when and where you can to make this work. Maybe that means you pay for a plane ticket or pick up the meals, especially if you aren't in a position to travel. Just remember, this is something you have to do together in order for it to work.

5. Decide how far you want to take things.

Eventually, John and I realized we didn't want to continue being long distance. It was too hard, and saying good-bye after each visit became more and more painful. The idea of breaking up was never a consideration. For us, it was about who was going to move where, how we were going to do it, and when it would happen. Moving in together required sacrifices for both of us, but in the end it was all worth it.

Maybe long distance works for you. There's nothing wrong with that, but make sure it works for your partner, too. At some point, the conversation will need to happen. Keep the distance or close it. Move in together, move closer, or stay put. Sometimes life doesn't make the choice easy – kids you don't want to leave, a good career, family that needs you. There's no one right answer when you're in a long-distance relationship.

Regardless of whether you close the gap or stay on your side of the country or globe, long distance relationships all require communication, sacrifice, and a willingness to build something together. They may seem like impossible relationships, but for those of us who make it work, it's a chance at finding lasting happiness.

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