When people think of long distance relationships, the images first conjured up are usually those of romantic partners living far apart from each other. However, long distance relationships can take many forms.
Because I have not lived in my hometown for any length of time since I was seventeen years old, and now that my adult son lives hundreds of miles away, I have spent most of my life involved in long distance relationships. I know what it’s like to be separated from people I care about, all of us living our busy lives.
But it’s still certainly possible to have happy, warm, loving relationships with people you don’t see as often as you’d like. There are skills you can adopt to help keep those relationships thriving, despite time and distance intervening.
1. Let the time you have together be whatever it shapes up to be.
Avoid the impulse to think, “We’ve got to have the perfect weekend because it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other!” Or the infamous, “I have to cook all his favorite things.” (Admittedly, this may be the hardest for me…).
Don’t try to force things too much. Prioritize what’s most important but be flexible about the rest. Just enjoy being together while you have the chance.
2. Celebrations can happen any day!
I hear about incredible Cirque du Soleil-like twists and turns that family members do to try to accommodate making an event. When it’s something that happens only once, like becoming an Eagle Scout, graduating from college, or playing a violin solo in the orchestra, it makes sense to do all you can to be there.
However, when there are hundreds of miles between you, it is much easier when you adjust your expectations and realize that holidays, birthdays, and special days can be celebrated on whatever day that you can be together. It’s the togetherness that matters, not the calendar date.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Maybe your best friend has her daughter and grandchildren living a couple of blocks away, but yours is on the other side of the country expecting her first child…and you fear you can’t even get there!
Or perhaps your neighbor has all of his siblings and their children over every Friday for a huge family gathering, while your siblings are scattered around the world and you haven’t all been together in over a decade.
It’s difficult to not compare our situation to others, to mourn what we don’t have in the face of others having it. Social media can make this even harder to ignore. But the best thing to do is avoid the bitterness that comparison brings, and to simply make the best of what we have. Focus on what the good in your relationship. You never know who is looking at your situation and wishing their life looked more like yours.
4. Make sure you don’t let too much time go by without some form of contact.
The marvelous thing about all of the technology available today is the incredible variety of communication you can have with someone. From a text or Snapchat, to a letter (remember letters?) or a Candygram, it all says that you are thinking of that person. That the distance means nothing and the relationship is still meaningful.
Every relationship requires a loving touch from time to time. Sometimes those long distance ones require a bit more effort and adaptability, but they are no less meaningful or loving.
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