6 Ways to Maintain Long Distance Relationships

Thanks to Corona Virus, 2020 is the year of long distance relationships. Not necessarily just for lovers, but because of quarantine and self-isolation, we’re all expected to keep our distance from friends and family. Anyone who is not in a shared living space is on the “no visit” list for the time being. How much does this suck?

It’s making me think a lot about being so far away from my family and friends in Canada. Living overseas means that I don’t get to see them IRL for two years, pandemic or not. Really, it’s small consolation. It doesn’t make me feel better that other people can’t see the people they care about either, or that the people who were meant to come and visit me probaly won’t be able to. But it’s inspired me to provide people with some tips and tricks on how to maintain long-distance relationships, during quarantine or for those living far away from those they love in the long-term.

I’ve experienced many different relationships that were distance based, romantic and platonic. Regardless of who you are missing, there are way to maintain and build your relationships so that when you do see each other again, it feels like you pick up right where you left off.

Make dedicated time to talk

Talking on the phone or video chat will never be replaced by texting – it’s just not the same. While it’s great to text often, set aside some preplanned time to sit down and have a convo on the phone. Conversations flow in a much more organic way, and it can feel so special to hear the voice of the person you miss. If you plan ahead a time to call each other, treat it like you’ve made plans together to go get coffee and catch up – don’t push it off or bail last minute. It can be easy to do that, but it’s important to show the person you’ve made plans with that your time together matters, even if you’re not together.

Find things to do together

Thanks to the Internet, it’s not too hard to find ways to spend time doing things together. Video games are a perfect example of this, and allow you to play and chat together in real time. There are so many options for multi-player games that if classic shoot-em-up style games aren’t really your thing, it’s hard not to find something to play together: Portal 2 is good for puzzles and problem solving together, Stardew Valley for a mellow “something to do while we chat” kind of vibe, or Tabletop Simulator if you want to play boardgames together. I also really like watching movies with people, just by finding something on a streaming service, counting down “3-2-1-go” and chatting through the movie together. If you’re not a big movie-talker, this probably isn’t an ideal suggestion, but a chatty movie watch is one of my favourite things to do with my best friend! The important thing is to find things to do that are shared experiences, so you’re not only telling each other about what you’ve been up to; rather, you can be up to things together.

Send pictures

smartphone camera displaying plant

Because of how easy it is to take and send pictures (thanks again, Internet!), it’s super easy to share little bits about your day with people. I like Snapchat for quickly sharing small moments and short chats with my friends. Being able to visualize what the people you love are up to sounds like a small thing, but can make a big difference in feeling connected to them. Sending photos is one of my favourite things that I do to stay in touch with my mum, like pictures of flowers blooming this spring, since spring hits England earlier than Canada. It brightened her day to see flowers blooming while Ottawa was still under a layer of snow and slush. That’s what I mean about sharing small moments; it’s so easy now to share things in your day that can make someone else happy, and visualize how your day is going. Plus, selfies are always nice to see the face of someone you haven’t seen in weeks (or longer!).

Send them something

white paper and brown envelope

I’m a big fan of letter-writing. I think it makes you feel so special to get a letter in the mail that someone took the time to write. I also really like writing letters. I think it offers an opportunity for introspection and openness that I don’t always achieve in texts or phonecalls. I’ll always be an advocate for writing letters, but there are so many other things that you can do to send something special to someone special. You can mail a package (or drop one off at their door during quarantine) of something you know they’ll like, or something you’ve made for them. You could also order them food delivery, or something from their Amazon wishlist to be delivered to their house.

Give them (and yourself) some space

This is especially important for a romantically-based long-distance relationship. While it’s important to connect with the person you miss, it’s important that you don’t overwhelm each other with constant texting. It’s easy to fall into a sort of reliance on the other person, getting caught up in the “I miss you” feeling of it, and it’s not great for your mental health. Don’t confuse passively missing someone with actively doing it. What I mean by that is that while it’s okay to notice and lament someone’s absence, don’t let it consume your behaviour (constantly texting, sitting around waiting for them to get in touch, etc). If you feel like the other person is feeling that kind of way towards you, talk to them about it. It’s important to take care of your mental health.

Don’t be afraid to reach out

person holding black smartphone

If you miss someone, let them know! Until I moved, I’ve been afraid of reaching out to people, feeling like they won’t want to talk to me or get to know me better. But a lot of my friends are introverts, and they don’t always make the first step in getting in touch with me, and it’s always worth it when I make the effort to reach out. If you feel like you’re not connecting enough with the person you miss, let them know! It’s so important to openly communicate in general, but with the element of long-distance to navigate as well, it’s extra important. If you miss someone and feel like you aren’t connecting, let them know!

I think what puts a lot of long-distance relationships into context for me is my mum. She studied in New Zealand when the only way to stay in touch with her family and friends in Canada was a letter that had to travel 14,412 km to reach her hometown, or an expensive phone call. Before I left Canada, I showed my mum how to use WhatsApp. She is so excited by how easy it is to see my face, hear my voice, and stay in touch in real time with someone who lives an entire ocean away. And when you look at it with that perspective, it really is. It’s easier than ever to share your life with someone far away, and there are so many tools available thanks to the Internet that make it easy to stay in touch that maybe we take for granted.

I hope some of these tips will prove helpful for you. Did I miss anything? If you’ve been in an LDR, what are some more tips that you could offer? Let me know!