Man to Man Episode #2: How to Keep a Long Distance Relationship Alive [VIDEO]

by Brett on October 10, 2010 · 41 comments

in Man to Man

Welcome back to another episode of Man to Man. Before we get to this week’s question, I want to thank all of you who took the time to offer your input on last week’s question. The AoM community gave a ton of thoughtful and helpful advice to our man Seth. Thanks for rallying around this guy and helping him out.

Now to this week’s question. It’s from a young man named Aaron. He writes:

My name is Aaron and I’m 22, and I have recently stepped up and gone away to a 4 year for college, which I have something like 3 to 3 1/2 years left at. But with wonderful timing I met one of the most amazing woman I have ever met before I left for school. We’ve been going to the same church, we are both strong in our faith, and have decided to give the long distance thing a try. But there is a surprising lack of advice/books/etc on how to grow our relationship without ‘traditional dating’. Now I know that our relationship can only go so far without close proximity, but do you have any advice on growing in our relationship while being far away from each other? Thank you for taking the time to read this!

My Response

My wife and I actually experienced a long distance relationship. We dated my first year of college, but after that first year I took some time off from school to live in Mexico. Kate and I kept in touch with letter writing for two years. I’m talking old-fashioned, pen to paper, letter writing. I really think communicating through that medium helped strengthen our relationship while we were away from each other. There’s something about letter writing that just lets me open up more than when I’m on the phone or using email. It worked for us and it might work for you. Give it a try! Check out some of the resources we have on the site about mastering the art of letter writing and writing the perfect love letter.

What Do You Think?

Alright, its your turn. Long distance relationships are something many of you have had to deal with. What advice do you have for Aaron? What did you do to keep your relationship strong and intact while away from your love?

Please keep your comments uplifting and edifying. I want Man to Man to be an edifying forum where men can feel safe asking and answering these questions.

If you have a question you’d like answered on Man to Man, just shoot me an email via this contact form. Remember, it can be about anything!

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Adventure-Some Matthew October 10, 2010 at 9:37 pm

My long-distance experience came while I was away at boot-camp. My fiance I and made it through the months while I was away with letters and the weekly 5-minute phone call.

After basic, I was shipped off to another base for my job training. This situation allowed me more access to a phone, so I spent far more time calling home, every day. I think that this constant focus on communication made the separation harder than it needed to be.

My advice, focus on spending quality time together (whether it be phone calls, skype calls, written letters, or visits) but don’t let them get in the way of the life you’re living now. You can set aside a specific portion of each day to communicate, but don’t make her the center of your world.

I second the idea of letter writing. I, too, find it easier to express myself via the written word rather than the spoken. Even now, after two years of marriage, I often find myself writing letters to my wife, telling her some of the thoughts I’ve been having. So those habits built over the years continue to come in handy. :D

2 James October 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Being in the military, I have seen many long distance relationships, among my coworkers and have had some myself.

Hand written letter are great. They are always very personal, and they do get deeper than any of the other forms of communication.

Skype can be a life saver. I use it for instant messages most of the time. It keeps things casual, and you aren’t glued to your computer. Every time I walk by I send a message or two. Once in a while I add a voice or video call, but these are the exception. I have seen too many guys stuck on the phone having the same what did you do conversation fro two hours every day. I knew that would never work for me.

Another thing I like is taking a gift from her, in my case a teddy bear, and taking pictures with it or of it in the places I go. I then post them tagged as her. This way I feel that she is with me, and she can be a part of all my adventures even if she can’t be there in person. This also lets her know she is on your mind, while also getting you out to live your life.

Long distance movie dates. I have not done this, but many of my friends have with success, You agree on a movie and both start it at the same time, while on the phone with each other.

3 John October 10, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Hand written letters are the best. My wife and I met when we were living close to each other, while I was on a temporary work assignment and knew I would be relocating soon. We decided that first weekend to stick it out anyway. Even though we talked on the phone, chatted online, emailed, and even did the thing where we would go online and play Scrabble or Holdem Poker against each other while on the phone simultaneously, we still did the hand written letters. Hammering out an email is easy to do in a hurry. Writing by hand forces you to think slowly and make sure you are complete, because there won’t be 15 back and forth replies in the first hour after you “send”.

Also, not sure how “far” your long-distance is. If possible to meet halfway, or alternate going to see each other, keep that special. Don’t overdo it. We actually were only about 4 hours drive apart, and could have seen each other every weekend. We had good jobs and both could have afforded the gas, etc. But we decided only to see each other twice a month. I’d go to her one week, then we’d not see each other the next weekend, then she’d come see me, then skip a week. The benefit is that you don’t wear yourselves out running and traveling all the time, and actually grow the relationship because you are SO MUCH looking forward to seeing the other person. The time between visits is proportional to your distance apart and also to how much you can afford to travel, but the key is to NOT see each other just because you can….. because you’ll really be better off if you have anticipation for seeing each other on a schedule and let the “absence make the heart grow fonder”

Good luck with your lady !

4 Ron October 10, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I agree, there is nothing like a hand-written letter. I know from experience that I’m my truest, deepest self when I put words on paper. Of course, what may work for me or someone else may not work for Aaron or others. Experiment: try letters, emails, texting, phone calls, webcams, whatever, then go with what works for YOU. The important thing is that you work at it. Good luck, Aaron.

5 Strada October 10, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Skype is great. The real trick is to not make “skype dates” if you can avoid it — it always feels like a rush to catch up. Send letters, send emails often, so you don’t need to play catch up. Set up your relationship so every time either of you is on the computer, have skype running. In this way, you will run into each other often, but without an appointment it doesn’t feel like you have to get out all your emotions at once. I’ve done this for relationships and several friendships. When you randomly run into each other on skype regularly, it simply feels like you’re “hanging out,” just without the possibility for physical touching.

Also, if YOU are the one who left the area, try to have the big skype conversations at the end of the day. If you always have to say, “sorry honey, I’ve got to go do something” she will feel unappreciated. If she is the one always needing to log off, then it’s not so bad.

6 Nate October 10, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Aaron,

Congrats on finding a girl! Stay strong in your faith! I’ve been in a similar situation this past year. My girl lives over three hours away and we don’t have a chance to see each other very often. When we first started out, we chatted online every day and talked on the phone several times for hours each week. Right now, she’s away for five months, so we’ve barely been able to talk. It’s tough, but it’s not hopeless.

Here’s my advice: Talk with the girl as much as possible. Skype, Facebook, email, text, phone calls, letters- whatever works. Talk not only about the little things, but also about the deep things. Brett’s wise when he says talk about your life aspirations. Don’t shy away from deep ideas and topics. It’s important to find out early if you agree on important values. Also, talk about your church’s sermon’s on Sunday afternoons. You’ll learn a lot about each other and where you stand in your faith.

The biggest thing I learned this past year is to pray. Prayer is the best thing you can do. Pray that you’ll become a better man and that she’ll become a better woman. Ask God where you can grow as a person and in your faith. You’ll learn more about God, yourself, and your girl than you could ever imagine. Praying will help you do the right thing and not rush the relationship. Hope all goes well for you and God Bless!

7 Jeremy October 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

I am in the middle of a long-distance relationship right now, and making use of texting, emails, visits, and occasional phone calls. our relationship started while i was in my final year of college last year, and we already live in two different states to begin with. My girlfriend was fabulous, sending me cards and encouragements throughout that last school year. i myself hate talking on the phone for any reason, but i’m learning to get over that. we both are on very limited incomes, and my main vehicle is down for repairs, so my girlfriend has been making visits as she can. i’m planning on very soon, and we email daily. i try to remember to text her at random times, to let her know i am thinking of her, and to add that much more communication between us. i’ve found that we do find ourselves looking forward to seeing each other more for the time apart. i’m learning a lot about myself in the relationship and her, and while i wish we could be closer, in a way i appreciate how things are. my mistakes seem easier to deal with this way. we’re lucky today to have so many ways of communicating, the trick is finding the way that works best for you and your girlfriend. i would agree with the hand written letter method myself, though i personally have fallen short there. do try that, i plan to. the big thing i have found is that you have to be totally real with your girlfriend, totally truthful, and communicate as fully as possible. you have to have the trust for it to work, and you have to be open with her completely, and her with you. (in my opinion) be patient with each other. you are going to have rough spots and make mistakes as you learn how to communicate in this new way. i make them daily, and have to apologize and ask for forgiveness daily. so don’t get discouraged by saying the wrong thing or putting your foot in your mouth. it’s going to happen anyway. i prefer communicating through writing or email myself because i get to say what i want to say without interruption, and so does she. we both get to share with each other what is going on in our lives, without our daily lives being in any way hindered. this will test your relationship, but it can also be the most rewarding and bonding part of the relationship. good luck, and hang in there!

8 Skyler K October 11, 2010 at 3:09 am

I find myself a year and three months into a long distance relationship. At the same time my girlfriend (currently of 3.75 years) got accepted into a law school, I had to move 6.5 hours away for work.

Skype is a godsend.

I don’t know what we would do without it. We use Skype to make video calls to each other almost daily. Sometimes there isn’t much to talk about other than the (sometimes boring) events of the day. Most of the time though, it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about it’s just nice to see the other person.

In addition to daily Skype conversations I’ve made it a point to drive down to see her every three weeks or so (even if my car is regretting it). The important thing for these visits that we’ve learned is to plan a few meaningful experiences but not necessarily in a very strict schedule. Have a few back-up things to do as well, things you both enjoy doing together. This way you can spend meaningful time together without feeling stressed out or that you have to cram so much into a long weekend. Occasionally she makes the drive out to my place, in which case I pay for her gas. I do this for two reasons, I’m the one that had to move and I feel it’s my responsibility to make it as easy as possible for her to cope with the distance; also, she is currently the one on a limited income, still being the student. Even this took some convincing initially since she _hates_ it when I spend too much on her.

I hope my situation can give you some insight into handling your own relationship.
-Skyler

9 JB October 11, 2010 at 4:02 am

Me & my girlfriend held together a long distance relationship (I had to move to a different country for work) for 2 years. Skype, text messages, phone calls, we used everything.

I also used a local florist to send flowers not too often to become normal and lose the surprise.

I was lucky, I made enough money to fly back regularly and see her (provided I booked in advance). I also had an emergency budget that covered last minute air fare. This really helped, since my girlfriend had a personal tragedy while I was abroad, and it enabled me to fly back at a moment’s notice.

Although this may not be possible for everyone (it’s hard to leave at a short notice when you’re serving in the armed forces), it really helped. And knowing that I had budgeted for this removed any stress.

I hope this helps, good luck!

JB

10 Hopkins October 11, 2010 at 5:12 am

I, too, have lived in a long distance relationship for about four years. My best advice is to keep yourselves involved in eachothers lives. Tell her what you’re up to, where your interests lie right now and how everyday life is going. Ask her about these things too and show some honest interest, or else you might find out that you both are growing into different directions. Also, using media like “Skype” for telephone and webcam conversations helps a lot. If she doesn’t have any webcam or so just buy her one. That shows some proof of your commitment and helps strengthen the whole relationship.

11 Jason October 11, 2010 at 7:02 am

My long distance dating experience occurred before the explosion of social media, video chatting and hand held units like we have today. Basically, I had a laptop and a cell phone with a green screen in my arsenal in addition to the classic forms of communication. Anyway, my number one suggestion is to make phone dates consistently. You don’t want to always have to call or worry about the next call. Schedule it before you hop off of every phone (or video) date. Let text, email and other low commitment contact fill the gaps. Remember that you both still have lives to live where you are.

You must send her gifts at irregular intervals. These gifts can almost be anything. Make sure, whether you are buying or making her something, be sure that you hand package it. She’ll love it and treasure these gifts more than any other gifts if, Lord willing, you two end up going the distance. Best of luck friend.

12 Jace October 11, 2010 at 7:55 am

Actually…I think the methods aren’t important. If both of you are serious, and want to have a future together…what’s going to stop you with technology at your fingertips. If you’re really interested in her, distance isn’t going to stop you.

13 Daniel October 11, 2010 at 8:47 am

Aaron, consider long-distance a hidden blessing. Many relationships rely too heavily on physical contact (cuddling, squeezing, sexing it up) or special outings in order to encourage romantic feelings. Being miles apart will motivate you to cement your romance on something deeper than special dates & kissing. Use your time away to discover the pros & cons of living the “lonely life” – this will give you a better idea of the benefits & challenges of being a couple later on.

Tell her about your week. Tell her about the direction your life is taking, as well as the “unknowns” of your future. If you call her, end the call with a word of prayer together. It’s great!

And..be wary of the cheap imitations of “amazing women” that populate the college lifestyle. Good luck.

14 TR October 11, 2010 at 9:15 am

I had a long distance relationship for two years when my girlfriend went off to college and I was stingy enough to stay at a local community college (same degree, lower price, why not?). It has since ended, partly because of the long distance and partly not. I did learn a lot about long distance friendship and romance, though. For one, as many have stated already, Skype is a great free tool for keeping in touch. There’s something about not only being able to talk with someone, but being able to see them and hear their voice. However, what I noticed is that in this form of communication, if utilized too frequently, you can actually set yourself up for heartache. From my own experience, the more frequently you converse and the more chemistry that develops, the tighter your bond grows. This also means that the level of emotional intimacy grows. Months ago, you may have been content with talking once a week, but now you want more than that. Given enough time, you’re feeling a bit crazy if you don’t get to chat for hours every day. It’s a normal progression with intimacy, but when you’re still years away from being able to pursue marriage (that is, pursue marriage in the typical “out of college and have jobs and money in the bank” sort of way that many people think is best), it’s dangerous. My relationship partly dissolved because we simply reached a point where our primary focus was beginning to shift from what we had to accomplish in our own lives to each other. We were to the point where considering early marriage was necessary (though we had taken time to think things through and ensure that she would still finish her degree), and even though her parents had even propitiated the idea back when we started dating, they decided last minute that they didn’t like it. She felt obligated (through some threatening on their part) to follow their opinions (that’s another thing to consider! How controlling are her parents in determining the actions of her own life, and is she able to stand by her own decisions without being strong-armed into what the parents want?). That’s not the only reason (I think there should be more than one reason for a break up, unless it’s a pretty darn heavy reason), but it definitely played a part.

I encourage you, Aaron, to find a way to keep in touch that removes the temptation of going overboard. Brett’s suggestion of hand-written letters is fantastic, and I’ve often thought that I would implement this if I find myself in another long distance relationship. Not only will it allow you to focus on thoughts that are deep (as Brett stated), but it puts a healthy amount of time lapse in between each communication. With e-mail, it almost seems impolite if you let a letter sit unreplied in your inbox for a week, regardless of whether you have the time. With snail-mail, there are so many contributing factors to the speed of delivery that it forces both to develop patience. You’ll still grow together (God willing), but the pace will be slower and more healthy given the years ahead of you. If you find that you can limit yourselves in the internet department with Skype, I’d suggest doing some activities instead of simply talking the whole time. Since you’re both active in your church, try doing a weekly study. It opens up the door for discussions on your faith that may not arise on their own, and those are definitely important thoughts and opinions to hear from each other. Be honest with each other – simple thoughts, fears, mumblings from parents – and never hesitate to share what’s on your heart. A simple choice to not speak when you should can create loads of trouble down the line.

Good luck! Don’t go too fast, and make sure to keep communication open in one way or another.

15 Nick October 11, 2010 at 10:35 am

I’m also currently involved in a long-distance relationship, and both of us think it’s working as well as it possibly could. If I were to pick one thing that has helped the most, it’s been video chatting. Texts, letters, even phone calls really can’t compare to seeing her face and talking one-on-one.

Since we’ve been apart we’ve actually (and strangely) grown a lot closer, and have decided to get married. So trust me, distance can definitely work!

16 TWY October 11, 2010 at 11:53 am

I am into year 4 of a long distance relationship. There are two things that I think are key for it to work. Communication and trust.

Communication:
As other readers have suggested, you have many forms of communication available to you. I don’t think the manner of communication is as important as maintaining a dialogue. I agree with Daniel in that you get to know each other as people without the pressure/distraction of physical intimacy. One of the things that helped us get to know each other better is a game we played by e-mail. One person would ask the other 5 questions. Upon receiving the answers, the person who asked the questions would send their answers. Playing “the game” really allowed us to get to know each other on a deeper level. Another thing we do is iChat “dates” at least 2-3 times a month. We both pick a date and time that works for us and we cook ourselves a nice but simple meal. We get dressed up just like we would be meeting in person and then have dinner together.

When my love first moved 500 miles away, I worried about her being a single woman alone in a strange city. I struggled with the conflict between wanting to know she was OK and at the same time respecting her personal time. I didn’t want to be someone who called every 15 minutes because of my worry issue. I worried that if something really did happen to her, it might be days before I found out. She worried about me too, but not as much as I did. We resolve this by sharing phone numbers of people we were close to that would be able to check up on us and make sure we were OK. Sharing the numbers really helped us deal with the issue and we have never had to use the numbers in the 4 years we have been dating!

Trust:
For obvious reasons( or maybe not), a long distance relationship cannot work if jealously and insecurity are involved. They way I see you either trust the other person or you don’t. You can’t waffle over it. The way we dealt with trust is right at the beginning we agreed to be completely honest with each other. (Which involved…guess what?) Since we were both in grad school, we both acknowledged that we would be around other people that we might be attracted to and agreed that we would respect each other enough to be honest about our feelings. (communication again!) Recognizing the potential problems of an LDR rather than pretending they don’t exist and talking to each other about them helped us build trust and communication.

17 Emily October 11, 2010 at 2:19 pm

In case you’re interested in a female perspective (surely, you have all realized by now that there are some women out there who read this blog too…), a few thoughts from my own experience with long distance dating:

Staying in touch is (obviously) key. The method you use to keep in touch is really immaterial — use whatever works best for you and your sweetheart. Every method will have advantages and disadvantages. In my experience, I liked letters and e-mails the best because they were more open and didn’t have to be so strictly scheduled, but phone calls and video chats were also nice when there was time. Try a few methods out and see which one(s) give you and your sweetheart the most satisfaction. What’s really important is that you find something you can do consistently that you’re both comfortable with.

More than that, I found that what we were talking about was more important than how we were talking about it. I personally think that sharing the “mundane” things is as big a part of developing the relationship as sharing life goals and big picture things. When things would happen that I was really excited about, it was hard to feel like my boyfriend couldn’t really appreciate what I was talking about because he didn’t know the people/places/events I was referring to and vice versa. By making a point of sharing with each other about the people we were interacting with and the places we most especially enjoyed, etc., I felt like the distance wasn’t quite so great. Obviously, no one has the time or energy to catalog every person they meet or place they go, so we just stuck with the main cast of characters in our lives, but that was really enough. When I could refer to a friend (that my boyfriend had never met) by name in a conversation and he knew who I was talking about, I felt like my boyfriend was really listening, and like he really cared about what was going on in my life. (Gold star for him!)

Big picture topics are important too — what are your goals, what are your concerns, how do you feel about what’s going on with school/work/the relationship/whatever. Discussing feelings isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it is important. Personally, I have found that both I and my boyfriend were more comfortable sharing the “mundane” things over the phone and the big picture things in e-mails or letters. Although, often the big picture conversations were brought about by the “mundane” conversations. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my feelings are typically about things that are happening to me in the here and now.

As for keeping things fun and fresh, I always liked random surprises in the mail. Once I got roses while I was overseas. All that trouble just to send me some flowers? Totally worth it. I also once got an envelope in the mail that just had one bag of herbal tea in it. It was a much smaller gesture, but it earned just as many points. Bottom line: it’s fun to find something in your mailbox that isn’t junk or a bill.

Coordinating your schedules every now and then so that you can be doing something “together” can be fun. It probably works better if you can be on the phone while doing that activity, but you don’t necessarily have to be. Grocery shopping, movies, star gazing… Obviously they’re more fun when you’re really together, but sometimes it’s as close to a shared experience as you can come. Take what you can get.

And the comment from James about taking pictures of something she has given you at different places you go is SUCH a cute idea! If my boyfriend had done that when we were still dating long distance, I would have melted.

For whatever they’re worth, those are my thoughts. Congratulations on your upcoming schooling and best of luck with your relationship and future endeavors!

18 Camila October 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm

I have been in a long distance relationship for 15 months. I live in Chile and my boyfriend in Wisconsin, so we are 5000 miles apart. I am 21 and he is 22, we both are in college, and I feel we are still very young and have a lot to learn.

I love it how my boyfriend makes me part of his everyday life. When he forwards e-mails to me or posts links on my facebook wall, I get very happy because I know that he is thinking of me during the day and not only when we speak. Let her know you’re thinking of her. I also like it that he is online a lot because, even if we’re not speaking, I know he’s there and I can get in touch with him whenever I want to. He loves music and has given me a good amount of songs that I listen to on my way to school. That’s a good way of remember the good times spent with him, it puts a smile on my face and it gives me energy to start my day.

Since we live in different hemispheres, we never live in the same season. That’s why I loved it so much when it was winter here and he showed me how the sun was shining outside his apartment.

I also try to be part of his life as much as possible: when I was on summer vacation and he was living winter in Wisconsin, I sent him postcards of the places I visited so he could experience my travels, too. Lately, I’ve been making him recordings for him to listen in his car when he drives alone. It’s the best I can do to keep him company since I can’t be in the driver’s seat.

I think that for girls, it is also important to have a boyfriend who is a good listener because most of us like to talk a lot. As in long distance relationships you spend hours and hours talking, I deeply value the fact that my boyfriend listens to me – whether if it’s something important or just the mundane problems I have.

I appreciate that he has made me part of her life and told his friends and family about me. When I visited him, all his friends knew about me and I felt like there were no unpleasant surprises because, as he had been telling me about his life, I could perfectly imagine what things were going to be like when I visited him.

Another good quality to have is patience because I think that long distance relationships advance at a lower pace. I am not very patient so that’s been an important lesson for me. Also, I think humor helps a lot.

Try to find things to do together, like cooking dinner or going to bed at the same time.

A long distance relation may seem something tragic. But I consider it to be a blessing and I am deeply thankful for having found such a wonderful man. Even though I know physical interaction is very important, the fact that I can spend hours with him just talking is always a good sign. You know that if you’re able to just talk to a person without been able to touch him, then your relation has a solid foundation. You are not only lovers but you also are best friends.

And, the only thing that’s left is to wait for the next encounter…

19 Benjamin Eddy October 11, 2010 at 8:20 pm

First and foremost, I want to say that it has been inspirational reading this article and each of the responses posted! I have been in a long distance relationship for the past few months and can say without doubt that it has been the best experience I’ve had.

She and I speak every day via text, phone calls, Skype, Facebook, emails, etc. Something special we do is to write each other in a nice leather-bound journal. I agree with the former comments regarding letter writing, but thought that perhaps having a nice journal would make it easier in the future for us to go back and read what we wrote each other in succession and to see how the discussions progressed.

20 Ted October 11, 2010 at 8:23 pm

My wife and I met while I was in the military, she was visiting her brother for the summer. We had less than six weeks together, then more than a year with just letter writing and very occasional phone calls. We’ve now been married for 28 years.

Exchanging long letters over time really allows you to get to know each other in a deeper sense, but at the same time, you don’t pick up all the little day-to-day mannerisms and habits everyone has. For us, even though we knew each other very well, when we finally met again we experienced those, and it was like getting to know each other all over again.

Oh, and don’t stop writing her. An occasional love letter arriving by mail is a powerful reminder of how you started out and why you love each other.

21 ARP October 11, 2010 at 8:35 pm

All good advice on keeping the long distance relationship going. But also remember that you must be honest with yourself and your women. If it’s not working out, you need to have the courage to end it before things get worse, you become resentful, there is temptation to cheat (physical or otherwise), etc. Sometimes, there’s the desire to maintain the relationship since the thought is that its the distance that’s creating the problem and that once you’re back together 1, 2, 4 years later, all will be fine. That very well may be the case (and we all hope it is), but it may also be a sign that it’s not meant to be, and you need to know your head and your heart well enough to determine that.

A good friend tried a long distance relationship for a little over a year, but they seemed to grow apart and split up. A few years later, they met again randomly, fell madly in love all over again and now are happily married.

22 Bryon Perona Jr October 11, 2010 at 9:23 pm

My finacée and I spent almost our entire dating relationship in separate countries, save a combined total of about a month’s time – once when I visited the UK and again when she visited the States. We had an advantage in that we had been friends before our relationship started, spending 9 months together on a discipleship program through our related churches. But our dating relationship never started until we were in separate countries years later.

While a long distance relationship can be difficult at times, I’d never trade it for the world! The benefits far outweigh the negatives – and this coming from someone to whom physical touch means a great deal.

The biggest benefit we saw in our relationship was it strengthened our ability to communicate with one another, which will be huge for married life. We were able to talk about important life topics, dreams, goals, etc, that further confirmed that we were in fact heading down the same path and had the same vision for life.

Things I would recommend to keep the relationship alive include finding lists of “getting to know you” questions and running them by one another. Find out as much about each other as you can – childhood, family life growing up, life goals, your faith and specifics about what you believe. During the beginnings of our relationship asking questions and responding at length via email was a regular staple.

Also my fiancée and I would find YouTube videos or online comics to send back and forth which was fun to do. Or find an online game you both enjoy and can play against one another.

One thing that meant a lot to my fiancée was keeping a Skype video chat going, even if we weren’t focusing on each other. Just “having me there” meant a lot to her, even if she was doing dishes or I was busy working.

Send photos or gifts in the mail. Or one tip from something I did was, since my fiancée lived in the UK, I’d go to the Amazon.co.uk website to buy a gift and have it shipped to her, or order flowers using a local (to her) florist.

We’d send text messages back and forth cheaply through Skype as one way of letting each other know we were thinking about the other during the day.

Some words of advice: don’t be afraid to open up and get personal. And always, always, always be completely and totally honest, even when it hurts. The biggest blessing I’ve had from my relationship with my finacée is her acceptance of me, failures, fears, and all – and my total acceptance of her. That unconditional love is beyond value. If that other person can’t accept you for who you are, warts and all, it’s better to find out now than later.

Good luck to you both!

23 kowalski October 11, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I have been in a long distance relationship for the past six years. My girlfriend and I started dating when I was 17 years old. We actually met in Mexico; both of our parents are from the same hometown in the Altos region of Jalisco. The first couple of years were tough, we both live in Cal, but she lives in the bay area, and I am (was) located on the central coast. After some years I was able to transfer to a university near to her house. I cherish those short two years. Earlier this year I graduated and began grad school in my hometown. My girlfriend has at least another year of undergraduate studies.

I truly believe that in order for a long distance relationship to work, you both have to put in work. Sure, during the first couple of years I spent more money driving up to see her every couple of weekends, but now she has the motivation to come visit me. I am hoping that we can marry in a couple of years, but not until we both find higher paying jobs.

If you do go through with it be prepared to spend many late night hours on the phone. Like Brett stated, handwritten letters are a very nice touch. I still have all of the letters my girlfriend has sent me.

Just curious, but Brett, why did you go to Mexico? Family? Which area did you visit?

24 Kevin October 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I like these video logs, keep it up! great site, I’ve been following you for a while now, one of my favorite things that shows up in my google reader!

25 Alexander October 12, 2010 at 12:11 am

I am 23 living in Maryland and in a similar situation as you. My girlfriend is in California and still in school for another year. Both of us are artists so we try and employ that whenever we send one another things. The two best things that we have found and really look forward to are postcards and this kind of sketchbook. The postcards we try and get from where ever we can find them. The stranger the better. If they are old timey and wonderful, just write a quick thought that you are having down on it and throw that in the mail. Its something random and fun that takes very little effort. To make it more special though, we have been drawing and painting on the fronts of the cards. Think kind of like postsecret but usually better artwork and a lot less depressing messages. Again easy and fun, plus putting in the extra effort to art it up a little bit might be nice. Kind of like the cat & scratch and sniff stickers mentioned earlier. The sketchbook we have is great. Take it with you and write some things down, draw pictures in it if you can or even if you can’t, your gf will most likely love it anyway, paste in things you see or even take a photo of wherever you are, print it out and put it in there. This way you have something that both of you are living and interacting with even though you are apart and have many things in your lives which are separate. Best of luck, it is worth it.

26 David C. October 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

I love these videos. What a great new feature on the site!

I know there are women who follow the blog, but I would hope they’d understand a feature like “Man to Man” is about well, men giving advice to men. Unfortunately, modern women never respect the idea of something being just for men and always try to join in and put in their two cents.

27 Daniel October 12, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I appreciate Emily and Camila’s insight in the discussion, sharing a feminine point of view. Heck – knowing how to listen to the ladies is part of the art of manliness, too.

28 Xian October 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Some great responses here. I’ve been in a LDR for 10 months, with a reignited old flame. We’re both in our 40s, with kids, so it’s going to be long distance (2000 k) for a while yet. We’ve settled into visits every two months, and as much communication as we can manage between times.

We do skype, email, text message, and telephone. Hand written letters, ‘though fewer, are great for the deep thought messages (or the randy thought; hand-written personal erotica is amazingly… erotic. But keep those until a visit is shortly upcoming, or the frustration level becomes almost unbearable). Quirky cards are a great pick-me-up. We favour Hoops and Yoyo audio cards at the moment, as they are wonderfully silly.

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned much here works very well for us – photography. We are both photographers, so we naturally gravitated there. This takes a few forms: Daily first-thing-in-the-morning shots – a sort of good morning from one lonely bed to another (helps if you have a laptop with a camera); ‘what I saw today’ photo essays – just a few pics from your travels of the day (obviously, some days are more interesting than others, and we don’t do this on a daily basis); and self-portraits, ranging from formal to slightly naughty, from snapshots to considered art.

However, the most important thing is the communication and honesty, as everyone is saying. I’m finding we’re both trying harder than in any of our previous relationships (including our one 20 years ago) to be as true to ourselves as possible, and keep communication open. We don’t let annoyances fester, but are also faster in complimenting and appreciating the other.

I think the long distance, while difficult, and a lot of work, is making our relationship stronger and more honest than any we’ve experienced before.

Good luck, and happy loving!

29 Beowulf87 October 13, 2010 at 2:02 am

Joshua Harris! That’s the perfect recommendation for this young gentleman, IMO

30 Kendal October 13, 2010 at 11:25 am

Video Dates
I am three years into a long distance(2000+ miles) phase of a relationship and watching the same movie or TV show (Hulu, Netflix, etc…)while talking together and eating the same thing closes the distance.

31 msshiouu October 15, 2010 at 3:55 am

I think that long distance relationships are perfect for being able to “live your life” and “find yourself” in college while still being with someone you love. However, you both have to want the same thing…emotional support, not physical support (not just sex…holding hands, kissing, sleeping together). College relationships move so quickly…I mean people get dogs and move in with e/o within a couple of months. There’s going to be a point where your relationship won’t grow anymore because yall can’t be physically there for each other….but then hopefully by then you will be together again! Take this opportunity to be independent and just because you don’t talk every night doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. I made a point to keep busy so that I wouldn’t be sitting around thinking about what my significant other was doing. I made it through college…good luck! …flew home every 1.5 months…

32 Phoenix Men's Counseling October 15, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Keeping a long-distance relationship alive is difficult, but not impossible. Although it’s helpful to choose your method of communication and create a schedule to talk, I think the most important thing to remember is to communicate about expectations, boundaries, and fears together. I think it’s important to communicate about difficult topics that come up, including the potential for meeting other people, unexpected situations and feelings that come up. How can you deal with loneliness and longing for each other in a healthy way, and not indulge in behaviors that might compromise your relationship, such as avoiding or withdrawing from difficult topics or ending a difficult phone conversation because it’s too hard to talk about it? If you and your partner can successfully navigate the unknown together, through topics like these.you’ll have a stronger partnership in the end.

33 Vince October 19, 2010 at 12:22 am

Long distance relationships are challenging, especially for men, because you feel that all you can do is sheer chat with each other. A real relationship is a mix of goofing around, talking about the details of your day, sharing mutually enjoyed activities, talking about the deep things on your heart or even SHARING COMFORTABLE SILENCES, among other things. You have to talk with your woman frankly about the problems ahead. Watching movies or doing activities over the phone, such as a game, are a nice way to mix things up. Head sets are a great idea. You can cook dinner while you chat or do something else. Your phone relationship should be closer to the dynamic that a regular relationship would have because incessant social pressure sets the bar too high and will cause you to drift apart.

34 Vince October 19, 2010 at 12:28 am

Another idea. Have some prepackaged, open-ended conversation starters for the phone (she doesn’t have to know about them), not as a script, but to be brought up if you hit a lull, and one initial conversation starter to get the overall phone chat started. Plus, maybe come up with a set ritual for days when you don’t have a million things to say.

35 Aaron October 19, 2010 at 2:16 am

I just wanted to say thank you so much to Brett, and everyone who contributed on here. This has been such an amazing encouragement to me, and I am beginning to see this as the blessing it is to our relationship. I have the web cam and writing utensils all set up and in full swing as well! I will surely be able to check back on this page regularly to either be encouraged or to find new advice. I know thus far the relationship has been progressing wonderfully. Many thanks to everyone, and again thank you Brett for providing a fourm for this to take place in.

-Aaron

36 Eric Granata October 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

That’s great to hear, Aaron! My wife and I dated for about three years before getting married and we only lived in the same town for about a month while dating. Fortunately there was only 200 miles between us so I visited most weekends and holidays.

I can only echo what has already been said. Letters, email, phone, etc. Brett’s remarks about sticking to the big picture stuff is interesting. We did the same thing. I think the reason that works is because it really aids in the discovery of each others’ values, personalities, etc.

37 Aishah Zakariah January 14, 2013 at 1:16 am

Hi there,
I wish to share with you my situation. I met Pete in Sydney(he’s scottish, working in sydney) and we hit it off well. I ended up spending my last few days with him and his friend. We kept in touch after via email and phonecalls. Then I went to visit him again in Sydney after a month. We then decided that this is what we both wanted. To be together. We hit it off well with each other’s friends. And we mentioned each other to our family and friends. 3 months later, he is coming to see me (next month). I am excited and very pleased. However, I saw his messages with an ex-lover, a girl he met during his holiday. (before he met me) Honestly, I am not comfortable that he ended the relationship with her using distance as an excuse. (he met her in Thailand) I also noticed the words he used on me was the same ones he used on that girl. (“amazing”, “told my mom about you”, “beautiful person”, “caring”) Although I think he genuinely likes me, I also think he falls in love too easily. I also think it was his fault to lead the girl on, making her think they might work out. Then ending the rship because he met me. I cannot understand his character. and it’s making me all nervous and scared to try to work us out.
Please advise.

38 Steve February 7, 2013 at 11:53 pm

In fact, modern philosophers and serious poets and writers still go pen-to-paper to this day, based on the fact that it connects with your imagination and emotions more so than keyboard typing. I like the letter writing thing a lot actually, cool idea.

39 John Christie May 31, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I recently struck up a relationship with girl I met in the cadets over here in England. Unfortunately she lives in Northern Ireland and I live 350 miles away in the south of England. We didn’t get much of a chance to get to know one another when we first met, with us both having to go our separate ways only 3 days after really hitting it off. Being a young (we’re both actually still at school) couple we’ve made full use of the technology available to us- we text each other constantly so we can know what’s going on in our lives and share what we’re thinking, and then we also skype each other fairly regularly (we have dedicated “skype dates” on Saturday nights), we also use emails and facebook to share things off the internet that we like, and by doing these things our relationship has grown and developed, as we’ve realised that we have a lot in common with one another.

However we also realise the need to actually see one another, so I flew up to Belfast to see her and meet her family for a couple of days, and we’re making plans for her to come to England to do the same in a few weeks, and we both agree that having a date set to look forward to can really help us when we’re apart, as the worst feeling possible is not knowing how long it’d be before we see each other.

I hope this has been of some help to anyone in a similar situation to myself.

40 Zach August 16, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I figured I’d share my story since everyone else seems to be in a similar situation.

I my girlfriend when we were in high school. We were sort of on and off for a long time and never actually dated but there was always a mutual attraction. At the end of my senior year, her junior year we got serious… for about a week; I was leaving for Army basic training the next day. It sucked but we spent that last week together and it was perfect. We kept in touch through letters throughout training but it wasn’t quite the same when I returned. I was still in Army mode and she was finishing high school. I went off to college and we lost touch for about a year. Last December Ann made a visit to my college town to attend my unit’s family day with me. We spent the weekend together and had an amazing time. I was ready to start a relationship but she was not. I spent the rest of the semester chasing her. Finally, after a lot of heart ache and many lots of hours on the phone we decided to start dating over the summer. It was great at first because I saw her often and we got to spend a few weeks together in our home town before school started back up. We both agree that things are perfect when we are together. Now, we are back up at school and it is extremely difficult. We are in two totally different places. I am about to go to police academy and she is a sophomore in a sorority. It is much more difficult for her to make time for me than it is visa-versa. We both love each other a lot and know that we want to be together in the future. However, she still has just under three years left in college. Maybe I just think way to much about things and need to be happy where I am but it is tough when all I want to do is be with her. We talk every day but between facetime, phone calls, and texting it just never seems to fill that empty hole that only physical contact with her can satiate.

So that is my story. If anyone has any advice or has ever been in a similar situation I would really appreciate the help and advice.

41 Heather October 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

I found this site while doing some research on how to create a successful blog. I spotted this article because I’m currently in a (wonderful) long distance relationship. My boyfriend and I met at a weekend-long ministry conference, so we have never gotten to live in the same place or see each other’s live day to day. We Skype daily and text and email throughout the day. (In fact, he just sent me a “Good afternoon, Beautiful!” text.) We live on opposite ends of the country, and he only has a small regional airport nearby, so travel is expensive and time consuming. We still see each other about every three weeks.

There are a lot of things he’s done to create a strong relationship with me, but if I had to pick just one, it’s that he has been thoroughly honest. It’s normal that people are on their best behavior early in the relationship, but long distance means that it can take even longer to get to know a person’s faults. Andrew has made a point to let me see those. So in our Skype conversations every evening, if he got frustrated with a co-worker that day, he’s honest about the frustration and how he responded. He doesn’t try to hide it as if he’s someone who never gets mad.

About a month into our relationship, we both had an “ah ha” moment where we realized that we have to be even more intentional about being vulnerable with the worst parts of ourselves. As a result, I’ve seen him mad, tired, sick, and discouraged (sometimes all at once) and I still like him. I know his struggle and insecurities, and he knows mine. So when we’re affectionate to each other, I can be very confident that he likes me for who I am, not some idealized version of me that he’s created in his head.

That is hard to accomplish in any relationship, but is made all the more difficult through long distance. It takes intentionality, risk, and courage. When a man initiates and takes the bulk of the risk on himself, it gives the woman he’s pursuing a sense of safety in responding in kind. And as a woman who has been well-pursued long-distance, I can tell you, it’s fantastic!

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