Up until fairly recently, long-distance relationships generally began in one of two ways. The couples either started out together and then one of them relocated for school or work, or they met while traveling and sparks flew, so they kept it up. Now, with online forums (chat rooms, threads, etc.) and dating sites/apps, more people are giving these romances a go. But, how well do they work, and are there steps you can take to ensure their ultimate success? If you find yourself in one or are considering it, here’s some long-distance relationship advice to guide you.

Making it Work

According to LongDistanceRelationshipStatistics.com, a startling number of couples are currently trying to make it work while living apart. The site’s 2019 data provided some intriguing insights into the numbers involved that just might surprise you. 

  • 14 million couples define themselves as having a long-distance relationship
  • 3.75 million married couples are in one
  • 32.5 % of all long-distance relationships are between college students
  • 75 % of all engaged couples have been (at some point) in a long-distance relationship
  • 2.9 % of all married couples in the States currently have this arrangement
  • 10 % of all marriages in the States started out as a long-distance relationship

A certain percentage of these are due to military deployments, so they’re temporary situations, but it’s still pretty impressive. Do they work, though? If you’re crossing your fingers for “yes,” you can breathe a sigh of relief. Because the site went on to note, “One of the myths around long distance relationships is that they are always or more likely to fail than other kinds of relationships. However, there is actually no evidence to suggest that this is true.”

If you need more reassurance on the subject, a study conducted by KIIROO and cited by the “New York Post” concluded that “long-distance relationships have a 58 percent success rate.” Great news, right? Well, don’t get too excited, because there’s work to be done if you want to be included in those stats. Here’s what you can do to improve your odds.

Key Factors to Long-Distance Relationship Success

There are a number of factors that determine the success or failure of a relationship that is attempted miles apart. Following these tips can help you, so listen up.

  • Regular contact, such as talking on the phone, emailing, and texting is imperative if it’s going to work. It’s been determined that, on average, romance commuters send each other 343 texts each week and put roughly eight hours of phone or video time in during that same period. By way of confirmation, 88 percent of participants in the KIIROO study credited technology as helping them feel closer to their long-distance partners. But even cards and notes sent via snail mail can help.
  • Getting together in person at least twice a month, more if possible, is also said to be essential for keeping the love alive. 
  • Maintaining an intimate physical relationship is also crucial, so don’t let those visits to one another slide. When you do get together, make it count with plenty of alone time that includes tearing each other’s clothes off. Don’t skimp on the foreplay, either.
  • Getting past the four-month marker, when these relationships typically begin to fade, and then the eight-month marker, are milestones couples need to reach if it’s going to work. After eight months, it’s said to get easier, so hang in there.

Gift Giving

Everybody loves receiving gifts, and anyone who says they don’t is probably being less than truthful. Like your mother or your grandma who repeatedly tell you not to get them anything but you know it’s a trap, and you’re cooked if you don’t. A word of advice, don’t fall for it.

But during a long-distance relationship (LDR), it can mean the world to get something from the love of your life, particularly during their absence. The best part is this kind of thoughtfulness doesn’t have to cost a lot to make a splash and have a lasting impact. The gifts can be something simple and still show that you care. Here are a few inexpensive ideas that will help you win the husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend-of-the-year award.

  • Longitude/latitude bracelets with the coordinates of someplace special engraved on them are available through Etsy, and they’re only $17. The location could be where you two initially met, a first date spot, your wedding venue, etc. Another idea is to get one for each of you with the other’s coordinates on it. Because they’re basically made from washers, you could also have something custom made with your coordinates on one side and his or hers on the other. However, you do it, it’s a cool personalized idea.
  • Customized necklaces are available on Etsy as well. They include a Crossed Paths pendant with both of your initials engraved on it situated around an X. The other is a chain with a flat bar featuring tiny outlines of the states you each reside in with a corresponding lowercase initial next to each (representing you both). These pieces range from $18.57 to $43.60.
  • There are keychains similar to the chain and bar necklaces with the state depictions. On these, there’s a little dotted road running between them with messages like “See You Soon” inscribed atop, and they’re really fun, too. The cost is $27.90 on Etsy.
  • Super cheap, super cute, and super sweet, send your significant other an LDR card showing them how you spend your day. The design is a colorful pie chart highlighting

the fact that most of it is spent missing you. While instant gratification is terrific, getting something in the mail besides bills when you’re missing someone can absolutely make

your day. The last Etsy item on the list, “How I spend my day” cards are $2.19.

  • A tad more expensive than the rest, this final gift idea for long-distance relationships is the Lovebox Spinning Heart Messenger. It was created by an MIT student in an LDR who wanted his girlfriend back in France to know how much he missed her. The box is used in association with an app to send messages, which makes the heart on top of it spin, letting your partner know it’s arrived. The note is cleverly waiting inside.

While he may make the rest of us look like slouches, you can score off of his creativity and hard work by buying one through Uncommon Goods for $100.

According to long-distance relationship advice expert Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. and author of “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great,” “For long-distance couples to feel closer, they should give small gifts often and regularly. This says, ‘Even though we may not live in the same city or even country, I still think of you often.’” A professor at Michigan’s Oakland University, Orbuch continued on the subject saying, “Often when we pick out gifts, we think about what we would want and buy that item. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and ask what they would like as a gift.” 

The point is, gifts for long-distance relationships allow for more of a connection despite the miles between you.

Things to Avoid in an LDR

While there are things you can do to promote a stronger bond during your LDR, there is definitely stuff you should avoid as well. If you want to keep the magic alive, steer clear of these LDR pitfalls, or risk the consequences.

  • Regardless of how much space there is, don’t become clingy and smother your partner like an industrial-size roll of Saran Wrap. It’s hard enough when it happens under the same roof, but when this kind of needy, cloying behavior occurs long distance, it leaves both parties frustrated. You might as well be Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freemen suffocating at the end of “Lucky Number Slevin.” A disturbing visual to be sure.
  • Displaying jealousy and mistrust is another buzz kill when you’re out of town and trying to keep it together. If you have trust issues, you have no business being in an LDR. If you’re trying to combat those feelings, remind yourself that your mate could just as easily mess around behind your back on a local store run or during a nearby lunchbreak at work.
  • Unreasonable requests and demands for change seldom fly, either. Giving your partner ultimatums or new timelines on when this whole LDR thing is going to be wrapped up puts undue stress on a relationship—the kind that should come with a blood pressure cuff and a vial of nitro tabs. This is especially true if they’re away at school or work. The military comes with its own set of demands, but you have to accept it. Try and look at their education or employment goals the same way, or your relationship could sink faster than the Titanic. Besides, all of this should have been sorted out and agreed upon at the outset.
  • Don’t cloister yourself while the two of you are apart. Studies suggest couples who continue to have a normal social life with friends in their area during LDRs have healthier, happier partnerships overall. This is likely due to the fact they’re happier living outside of a vacuum with the kind of suction James Dyson would admire. So quit pining and get out and do something. Take a class, go to the gym, or develop a hobby.
  • Avoid dwelling on the negative aspects of your virtual romance. Instead, focus on all of the positive points, because there are many. Keep your endgame in sight at all times.

Plan for Success

If you go into the relationship with both eyes open and set ground rules, your chances for success at an LDR are much higher. This should include a clear understanding of the termination point for your inconvenient logistical circumstances. Knowing when the two of you will finally be able to unite as one provides you with hope for the future. It also gives you something to look forward to rather than a hopeless feeling of “when?” 

Additionally, you should each know the other’s expectations, so there are no misunderstandings. Those can lead to disappointment, which can lead to calling it quits.

Following these long-distance relationship advice tips can make the entire ordeal far more bearable, so take note.

  • Plan for unexpected changes. Sure, you know when you think it will end, but life happens while you’re living it. Have a backup or contingency plan for any curveballs that get lobbed your way.
  • Reinforce your bond by trying to keep shared experiences alive. This could be your common interest in books, movies, sports, politics, current events, etc. During Skype or Facetime chats share with your partner as if they were there. Show them recent additions to your home décor, wardrobe, collectibles, or anything else new in your life.
  • Interact virtually by playing online games like Words with Friends or a favorite video game. Another idea is to have a date night where you both stream the same movie and have the same or similar foods. Using a hands-free video app on your laptops or tablets allows you both to move about freely and still talk as if you’re in the same room. Along the same lines, pass a Saturday or Sunday morning perusing a digital catalog together over coffee. These activities can foster a feeling of closeness and normalcy rather than distance and separation. 
  • Despite the time difference, try to make it a point to always say goodnight to one another through some sort of messaging. A quick “Sweet dreams, I love you!” is comforting and goes a long way toward maintaining a stable union.
  • Stay connected by keeping up with one another’s social media accounts. Commenting, sharing, tagging, and liking are all encouraged.
  • When visiting, bring an object from home that will remind him or her of you and leave it behind. Each time you’re there it will make you feel more at home, too.
  • Meet halfway or plan a trip together. This alleviates a lot of the pressure for the one doing the majority of travel. Alternatively, a fun getaway is an excellent bonding opportunity that can strip away stress and tension.
  • Keep each other up to date on family and friends or other happenings in your local area. It will help you both to feel less isolated and more in the loop.
  • Use pet names to fuel that lovey-dovey feeling between you. 
  • Use your time apart to teach yourself to be independent. Being in a relationship, but in a sense single, is an excellent chance to spread your wings, get to know yourself better, and take on things you might not normally do otherwise. This is a learning experience you may not get again, so take advantage of it while it lasts and develop yourself fully as a human being.
  • One frequent bit of advice is not to overdo it with constant contact. Now, this will depend primarily on your personal styles and need for interaction. But there’s nothing wrong with giving each other a little space, and you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a bit of breathing room.

Long-Distance Relationship Advice from the Pros

Finally, it might be comforting to know that scientists believe LDRs can actually make couples grow fonder and relationships stronger. This is a further boon if you’ve embarked on one. 

Researchers at Cornell University examined the communication habits and interaction of 63 couples undergoing LDRs. Afterward, they formed the opinion that study subjects were apt to work harder in their communication than couples in traditional relationships. Professor L. Crystal Jiang, who co-authored the study “Absence Makes the Communication Grow Fonder,” stated, “Long distance couples try harder than geographically close couples in communicating affection and intimacy, and their efforts do pay back.”

In an effort to expound, the research revealed that LDR couples tend to experience greater intimacy than those termed as geographically close. When faced by a lack of close proximity, LDR couples engage in “intimacy-enhancing processes in which LD daters increase self-disclosures and idealize their partner’s disclosures, leading ultimately to more intimacy.” 

By now, you should be feeling better about your prospects for the future and your own happily ever after. While it may not be a stroll in the park, if you genuinely love each other, it will be worth it.