Long distance relationships that survive can teach all of us how to keep a relationship alive and vibrant.
I was in a long distance relationship (LDR) — 5,450 miles as the crow flies — for 5 years before I married my man, and then another five months before we were able to finally live in the same location. In that time I learned a lot that I am able to use with ALL my clients who are seeking to keep their relationships vibrant and exciting.
Here are 6 lessons anyone can learn from long distance relationships.
1. Take time to talk every day.
Living together often leads to routines that lead us into ruts. Not talking deeply and often is one of the most common routines.
I often hear someone just beginning a relationship say how wonderful it is that she feels comfortable being silent with her partner, when they actually spend most of their time together talking and learning more about each other. Then six months later, the same person will complain that there are long silences, and meals are taken in front of the TV or while reading on their phones.
When you are in a long distance relationship, you try to pack as much as possible into the short periods of time you have together. Talking and writing are extremely important because these are the ways you connect. As a result, the routine becomes spending a period of time every day spent talking — deeply.
2. Spend time discussing the important things: goals, desires, values, deal breakers, needs and issues.
Talking about these areas can be difficult, so many couples avoid them while they are dating. It's easy to avoid talking about hard things when each time you get together you plan an activity. I often find that when couples come to me for help, they haven't discussed deep desires or needs, and some have never discussed values at all, thinking that it will be obvious if their partner shares these or not.
When your partner is far away and spending time together is harder and more expensive, it feels more important to discuss these things so time is not lost in a relationship that is a poor fit.
The same should be true for local relationships. Why wait until you have invested many months and lots of emotion before finding out that your partner doesn't believe in marriage or wants to eventually live on a houseboat or — and this one is the worst and one I have seen too many times — does or doesn't want children? Taking time to talk about these issues means you will be on the same page.
3. Plan exciting time together.
When you are in a long distance relationship, time together often feels like a holiday. You tend to plan at least one exciting activity when you visit each other's homes. You also tend to meet in other locations. My man and I used to meet on the East Coast of the US because it was closer for each of us than we were to each other.
When you live together, it's so easy for life to get in the way of doing anything outside of the routine. Date nights tend to be a movie, dinner or a show. There is nothing surprising, because we know each other so well. Surprise keeps relationships alive and vibrant.
4. Find different ways to let your partner know you are thinking about them.
Successful LDRs usually include strategies to help you feel closer to your partner on a daily basis, since you can't just lean over to give your partner a hug or a kiss. Text messages during the day, sending presents to arrive at home or at work, video messages, picture texts, cards and letters through the mail — all of these are ways to let your partner know you are thinking of them and to remind them of their place in your life.
When you live with each other most texts become, "Honey can you pick up some bread?" This just doesn't have the same feeling. What stops you from finding ways to let them know you still find them irresistible?
5. Make love at a distance.
When you live too far to get together physically more than once a month, sexual frustration can become a common occurrence. But sexual frustration has its upsides as well as its down sides.
Anticipation often makes the eventual "getting" far more exciting. If you are only allowed something once in a while, it becomes a serious treat. Phone sex, Skype sex, erotic emails, texts and letters give you a way of having a sexual connection when you are apart. Writing also makes it easier to share your deepest desires and fantasies with your partner. Some of the most explosive sex I have ever had took place while on a Skype call when we hadn't been able to get together for 3 months.
When you live together, sex can become routine and arousal can become rote. To spice things up, try emailing each other fantasies or send each other a passage from an erotic book.
6. Instead of always dividing up the chores, do daily things together.
It's novel to go grocery shopping with your partner when you only see each other once every couple of months. Once you are living together, most of us divide up the tasks that need to be done for the home. By doing this, we miss out on some good time together.
Shopping together often brings back feelings of closeness like at the beginning of the relationship when you did not want to be separated for one minute so you did everything together. It also gives you time to be creative together about daily activities — figure out a new recipe to cook while you are in the grocery store, or pick out a new plant for the garden.
Expand the time you have together as a couple and make the most of it.
If you have other ideas of lessons that can be learned from long distance relationships (LDR) or want to ask about surviving and LDR or anything else, email Dr. Lori at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Dr. Lori and her Intimacy Coaching business, visit her website and sign up to take the free Ultimate Passion Test to learn how to light your fire today!
This article originally appeared on YourTango.