14 January, 2011

Couples involved in long distance relationships often face challenges unique to their situation. The questions are often asked: Can long distance relationships work? How can they work? and What stands in the way of a successful long distance relationship? There are many couples out there who are currently involved in fulfilling and functional, long distance relationships. Love can last despite the distance and here are a few things to consider:

• Effective communication - it’s vital for the success of any relationship, but even more so important for couples who do not see each other every day. Being clear about your expectations from the outset is important. Be clear about what it is that you expect from your partner and be clear about what you are willing and able to provide for your partner – consider the issues of support, intimacy, your physical and emotional availability and the roles you will both play in the relationship. Talk about these issues and if you and your partner have different expectations, so the cards are on the table allowing successful negotiation and compromise to occur.
• Utilise all forms of communication to stay feeling connected (letters, e-mails, web cams, phone calls, SMS). Think outside the box and be creative.
• Be available for your partner – talk about how often you will communicate, by what means, and who will initiate the contact.

Keeping the romance alive
• Value and make the most of the time that you do get to spend together. Enjoy spending time together, and remember to laugh and have fun together.
• If you have a weekend planned with your partner, ensure you have similar expectations as to how the time will be spent. If one of you expects a romantic weekend for just the two of you when the other has made plans for a social weekend with family and friends, conflict and/or disappointment is likely to result. By communicating and compromising, both partners can have their needs met from the time spent together.
• Be considerate and thoughtful – an email to say “Good Morning” , a small gift by post or a card / letter can send a very powerful message that “you are special to me”.

Support one and other
• Provide your partner with support even though you don’t see them everyday. The overall goal here is for your partner to know they have a special place in your heart and that you are there for them to help celebrate life’s little achievements and to support them through life’s disappointments.
• Be aware of what’s going on for your partner and share what’s going on for you. Is something happening at the moment for your partner requiring extra attention and encouragement from you ? (eg: job interview, medical issue, family issues). It’s easier to be there for your partner if you know what’s going on for them.
• Individuals may need to utilise and expand upon other support systems to access the face to face support there partner is unable to provide (family, friends, clubs and social activities)

• Trust is also very important – individuals who are faithful, act with integrity and feel safe in their relationships find it a lot easier to navigate through a long distance relationship. Discuss with your partner roles, boundaries and expectations. Be transparent, open and honest with each other.

Conflict resolution
• If there is an issue of disagreement or a problem that you and your partner need to work through, agree on a suitable time to talk things through. It might be best to avoid times when either you or partner are tired or stressed.
• Keep discussions involving conflict resolutions separate to the phone calls you utilise to have some quality couple time together.

Long distance relationships can be challenging – at times, one part of the couple can feel lonely and unsupported. It takes a special effort to make it work, but with good communication, trust and consideration for the other person’s feelings and needs, couples can survive the distance. Remember also that absence makes the heart grow fonder, resulting in the time couples do manage to spend together being exciting, fun, rewarding and emotionally fulfilling.

If you wish to speak with an experienced counsellor please call Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or visit www.raq.org.aufor more information.