Linda Lewis Griffith

How to survive a long-distance relationship

The Dallas Morning News

Few of us want to live separately from our partners. We choose to be in relationships so that we can share our lives with each other on a daily basis.

According to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, an estimated 14 million people in the United States consider themselves to be in long-distance relationships. Nearly 3 percent of those couples were married. And the numbers are on the rise, thanks in part to the economy, online dating and improved telecommunication techniques.

Intact couples live separately for a variety of reasons. One or both of the members may be serving in the military. They may be apart because of work. Nearly one-third of long-distance couples are college students studying in different locations.

Regardless of the reason for their separations, long-distance couples face similar challenges. For instance, partners are less likely to discuss problems during the brief time they have together. Jealousies can arise when people distrust their loved one’s behaviors. Couples may have trouble adequately assessing each other’s thoughts or moods.

Long-distance relationships face an extra financial burden when they pay for frequent visits. They may also develop resentments that all of their free time is taken up seeing each other. To make matters worse, people in long-distance relationships may socially isolate themselves from friends and co-workers, thus depriving themselves of a potential support system.

But all is not lost for couples who are forced to live apart. New research appearing in the July 2013 issue of the Journal of Communication found that men and women in long-distance relationships were more apt to share intimate thoughts and feelings than those living in closer proximity. They also idealized their loved one’s behaviors, leading to a greater sense of intimacy.

Bottom line? Be together if you possibly can. If you must be apart, keep separations as brief as possible. And be extra-sensitive to your partner’s needs.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.

Tips for ensuring your long-distance relationship will work out

  • Discuss the mundane. Keep each other apprised on the tiny details of your life. You’ll create a sense of normalcy. And you’ll foster connection and interdependence — the keystones of a solid relationship.
  • Visit often. Nothing replaces face-to-face contact. Try to maintain a regular visitation schedule. If that’s not possible, jointly savor an upcoming rendezvous.
  • Foster trust. Keep your behavior above board at all times. Suspicions can crop up quickly, and it’s nearly impossible to mend broken fences from a distance.
  • Be intimate. Use webcams, telephone sex and erotic letters, pictures and videos to keep erotic juices flowing.
  • Address difficult issues. Don’t be afraid to bring up doubts or concerns. Use them as a chance to explore your feelings honestly. Understand that each of you will have your emotional highs and lows.
  • Write letters. Successful long-distance couples write two or three letters every week. They’re a great way to express your innermost feelings. Plus, they can be read over and over.
  • Lay ground rules. Decide when and how you’ll communicate. Identify potentially troublesome behaviors that are off limits.
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