It can be challenging to maintain that physical and emotional intimacy when you’re often away from your partner.
However, there are things you can do to help keep the connection strong and keep the spark alive.
According to experts, here are ways to stay emotionally connected and make your long-distance relationship work.
Executive Coach and Couples Coach
Successfully maintaining a long-distance relationship is a matter of time-on-task. Like any project in your professional life, making this type of relationship work requires planning and dedicated time to work on the “project,” in this case, your relationship.
So ask yourself: How do I ensure success in my professional projects? Some of your responses might apply to your relationship.
When you want to connect with someone regarding an important project at work, you typically don’t rely on random outreach, hoping the other person is available.
The same is true with long-distance relationships. Assuming you will call your partner and they will be available or in the right headspace to focus on you is an ineffective strategy.
You wouldn’t do it at work, so why do it with the person most important to you?
Scheduling your calls to ensure you both have the time blocked off and focus on each other is essential. Just as you would with professional colleagues, you stick to the appointment instead of letting other things get in the way.
Give your focus and attention
In those “meetings” with your partner, be present and mindful. This means that you aren’t watching media, playing games, talking to other people, or otherwise engaging in distracting activities during the scheduled call.
Like when you prepare for a work meeting regarding a joint project, you come to the call focused and without other things to pull your attention away from the discussion.
Be prepared for the call
You should also come prepared for the call. At work, you would review your notes or agenda from previous meetings.
While it might not be that formal, you could check what you know about your partner’s day or week (depending on the frequency of the meetings), so you can ask specific questions about their experiences.
This demonstrates that you are paying attention and you are interested in their life away from you. By asking questions, you are also not relying on your partner to lead the conversation.
Come up with new ways to connect
You are likely familiar with how boring professional meetings can be when it is the same structure every time. Your long-distance meetings can end up the same way unless you plan the format.
What does this mean? Come up with new ways to connect.
A friend of mine and his girlfriend would read to each other on their calls. They would select their favorite books and read parts to each other or choose favorite childhood books to share with each other.
Not only did it structure their dates to enhance their emotional connection, but it also kept them connected cognitively because they were thinking about each other as they planned for their calls.
Come up with other unique ways to connect in your meetings:
- Watch a video together to learn how to dance.
- Share new music.
- Watch a comedian together.
- Cook the same meal together in your respective kitchens.
If you rely on one format within your meetings, they will lose their meaning.
Have a performance improvement plan
When things aren’t going well at work, businesses use performance improvement plans as a strategy to make things function better. Your relationship is the same.
Waiting to discuss problems until you are physically together can breed dissatisfaction or frustration, at best, or resentment, at worst. Create a meeting specifically to discuss the issues and work on a plan to help resolve the situation.
Enhance and maintain physical connection
Meetings to talk and date are important, but so is physical or sexual connection. This isn’t likely to happen together unless it is also scheduled.
While many couples want sex to be spontaneous and “in the moment,” this is a big reason that sexual experiences decrease for couples. Life gets in the way, and sex gets left behind.
Consider this, you put it on your calendar when you want to remember to do something or go somewhere.
Then why wouldn’t physically connecting with your partner, albeit long-distant, be on your calendar? Whether through:
- Simultaneous intimate activities
- Watching or listening to erotic media together
- Taking respective bubble baths and enjoying a favorite beverage together via FaceTime
- Other ways to experience the sexual or sensual parts of your relationship
If these events are on your calendars, these opportunities will be significantly more likely to occur and add to enhancing and maintaining your connection.
Have something to look forward to
Businesses use various things like bonuses and vacation time to keep employees motivated. While these don’t offer immediate gratification, they often work because they increase morale and give employees something to look forward to in the future. The same is true in your relationship.
Looking forward to being geographically together can make those more challenging days or weeks better. Having events scheduled on your calendars ensures that you both look towards the future together.
More importantly, these times together actually happen; otherwise, it is too easy for time and responsibilities to get in the way, and more time passes than you had planned without being together.
Janine Leigh Ilsley, LMSW
Integrative Therapist, Cobb Psychotherapy
The changing landscape of our current climate has certainly paved the way for new kinds of distance within relationships regardless of how close or far partners may find themselves.
It is up to the couple, however, to define as a unit what “long-distance” means — we could be talking about a relationship overseas, but it could equally pertain to the internal distance that can happen while building a family or career.
Nevertheless, in navigating these challenges, new pathways for experiencing a more conscious connection with our partner may be revealed to us.
Relationships in adulthood involve what Dr. Rick Hanson refers to as “reciprocal flows of contribution.” These can be qualities such as compassion, empathy, cooperation, attention, affection, or altruism, virtuous and gratifying to each individual in the exchange.
Regardless of the nature of these forms of flow, they all carry an emotional valence to them and, as such, when this exchange becomes tilted, it can lead to subtle yet strong imbalances in mutual reciprocity over time.
Be aware of emotional bids of connection and emotional blind spots
We can see imbalances also arise in what Dr. Julie and John Gottman refer to as “bids of connection,” or the verbal and nonverbal gestures between a couple that signals a need for attention or a desire to connect.
When these bids are rarely initiated, or we otherwise do not turn towards them, we can unwittingly begin to feel distant for reasons we may not be aware of or able to identify.
When we stop engaging, we isolate and become distant — our minds end up searching and grasping for meaning to feel in these gaps, whether in physical distance or the moments between texts.
One of the most common challenges I see in my work with individuals and couples is what happens in the “space in-between,” or these forms of gaps, particularly when an emotional or social disconnect arises.
These moments are nothing more than opportunities for repair. When we enter into relationships, we often forget that this is what we also asked for — to become more aware of these emotional bids of connection and witness our emotional blind spots.
How to repair emotional disconnect
In repairing these moments of emotional disconnect and cultivating more conscious connection, I offer the following guideposts for couples:
Deliberately activate feelings of liking and loving
As humans, we tend to sensitize to the negative and habituate to what’s positive. The same holds trust in relationships.
Couples may consider the following questions together:
- What do I really like about my partner?
- What aspects of my partner do I want to bring more forward?
- Is there anything I can do to increase the likelihood that they will come through to me while I am not present with them?
- What am I learning about my partner that I may not otherwise have known if it weren’t for being long-distance?
Holding the both/and:
It is important to recognize that two disparate things can exist at the same time, which can not only validate the truth of the experience but also reframe one’s overall outlook about it. For instance, “I am feeling sad without your physical touch and happy to hear your voice.”
Embrace the deep
Steer clear of narrow conversations of checking in. As opposed to asking about what one another did that day, consider exploring the experience underneath the circumstance.
If you have trouble conjuring up these types of questions, several relationship experts offer fun exercises or games to get you started in the interview process. Despite how seemingly silly they can be, individuals are often surprised at how they are left feeling more known and connected with their partners.
One line of inquiry offered by the Gottmans is to investigate interesting things of your partner’s past that are simply positive and wholesome.
For instance, “Tell me about some things you haven’t told me about that were unique in your life, like an experience at camp or a vacation you went on.”
If you’re willing to be more vulnerable, another strategy is to ask your partner to put their hand on their heart while you put your hand on yours (instead of holding hands), and look into each other’s eyes steadily for a breath if you can use a video call.
Following the experience, talk about it, “What came up for you when we did that?” Of course, embracing the deep entails the willingness to foster open and vulnerable honesty, and the state must secure trust.
Strengthen the emotional connection with yourself
I cannot stress this one enough — the magnitude of your emotional connection with your partner is directly related to the felt sentience you have with yourself.
Consider what it means to be connected to yourself:
- How attentive and attuned am I to what’s going on inside of me?
- What tells me that I am in connection with myself?
- How does that impact how I am feeling about my current relationships?
When we become aware of how we disconnect from ourselves and become more attuned to our inner landscape, we can more accurately identify and ask for what we need from our partner and develop embodiment in our presence.
This is the felt energetic presence the partner carries with them despite the distance. And less energy will be spent seeking external sources of connection.
Try to reframe that time apart from one another as time spent nourishing and nurturing yourselves. This invariably will contribute to the resilience of the larger container that houses all of the complexities inherent in relationships.
Ultimately, we are in a relationship with a process more than a person — one that is a dynamic art, and “doing” long-distance is a practice to be both persistent and patient with until it becomes one of simple being.
Juan Santos M.S., CRC, LCMHC
Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor | Owner, Santos Counseling PLLC
Do not allow issues to stop your relationship from moving forward
Long-distance couples find success in the relationship when they are able to recover after challenges. Typically, there is the challenge of limited contact in long-distance relationships, which can create issues. Couples need to focus on the bounce-back factor to address such.
The concept of bouncing back from issues is connected to realizing that issues are a natural part of life. We experience issues in all domains of life: work, family, relationships, and even interpersonal.
A way to improve your relationship is by not allowing issues to stop your relationship from moving forward.
Let’s say that you and your partner are in the midst of conflict. You feel frustrated and disconnected. The discussion is not solved and you, at this point, have two options:
- Stop the growth of the relationship until the issue is resolved.
- Acknowledge that the problem can be addressed later. In the meantime, you can continue to nurture the relationship.
The bounce-back factor works when couples practice the following:
- Focus on the issue and not the person. This simply means to remove judgment and criticism. To join hands and work together to develop creative solutions.
- Give each other space to recover. An example of this is to take a 60-minute solo break. Go for a walk or watch a movie. Use the time to ground yourself and reset emotionally.
- Long-distance couples use a ratio of 5 to 1 to build an emotional connection. The exercise goes a long way in creating and sustaining emotional connections for long-distance couples.
Start and maintain consistency
This is a simple exercise to commit to on practicing 5 positives act to 1 negative ratio:
- Each day complete a minimum of 5 acts that are positive while working to allow in a maximum of 1 negative.
- Add a reminder on your phone that keeps you focused and motivated. Before you know it, this practice will become a habit. The challenge is to start and maintain consistency.
Long-distance couples often share that space is like a double-edged sword. The distance can intensify positive feelings. Such as missing your partner or desiring them sexually. On the other hand, the distance can create unwanted thoughts connected to doubt and insecurity in the relationship.
To address the elephant in the room, couples in long-distance relationships can prioritize engaging in the 5 to 1 ratio. Each day feed your relationship 5 positives to 1 negative. Of course, if you can reach no negatives, then, by all means, go for it.
Behavioral Relationship Expert
Be honest and open about your feelings
The only way to stay connected is to communicate regularly. You would need to communicate daily for optimum closeness, as it takes more effort to have a long-distance relationship that would be commitment-worthy.
Communication is key in long-distance relationships, from having fun conversations to regularly being more vulnerable. Always talk about the challenges of being long-distance and anything else you might hold back to try not to upset the other person.
Not doing so may create a wedge. Having a wedge makes your relationship unhealthy because it weakens the bond, so remember to always be honest and open about your feelings on different matters.
Treat them as you would if they lived close by
Clearly, seeing the other person is important but not always possible. It is important not to treat the time spent together as vacation and like real life as possible.
At some point, one or both of you will move to sustain the relationship, and it will not be like a vacation. You want exposure to reality; otherwise, you will be disappointed.
If you see your person rarely, it is good to treat them as you would if they lived close by. Meaning, for example, if you send little gifts—would you do this if you shared a home? If you work 50 hour weeks, would you do that if they live close by?
Just because there is distance does not mean your whole life should be out of balance and constantly spent trying to fill the space of having them close by.
Be as authentic as you can be
It really is simple in terms of tips to keep emotional intimacy; it is to stay open and vulnerable with communication. Remember the other person is your potential partner in the future, so be as authentic as you can be. I guarantee that if the relationship is meant to last, it will feel good by being yourself.
Obviously, if it is casual, there is not much emotional connection because it is not progressing anywhere.
Adina Mahalli (MCT)
Certified Relationship Consultant, Maple Holistics
Have deep and meaningful conversations
A healthy relationship is one where both of you are comfortable enough with each other to express your thoughts and feelings. Having these sorts of conversations builds intimacy, familiarity, and comfort in a relationship, allowing both of you to continue to feel connected.
Having deep and meaningful conversations often where you share your feelings with your partner is a great way to stay emotionally connected in a long-distance relationship.
Give each other gifts
Everyone loves receiving gifts and especially if you’re in a long-distance relationship, sending each other presents is a great way to let your significant other know that you’re thinking about them.
While video calling and talking to your partner is a great way to stay connected, a gift can have more meaning as it shows that you’ve taken the time to think about something that they would like and appreciate.
Gifts also serve a deeper emotional purpose, as every time they use that mug you got them or that throw-pillow, they will think of you and have warm feelings toward you.
See each other regularly
In a long-distance relationship, it is important to take time out to visit your partner, to hop on that plane, train, or in your car to actually physically see them.
Therefore, both of you should make a timetable and set out dates for who will come to see who and to arrange fun activities for when you can be together in person.
While you can maintain an emotional connection while dating long-distance, physical intimacy helps keep it and anchor your relationship.
Certified Matchmaker and CEO, Select Date Society
Share activities together
With the rise in remote work and advancements in technology, more people are open to long-distance relationships now than ever before.
Dating long-distance can be challenging but can also lead to a life-long commitment if you are able to stay emotionally connected despite the distance.
Here are tips we tell our clients for staying connected emotionally during a long-distance romance:
- Have face-to-face conversations via FaceTime, Zoom, or another video app. Being able to actually see each other while you speak will make you feel more connected.
- Share activities together. Find a show that you can binge-watch together, a book you can both read, or an activity you both enjoy. Having one activity in common that you can discuss together will deepen your connection.
- As much as technology can help you stay connected, old-fashioned letter writing can also strengthen your bond. You don’t have to write long love letters; You can even send a sweet message on a postcard. Your partner will love getting mail from you, and it will be a reminder of how much you are thinking of them.
- Communicate effectively. If you tend to have difficulty communicating in relationships, hire a great therapist to work through communication blocks. You will both need to practice communicating openly and being great listeners to strengthen your bond.
- Foster an environment of trust. When there is a great physical distance between you, the two of you will need to develop a sense of trust in each other and your relationship. You will need to be confident, transparent, honest, and operate with integrity. There is no room for jealousy and crazy accusations if you want to have a healthy relationship.
Becky White, LMFT
Founder and Director, Root to Rise Therapy
Be intentional about having fun together
- Text and call throughout the day so that you both feel that you are an important part of each other’s lives. Share the little moments of joy or sadness as they come up, and especially reach out if something significant happens.
- Video chats are a wonderful way to feel almost like you are in the same room. You can video chat as you go about your normal daily activities: getting ready for your day, taking your lunch break, or making dinner. It’s perfectly ok if you aren’t talking to each other the whole time. You can still feel like the other person is present and involved in your day-to-day routine.
- Do video chat dates. While it’s essential to stay connected during the bustle of life, it’s also important to make regular time that is focused on just the two of you. Video dates can be as unique as your interests, and you can do many of the same things you would do in person.
- You can set up a candlelight dinner and set the phone across the table
- Go on a walk together and show each other around your neighborhood
- Do any other activity you both enjoy separately but together.
- Find lists of questions to ask to get to know each other better. A simple google search will bring up many lists of questions, ranging from:
- the mundane (what’s your favorite food?)
- to in-depth (what was the best/worst experience in your childhood?)
- Be intentional about having fun together. Sometimes long-distance relationships can be heavily focused on missing each other and counting down the days to see each other, so make sure to lighten the mood.
- Play video games together or find phone games that you can do in tandem.
- Tell each other jokes, share the funny things that happened to you during the day
- Let yourself be silly in your regular conversations
Nancy Ruth Deen
Conscious Breakup Coach and Relationship Expert, Hello Breakup
Talk to each other every single day
When you don’t have that face-to-face, physical connection, you need to find other ways to make your relationship feel “normal.” You need to talk to each other every single day, with frequent Facetime dates.
My now-husband and I would do a weekly date night where he’d treat us to Uber Eats and watch a movie together over Zoom. I always looked forward to those days as I’d feel a sense of security as if we were living together in the same city.
We would chat at least twice a day over the phone and Facetime if the day allowed. It’s also important to be vocal about your feelings. Say you miss your partner when you do, especially if your partner is big on words of affirmation.
Getting that text after not seeing each other for a long time goes a long way when you don’t have the chance to see each other.
Make the relationship a priority in your life
Long-distance relationships are doable. My wife and I were long-distance for eighteen months before I moved to live with her. Just because you are long-distance doesn’t mean that you have to be apart. Communication is the key.
- Do not let a day go by without talking with each other or video chatting.
- Share meals and have dates over video.
- Send small meaningful gifts and cards which signify something in your relationship.
- Spend as much time physically with each other as you can and make this relationship a priority in your life.
National Independent Life Insurance Agent | Managing Director, InsuranceForBurial.com
I know first hand about long-distance relationships. It is not easy and not for the faint of heart, but we survived it and are now married.
Be mentally and emotionally strong
Long-distance relationships are not always ideal or easy. Before marrying the love of my life, we shared a long-distance relationship between Florida and New York for over three years.
You must be a mentally and emotionally strong person who has great faith in yourself first and in the person you give your heart and soul to.
Be happy within yourself first
In order for your relationship to withstand any obstacles that you face, you must be happy within yourself first. It is your responsibility.
You cannot rely on another human being to make you happy, especially in a long-distance relationship. Your partner is there to enhance your happiness.
So not only will a long-distance relationship be built on trust in your own happiness and your partner, but you must also have happiness within your life on all levels for those times you spend alone. Embrace those moments and not dwell on the time apart.
Related: How to Make Yourself Happy
Never have trust issues or lies between each other
Any relationship should be built upon trust and never have feelings of wonder.
You and your partner must lay out a road map of life plans and goals and express all raw feelings from the very beginning of the long-distance relationship, so each of you knows what to expect and never have trust issues or lies between each other.
- Don’t keep things from each other. It will cause regret and resentfulness to grow.
- Never allow past relationships to get in the way
- Leave your past to your past
- Keep in the now
- Build a future
- Keep in mind that communication is key
Spend time in unique ways
When you are apart, you should set an amount of time each day, FaceTiming. Be unique.
- Send “good morning” texts for your partner to wake up with a smile.
- Send photos of your day, of yourself to your partner.
- Let your partner know each and every day how you feel about them.
- Don’t let them go a day without that beautiful feeling.
Once you have time physically together, make that time count the most and embrace every part of each other.
I learned in some ways the hard way how to make a long-distance relationship work, but it did work. If two people want it bad enough, nothing can stop them from navigating these rough and calm waters.
Marketing Manager, Tinder Pixel
Compromise and be open with your feelings
As a relationship expert, I observed that most couples in long-distance relationships fail because one of them feels lonely and stops making an effort in communicating.
To stay emotionally connected to each other, here are some tips:
- Keep in touch– never miss a day to remind your partner how you feel about her. It doesn’t mean that you need to have a conversation. Just a simple message would make her feel your presence.
- Send a surprise package– it will make her feel eager to see each other again.
- Prioritize in-person trips- ensure having time being together when you plan to have a vacation or visit.
Remember that in a relationship, both of you should compromise and be open with your feelings. If you don’t do it together, then don’t expect your relationship to last long.
Joseph DeVasto, B.A. M.A.
Program Support Staff Lead, The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center
Visit each other on a regular basis
It’s essential to stay connected physically when in a long-distance relationship. So, make sure you see each other as much as possible. If the distance is a huge challenge, make it a point to plan trips or vacations together. Maybe you can meet halfway.
Video chat frequently
Thanks to apps like Zoom and Facetime, it’s much easier to stay connected virtually even when far away. Video chatting is the closest thing to seeing your partner in person.
You can actually look into their eyes and see their expressions, which really helps communication in a relationship.
Be 100% committed
Before agreeing to a long-distance relationship, make sure you are 100% committed to making it work. To keep a long-distance relationship alive, you will need to put work into it constantly. So, make sure you are committed to this.
Talk about your feelings
If there are issues with the relationship, discuss them. You might find yourself feeling disconnected from your partner being so far away. It’s important to talk about your feelings. Come up with a plan to address any issues.
Professional Wedding Planner, Oh Lovely Day Mag
Have virtual date nights
Let’s be honest, nobody likes spending time apart from their partner. I know that long-distance relationships are challenging.
Growing up, I never really experienced a loving relationship. Hence, as an adult and now wife, it is really important for me to stay emotionally connected to my husband in a long-distance relationship.
Sometimes he or I end up traveling for work-related purposes, and it does get a bit challenging to keep the spark alive while physically being away from one another for a while.
Virtual date nights (every once a week) are some things that seem to be helping us feel emotionally connected while we are apart. We choose to do this over Skype, and I tell you, it’s usually the highlight of my week!
Try to schedule an activity such as cooking or watching a movie together while you’re on the video call to feel more connected to your partner. Sure this may sound a bit cheesy, but it can be fun too!
Make your partner feel loved
Couples in long-distance relationships usually face challenges to take it forward smoothly. The first thing such couples need to believe is that even the smallest of efforts can make the bond much stronger even when miles apart.
- One of the best ways is to make a pact about talking every day, be it so either just fifteen minutes or even three hours long. Making sure you spare some time, express how you feel, make your partner feel loved will prove to be the best thing in your entire day.
- Remind your partner frequently what you love about your relationship. It’s as lovely to say as it is to hear, “I love you and wish we could be together today.”
- Supporting your partner as they develop their particular abilities and interests is one of the best things you can do to promote a stable bond. You and your partner will continue to grow and evolve as life goes on, whether you’re together or apart. That is both normal and beneficial, even if it requires some changes in your relationship.
- Find a way to spend more time. Plan movie date nights, watch something romantic, maybe on facetime. This will keep you connected and make you feel even closer.
- Learn how to deal with pressing situations both online and in person. Every couple should learn how to communicate about and resolve issues in a healthy way. If you dismiss minor issues or refuse to discuss sensitive matters, you may face bigger ones.
Set some ground rules
I have been in a long-distance relationship for five and a half years. Even though I am not a typical expert on this topic, both my partner and I have conducted in-depth analyses on the ways and opportunities of making a long-distance relationship work. It’s also important to note that we have been apart since we started dating.
What has worked for us are the following:
- We have set some ground rules, especially those related to communication or miscommunication on that matter. We do not text throughout the day.
- We summarize our day to one another before sleep, no matter the circumstances.
- Frequent visits and surprise gifts have always been part of our journey. It is especially “surprise gifts” that help your partner understand their importance in your life.
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