How to Sustain a Long-Distance Relationship in a Pandemic

I think that most of us can agree that long distance relationships aren’t easy or ideal. Preferably, we would like to be able to spend time together and be there physically for our partner. However, the pandemic has not made that easy for us. Even with the MCO lifted for now, some of us are still separated from our partners, whether they be in another state or even overseas. These couples must still contend with keeping their relationship a long distance one. Even with tools that enable us to keep in touch with one another nearly 24/7, it still can be tricky for video chatting or messaging to replace the intimacy and sense of companionship afforded to us by close contact. Sometimes it’s hard to even find a private enough spot to spend virtual time with our partner as we’re stuck at home with family. So how to fix this? Here are some tips for you to improve and maintain your relationship with your partner, no matter the distance or time apart.

1. Engage in quality time.

Make it a point to schedule some routine quality time with your partner. Quality time doesn’t necessarily mean spending long hours or making sure every conversation was memorable or meaningful. The point is to be emotionally available and supportive of your partner during these ‘quality times’. Placing expectations or idealizing on how one’s relationship should be creates extra pressure on both sides. Set aside a fixed time and day for your virtual meet-up with your partner. Pick a time or day where the both of you can take it free and easy. Talk about your day, what happened at work or something interesting that happened today. Let the conversation flow naturally. Letting our partner know what’s going on in each other’s lives helps reduce feelings of uncertainty or unknown in the relationship. Make sure you also turn on your video. Couples report greater satisfaction when communicating via video chat than voice chat alone. This comes as we are better able to ascertain our partners facial expression and body language, letting us understand our partner’s state of mind and empathize with them. This prevents miscommunication and make us feel more emotionally attached to each other.

2. Communicate clearly and honestly.

Whether it be close distance or long distance, the secret to improving and maintaining our relationship is still good and open communication. Often, we assume that distance makes it harder to communicate with one another. This leads us to assume a lot of other things about our partner which can lead negative perceptions and outcomes. Instead, try being clear with one another. Go back to the basics, just state your thoughts and feelings. Talk about what you need from one another and how your communication styles differ. If somethings disturbing you, let them know! Even if the topic is serious, letting the other know what’s making us feel uncertain or uncomfortable in the relationship early on allows us to reflect and address each other’s concerns and worries. More than often, trying to plan a serious conversation only when together can lead to feelings of anxiety beforehand and tends to contradict spending our already scarce ‘close time’ together. Planning a serious conversation may also lead us to stockpile our conflicts reducing quality time.

3. Shared/Parallel activities

Plan certain activities or routines with your partner. By performing a task or activity together, you can work towards your daily goals while at the same time bond and communicate with them. Shared activities that both parties can engage in are excellent at naturally fostering interaction and communication. For example, being able to interact with one another while watching a movie or playing an online game together may enrichen the experience and increase satisfaction for both parties. Being able to hear each other reactions or interact with one another virtually helps make the experience much more fun.

Video chat also enables us to live in parallel to each other, whereby each person just does their day-to-day activities over video chat. This means leaving the video chat one while you and your partner are off doing their own things such as cleaning, cooking or reading. The ability to glimpse at each other’s parallel lives helps create a ‘sense of shared living’. Being able to feel each other’s presence despite the distance helps us be more comfortable and attached to our partner. Thank god smartphones exist!

4. Encouraging autonomy in a relationship

We often think that being away from our partner is the worst thing in the world, but for every cloud, there’s a silver lining. Given the current circumstances, some of us won’t be able physically see or meet our partners for a long time. So instead of focusing on the negatives, let’s look toward what else we can do right now. For example, are there any goals or tasks you wanted to do or friends and family you want to reach out to? Remember you are your partner still have your own passions, interests, and personalities. Don’t be afraid or reluctant to do your own thing by yourself. In fact, giving some your time to yourself or our other relationships help increase overall satisfaction and personal growth. Being able to spend enough time with family and friends allows us to also develop these relationships without having to negotiate between our partner and them. By encouraging each partner to be autonomous, we learn to segment our romantic relationships from other component of our lives whether it be work, social or personal life. Doing so allows us to dedicate enough time and energy to each without having to sacrifice one or the other.