Gottlieb says that long-distance relationships are easier now than ever because we have so many ways to stay connected thanks to technology. “A lot of the glue of a relationship is in the day-to-day minutia, and with technology, you can share that in real time, instantaneously, with photos, texts and FaceTime. That’s very different from letters or long-distance phone calls,” says Gottlieb “Long-distance relationships that are going to stand the test of time need a plan to end the distance at some point.” Set An End Date. While long-distance love can be a great thing for a finite time, eventually you probably want to be in the same place as your partner. It helps both parties to know when that will happen.
By Cassandra Hollman I resisted dating my long-time friend for months after it became obvious that we were “a thing” because we were about to graduate from college, and he was moving 12 hours away from me to begin medical school. A long-distance relationship with a medical student? No way, I thought. That sounded like a terrible idea. Eventually, though, I gave in. We dated in person for 10 wonderful days before moving apart until our marriage 20 months later.
We’ve been married the better part of a decade now, and I’m glad the long-distance portion of our relationship is over. It was HARD! But I would do it again in a heartbeat. Here’s a look at how we kept our relationship strong during those months apart and some factors to consider when deciding whether to put your own relationship to the long-distance test during medical school. How we kept our relationship strong: • We focused on being digitally “together” in everyday life.
Skype and FaceTime were a huge part of our daily existence while we were apart. We hung out regularly while my husband studied, while we ate meals, or when we just had downtime. We even Skyped on occasion when one of us had friends over. I had “met” many of my husband’s classmates before I moved in with him because we had seen each other on video chat. • We talked regularly. Beyond just being together via video chat, we made an effort to have real conversations on a regular basis.
We went through premarital counseling during this time, and being long distance gave us the chance to really talk through issues (finances, kids, relationship with in-laws, career ambitions, etc) before our marriage. Talking “deeply” during our time apart set a healthy precedent for connecting through conversation once we were together in person and talking was no longer the only way we could spend time together. • We focused on ways to be thoughtful. While you should certainly be thoughtful in any relationship, putting thought into ways to connect is even more important when you spend your days miles apart from your significant other.
We tried to find small ways to let the other know we were thinking of them. I made him dozens of freezer meals while he was in class during my visits so he would have quick nutritious meals available; we synced our calendars so we could be aware of what was going on in each other’s daily lives and text encouraging messages; I sent care packages; he sent letters and texts to wish me things like “happy 45 week anniversary!” Constant thoughtful communication helped us feel mentally “together” and built trust.
• We always had our next in-person visit planned. Before saying goodbye at Christmas, he booked plane tickets to visit me at spring break. Before spring break was over, we made plans to go on a beach trip together with my family or for me to use a vacation week to visit him at school. Having the next visit planned meant we never left wondering when we would see each other next and helped build security in the commitment of our relationship. • We made an effort to be fully open and honest.
It can be easy to hide things when you’re not physically present with someone. We made a concerted effort to keep our lives an open book with each other, from work victories and fun times with friends to relationship frustrations and personal struggles. We both knew we could ask each other anything and get an honest response. Should you consider a long-distance relationship?
In our situation, a long distance relationship worked. It ended in our marriage—when I finally moved and got a job in the city where he lived for school—and we now hardly remember the time we spent apart. But our situation is not everyone’s situation. When looking at your own relationship, how do you know if a long-distance relationship is right for you?
• Do you trust your significant other? Trust can always be broken no matter how trustworthy someone has been previously, but their track record is still a good indicator of future performance. Do you know how they spend their time? Do you ever feel like there are parts of their life they don’t want you to fully know about? Have they broken trust with friends, family, or significant others in the past? Any relationship requires trust, but long distance even more so. If you don’t trust your partner 100%, being physically separate the bulk of the time is a recipe for tension.
• Do you have a definite end date for the long-distance phase of your relationship? I don’t believe long-distance dating is something you should enter into open-ended. Make sure you are in agreement about when you will be in the same city again. Maybe after one of you graduates and is free to move or once you get engaged or married (as in our case). • Do both parties understand what is involved in medical training? Medical school is no joke.
There will be stress, lots of tests, and lots and lots of studying. If one person in the relationship is non-medical, you will need to make sure they understand—as much as is possible before going through it—what the daily life is like as a medical student and how it will change when transitioning from the pre-clinical to the clinical years.
My husband was comfortable studying while I was on FaceTime, but others aren’t able to focus that way. The medical partner may not be able to dedicate as much time to the relationship during certain phases of their education (e.g. while preparing for boards or while on busy clinical rotations). If both partners are flexible and have realistic expectations, this doesn’t have to be a problem.
But if one partner expects the other to drive a couple of hours so you can spend every weekend together, it may become an issue down the road. • Do you already know each other well in real life? My husband and I had been close friends for nearly four years when we began dating. We had spent a summer stuck in a 15 passenger van together on a college trip. We knew each other’s quirks and personalities long before we became romantically involved.
Dating only long-distance without the chance to find out someone’s in-person reality builds a relationship on a weak foundation. • Is the relationship serious? The trials of long distance are not worth it if you’re not committed to the relationship for the long haul.
You can weather a lot of trouble if you are both fully committed, but if you’re in the “wait and see” stage, I don’t recommend making the long distance jump.
Maintaining a relationship long distance during medical training is challenging, but possible. With some wise forethought, time apart doesn’t have to be the death knell of a relationship, and thankfully modern technology makes it a lot easier than it used to be. My long-distance phase was lonely, frustrating, and painful at times, but in hindsight what I see is a relationship with my husband that became more deeply committed, better at communicating, and more prepared to weather challenges than before our time apart.
About the Author Cassandra Hollman is a pseudonym for a (sometimes) writer and wife of a physician. She lives in the South with her husband and kids and enjoys reading cozy mysteries, drinking coffee, and being outside.
best dating a phd student long distance relationships work - Long
iStock/andresr Building a relationship takes a lot of work, and trying to maintain one over long distance is pretty much setting it up to fail. At least, that’s what pop culture tells us. But over the past few years, researchers have collected some surprising data. Not only do long distance relationships work, but they can actually be healthier than close proximity relationships. In 2015, Queen’s University researchers studied 1,142 relationships.
All couples were in their 20s, 30 percent of them were out of college, and 77 percent were heterosexual. The results showed that people in long distance relationships indicated the same levels of intimacy, communication, commitment, sexual satisfaction, and overall satisfaction as those in geographically close relationships.
“It seems like the big finding here is that because of the distance, [long distance relationships] force greater communication and deeper communication,” says Vinita Mehta, PhD, a clinical psychologist and writer based in Washington, D.C. “If you live in the same area, you can sort of slide by with staying on the surface and perhaps not get a chance to really get to know each other, but long distance, because of the barrier, forces very deep communication.” When our brains are repeatedly exposed to the same people and situations, they eventually become habituated, and we get used to these things as part of daily life.
But when we encounter new stimuli, we respond with heightened senses, which is why new couples seem inseparable. In a long distance relationship, partners don’t become quickly habituated to each other, so the entire relationship can feel like a suspended “honeymoon phase.” Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on the couple.
So far, no studies have researched how long a couple can stay long distance and still maintain a stable relationship, but Mehta believes stage of life is an important factor. A couple that met in college and then moved apart to pursue graduate degrees or career opportunities will handle a relationship differently than a couple that began dating long distance.
Mehta’s tip for making long distance work: Communicate and set clear expectations with your partner about the future, especially whether you see yourselves eventually ending up in the same city or not. “These passionate romances can go on and they’re very fun,” she says, “but then it becomes not so fun if expectations are very misaligned.”
• The 10 surprising ways that being in a LDR can be good for you • 10 questions you should ask early in your LDR • 3 big LDR pitfalls, and how to avoid them • 4 fun LDR activities you probably haven't tried yet... and more I really want to help you make your LDR easier and more fun. This course will help you do that. Plus, it’s free! So let’s get started. The biggest benefit of being in a LDR is that it forces you to communicate.
You may never again in the course of your relationship have this much focused time and energy to spend communicating with your partner. Make the most of it. If you get to know them deeply and well, that will pay off big-time in the long run. Don’t bare all too soon (literally or figuratively)! When you meet long distance it can be easy to jump in the deep end and move too fast in your new relationship.
During the early days (the first couple of months, at least) don’t rush into vulnerability, set a pattern of talking for hours every day, or make serious commitments. When you’re trying to figure out how to make a long distance relationship work, talk about how you talk. Discuss some of your communication basics as a couple–how you generally prefer to connect (phone, VoIP, text), what times, and for how long. This can help set realistic expectations and avoid some miscommunications, frustration, and anxiety.
When you’re in a long distance relationship it’s easier to hide your weaknesses and put your best foot forward. Unless you both value transparency and honesty more than making a good impression, you will have a much more difficult time figuring out whether you and your partner are a good fit for each other. It’s easier to figure out how to make a long distance relationship work if you share some common interests. So recommend books, articles, podcasts, music, movies, news items, etc to each other.
If you can read or listen to some of the same things, that will help you share experiences and give you new things to talk about. If you only ever talk to each other, try writing letters or long emails sometimes.
When you write, you can think and express yourself differently than you do when you’re talking. Writing gives you more time and space to reflect on tricky issues, and letters and emails can become treasured keepsakes (or maybe even a book) in the future. Conflict is inevitable in relationships, but being in a long distance relationship makes managing conflict well even more difficult. If you want to know how to make a long distance relationship work, learn some basic conflict-management strategies and discuss them with your partner before you find yourself mid-fight.
Long distance relationships often involve intense emotions and extreme ups and downs. There are times of intense loneliness, uncertainty, doubts, and fear. There are also times of extreme excitement, joy, and incandescent happiness.
Learning to recognize, own, and manage your own emotions will pay off big time–now and in the future. Feeling a little jealous now and again is not unusual in a long distance relationship. However, uncontrolled jealousy can lead to a destructive combination of suspicion, possessiveness, insecurity, anger, and shame.
If you’re feeling jealous, figure out how to control your jealousy before it starts to control you. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Stonewalling is using silence as a weapon or an escape. It is controlling the situation by simply refusing to engage. Distance makes this particularly easy to do (hanging up or not answering or returning calls), and it can drive your long distance partner crazy with frustration, second-guessing, and self-doubt.
If finances are tight, money can become a major source of resentment–especially if finances are keeping you apart, traveling to see each other is expensive, and/or one partner has to spend a lot more money than the other to keep the relationship going.
Tackling this hot topic directly can help avoid assumptions and conflict. Trust is a major issue for many LDR couples. Discuss your “status” as a couple, expectations around how you act when you’re apart, and what constitutes “commitment” or “cheating”. Talking about these things (and any growing feelings of jealousy or unease) can save you a lot of heartache and conflict in the long run.
We’ve all heard the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” but it’s also true that “absence can make the mind go wander”. Make sure you have some reminders of your partner around–perhaps put their photo on your desktop or tape it to your mirror, drink out a coffee mug they gave you… the possibilities are endless.
Don’t spend all your spare time on Skype or your phone. Build a life where you are. Do things that make you fitter, smarter, and happier. Do things that interest you. Do these things alone, if need be.
Remember, investing in yourself is another way of investing in your most important relationship. Start now. If you focus all your free time and energy on your long distance love, your relationships with those close to you will suffer. In a nutshell: this is bad news. You will be happier and healthier in life if you have a strong network of friends beyond your partner. To do that, you need to spend time connecting with them.
Don’t put yourself in situations that will lead to extra temptation to cheat! Don’t start hanging out alone every weekend with the same attractive co-worker. Don’t go out to bars with your friends and drink a lot if you know that you get extra flirty after a few.
Bottom line? Know yourself. Know your limits, and then stay a couple of steps away from those limits. I know it’s tempting, but when you DO get to see each other, don’t spend the whole visit cuddling on the couch (or in bed). Make sure you get out and do something fun–hang with other friends, try a new restaurant, etc. Also try to mix in some normal life such as grocery shopping and cooking together.
Many couples nowadays do periodic stints of long distance. One way to reduce the stress of all that coming and going is to plan ahead together for ways to reduce the burden on the stay-at-home partner during your times apart. Spending some time on logistics before you leave will help them during your absence. Everyone has days when they feel extra-sad or lonely.
Plan ahead and know what might help you (and what definitely won’t help you) during those times. It may not be very wise, for example, to go hang out with an attractive friend at a dance club on a night when you really really want to be holding your partner close. If you really want to know how to make a long distance relationship work–look beyond being long distance!
Research shows that LDRs have a better chance of working if there’s an end date in sight. Don’t rush into discussions (or decisions) about moving. Before too long, however, do start talking about how and when you might be able to close the gap.
If you’re feeling stuck about whether or how your relationship has a future, having a good therapist ask questions and help you think things through can only help. Counseling can also help you address and resolve issues related to jealousy, trust, insecurity, and some of the “blind spots” that can develop when you’re in a LDR Same-city living will usher in a whole new phase in your relationship.
Think and talk together about ways to ease the stress of this major transition. Take it slow and recognize you may both need some extra time and space as you negotiate learning (or re-learning) how to share your space and lives up close and personal. You can learn so much about someone when you’re in a long distance relationship.
In many ways, you can get to know someone more quickly and deeply when you’re communicating across distance. However, there are certain things you just can’t learn about someone when you’re in an LDR. Be prepared to keep learning new things about your partner when you’re finally living together.
Lots of people say LDRs can’t work. They’re wrong. Maybe an LDR couldn’t work for them, or maybe they just have no idea what they’re talking about.
Don’t listen to them. Plenty of LDRs work out in the long run, and many couples credit the time they spent in an LDR for teaching them invaluable relationship skills.
3 Secrets to Make Your Long Distance Relationship Last