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Has Anyone Made a Long-Distance Relationship Work?

by Gina Poirier

It's no secret that long-distances relationships are difficult to maintain. Some couples can't avoid them, at least for a time, particularly when one partner has to relocate for work or school, and the other can't come along. But many couples make the relationship work, using some common tactics to stay close despite the distance between them.

Military Service Members

Tens of thousands of service members are deployed or relocated around the world each year, separated from partners, spouses and families for weeks or months. Military OneSource lists several strategies that military personnel should use to stay close in their relationships, strategies that you can employ to make your own long-distance relationship work. First, plan ahead, ensuring that it's clear how the partner who is left behind can continue everyday life alone. Additionally, do everything you can to trust each other; otherwise, the relationship can crumble since you can't always see what the other person is doing. You should communicate openly and regularly. Sometimes instant communication by phone or computer isn't possible, so couples should get creative; writing fun paper love letters and sending care packages are age-old strategies that can be very meaningful. Above all, the key to success is to have realistic expectations about the strain that the distance will put on the relationship -- and respond accordingly.

College Students

Generally transient by nature, students often move multiple times a year, transfer to different schools and study abroad, so long-distance relationships are common. According to experts at the Counseling and Psychological Services at Oregon State University, one of the most important keys to success is having realistic expectations about what the relationship will be like. Dating long distance can add loneliness, distrust and stress to an already stressful life. Successful long-distance relationships have regular and open communication, mutual dedication and trust. Each partner also has to be confident in living independently when apart.

Career Travelers

Some careers require frequent traveling. If one or both partners is on the road or overseas for large chunks of time, you have to plan and adjust to help the relationship work. Doug and Polly White, authors of "Making Business Travel Work With Your Relationships" advise that you should use regular, deep communication. Value the time that you spend together in person and not take simple activities like watching TV together for granted. Find creative ways to celebrate special occasions when you can't be together. Using technology -- especially phone and video calls -- can play a valuable role in helping you communicate.

Others Forced Apart

You may be forced to be apart for short or long periods. International couples may be separated by paperwork; parents may have to travel for their kids; those in ill health may need to relocate for treatment. Some couples who meet online or while traveling may not have the opportunity to be in the same location from the beginning of their relationship. Psychologist Dr. Suzanne Phillips lists some of the key strategies to successful long-distance relationships, including positive attitudes and assurances in communication, openness about feelings, sharing tasks in making plans and solving problems, sharing social networks, and using multiples strategies to maintain intimacy.

About the Author

Gina Poirier has a professional background in nonprofit administration and management, primarily with youth development organizations. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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