Long-distance relationships can be complicated. However, there is good news. According to Laura Stafford, author of "Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross-Residential Relationships," couples that find themselves in this situation actually appreciate their partners more because they don't see them all the time. Regardless, just like any relationship, there are challenges.
Realize Your Partner Is Not Perfect
Stafford suggests that sometimes couples idealize their long-distance partners, which creates unrealistic expectations of behavior. Because they are not together all the time, people tend to be on their best behavior when they do see each other. Therefore, this good behavior sets up ideas of how they want their partners to act every day. To avoid or work through conflict effectively, it is important to be realistic when approaching a long-distance relationship.
Don't Be Competitive With Each Other
Constant fighting is one of the most common problems couples face in long distance relationships, claims Besski Livius, a long-distance romance coach for men. Frequently, they view themselves as "enemies," and being competitive with one another is a destructive style of dealing with conflict. Instead, it is important to take a "team" approach. The partners need to first view themselves as a unit, by sharing their thoughts and feelings. For example, both people need to say something such as, "I feel like our constant fighting is not helping us. Let's refocus and try to come up with mutually satisfying solutions -- together."
Face the Problems
When couples argue frequently, sometimes they eventually put their heads in the sand to avoid the constant fighting about the problem. However, this is not a productive way to handle conflict, says communication researcher Julia Wood in her book, "Communication in Our Lives." Because people in a long-distance relationship don't have much of a chance to work out their problems face-to-face, they make use of video chat, phone or email. The lack of touch and seeing facial expressions or body language can complicate problems further. For example, if a couple starts arguing over the phone, they will have to be more direct with their language because of the lack of nonverbal cues. Saying something such as, "The tone of your voice tells me that you are angry. Am I right?" opens up communication without accusations or criticism.
Don't "Give In" Just to Keep the Peace
Another common problem in long-distance relationships is fear of infidelity when one of them goes out to party with their friends, notes Livius. Sometimes, the partner who is the most fearful would rather not fight about it and just "gives in" to keep the peace. However, William Wilmot and Joyce Hocker, authors of "Intepersonal Conflict," advise that neither partner in a relationships "gives in" to the wishes of the other. While giving in may seem like a good short-term solution, it does not work in the long run. It is especially destructive when it is always the same person making the sacrifice. That person will eventually grow resentful of the other, and that will lead to even greater problems in the future. Instead, speak up and say, "I am concerned that you will meet someone else when you go out with your friends. Can we work out a system that will make me more assured?"