Yes, long-distance relationships can work.
I'm not saying this because I've been through it. Before my wife and I were married, we spent four years in different cities, which in Texas, is no small feat.
So I do have some personal experience, but I've also learned a lot from the couples I work with who have done this well.
Even if you're not within driving distance, technology mixed with a few lessons from some old-school love stories can help you keep a long-distance relationship healthy and vibrant.
1. Love Letters.
Yes, Skype and FaceTime rock. When I was doing the long-distance thing, the webcam idea was just hitting the market and we never really got the benefit of seeing each other on a screen or a tablet. However, I'm thankful for this because it also made us rely more heavily on some old world techniques for keeping communication open.
Don't neglect the power of pen and paper. There's something uniquely powerful about taking the time, thought, and effort, to write your feelings down on paper.
The words you use may be simple, but in a culture built around immediacy, the relationship message you send is what keeps long-distance relationships alive, which brings me to number 2.
We love initiative. We don't want someone to love us because we ask them to love us, we want them to love us because they want to love us. It means more that way because it affirms our value.
We don't want to feel like a chore.
Find meaningful ways to express love without being asked. One of the challenges in long-distance relationships is that you have fewer opportunities to show your partner or spouse that you love them in the minutia of life that glues relationships together.
Normally I work with partners to both show initiative, but also to ask for what you want if you see a lack of initiative. Both are healthy. But with long-distance relationships, spontaneous acts of affection are relationship gold.
3. Always have something on the calendar.
This is a trick I discovered when I learned about a key difference between my wife and I. I always knew that I would see her again soon. She knew it too, but she really needed to have that date on her calendar.
She needed to be able to expect proximity to me.
I've been known to be a little....impulsive. In our long-distance relationship, this served us well. One day, I had been in a bus for 10 hours round trip for a football game. I got back to campus at around 2:00 in the morning where I had planned to go to sleep and then get up and drive to see my wife.
I don't know if it was the coffee or the adrenaline from the game, but I just decided to hop in the car and drive (College students: Don't do this).
The surprise was welcome. It showed initiative. She was excited to see me. But my impulsivity shouldn't also mean that I don't accommodate her need for structure, which brings me to number 4.
4. Be flexible.
Partner in healthy relationship needs healthy communities. Sometimes, when you're planning trips to see each other, it means that you don't have a ton of opportunities for liesure time with your own immediate community to continue to build relationships.
But you need those social relationships, so be careful not to neglect them.
Sometimes a weekend at home is what is needed. Consider it an opportunity to strengthen your relationship in an indirect way. Foster a healthy intimate relationship by creating healthy social relationships.
Then, when you do get to see each other, make sure that you integrate each other into your own social worlds. One of the worst things that can happens is that you forget to intentionally include each other into your own communities. It can feel very exclusive.
5. Make room in your daily schedule.
You don't get to come home to each other. You don't get to go to the grocery store after work or yell at each other and then make up. Not regularly anyway. So, you need to find other ways to have little intimate moments.
For some of us, this is hard. If you are an especially focused person who tends to compartmentalize your world - when I'm at work, I'm at work only - this may be difficult.
One of the best ways you can create healthy long-distance relationships is by intentionally opening up little moments in your work day, school day, or other times you wouldn't normally to send a text or do a quick FaceTime.
Plan a FaceTime lunch where you bring an iPad and go out to the picnic during the middle of the day. Snap a picture of the report you just wrote to share how proud you are of your work. Use emojis.
You'll be amazed at how this discipline will become a habit that serves you the rest of your lives, when you need it less. You'll be that embarrassing couple that makes people jealous.