If you're in a long-distance relationship, the only proper response to that (tired, old) adage "distance makes the heart grow fonder" is a prolonged fart noise. Yes, being reunited with your partner after a month of glitchy FaceTime calls and emoji-laden sexts is great. But separating again after a few days together feels like a kick to the gut, and all the distance-created fondness on the planet can't erase how shitty it is to say good-bye again and again.
But there are ways to make LDRs suck less...and maybe even feel good. If the adage could be retroactively edited for accuracy, it would continue "...as long as you communicate properly and stick to a visiting schedule." Rachel Sussman, a relationship therapist in New York City, offers some expert-approved hacks to keep your long-distance relationship running as smooth as possible.
1. Don't knock it till you try it.
If you hear long-distance relationship and alarms go off in your head, warning you to run away, calm down for a sec. Whether you've tried it and failed at it already or never given a LDR a chance, Sussman says your ability to thrive in distant love might surprise you. "People should keep an open mind," she says, adding that if you meet your soul mate and they live elsewhere, it may be far more possible than you think to have a successful relationship across county lines.
2. But do have an end in sight.
That said, jumping into a long-distance relationship without having a general plan for when you can live near each other again is kind of like jumping into an ocean without knowing when someone's going to throw you a floatie. "One of the rules of getting into it is knowing how long it's going to be long distance," Sussman says. An issue she sees a lot in her practice is people who move apart before talking about when they'll live together again and who's going to be the one to make that second move.
As you're in the initial stages of discussing the logistics of going the distance, Sussman recommends thinking through what it will mean to live together again—will someone have to give up a job they love, move far away from aging parents, or uproot their life in a way that leads to resentment? Have a game plan before making the leap.
3. Buckle up for a rocky first year.
Sussman says a big problem she sees in her LDR clients is they underestimate how difficult it is to make a move, especially as an adult. If you're the partner who doesn't move, try to be as understanding as possible about all the changes your loved one is about to go through—like making new friends, moving into a new place, and finding all their go-to comfort spots in the new city.
"You really have to be empathetic and grateful that the other person made this move and have to go above and beyond to help that transition," Sussman advises.
4. Buy a calendar, and stick to it.
"You've got to be kind of fastidious about the time you talk."
Not a person who sticks to a schedule? That's gonna have to change. "It's important to always have the next time you're going to see each other on the calendar," Sussman says.
It's equally important to set aside time for a phone call or FaceTime as often as you agree is necessary—every day, once a week, every three hours, whatever you're comfortable with. "You've got to be kind of fastidious about the time you talk," Sussman says. Knowing when you can next see each other and when you can count on a quality phone call makes the distance feel a lot shorter.
5. Not to be cliché, but: quality, not quantity.
Rather than focusing obsessively on staying in constant contact, Sussman says make sure the conversations you do have are meaningful and rich. "You don't have that time to sit and watch a movie together or just grab a meal together so you have to have focused conversation instead," Sussman says. Those deeper convos help you feel closer, instead of just playing text ping pong all day while you're both at work.
6. Don't overbook your visits.
LDRs aren't all bad—visiting a person you love in an exciting new city is fun and creates a lot of opportunity to experience fresh things together. Definitely spend time exploring new places, but Sussman recommends spending the first day or two of every visit just hanging out and taking it easy at home. Then spend the rest of your time going to fancy restaurants and seeing shows.
7. Don't expect perfection of every visit.
It's inevitable that plans will get ruined because someone gets sick or your period comes early.
Just because you're a couple in a long-distance relationship doesn't mean you have now surpassed the toils and troubles of regular relationships. It's inevitable that plans will get ruined because someone gets sick or your period will come at a shitty time or you'll have a fight that takes up 60 percent of your time together. That's okay. It's the regular stuff that all couples deal with! Sussman says keep that in mind. Instead of getting grumpy that something lame happened, just deal with it as you would if you lived together. Otherwise, you're putting an unfair amount of pressure on yourselves.