Long distance relationships may seem easier to handle these days thanks to advances in technology, but challenges still arise. Author Milena Nguyen, shares her tips on a healthy long distance relationship
Improvements in technology like texting, video chat and something as simple as the internet has helped create a world where long distance relationships (LDRS) are easier to manage.
Despite this, there is still the common misconception in society that long distance couples are less likely to last than geographically close couples.
These beliefs are especially common when it comes to trying to establish intimacy in a new relationship. Regardless, LDRs are a relationship in and of itself, which means that it can even have its own benefits that geographically close couples might be missing out on.
In 2013, the Journal of Communication published a study that argued this case. It found that ‘Long distance romantic relationships are of equal or even more trust and satisfaction than their geographically close counterparts.’
LDR couples self-disclose more and create better intimacy perceptions
It even goes on to say that LDR couples self-disclose more and create better intimacy perceptions over various interpersonal media, like Skype and Twitter, unlike their geographically close counter parts.
Therefore, long distance relationships aren’t as impossible as some people might make them out to be.
It’s no lie though, that maintaining a LDR can be harder than a geographically close relationship. Not only is living a distance apart a challenge, but this distance creates more challenges in other various areas of the relationship.
How do you keep a deep connection with your partner that lives five thousand miles away? How much time is too long before you see each other in person again? How does sex even work when they live in another country?
Thankfully, we’ve asked these questions to a long distance relationship expert for you.
Milena Nguyen lives in Singapore and has spent 10 years of her life in three different long distance relationships.
The first two left her broken and disappointed. At one point she even wished away love. ‘Love was not for me,’ she said. ‘I made a vow that I would never ever get married.’
A few years later she met her Brazilian husband at a conference in Russia. They’ve been married since 2016 and lived four years apart in six different countries before tying the knot.
With her own experiences, Nguyen has taken it upon herself to work with and coach other women in long distance relationships to empower them and teach them to to deeply care for their relationships.
She has since written a book, 10,000 Miles for Love: Turn Long-Distance Relationships into Long-Lasting Love, that coaches readers on what makes a long distance relationship work and how to patch up any problems that may arise.
Here are 8 common challenges long distance relationships face…
#1 I’ve never been in an LDR before, what should I do first?
‘What I try to help people get is that a long distance relationship is a relationship first of all,’ says Nguyen. The only defining difference between an LDR and a geographically close relationship is the fact that you both don’t live in the same area, whether that be 60 miles apart or more.
‘You want to take care of all parts of your relationship — your connection, your trust, your understanding of each other.’
First, you want to build a foundation like any other relationship so that you can communicate and overcome the challenge of your distance apart. This might mean being more open during communication with your partner and working harder to build that trust.
If you find it difficult to create a solid foundation with your partner then you might want to share with them how you’re feeling and work together on how to fix these issues.
#2 How often should I travel to see my partner?
One of the most popular questions LDR couples have for Nguyen is determining how much time is too much to be apart from one another.
According to her, three months is the perfect amount of time, but some could even make it to six. Nguyen suggests nothing over six months because then you increase the chances of losing the physical connections you’ve built between yourselves.
Travelling also gives you and your partner a chance to take your relationship to the next level.
#3 How should I plan on keeping up on communication with my partner?
‘The most common pitfall is not knowing how to establish a rhythm of communication,’ says Nguyen.
This means that you and your partner must establish a consistent time to talk. It can be something like talking every night before bed or every morning before work. Nguyen recommends talking every day to catch up with your partner.
She says that you don’t have to talk for hours and hours every time, but by calling daily you both will feel more connected in each other’s lives. When this rhythm breaks, both partners may begin to feel separated from the other.
This might intensify one’s longing for closeness and can potentially cause problems in other areas of the relationship.
#4 Should I be worried that our phone calls only last ten minutes sometimes?
It’s not about the length of the time between calls when it comes to determining if your relationship and communication need work. Instead, Nguyen says it’s all about the calls themselves.
It’s completely normal to bounce back and forth between phone calls lasting from an hour to just a ten minute catch up. If you’re only asking your partner about their daily events and find the conversation dying out every time, then this is a sign of a communication pitfall.
It’s through communication that LDR couples must rely on to keep their relationship strong. You might have to spice things up when Skyping to create deeper connections with each other, something that geographic couples receive naturally by being together.
‘There’s no point in talking if there’s no connections made,’ says Nguyen.
#5 What should I do if our conversations become repetitive and boring?
You can always do the usual, ‘How was your day? What did you do?’ bit, but after make sure to keep the conversation going by asking deeper questions, says Nguyen.
If you’re not having deep conversations the relationship increases its risk of fizzling out. If you don’t know what deep questions to ask, she suggests to Google ‘100 questions to ask your partner’ or find books that help couples find out more about each other.
Don’t be embarrassed by this because it will show your partner just how important your relationship is. On top of this, when asking questions, Nguyen reminds you to remember to be silent and listen to your partner’s answer.
‘A lot of time we just talk so much and we don’t receive fully what the other person was trying to say. The person doesn’t feel heard and seen, and therefore there’s no connection.’
It’s key in an long distance relationship to not only create a deep and meaningful communication environment, but to hear out your partner as much as you want them to hear you.
#6 How do I share my emotions with my partner when I’m upset?
‘First of all never ever argue and get into complicated conversation with messages,’ says Nguyen. Things can be easily miscommunicated when texting or emailing your partner over serious issues.
Instead, opt for video chat, or a phone call if it’s an emergency. But before talking to your partner Nguyen suggests writing your feelings out in a journal.
‘Journaling is such a great way for you to digest your emotions. You don’t want to come to your partner trying to communicate something that you don’t even understand yourself.’
After this, she suggests to communicate the problem as how you feel to keep from blaming anyone. You can start by saying something like, ‘I have something that I want to share, and I want to share this with you not to blame you. I’m sharing this just because I love our relationship so much and I care about it. I want to make it work.’
If your partner doesn’t want to have a serious conversation at the time, Nguyen says to try not to take it personally because it’s important that both sides are comfortable and aware of the type of conversation that needs to happen.
In this case especially, she argues that you want to connect your feelings to your needs. This way your partner understands the issue as something very important to you that needs fixed, and not something they might be accidentally or purposefully trying to do.
‘If you’re very clear about how you feel and that this is what you need, they would consider and they would make change,’ says Nguyen.
#7 How can I still have sex while in an LDR?
‘Masturbation is a really great thing,’ says Nguyen. But sometimes it isn’t enough. Before trying anything over video, Nguyen suggests texting your partner at the same time you are both masturbating. It’s one of the most common types of sex LDR couples take part in.
You can use this opportunity to try sending still pictures only of your sexy body parts that don’t have any identifying features of you. This would mean to start by keeping your face out of the images until you both decide that’s something you want to do.
Nguyen suggests that you also want to have complete confidence in your partner and your relationship when it comes to cyber-sex. Some couples find video sex to be more rewarding than sexting and masturbation, but also be aware that it’s also something that requires a bit of caution.
‘Just make sure that whoever you do it with you have confidence in.’ Nguyen wants you to be aware of any possible consequences whenever trying anything over video. Someone could be recording the video without you knowing or using you and your relationship for video sex only.
#8 I want to try cyber-sex, how do I ask my partner?
Nguyen says to ‘start exploring your desire by yourself.’ With long distance, it’s more about creating a deeper sense of intimacy than the ‘bang, bang,’ she says.
If you can’t bring it up directly with your partner, Nguyen suggests starting by expressing yourself. This might mean showing up to video chats with your hair done, a sexy tank top on or just act sexy when talking.
Then, simply just bring it up by saying something like, ‘I’ve been missing you, I really miss your body.’ Sex is spontaneous. She says to let it arise from there and happen as it may. ‘In most cases the partner will be thrilled.’