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9 Habits to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work

Charles and Tammy have been in a long-distance relationship for several months.  Since they met online, because of COVID-19 and limited budgets, they have not met in person.  They write to each other frequently through social media and sometimes arrange Skype calls.  But both of them experience some frustration at not being able to meet in person.

Unfortunately, they live about 1500 miles away from each other, so there is little hope of their meeting anytime soon.  Charles is older than Tammy and feels that his life is passing him by.  Tammy is ok with the relationship—she has a lot of other things going on in her life.

Tammy feels that, at some point, they will either need to meet or move on.  At times, she has this weird thought that, for all she knows, Charles is someone entirely different from the person with whom she communicates online.  She has never met Charles in person, and how is she supposed to know what he really is like, minus the whole online presentation of self that has become so all-present in society?

It has occurred to Charles that he could also see someone locally while waiting for an opportunity to arise for him and Tammy to get together.  But he can’t get himself to do it.  He feels like he would destroy whatever chance he has to make things work with Tammy.  The odd thing is that he is pretty sure Tammy is seeing someone else, but he doesn’t want to ask her.  He is afraid of what he might find out.

Charles realizes that their relationship may be online for some time to come, and his fear of knowing too much about Tammy may prevent the relationship from going where he would like it to go.  But he just can’t get himself to ask her if she is seeing someone locally.  After all, she has the same COVID-19 restrictions he does. Or does she?  What is she really doing?  For all he knows, he is just a fling for her.

Charles realizes he is falling in love, but with whom--a real person—the Tammy he thinks he knows--or a figment of his imagination? He resolves to ask her where she stands in the relationship the next time they talk.  But he doesn’t. He’s too afraid of what she will say.


The story of Charles and Tammy illustrates both the potential strengths and weaknesses of long-distance relationships.  On the positive side, without the Internet and Skype, Charles and Tammy probably could not have any relationship at all, or at least, not an easy one.  In the COVID-19 era, it is often either a virtual relationship or none at all.  Moreover, Charles and Tammy have gotten quite far in their relationship without even having met each other once.  And finally, Charles and Tammy have decided they are important enough to each other that they will keep it going, even when they probably could form other relationships.

But the problems are as easy to see as the pluses.  One does not know if the relationship is real.  What if it is all in one’s imagination?  What is the other person is only an act?  What if Tammy isn’t who she appears to be?  There have been any number of instances of fraudulent Internet personae.  Is it real?

Another problem is suspicion. What if the person is pretty much who they say they are, but not quite—what if, at the same time they are forming a relationship with you, they are seeing someone else and “forgetting” to mention it?  What if it stays a virtual relationship forever?  How long does one wait until one decides that one needs a real person—there in person?  You can’t touch a person on the Internet; you can’t embrace them; you can’t make love to them—not really, anyway!

9 Crucial Steps to Making Your Long-Distance Relationship Work

In some long-distance relationships, there are occasional meetings, but many of the same problems apply—how do you know what is going on when you’re not there or they’re not here with you?

So, if, for better or worse, you are involved in a long-distance relationship with little or no hope of getting together anytime soon, what can you do to make it the best possible?

  • Focus on the positive! Without the long-distance relationship, you might have no relationship at all. Be happy for what you have!
  • Communicate! If the relationship is valuable to you, focus on what you can do best in a long-distance relationship—namely, communicate.  Write, call, text, Skype, Zoom, or whatever it takes!  Even when you are closer to someone geographically, sometimes your opportunities to meet may be limited by other factors. Use the opportunity to get to know your partner much better.
  • Surprise each other. Send unexpected texts or a handwritten letter or postcard. Send flowers or cookies, or send a photo of where you are right now telling the other you’re thinking of them.
  • Spend time together. You don't need to be physically together to spend time together. Get takeout food from a chain restaurant (or cook the same meal) and then eat it at the same time, maybe even being on Zoom while you’re eating; or go out and look at the moon at the same time. There are no limits to your creativity.
  • Make it a habit. Create little habits that connect you to each other, like saying good night or good morning to each other by phone or text. Anything works - just customize to meet your (and your partner's) needs.
  • Ask the questions you are reluctant to ask! It is only natural that you will have doubts and, occasionally, even fears or suspicions.  Everyone gets anxious sometimes, especially when you can’t be with a person. If you are wondering what your partner is doing when you’re not there, ask!
  • Be open and honest! We all can be tempted to have a secret or two; and then maybe three or four; and then maybe five or six; and on it goes.  Once the secrets start, they expand, like the virus they are.  Fidelity is a slippery slope, and if you start straying, you can either keep going down that road, or you can discuss the problem with your partner as soon as it arises.  If you can’t discuss it, you know where it will go. Sooner or later, your long-distance relationship will either be gone or, worse, a fraud.
  • Get closer! I have written that, in the end, we never really know another person except through the stories we construct about them.  So, even if you live with a person by your side, day after day, you may think you know them, but you only know so much. In other words, day-to-day relationships where you both are physically present have many of the same challenges as long-distance ones.  Don’t let the distance hold you back. If you wish, get closer to your partner. See if you can turn what at times may seem like a crisis into an opportunity.  Fight the physical distance with emotional closeness. Instead of distancing yourself, draw closer.
  • Have a plan and a back-up plan! If you do not see a long-distance relationship as one you can keep up forever, together with your partner, make a plan.  How are you going to get together physically?  When?  And what if that plan does not work? Have a back-up plan.  It helps to think that there is an end in sight, no matter how far off it may be.


Can you make a long-distance relationship work?  You bet you can!  But to make it work, you have to, well, work at it.  Decide if the relationship is worth it to you. And if it is, go for it!

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