Between my frequent travels and my tendency to fall in love with people from other cities, I’ve become an expert on making long distance relationships work. So, I thought I’d combine the knowledge I’ve learned through my experiences here for you in this useful list.
These tips don’t have to just be limited to romantic relationships, they’re also helpful ways to stay connected with friends who live far away!
1. Share a Calendar
My best friend and I have a “Befri Bonzanza” calendar where we put in all the plans we have to hang out, or big events in the other person’s life that we should know about. For example, I’m visiting her in San Francisco right now and staying for a week. So, we marked all of our get togethers and important events I shouldn’t miss in a calendar. That helped me remember when I had plans to hang out with her and when I could make plans to have business meetings or hang with other friends.
I should say, however, that my partner is against a shared calendar. It makes her feel like we are business associates in an office, not lovers in a relationship. She wants flexibility, hates the formality of a set time on a calendar, and in general gets frustrated when I want to (over) plan things, especially because it’s usually my schedule that changes at the last minute, not hers.
I, however, am a total planner, so calendars help me find a path in a busy day and make me less nervous that I’ll miss something important. Along with the usual work stuff, my calendar is chock full of reminders like “M’s brother died a week from today – send her a card” and “Alex is hiking today, give her space but check in around 5pm to make sure she wasn’t eaten by a Mountain Lion.”
Your brain may be able to remember it all, but when you’re juggling work and travel like I am, it’s hard to keep all the balls in the air. Sharing a calendar with a friend or lover, or inviting them to an event which puts it on their calendar, is an easy way to make sure you don’t forget something and hurt someone’s feelings.
Google calendars are my favorite because they are free and an easy way to set up a shared calendar. It also syncs with any smart phone, computer or similar device. But you can definitely have a shared physical calendar as well, just make sure to update it regularly.
2. Read a Book Together
The hardest part is choosing a book that piques both of your interest. Alex is very much into literary fiction, sociological non-fiction and heavier reads. While I enjoy the intellectual expansion those books give me when I make it through them, I tend to lean more towards the kind of books I can escape into, which includes young adult fiction, the latest book that’s being turned into a movie, or memoir.
Our first book together was Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior, and she finished it in two weeks while I took two months (I finished two YA novels before it). For our next round, we decided to gift each other books we had loved, and then read them together. She gave me Alice Munro’s Dear Life, I gave her Harry Potter. Both of us were shocked the other hadn’t read our suggestion, both of us have yet to read either book.
We obviously haven’t found the perfect balance of how to read a book together, but we keep trying! And so should you, because once we finished Flight Behavior it was really great to talk with her about it.
3. Phone Sex
I love a good phone sex session. I love hearing my partner’s breath quicken, hearing moans and she comes. I love being loud and raspy and boisterous as I come. I love it all.
Any tips I’d give you about phone sex would come from Ashley Manta’s A Feminist’s Guide to Phone Sex, so go download that. It’s free!
When days are rough, it’s nice to cuddle into your partner’s arms and get comfort. But what do you do when those arms are far away?
Having trinkets, doodads, tidbits, or other such memorabilia around to help you feel loved is important when your friend or partner isn’t there to comfort you in person. Last month, I was battling a particularly rough bout of depression in which it was impossible for me to understand why someone would love me. My partner was miles away at the time and phone calls just weren’t really working.
Being the crafty person she is, my partner presented me with a clear jar with a bright yellow lid the next time I saw her. In that jar, dozens of colorful papers hearts sat folded in half, each one containing a hand-written reason she loves me. “Anytime you feel unlovable,” she said, holding me tightly, “just open this jar and read all the ways you are wonderful. You can take one at a time, or dump them all out and bathe in them, it’s up to you.”
If you’re looking for crafty relationship ideas like this one, check out this relationship craft board on Pinterest.
Sometimes, I just need to see my baby’s face. Sure, we tend to spend the whole time staring at each other, but there’s something comforting in seeing her smile. It’s an especially good way to deal with times when texts have led to a miscommunication and we just need to calm and comfort each other.
6. Postcards and Love Letters
Yes, I am a writer, so yes, I am going to preach the importance of writing letters. Always. Forever. I teach a whole class on how to use writing to enhance your sex life, that’s how much I think writing is important to a relationship.
Texts come and go. I send about 1000 a week. Emails get buried in my box and never see the light of day again. But I have almost every single love letter a partner has handed me.
Letters give us something concrete, a way to know that someone took the time to find a piece of paper and a pen, put a stamp on it, and put it in the mail.
When I’m traveling, I like to send postcards from places to people I miss while I’m there. My nieces and nephews especially love this touch, it makes them feel like they’re traveling with me.
Everyone loves getting mail, and a letter is a great way to show your affection and connect with someone.
7. Movie Dates
One of my favorite things to do is go to a movie, and I miss the ability to do that with partners or friends that are long-distance. Years ago, my ex The Wind suggested that we watch the same movie over the phone. This was long before Netflix and we both had to go to the movie store and call each other to see what they mutually had in stock. In VHS.
These days, with streaming video and the ability to share each other’s screens,
8. Listen to Your Partner
I asked Alex what advice she would recommend.
Be open minded. Understand your partner’s needs and understand that you may not always be the one who can satisfy those needs.
We learned a lot about what does and doesn’t work for our relationship simply through writing and talking about this post. For example, I now know that she does not want to schedule phone conversations but is open to scheduling longer dates. And she now knows that I am so old I picked out VHS movies with my ex.
9. Share Photo Albums
For Christmas last year, I made Alex a photo album chronicling our adventures together throughout the year. I love flipping through it and seeing where we’ve been.
If you’re less of the craft type, or you’d like something more immediately tangible, there are lots of ways to share photos online, including a build in shared album feature on iPhone that I use with Alex. My buddy Mona Darling and I use shared folders a lot when we’re at events with each other. It’s an easy way to reminisce about an event later.
I know some couples that use private Tumblrs with passwords as a way to share erotic photos, sweet messages and other tidbits with each other. It also can be a great way to show each other’s sexual interests. For example, if you both reblog a photo of rope bondage, you might want to talk about incorporating that into your sex life.
For advice on how to do that, check out Queeraschino Cherry’s Love Hurts: A Consent-Based Guide to Kink.
10. Ask Others For Advice
I find some of my best solutions come from others who have been there as well. Here’s what Twitter had to say about long-distance relationships:
@QueerieBradshaw call/leave a message when u want 2/have things 2 say. frequent plannd convos=expectations that cant always b met+resentment
— Rebecca Lehner (@r_lehner) March 24, 2014
@QueerieBradshaw Learn to balance your individual lives with your life as a couple.
— Jessie Bond (@jessieb007) March 24, 2014
@QueerieBradshaw Non monogamy and a good web cam..for me at least.
— Ophelia Black (@_OpheliaBlack) March 24, 2014
— Caitlin Larson (@OneLegitChick) March 24, 2014
@QueerieBradshaw Video chats, watching the same streaming movie w/chat together, being clear about what role visits play, esp in terms of $$. agree on how much daily contact is needed (100 texts or 2), and if visits are “us” time or “see what my life is like” time.
— Del (@SexGodsRockStar) March 24, 2014