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How to maintain a healthy long-distance relationship

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Some do’s and don’t’s of when you’re apart.

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Momotions/Flickr

Momotions/Flickr

Momotions/Flickr

As history and pop-culture tells us, long-distance relationships can really suck. It doesn’t matter if a couple lives 70 miles or 1,000 miles apart; any separation can take a toll on a relationship.

Trust me, I know.

My girlfriend, Sam, and I have been together for seven months now and the space between us definitely messes with our heads. You can’t hold your loved one’s hand in public to show her off. You can’t kiss her on the cheek and give a hug when she is sad. Try taking care of a sick person when you live 80 miles apart. Spoilers – you can’t.

The good news is that relationships can last through the separation. But you have to be careful with what you do while apart. Check out these guidelines from my and others’ personal experiences to help you maintain a healthy long-distance relationship. It’s not only tips on what you should do, but what you should avoid doing as well.

Do – Communicate regularly

It’s important to keep your partner in the loop. Treat the relationship as if you could be with that person every day. What would you talk about? What do you want to know? Otherwise, you start to know less and less about each other and end up more like good friends than a couple.

Nate Costello, a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in a long-distance relationship for two years now, texts his girlfriend when he wakes up and calls her before going to sleep. He sporadically checks in with her throughout the day and makes sure to be available for the moments she needs him. Costello said his relationship has grown because of the constant communication kept up between the two of them.

“Definitely talk every day,” he said. “If you know what they’re doing all day, it doesn’t seem like you’re that far away.”

Once you don’t feel that far away from somebody, it gets easier to stay in the relationship.

Don’t – Communicate too regularly

BREAKING NEWS – you’re not the center of attention in this world. So don’t expect your loved one to treat you that way. If just a 10 minute drive stood between you two, would you be calling your partner five or six times trying to get in touch? I would hope not.

Can you say psychotic?

Looking back on her failed long-distance relationship, Allie Sabia, another senior at UMass, believes space is just about as important as communicating. When she wanted to go out and party with her friends, her ex-boyfriend often put up a stink. He tried to get her to stay home and talk to him on the phone. When she did go out, he pestered her with texts saying, “Are you home yet?” Ultimately, it only led to frustration and factored into the breakup.

“It’s important to understand that whoever you’re with, they have a life outside of you,” she said. “Let them live that life.”

Do – Use technology to see each other

When you miss the one you love, it hurts if you can’t see her face. Obviously, you want to visit each other as much as you can, but living 500-or-so miles apart makes that difficult, or even implausible.

Technology comes in handy in these situations. Utilize tools like Skype, FaceTime and Snapchat to see each other’s faces. When I have a tough day, calling Sam doesn’t satisfy me enough. I need to see her face. This definitely serves as the best alternative to actually being with each other.

Don’t – Use social media to see each other

Listen up, lovers: social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram serve as great tools to connect with others. But they prove to be more useful for people who don’t talk as often as a couple should. WARNING – these tools can cause the death of your relationship if you depend too much on them to communicate.

And just because these tools exist doesn’t mean you should use them to keep tabs on your partner. Don’t stalk her social media accounts; it usually leaves you feeling jealous or angry over an easily avoidable issue.

Derek Owens, a kinesiology student, knows this all too well. In his former long-distance relationship, his ex-girlfriend sometimes snooped around on his Instagram. One day, she saw that he “liked” a picture posted by another girl and immediately grew jealous and angry. The two got into a fight, which ultimately led to a little emotional distance.

If a couple can see each other in person, it’s easier to mend those frustrations and get through them quickly. Separation magnifies every problem, though, so the two barely solved the problem and grew apart.

Do – Be brutally honest

When I’m watching a Celtics game or doing homework, I’ll tell Sam that I can’t talk. Sure, we can text a little bit, but she won’t call me. And she does the same to me. When we talk while one person focuses on something else, the distraction creates a frustrating barrier in the conversation. So, we’re just honest and will say that we can’t talk and all of those poor feelings are avoided.

The same applies when going out with friends. I tell her who I’m with, including the girls. Trust me, she prefers that I tell her those details because then I have nothing I could be trying to hide. She won’t get the wrong idea when she goes on social media and sees pictures.

Be as honest as you can with the person you love. It only makes your relationship stronger, unless you do something really stupid. If you lie or don’t open up about the issues you have, barriers get built and only makes a difficult situation worse. Talk about the problems you have so your partner can help solve it. Otherwise, it only leads to resentment.

Tom can be reached at [email protected].

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
How to maintain a healthy long-distance relationship