How can I keep a long distance relationship going?
We weren't long distance until he joined the military. I love him and I know he loves, me but it's complicated. He said he's not going to find someone else, but I'm afraid. How do I keep our relationship going?
Hello. You are asking a very good question about how to sustain a long-distance relationship. Although maintaining a long-distance relationship has its challenges, with the proper communication, commitment, and understanding, many long-distance couples are able to thrive and maintain a close connection.
Without knowing more about the "complicated" nature of your relationship, I wonder whether your boyfriend has given you reason not to trust him that makes afraid that he will find someone else. Has he cheated on you in the past and has shown romantic interest to another person that made you fear losing him? Or, is your thought just a fear but not based on evidence? Knowing that distinction is important because if it is the latter, you may benefit from refocusing on the wonderful qualities about your partner that makes you feel good about him and the relationship rather than focusing on the unknown or uncertainty of the future. The more you focus on "what if" situations, the more you may feel anxious about a reality that is not accurate and make you act in ways that are insecure.
However, if there is reason for you to question his fidelity, you may have to speak to your boyfriend about how to build trust in the context of a long-distance relationship. To help the conversation, you may need to consider what you may need to experience or receive as support to feel safe in the relationship to build trust. Is that you wish him to contact you regularly, or to include you more in his life, or to make a clear commitment? For many of my clients in my private practice, that may include talking to their partner often and using a variety of modalities including text, phone, and Skype. It's hard to believe in a relationship when you never talk to your partner, and it's hard to build a relationship when you don't know what's going on in your partner's life. Other times, it is Making sure they talk often to their long-distance partner so that they can participate in each others lives and to feel their presence.. Regular communication, understanding and caring is the key to sustaining any relationship, but this is especially true for long-distance ones.
Dr. Virginia Chow
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Loving someone in the military is hard. My husband and I joined the USAF two months after we got married! How long do you expect to be apart? Do you have access to Skype or something similar? How far away from each other are you? Can you meet half way periodically? I have a number of military friends who have dates over the miles with facebook live. They pick a restaurant, order, and talk about their day. It's super cute and sweet. What are some things that you have tried?
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You're wise to be aware of possible changes to your relationship once your bf is away from you for extended time periods.
All you both can do is state your intentions and wishes, keep in contact as much as possible, and wait to see how your relationship unfolds.
To a large degree, each of you is relying on faith that if the relationship is meant to last for a while, then it will. The military may add stress.
This doesn't necessarily mean the stress will dissolve the relationship.
Sometimes all anyone is able to do, is try.
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You're right that long-distance relationships can be complicated. If he loves you and you love him, that's a great start. I wonder if you would be able or willing to have a discussion about what you love about each other and what makes each of you feel loved, valued, special, and appreciated.
When having important discussions, consider the following:
- Make sure it is a good time to have a discussion (and if you're doing it in writing because of the distance, you could type something in the top of the message about not reading any further if the person who is reading doesn't have 10 minutes or something like that)
- Try to listen as though you are an investigative reporter trying to find out information about each other. Asking more questions in this manner can be a helpful way to be less defensive during difficult or emotional conversations.
- When having discussions face-to-face, I often recommend using timeout when things become very emotional and saying that you agree to go back to the conversation in 15 minutes or one hour or some short duration of time that allows for some of the immediate emotions to dissipate so it is easier to also talk about them. As for how that translates to distance, maybe each of you would say that you are working on figuring out how best to explain it and will answer the next time you have access to the Internet (or, if possible, use some kind of timeframe).
Consider what questions you would like answers to. For example, are you wondering:
- What should I do if I miss you or want to talk to you more? I don't want to make you feel guilty, but I also don't want to hide my feelings. Can I share them with you?
- If you have days or weeks when we cannot be in contact directly, can I keep sending you messages or is that overwhelming?
- How will you ask for support from me?
- Some couples really want to protect each other. In doing so, instead of hiding our emotions, can we share them and work through them together?
- Whatever else comes to mind.
Gary Chapman is famous for his books about the 5 Love Languages. He has one specifically for military families: The 5 Love Languages Military Edition: The Secret to Love That Lasts.
Here's a list of books related to loving from a distance: http://www.longdistancerelationships.net/bookstor.htm
I have not read these books myself, but I have read other works by a lot of the authors.
One final tip: Consider making a list of times when you work together and both feeling calm, safe, and comfortable. These memories could be helpful to you during difficult moments.
Best wishes to you. Remember that you could each see therapists in your respective locations if that would be helpful to you.
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