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Expert advice on surviving a healthy long distance relationship

Miyoko Hikiji Author, “All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq”

So your honey lives far away? Don’t despair. There are ways to keep your long distance relationship irresistibly sweet.


Do

Do keep in contact

Keep in contact on a daily basis, if possible. Technology allows us opportunities to send texts and video in order to keep our significant other involved in our daily triumphs, disappointments and the little things that make up most of our daily lives. Continuity of communication allows the relationship to continue to evolve. Never before in the history of warfare have deployed soldiers had this much access to direct communication via the Internet. But even for those soldiers that don't have this available, there's still the old fashioned letter. Only 10 years ago, when I was deployed we did not have reliable Internet access available, so letter writing provided both the outlet for my thoughts as a soldier and a reader as my audience to listen.

Do invest your best

The only way for you to help your relationship grow, is to contribute to it. Be generous with your time and trust and practice a communication style that is transparent and non-judgemental. Your significant other needs to feel that even though you’re not physically there, your schedule is open and you are emotionally available to listen and care.

Do remember to end upbeat

When you’re in a long distance relationship and you hang up the phone, end a video chat session or seal the envelope, you don’t get an immediate opportunity to go back and say something nice you were thinking but forgot to mention because of the right-now frustrations that were swirling in your brain. Remind yourself at the beginning of the your communication (or better yet write yourself a little note) of what positive and loving things can be said about your significant other and end the communication with those. Praise him or her for accomplishing a task and for a way that he or she makes you feel loved and cared for. That’s that part of yourself you want him or her to carry around until your next correspondence, not the details of your bad day.

Do celebrate milestone events

Seems obvious, but many couples miss this one, thinking that they’ll “save” Christmas, anniversaries or other special events for when they’re back together. But time stops for no one. Sure you may not be able to share a piece of cake, open up a present or a bottle of wine or whatever you do to mark that milestone, but it’s sharing the day, not what you do to share it that matters. If your partner is deployed overseas, for example, send him or her another sweet treat or a voice recording or handmade note. When you’re apart, it truly is the thought that counts. So yes, you must put some thought into it for it to be special. But if you do, it too will become a milestone memory, to be cherished among all the other special days of the year.

Do keep a normal routine, whatever that may be

Of course you’re missing your significant other like crazy, but if you’re not careful, it can drive you insane. Keeping your regular routine will reduce your stress which is better for you and your relationship. If you’ve always worked out on Mon, Wed and Fri, keep that up even if you think you’d rather stay home and pine away. If it’s possible, schedule your communication times, just like date nights, so that the rest of the week you’re not waiting by the phone. Routine always seems to help the time pass by more quickly, making it more bearable, albeit one day or week at a time, until reunion day.


Don't

Do not get in the way of your SO’s friends

Don’t interfere with the relationships that your significant other keeps with people that are available to them. Having real, live, in-the-flesh friends is natural and can be helpful in keeping your significant other safe and sane. This is especially difficult for military spouses because, under the circumstances, relationships with battle buddies of both genders can be intense. If your relationship is solid, or even if it isn't, worrying, judging or criticizing will not likely improve your relationship.

Do not pretend everything is ok when it’s not

Sometimes when a loved one is away, especially when he or she is deployed, we feel as if there are conversations we can’t have because it might be too much to handle. Sometimes you’re right; even the best relationships are strained by distance. But remember that at the foundation of a good relationship is honesty and caring. Pretending things are alright when they’re not is a subtle form of lying. So aim to be truthful and ask your significant other as you discuss a problem how much he or she wants to know, then honor that.

Do not make big relationship decisions when separated

When you’re separated from your partner, it’s not the best time to discuss getting married, having a baby, buying a house, moving, or similar life-changing choices. Time apart is maintenance phase in a relationship--a time to nurture what you already have a grow a little in the process. Unless it’s not possible to delay, save talking about these issues for a time shortly after you’re back together. It’s always ok to dream and it may relieve stress to share your future hopes, but be clear that it’s just that--dreaming--so that neither of you worry unnecessarily over choices that can be made later.

Do not be afraid to have fun

Do you find yourself saying, “But I want to wait and do that with my guy? My gal would really want to come along with me on this trip?” Maybe, but you can do it again when you’re reunited. But there should be zero (or next to zilch anyway) guilt here when it comes to doing something for yourself and having a bit of fun when the opportunity arises. Life doesn’t stop when you’re separated from your loved one, so don’t stop living it. Encourage your significant other to do the same and then swap stories. In a caring relationship, you should take joy in each other’s happiness, which each is deserving to have absent the other.


Summary
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Long distance relationships don’t work? Some don’t, but good relationships aren’t about proximity, they’re about choices- things you do and things you don’t. These are a few common sense ideas that when put to use can improve the quality of your relationship when you’re apart and increase the chances of your relationship succeeding when you reunite.


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Photo Credits: i love you by Flickr: Kathryn Connell; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Miyoko HikijiAuthor, “All I Could Be: My Story as a Woman Warrior in Iraq”

Army veteran (1995-2004) and soldier at heart for life (I'm aiming for centenarian). Member of the first National Women Veterans Speakers Bureau (www.WomenVetsSpeak.com) and Spokeswoman for the Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Initiative with the V...

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