Physical interaction, quality time, and shared experiences help a relationship grow and flourish. But if you’re in a long distance relationship, you may feel like you’re missing out on key milestones, or struggling to create joint, lasting memories. While texting throughout the day and Facetiming nightly can help keep lines of communication open, long distance relationships require some extra elbow grease. Here are a few ways to build on your emotional connection beyond a regularly scheduled call or a “good morning” text.
1. Get old school
Just because you can FaceTime, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace some good old fashioned romantic charm. Send a handwritten letter, or a care package of things that make you think of your partner, and consider their day brightened. You don’t necessarily have to become pen pals, but according to psychologist Barbara Santini, “Snail mail proves you clearly think about them, and creates a memory.”
2. Keep it sexy
While you’re boxing up a few goodies for your partner, consider adding a surprise that will benefit your sex life. “Long distance partners will have to opt for other ways to satisfy their sexual needs with little physical intimacy,” Santini tells O.school. Keep the sensuality and spark alive by sending your partner a sex toy or two that you know they’ll enjoy. “For added fun, invest in long distance sex toys and apps designed so partners can control the devices from different locations,” Santini suggests.
3. Attend an event together (virtually)
The joy of in-person dating comes from seeing new things together, and sharing ideas afterwards. Recreate that experience by attending a virtual event together, and you’ll feel like you’re on a real time date. This can include a lecture, a concert, or a cooking class, or whatever you and your partner find most interesting for date night.
4. Host a double date
If you and your partner lived in the same city, you’d perhaps be enjoying outings with other friends. Why not invite some of these friends to join your date session? “Virtual double dates open new doors to better learn about your relationship, and reduce feelings of loneliness from being apart,” Santini points out. Grab another couple, whether it’s a pair you’d like to get to know or a few old friends, and fire up the video call.
5. Join each other in self-care
Self-care means something different to everyone, but whether you’re at your best doing a workout class or a face mask, include your partner in this activity. Your favorite exercise studio might have virtual options you can try together. Or, call your partner up for a FaceTime spa night to boost rejuvenation as well as romantic connection.
6. Play rose, bud, thorn
It’s not always enough to ask your partner how their day was when you get on the phone, especially when you’re working on deepening an emotional connection. If they simply reply with “good,” “fine,” or “stressful,” it can be tough to know where to go from there. You can encourage meaningful dialogue by playing a conversation game like Rose, Bud, Thorn. If you haven’t played this icebreaking classic, all you have to do is ask your partner about their “rose” (the high point of their day), their “bud” (something they’re looking forward to based on their day), and their “thorn” (the low point of their day).
7. Make a mixed tape
If you ever fall in love with a song and feel the urge to put one headphone in your partner’s ear and listen with the other, a shared playlist is a great way to do just that. “Communicating through music is a really meaningful way to feel connected,” Ashera DeRosa, LMFT, tells O.school. “It gives you a glimpse into one another's world views and creates a wonderful bond.” Fortunately, your music platform of choice likely has a collaborative playlist option to explore.
8. Pick up a disposable camera
“Another fun idea is to trade a disposable camera back and forth every time you meet up,” DeRosa suggests. “Taking pictures here and there with your loved one and while you’re apart can give you a time capsule to your relationship.” Once you've taken all the pictures, you can either wait until you’re together to have the film developed, or you can develop your partner’s photos for a personal glimpse into their adventures, even if you’re far away.
9. Schedule a game night
A virtual game night promises an evening of shared laughs, and can include anything from professionally hosted trivia to an old family classic. Maybe you’d like to play a round of Battleship, Catan, or Codenames, all of which are available online. Consider throwing it back to your adolescence with “Never Have I Ever” or “Truth or Dare.” If you’re interested in a game that will inspire a deeper conversation, We’re Not Really Strangers (Couples Edition), or a similar game of discussion questions, could be a great option.
10. Start a two-person book club
Saying goodbye at the end of a visit is always a challenge for long distance couples. Make a ritual of heading to a local bookstore to choose a shared read before you part ways. This will give you something to enjoy together at a distance, until you can be together in person and discuss.
11. Treat them to sustenance
Thanks to apps like Venmo and Postmates, it’s easier than ever to give your partner a little something from far away. Shoot them a couple bucks for a morning coffee, or have a delivery service bring them a pizza. This is an easy way to let your partner know you’re thinking of them, especially if you know they need a pick-me-up.
12. Send your scent
They say smell is the sense most connected to memory. If that’s the case for you, you might find yourself especially missing your partner’s cologne or perfume. Swap your scents by sharing products with each other. That way, all you’ll have to do is take a whiff when you miss them.
13. Share a journal
Take Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and make it romantic. Buy a journal and record your thoughts, feelings, or observations. You can also tape in photos, stickers, receipts, or tickets if you’re not feeling particularly inspired. When you’re ready, mail the notebook to your partner and let them take a turn. This can create a special memento you’ll both cherish for years to come.
14. Set realistic goals together
Ultimately, any long distance couple will eventually need an in-person visit. “The reality is that long distance relationships were meant to be temporary,” dating counselor Kevin Darné points out. “The goal is to be with the person you love.” This is why he recommends setting a realistic goal of when your next meetup or vacation together will take place. Keep this lighthearted and fun by setting up a countdown together. You can download a customizable app, and even make it your home screen to keep the excitement alive.
The bottom line
Staying connected in a long distance relationship is tough, and you’re bound to hit one or two stumbling blocks. There are times in every LDR where it feels like the relationship is drifting, the spark is in jeopardy, or the lines of connection are down. Even if you’re limited to phone calls and emails, it’s still important to give your relationship some TLC. Make a plan with your partner that feels sustainable to both of you. Maybe that involves a monthly game night, or a promise to refresh your shared playlist once a week. With the right amount of energy and imagination, you can feel closer together, as opposed to far apart.