Just seeing someone we love activates the reward cells in our brain, but what happens when the one you love is far away? Last year, I met a really special guy through a few mutual friends. He was smart, funny, charming and ambitious — everything that I was looking for in a partner. We seemed like a perfect match. However, there was one small problem.
He lived 4 1/2 hours away from me.
I had no interest in pursuing a long-distance relationship. Research shows that a photo of someone special can activate those warm, fuzzy chemicals (dopamine) again, but as people in long-distance relationships know, one photo can't keep this love-coaster going. On top of that, the long-distance relationship I had four years prior fizzled out fast. But fast-forward to 2017, and I noticed that we were taking turns every couple of weeks to visit one another. We kept this up for a few more months, then decided to make our relationship official.
Funny enough, Cornell University also released a study way back in 2013, noting that long-distance relationships involve more trust and happiness than geographically-close relationships. This “diary” study found that long-distance couples made more creative efforts to share details about each other and, in a good way, romanticized about their relationship together. As I gave the study more thought, I realized it actually described the efforts my boyfriend and I make to a T.
Throughout our relationship, we’ve adapted our communication styles and recreated relationships goals to keep the oxytocin going, every time we saw each other. We’ve gotten pretty creative to keep the trust and happiness on the up and up. Here’s what we do:
1. Pick up the phone
One thing I miss about the ’90s? Text messages didn’t exist. You could pick up the phone and speak to someone for hours. It seems like the only people I call nowadays are my mother and older family members.
Since my partner and I spend weeks apart from one another, we call and do FaceTime sessions fairly often. It helps us connect on a deeper level and explore our sensual sides and boy, do those long chats bring us even closer.
2. Use snail mail for special deliveries
When a text doesn’t send the right message, try surprising your partner with a package. Sure, there’s flowers, but I encourage you to think outside of the box. A new toy, a spa in a box, or wine that your partner’s been eyeing for a while could be the perfect gift to spice up your partner’s evening.
3. Plan trips outside of your respective cities
Visiting your partner at their home is a nice gesture. But traveling to other cities that neither one of us live in is one way we keep the spark alive. Sometimes we meet in the middle and explore a city. Other times we’ll plan to meet farther away at a location we haven’t traveled to yet. Since we’re always on the road trying out new things, our relationship never gets stale.
4. Have a movie night apart
Wondering how you can schedule a date night when you’re miles apart? Do you love watching movies with your partner? Even if you’re several states away from one another, you can watch the same movie at the same exact time, thanks to technology.
There are some pretty amazing apps that allow you to pick out a movie, watch it at the same time, and be perfectly in sync. You can even send comments to one another while you’re watching.
5. Oversharing isn’t a bad thing
Living apart means you might miss out on the little details about each other’s lives. For example, I had no idea my partner was allergic to eggs until two months after knowing him.
So, I recommend that you share it all: Tell them how work is, details about that delicious new restaurant down the street, a great article you’ve read. I talk to my partner pretty much from sunup to sundown, and I love getting to know more about what a typical day looks like for him.
6. Keep things fresh, and try new things with one another
I only get to visit my partner’s town once every month or two, so it’s nice to visit some of the regular spots in town that I’ve grown to love. However, whenever my partner and I do visit each other, we always make it a point to try something new.
Whether it’s the new brewery down the street, a day trip to a neighboring city, or even planning out new things to try in the bedroom, we never fall into the same routine.
7. Make the most out of your personal time
Long-distance relationships are odd, because when you visit your partner, you’re usually with them all day and all night. When I’m away from my partner, I’m sure to keep myself busy: I dive into work projects, catch up with friends, go to concerts, and take art and dance classes around the city. It’s important to take the time to better yourself and your other relationships whenever you’re away from your partner.
It’s not easy being in a long-distance relationship. However, we’ve made it work for the last year, and we’re happier than ever.
Alicia T. Chew is a fashion and lifestyle blogger based in Washington, D.C. Since launching her blog Alicia Tenise in 2011, she’s been featured in Elle magazine, The Washington Post, and Refinery29, and has been named a top D.C. Instagrammer by Washingtonian Magazine. When she’s not blogging, you can catch Alicia at a concert or in the dance studio. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.