How College Students Can Make a Long Distance Relationship Work | Engaged Marriage

How College Students Can Make a Long Distance Relationship Work

By Dustin | Marriage Preparation

What happens when sweethearts have to split up to attend different colleges hundreds of miles apart?

Can they deal with the strain of being apart while keeping the relationship fresh? Many students boldly give it a try because they’re convinced they’ve found their true love, the person they’re destined to marry.

What can these folks do to make things work? Let’s take a look at some long distance relationship tips endorsed by relationship experts. By the way, married couples in long distance relationships can also benefit from these tips!

  • Be thoughtful: Every couple of weeks, send a hand written love note the old fashioned way, via the postal service. Hand written letters feel more personal than emails or text messages. If you’re the super romantic type, write and send a love poem every once in a while. Flowers, chocolates, balloons, or gift baskets also make thoughtful gifts that your partner will enjoy. And as always, homemade gifts are always appreciated.
  • Focus on the positive: Gregory Guldner, M.D. is the author of Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide. According to him, “Couples who appreciate the positive aspects of their separation are more likely to stay together.” Some of the positive aspects of a long distance relationship are the ability to take advantage of educational opportunities, the exhilaration of reunions, and the extra time to focus on personal growth.
  • Stay busy: Don’t spend time waiting for an email or a text message from your partner. You’ll get frustrated and concerned about the relationship. Stay busy by joining clubs, volunteering, or hanging out with friends. Guldner believes that “Companionship with friends helps strengthen your relationship and reduces the loneliness and depression reported by people in long distance relationships.” With certain schools with accelerated learning programs like Cardinal Stritch University, staying busy shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish.
  • Keep dates: Keep all the telephone and online dates you’ve scheduled. Being prompt let’s your sweetheart know that you’re still reliable and eager to spend time together. Setting up the dates in advance builds excitement.
  • Confrontations via email: Caroline Tiger, author of The Long Distance Relationship, believes that fighting over email is a bad idea. “It’s too easy to misread meanings,” she says. She also mentioned that if you’re concerned about ruining an in-person visit, wait until the middle of your time together to address a contentious issue. “That way, you’ve been able to reconnect, and there’s enough time left to make up.”
  • Share something in common: Some long distance partners like to rent the same movie and have a long distance movie date via the telephone.
  • Webcam: Talking on the telephone is great, but take advantage of modern technology and have a conversation via webcam. Use a free service such as Skype. To spice things up, dress up for your webcam dates! Try to schedule webcam chats every other night or so at specific times.
  • Plan visits: Get together as much as possible. Looking forward to the visits makes the time apart easier to deal with. Plan some romantic and fun activities.
  • Space to grow: Dr. Sue, a life and relationship coach based in Los Angeles, wrote, “the best long distance relationship advice for scholastic couples is to give each other space to grow as individuals.” She added, “growth and learning are what college is all about, and these are the years where a lot of your tastes, personality, and interests are going to change. Be open to change, and don’t let your relationship limit you.”

In order for long distance relationships to work, both parties have to be equally dedicated to the relationship. Enjoy the relationship, but try not to sacrifice too much.

You can do it!

What advice do you have to share for long distance relationships? Let’s talk in the comments below!

Brian Jenkins, a BrainTrack.com staff writer, contributes feature articles about careers in marriage and family therapy, among other career fields.

(photo source)
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About the Author

Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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(33) comments

Great advice! I’ve been in a long distance relationship for 2 years now because of grad school, and can attest to how important these are. Probably the most difficult one for me personally as being seeing the positive. As a grad student, most of my undergrad friends are in the midst of making plans to get married, buy houses, have kids, etc, and it’s tough to keep a happy heart about it all, since I’m essentially denying myself that opportunity by being in school. But recognizing all of the positive ways I can grow now before marriage has definitely helped.

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Great advise here Brian,

These things can be difficult and traumatic times so i think students need all the advice like this they can get!

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Lacey

Great advice! My husband and I dated throughout 3.5 years of undergraduate and while it was difficult, there were some definite pluses. First of all, communication! We felt like we built up a great friendship and got great at communicating verbally during our distance apart.It also freed us to spend the time we needed to on our scholastic and extracurricular efforts without being distracted. Finally, there was less temptation!

This list is great for making long distance relationships work.

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Ellen

Loved this post! My (now!) fiancé and I dated long distance for 2 years while we were both in college. We only saw each other every month or so. But, we had phone dates each night and spent the time learning *so* much about each other’s lives and personalities. Verbal Communication was a huge part of our relationship – so many of my friends were attached to the hip of their significant other in college…most of them could “communicate” physically any time they wanted to – but when it came time to work through a difficult situation or actually talk about something, it was often a destroying factor in the relationship because they did not know how to verbally communicate.

It has been such a gift to have learned each other’s communication styles over the phone, apart from the physical communication! Long distance dating certainly has its challenges (what relationship doesn’t?!) but the blessings have outweighed them for us. Dating apart takes a lot of patience, understanding, email writing, and time on the phone (and skype!)… but it’s so worth it. Though we’re still long distance, we’re engaged to be married in a few short months! For the first time ever we’ll see each other for more than 3 days in a row…What joy there is to come! 🙂

If you are long distance dating, don’t lose heart…just pray, pray, pray. Set aside time at the end of every phone/skype call to pray with each other! Make it a priority and stick to your plan. Praying over the phone is certainly awkward at first, but once you practice a few times that fades away and it becomes peaceful, refreshing, and a tremendous source of connection during the times you are apart. It’s one thing to pray FOR your boy/girlfriend (or fiance!), it’s another thing to pray WITH him or her. Praying together on the phone goes beyond telling each other what you did during the day- it’s communication on a whole new level, and it’s so worth it!

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Mark

My wife and I went through a long distance relationship of almost 2 years before she moved to go to school near me. Personally, I think the most important thing is to communicate as you want. We tried to schedule stuff, but it became cumbersome. We instead only called and texted when we wanted to. We would go a few days sometimes without talking, but t was because we wanted to. We would then have meaningful conversations instead of forced ones.

Also, and this is the most important, we had a plan to get together. I don’t care if it’s 5 years away, you have to be working towards living together. And it has to be tangible. “Finish 3 years here then I will only take a job there.” my wife was finishing at a junior college and was applyig to two schools, one near me. I made the commitmen that if she got into the far one, I’d transfer to her. Luckily she got in near me, but because I wanted to be with her more than some specific accomplishment, we were able to weather the distance, short term, then marry and have a wonderful life together.

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This is great advice. I’ve been in a LDR for 3 years now; I’m in college and he is in the military. His job definitely makes things a little more complicated because he can’t visit as often and it’s a very demanding job that sometimes depletes all of his energy. I admit, I feel neglected sometimes especially because he doesn’t even feel bad about not keeping our “dates.” But I’m also guilty of smothering him; I feel like we need to constantly communicate to make up for the physical distance. And all of these are making an emotional distance between us.

Maybe if I send him this link we can talk about how to improve our relationship? =/

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My wife has gone for delivery to India. It doesnot matter whether married or not. The problems remain almost same. It used to be tough until I relaise that I need to think from her shoes. Initially I thought she is pushing me too much. then I realised it is because she is thinking about me that much. The moment I started realising it, things started changing. I bet some of the above would have made my life lot easier. .Anyway, now we are back together.. kudos.

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rafeeq

This is great advice. http://rafeeq.doomby.com/liens.html Sometime I find it challenging to communicate. These are really good tips. Thanks!!!

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May C

Your advice about allowing for change makes sense, but what about being afraid that allowing for growth and change will encourage your partner to not want to be with you? I know that’s what college is all about–finding out who you are and changing & growing as a person–but what if you’re afraid that it will lead your boyfriend to wind up breaking up with you? How do you help to make sure you grow together & not apart?

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Jason

Thanks for this great post! I totally agree, especially with focusing on the positive because that eliminates the very things that kill a long distance relationship, or any relationship for that matter.

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My boyfriend left for Uni today and its 3 years, and I absolutely love him so much I can’t explain how much and he feels the same and we want us to work out so much but we’re both worried that the other person is going to find someone else or think “I can’t see them so there’s no point in being with them” which is making us both really sad and I haven’t stopped crying since last night it is now the next night, I don’t like the thought of worrying about being cheated on either, I trust him but its just if someone else better comes along and he knows he can see them as much as he wants then ahh I don’t know but I’m very stressed out and emotional and I don’t know what to do.. Help, someone.. Email me or anything I just need someone with this experience to help me because I really don’t know what to do – carliie-louiise@hotmail.com

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    Kyle

    Hey. I am in exactly the same situation as you. My girlfriend has just moved away and all we have at the moment is Facebook. In an effort to try and get over the feeling of being upset, what I’ve done is try and spend more time with your friends. They will take your mind off your boyfriend during the day and at night, you could always arrange a long chat on the phone or Skype. The most important thing is trust. Also, if you feel so strongly about each other, how about making a promise that, once University is finished, you can move in with each other? Make a goal, something to look forward to and try not to be too upset. He’s likely feeling the exact same way. Good luck!

    Reply

Long distance relationships are difficult when you are long distance and especially if one individual has a grueling university and college schedule. It’s important to try and meet during important times and anniversaries. Talking at least once a day makes a big difference.

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Caitlyn Daniels

I’m so glad I read this, I’m moving for school in six short months, and talking about dealing with long distance relationships is really touchy for the guy I’m seeing. I hope that he’ll be able to pull through, because this guy is pretty amazing and I believe it’s worth it 🙂

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Natalie Oliver

I’ve been having a really tough time trying to get my boyfriend used to the idea of me going away to college. We both currently live in Mississippi and this upcoming fall I will be going to a school in Oregon. He tells me constantly that he wants me to be happy, but I really know that that means “i want you to be happy… while staying in Mississippi with me”. He keeps trying to convince me to go to a university that’s closer, but I know the university in Oregon is a MUCH better match for me. Every time I bring it up he gets all upset and says he’s not upset when I know he really is and it’s just really frustrating. He is an amazing boyfriend and I know that he and I have what it takes to work out, it’s just that the distance scares both of us because we hate being away from each other. Should I go to the other college in Mississippi or should I go to the one in Oregon? and if I go how should I explain my decision to him?

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    Mark

    There are a few things that must happen for this relationship to work, else you both are just wasting time. First, you have to have some picture of being together. I don’t mean nice thoughts of a house and kids somewhere, I mean a real, tangible picture of how you will fix this long distance. Often, things won’t work out that way, and one of you might change your mind, but if the long distance part of your relationship is going to have a meaning, it has to have a context. In this case, you are going away to a great college to earn an education. This is not something you are willing to give up. If he has something he is doing in Mississippi, that’s fine, but either you have to have a picture of moving back, or him to Oregon. Second, don’t sacrifice anything, either of you. You are not married yet (though sacrifice is not the right word for a marriage relationship either). You have to come to an understanding of how much you value each other. How much does he mean to you? If it is a lot, things like distance and all the work you have to go through are worth it. I would present it that way to him. This is something he will have to work out, and his dealing with it shouldn’t impact how you view him. It seems like the difficulty of making the relationship work out, (and trust me, it is difficult) is a trouble worth enduring. That’s enough from your end. Hopefully he sees it that way. In the end, if he clings to the things in Mississippi for safety, even though he valued you more, he will be making the worst sacrifice and lose something he valued most.

    FYI: My wife (girlfriend at the time) moved to San Diego a year and a half after I went away to college there. She finished her degree at a nearby college. We got married. I had the plan of moving back to her until she got into the nearby school. Things changed, but we always worked towards each other. When your future no longer contains him, you are in a relationship at the cost of what you really want. It’s time to leave. Hopefully he approaches it the same way and your relationship is exactly what it should be or it isn’t a relationship.

    Hope that helped!

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      Natalie Oliver

      Thank you so much for answering. It really helped.. we talked about it, and I showed him this post. He says he knows it’s worth it and that he’s going to think of it like you and your wife did about always working toward each other. He and I were already planning on him moving to Oregon a few years after me once he got done with school too. I told him that once it’s all over, we’ll appreciate each other more and he agreed. Thanks again for this awesome post! :3

      Reply
Taylor

I’ve been in a LDR for almost a year and a half. My parents don’t even know that we’re together. There are certain reasons that i cannot say why, but it’s for the better. My boyfriend is an amazing guy. Even though, i have most of the doubts in the relationship id say for you guys out there, plain and simple, If you love the person & feel like you’d live a happy and simple life with them…go for it. Even though the hard times are rough, i still wouldnt change a thing. I love my life, my boyfriend and the way things are going. (:

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Personally I would think that there is one more item deserves to be added in the list – ‘Facebook’. I think it brings number of our friends activities together. We can keep each other involved like we are closer together. After all the social networks are to reduce the physical gap to a great extend. Actually it does work.

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Anything, even long-distance relationships can work out, so long as both parties are willing to do so. Communication must always be the number one priority in long-distance relationships. I suggest things with more personal touch like handwritten letters. Although emails are okay, nothing beats letters.

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Liz

me and my boyfriend will be miles apart this fall (several states in fact) and we believe in each other but no one believes in US. We hear hateful and negative things from everyone and its making me doubt the relationship…any help?

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Julie

Another great thing I’ve found is instant messaging. It allows my fiancee and I keep in contact most days of the weeks. It also means we can talk while I am doing assignments etc which I could not do via phone or skype.

It’s especially hard for us because we met just before he graduated and had just accepted a job in another state. We got 5 months together before he had to move, but he couldn’t give up his job opportunity and moving isn’t so simple for me.

I’m a single parent, having an escaped a very violent, serial cheating first husband. For so many reasons, I am trapped here til the end of this year. I am doing a postgrad degree as my undergrad degree has no employment opportunities, and I am desperately trying to get my degree finished by the end of the year as there are no transfer options. And quite simply, I cannot move until we actually marry.

We don’t believe in living together before marriage. Being on a disability pension (my 10 year old daughter is too old for me to receive any sole parent benefits in australia), my income is very little. I could not even afford a one bedroom unit near where my fiancee lives and public housing would take many years to get into, especially as they would declare I am not homeless while I have a rental place here in this state. Renting a unit near my fiancee would cost more than my entire pension. And while he has a decent job, he couldn’t afford to support my daughter and I living seperately to him, as everything he earns goes on his mortgage.

And ultimately, none of that matters, because, despite the fact my exhusband has not seen our daughter in over two years now, there is still a custody agreement in place, and even though he does not exercise the order that he insisted on having our daughter every second weekend, it still remains in place I cannot move my daughter out of the state. However, after her birthday later this year, she will be considered legally old enough to have a say in where she lives, she wants me to marry my fiancee and live with him, and once we are married, the family court is finally likely to side with what my daughter wants, and take into account it would be unreasonable for my then-husband (currently my fiancee) for us to live in seperate states after we get married.

It will be hard enough living apart for a month after we get back from the honeymoon.

It’s extra hard for us with my daughter having autism. My fiancee’s presence settles her when he’s in town or when we go visit him, but that’s only for 1-2 weeks every 3 months. Having being married for 8 years before, I am also painfully aware of what I’m mmissing out on.

There is still the chance we face that the family court will not approve my daughter moving even though my exhusband has cut off all contact with her for years. And I don’t know what we’ll do if that happens. It literally feels like a physical part of my body is being ripped out every time I say goodbye to my fiancee. We keep in contact via instant messaging most days, and he gives me wake up calls on the days I have early starts. And I’m lucky this term that he’ll be coming up for two family weddings so I’ll see him a little more.

But it’s so hard when I cannot get time off uni and work – I had no mid semester holiday because of uni prac, and I struggle to get time off work for just a week to go visit him three times a year. Not to mention the high costs of interstate travel in Australia. He lives in the city most expensive to fly to from where I live, and buses and trains are more expensive.

I don’t see any danger in us breaking up because of the distance. In fact it has had it’s positive – he very much likes his own space, and I needed time to trust having another man in my life. Both of us have used the distance to get used to having a partner in our life without the constant pressure of having to hang out all the time like happens in new relationships. It’s also allowed him time to come to terms with having a child with autistic spectrum disorder who can be very hyperactive, without overwhelming him and making him run away screaming as many people would have done.

I can see if we were teenagers or in our early twenties that many people wouldn’t have supported us having a long distance relationship, but now that we are both around 30, everyone has been really supportive – in fact my mother has been bugging me ever since we got engaged over a year ago that we should have got married nearly immediately and me left here and gone to live with him. As much as I wanted to, I’m not willing to throw away 12 years of study and not graduate and be unemployable, nor am I willing to risk the wrath of the anti-woman family court as it currently the problem.

I do find it kinda sad though – I loved my first husband as much as I loved my fiancee, and it broke my heart when I had to ask him to move out when he savagely attacked our then 5yo daughter, and it broke my heart not long after when he demanded a divorce to marry his long term mistress. When I was a teenager, I loved as deeply and I was more than mature enough for marriage, even if it had ended up being a long term relationship. But people who are happy to support a 30 year old in a long distance relationship are the same people who condemn an 18 year old for the same thing. That’s what I find sad. I know looking at my first husband who is now 33, he is no more mature now than he was 15 years ago – in fact, he is more immature sadly.

Those who are only just starting college straight after school, can be every bit as mature and ready for a serious relationship and marriage as those who are much older. People in long distance relationships shouldn’t be judged by their age, as many college students are.

I tip my hat to anyone who makes a long distance relationship work. It’s really hard work and is very painful at times, but it can be done.

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Marvin Rhee

A round of applause for your article. Keep writing.

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This article is everything I have been looking for! I know I am very young, i am 17 years old and a senior in high school, i have dated this guy for two years, he is my best friend, the one that brings me up when i feel down, the one that keeps all my secrets, and the one that listens to me complain about others. This fall i will be going to school in Maryland, and he is stay home in New York. We have been struggling with just imagining how sad we will be in a few months, but our feelings are mutual, we WILL make it work, and want to. The moment he leaves i am overwhelmed with sadness, as if a part of me just walked out the door. This has given me inspiration to know that we will make it.

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[…] more practical suggestions, read this post: How College Students Can Make a Long Distance Relationship Work (don’t let the title fool you … there’s great info in here for non-college-aged […]

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Tatum Renaud

Thank you… I’m leaving for college tomorrow, and to be frank, I’m just so scared. I’ve been in a long distance relationship before (Arizona-South Carolina) and I’m going into the University of Arizona in Tuscon as a freshman whereas my boyfriend is barely a junior in high school 3 hours away in Yuma. You know that moment when reality drops upon you? It hit me mere minutes ago, but luckily, through soggy, tearful eyes, I was able to find this encouraging post.

Thank you so much for giving me more hope.

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me and you

My boyfriend and I have been together for 8 months now, and he leaves for uni in 3 days, I feel so overwhelmed and heart broken, i really want us to work so badly, but I’m so scaredd……. urgghhh i feel so stressed, how can i make it work? please help!!!!

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Kristen

It has been 4-5 years since I saw the guy that I love. I am a college student in the US, while he is currently in England. He cannot come back to the US because of visa problems. It has been so crazy. I love him so much, but finanically I have not been able to go and visit him. It has torn my heart. I do not know what is next, but I think about him everyday. I just do not want to go another 3 years before I see him again. It has already been a long time. :/ What should I do? Thank you for this advice, Brian.

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Great stuff! Personally, I would advise two things:
1. Just like what you said about “keeping dates,” you should never miss an important anniversary or some other special occasion, because missing these can be quite damaging for a long-distance relationship. It’s good to have a handy list of these — even for those that you did not mutually agree to have a date on.
2. Try to make your reunions special and make time for some unscheduled surprise visits. Absence makes the heart grow fonder after all and this can actually be an advantage for couples in a long-distance relationship.

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My boyfriend and I have been together for one year and just about ten months now.
We recently went on our first trip together (by the way, we also just graduated High School) across the South. I’m going to school nine hours away from him in August.
I’m nervous that he is trying to pull away. .
He won’t try to even talk about trips to see each other claiming it’s too early. But I mean. . He won’t even have a conversation about it and it hurts to know that so far I’m the only one trying to even plan three days every couple of months to be able to physically be there. . He doesn’t text much while we’re apart on trips, saying that he wants to relish the joys of his vacation, but if I can find a couple of minutes an hour to chat or call, I don’t see why he can’t do the same.
We have one week left before it all changes and the way I see it, I’m putting forth all of the effort already, which is very unlike him because he used to cook us surprise fancy dinners, and want to sit on the porch with me for hours just talking and laughing, wrestle, swim. . and now that we’re encroaching closer, he only wants to bicker, argue, pull away. . I’m worried that my talking so much about how hard this was going to be and how scared I was may have been what pushed him away these past few days (it was really sudden). But I’m worried that I’ll be the only person even willing to honestly make this work. I get that school is important and he’ll need to study. But if I don’t hear from him more than twice a week and only see him once per semester, then why even try. . . .

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Madeline

This honestly helped a lot, thanks. I’m replying to share my story so far and give the advice others may need. My boyfriend and I left for college last week and can I say it’s been miserable. The constant want for his touch and love but knowing it’s not around the corner sucks. I have been so negative about everything and almost forcing myself to suffer. He moved in a week after me and luckily enough I got to go visit him when he did. We are 3 hours and 59 minutes apart unless I go 80 then he says it’ll take me 3 hours and 30 minutes..so silly. Anyways, seeing him was great and all, but when I left instead of focusing on the positive, I went back to being sad. After talking to him and thinking to myself, crying in your dorm room and not making friends isn’t going to solve anything, plus both of you being sad is going to cause tension. I’ve learned that you need to 1. Value the time you get with eachother and don’t focus on the minutes/hours you’re leaving and how sad you are. Be thankful you have the time you’re getting. 2. Stop treating it as a break up. Yes you’re spending hours apart. Yes you both have separate life’s and are more busy, but think about the stories you hear on the phone that night or the places you get to go to see eachother. Be happy that you both are focused on making this work instead of giving up. My word of advice is, THIS IS NOT A BREAK UP. Remind yourself that, because my brain has taught me that being away is like a break up, which is stupid and has caused a depression to rise from me. Being in love shouldn’t be miserable, so why make it? Be happy you have found your soul mate and that you are willing to make it work. Yes there will be times you are confused with the others actions or one wants more affection, but just know that if you are willing to get over petty arguments, then you have this in the bag. Good luck and know I’m praying for you as well as I am for myself.

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Being in a long distance relationship is difficult. But just be committed and trustworthy so you will make your partner feel secured. Constant communication can also ease the longing. The list mentioned above are great tips on how to make it work.

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