7 Easy Exercises to Boost Communication in a Long-Distance Relationship
by Kylie Cheung
Communication problems are inevitable road bumps for every relationship. But when you throw in time differences, wifi interruptions, and going what feels like ages without seeing each other, well – love is a battlefield on a whole ’nother level.
To keep your long-distance relationship happy and healthy, it’s crucial to be aware of some of the most common challenges. At the top of that list? Communication.
Luckily, there are easy, everyday fixes you can start practicing to streamline your connection (personal, not wifi). Here are seven exercises to boost communication in your long-distance relationship:
1. Make sure you’re really listening — and talking – to your partner
No, this doesn’t mean texting, keeping up your Snapchat streak, or sending the occasional Young Thug meme — even though, by all means, do all of those things, too. But when it comes to long distance relationships, there’s no substitute for video calls, phone conversations, and just generally hearing each other’s voices.
Sure, texting is quick and convenient – but it leaves the door open for dangerous miscommunication and confusion. (“Why did she use a period? Is she mad at me?”)
Not only are phone or video calls more intimate and better suited to help you feel close to your partner, but they also give you the opportunity to practice active listening.
Melissa Kester, a couples therapist Manhattan, recommends practicing active listening regularly. “Try not to move focus back to you immediately,” she advises. “Acknowledge what your love is saying to let them feel heard and loved.”
Whether your partner is talking about their classes, their workday, or general family drama, make sure they feel valued and heard. Try restating what your partner tells you, offering validating responses, and encouraging them to tell you more.
2. Make your time together routine
Timing tends to be one of the biggest struggles with long distance relationships. Sadly, there’s no magic, easy solution. We’re all busy and have our own lives – and that’s true of everyone, whether their partner lives a block away or across the country.
You just have to set aside a designated time period every day, every other day, or whenever you both can manage, and stick to that same time period consistently until it’s routine. Treat it like brushing your teeth, or taking a shower (but, you know, fun!), and make sure you’re both each other’s #1 priority during that scheduled time.
Psst – if something comes up (and it will!), and you’re not able to make it for your video or phone session, send a pre-recorded note instead. It can be a detailed recap of your day, an audio recording of you singing in the shower, or anything else that you’d normally share with your partner IRL.
3. Send physical gifts and care packages
Don’t get me wrong – memes, gifs, and especially selfies are a real treat. But one of the biggest challenges with long-distance relationships is a lack of physical connection. And while there’s no substitute for being together in-person, the next best thing may just be thoughtful care packages.
Fill ’er up with references to intimate inside jokes, romantic memories, and reminders that you know your partner better than anyone else does.
Of course, you know your partner’s wants and needs best, so I’ll leave the contents of your care package for them to your discretion. But some starter starter ideas are:
A book that you can read at the same time (bonus points if you include an inscription!)
Everyday items that will remind them of you – could be as simple as a to-go mug, or as thoughtful as a hand-knit scarf that you’ve spritzed with your perfume/cologne
Your favorite tea or packaged cookies – get some for yourself, too, so you can enjoy them at the same time!
Enso – a unique gadget that shares your heartbeat with loved ones anywhere in the world.
The long-distance relationship gifts you send your partner will remind them of you every day, and #bless them with that feeling of your physical presence.
4. Assign each other cute, personalized pet names
“Pet names are so much fun!” says Kester. “Our lovers are special and as long as they are okay with it, pet names highlight our intimacy and unique relationship.”
After all, finding creative ways to build intimacy is the name of the game for long-distance. Assigning each other special nicknames – and keeping those as their contact info in your phone – in your phone strengthens your bond.
5. Get creative with communication
In addition to your scheduled video calls, try incorporating fun, unique ways to communicate. There are a bunch of apps specifically for long-distance couples to boost their relationships.
Give these apps a tap:
Couple: Creates a private social network for you and your partner for life updates, photos, videos, and other sharing. A guaranteed “like” every time ;)
LokLok: Lets you send doodles to each others’ screens (only available for Android users).
Rabbit: Watch Netflix and movies together from anywhere in the world, thanks to this app that helps you stream shows at the same time.
6. Do things together!
Sure, you might be miles apart, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together!
Depending on how drastic your time zone difference may be, take a walk in a park in your neighborhoods at the same time, and share your surroundings with each other through a video call.
As long as you’re sharing an experience with each other, you’re able to simulate going on dates and doing fun, couple-y activities together.
7. Plan occasions to see each other — and share the planning equally
For most couples, what makes a long-distance relationship possible is knowing that you’ll see each other again at some point in the near future.
Everyone’s schedule, availability, and finances vary, but try to plan weekend or holiday visits whenever you’re able. Whether bae is a two-hour drive or an international plane ride away, be sure to share planning responsibilities (an app like TripIt can help streamline the process) for any potential vacation getaways.
Long-distance relationships may not be easy, but if you’re with the right person, they can be worth it. With effort, clearly articulated expectations on both ends, and honest, fun, and frequent communication, you can build intimacy and a sustainable and lasting love with your partner – no matter how far they may be.
Kylie Cheung writes about self-care, health, and relationships for Zencare's blog. She writes about feminism, reproductive health care, and politics at The Mary Sue, Feministing, Brit+Co, PopSugar, DAME Magazine, and others. She is the author of The Gaslit Diaries, a collection of essays about feminism and gaslighting.