My boyfriend and I have been in a long distance relationship (LDR) for almost four years and in 2017, we just discovered the importance of effective communication. Since our communication consists of phone calls, texting and FaceTime, it is important for us to be intentional when we express ourselves so feelings will not get misinterpreted. This post is aimed to share two key factors of communication and why it is so important to use effectively in a LDR.
But first, let me explain how I got in my LDR:
Late summer of 2013, right before I left for college, I began hanging out with my now boyfriend. We went to the same high school and we new of each other due to mutual friends, but this was the first time we hung out one on one. What was supposed to be a “summer fling” turned into a strong bond, a friendship, and seven months later, a LDR. I attended college in Michigan (although we both are from Illinois and used to live approximately 5 minutes away from each other). Therefore, we both expected the distance to be temporary. After I finished my first year of undergrad in April of 2014, I would return home to spend the entire summer with my now boyfriend! However, prior to my return, I received news that he and his family would be moving to Dallas TX. I. WAS. CRUSHED. I couldn’t be in a long distance relationship. I had never been that far away from anyone that I loved that deeply. We would have to break up. It could not possibly work.
But, it ended up working. We talk to each other EVERYDAY. ALL DAY. This works for us. Since his move to Dallas in 2014, he has also relocated to Georgia (so, on the bright side, I have been to a few different cities). And although we have been able to make our LDR work, these relationships are A LOT of work. Something we both were not prepared for, but are willing to show up, be present, and take it one day at a time.
Since we have very little experience being a “traditional” couple, I decided to seek guidance to make our LDR flourish more. So, at my local library, I picked up The Young Adult’s Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide by the Atlantic Publishing Group. It gives 9 tips to making a LDR work, but as I said previously, I will be focusing on one important aspect, using my own relationship as a guide. So, let’s get started: Communication is key!
This book suggests that when communicating, it is important to set clear expectations and explain why these expectations are important within the LDR. For example, I have expressed to my boyfriend that I expect him to express to me how much he misses me and how he cannot wait for our next visit because it brings me comfort knowing we feel the same way about the distance. I am usually the one who is more open with my feelings and emotions. And although I believe he feels the same, if I do not hear it, I may begin to think that he does not miss me as much as I miss him.
“Say what you mean. Your partner is not a mind reader”
Therefore, saying what you mean is very important! This is something I am learning to do more effectively. Previously, I would not have spoken up and told my boyfriend that I needed to hear that he misses me often and I definitely would not have given him the reason as to why I need to hear him say these words. In the past, I just assumed that he did not need to express his feelings as much as I did, and by voicing how I felt was unnecessary, because of course he misses me. But it is important that my feelings get acknowledged and addressed just as much as his. Plus, he will not know how I feel if I do not speak up! So, practicing being more verbal brings understanding and positivity within the relationship.
“Practice active listening”
Not only is it important to communicate effectively, it is also important to listen actively. I briefly shared the importance of active listening in my recap of Insecure S2E7 “Hella Disrespectful”. [Click here to read about it]
Active listening involves acknowledging what your partner has said before moving on to what you want to say. For example, this is a conversation without active listening:
Person 1: I can’t believe you didn’t talk to me all day.
Person 2: I was busy.
Person 1: You make time for what you want. I guess you don’t care about me.
Person 2: I have other things to do! Talking to you shouldn’t consume my entire day.
Clearly, the above conversation is problematic. No one has expressed how they felt in regards to the situation, but by using active listening, we can resolve the issue, and move forward:
Person 1: I can’t believe you didn’t talk to me all day. I was looking forward to talking to you.
Person 2: I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to you today, and I’m sure this upset you.
Person 1: Yes it did.
Person 2: I’m sorry I upset you. I’ve been really busy today running errands and handling business. I lost track of time and feel horrible about not giving you a courtesy notice. I really wanted to talk to you too.
Person 1: What’s your schedule like this evening and rest of the week? Let’s plan a time to talk.
Now, in this conversation, both people understood how the other felt and made a plan to resolve the issue. Obviously, active listening does not have to be this scripted (because trust me, my boyfriend and I do nothing like this), but the point is to practice listening and understanding your partner’s feelings. Listening to your partner is just as important as communicating with them especially in a LDR.
Finally, communicating effectively can be most beneficial when having a heated discussion or argument because lets face it, fights will happen, but the best way to deal with them are to fight fair. How might a long-distance couple fight fair? Well, within The Young Adults LDR Survival Guide (and in my own relationship) it is beneficial to practice using “I” versus “You” in an argument. Meaning, do not accuse your partner for the way you feel. For example, sometimes, in arguments, my boyfriend has a tendency to shift his feelings onto me. So, by using the previous conversation above, instead of my boyfriend saying, “I was upset that I didn’t talk to you today. I was looking forward to hearing your voice”, he may respond with, “You don’t care enough about me to call”, which then makes me feel like a horrible person, causes me shut down, and mute my own feelings out of fear of saying the “wrong” thing. Super problematic.
Instead, we are both practicing expressing how we feel towards each other to gain a better understanding of the things we like and do not like, our wants and needs. This way we are taking ownership of our emotions and responses because no one can force you to feel a certain way. Honesty is the best policy.
And so, my two take away messages in this post are:
- Say what you mean. Even if it is hard, your partner is not a mind reader.
- Practice active listening. Showing your partner that you are interested in their feelings and are willing to hear and understand their concerns shows that you care about them and the relationship. It also shows that you are willing to compromise and make the LDR flourish.
As stated, my boyfriend and I are actively practicing these tips and are taking it one day at a time. However, if you have any more communications tips, please feel free to share! These tips are not just for long-distance couples. Any relationship can benefit!
Thanks for reading,