Long-distance relationships (LDRs) get a bad rap. Sure, they’re not ideal, but in today’s world, they’re easier than ever to navigate. In fact, an LDR can even make your relationship stronger. However, sailing into the foggy waters of distance can seem impossible at first. Thankfully, we take care of each other here at GenTwenty and, though every relationship is different, there are some general guidelines we hope can help you achieve smooth sailing.

Make the most of the technology at your fingertips. Though I’m always an advocate for snail mail (SWAK, anyone?) today’s innovative technology makes staying in touch with your sweetie amazingly easy. The world has never been smaller! Chatting on Skype, talking on FaceTime, or hanging out on Google+ are all great ways to lessen the sting of an LDR. It’s important to remember that not every Skype session has to be a “date.” Just hanging out, leaving Skype on and each of you doing your own thing like you would if you were both in the same room, can be a great normalizer. But video chatting isn’t the only way to harness technology. Couple is a great mobile app for LDR pairs. Not only does it have chat and photo/video sharing functions, but you can also send your location, draw a picture with your boyfriend/girlfriend, schedule dates, make lists, and even “thumb kiss!”

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Visit when you can. Depending how long your long-distance relationship is, this could be fairly easy or incredibly hard. While living your own life in your own locations is important, visiting each other allows you to be a part of the other person’s life in their place. This is especially helpful if one person moved away from a place where you both lived before. The mover will inevitably start making a life in his or her new location, and it’s easier for the other to feel left behind. Visiting allows your partner to become part of that chapter in your life. When you rave about the coffee house on the corner of your street or complain about your noisy upstairs neighbor, they can be involved in the conversation instead of feeling like a spectator.

Find the light at the end of the tunnel. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be a day on the calendar, having a plan for when you and your partner can be back together again, for good, makes an LDR a lot easier. An end date indicates communication and commitment (see below), cornerstones of a successful LDR. It’s comforting to know the distance won’t last forever and there is something great to look forward to. Decide on a time frame or a professional goal to mark the ending of your time apart.

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Remember the cornerstones of the LDR: Communication and Commitment. Communication and commitment are essential in an LDR, or really any relationship for that matter. However, because of the loss of physical contact, any shortcomings in either of these areas will be immediately obvious. Try and stay on the same page with your partner as much as possible. Understand that LDRs require a kind of commitment different from those in other relationships. While you may not be dragged to the movie theater to watch a film you don’t like, you might find yourself waking up at three o’clock in the morning to Skype your partner due to your time differences. If you don’t already, get used to being very upfront about emotions and feelings. Not being in the same room means that nonverbal clues are hard and sometimes impossible to read. Being clear and talking openly with one another is a good way to ward off passive-aggressive behavior and find the support you need in each other (again, good advice for non-LDRs as well).

When everything is said and done, remember that many couples have survived long-distance relationships before you, and many will survive them after you. They may sometimes seem impossible when you’re in them, but the communication skill required by LDRs will actually make your relationship that much stronger when the distance is behind you.

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