ST. CROIX—From juggling schedules to career moves to challenges in communication, couples who have been separated by a long distance change in address can tell you the challenges they’ve faced in maintaining the romance. So, can long-distance relationships (LDRs) really work?
Sgt. 1st Class of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Guard, Julian Álvarez, 24, admitted it wasn’t an easy feat.
“The distance and the fact that I was in the army made it a lot tougher,” Álvarez said when recalling his three-year LDR, “I didn’t get to see her often and it was a bit stressful at times.”
Though the sergeant and his former girlfriend remained in contact throughout their relationship, the overseas type of communication wasn’t enough.
“We mostly used any type of communication, which included phones, e-mails, video chat… and talked as much as we could even with our conflicting schedules,” he said, “but, I mean, at some point, the distance takes its toll because you’re used to seeing that person face to face, and so when you haven’t physically interacted in quite a while, things tend to take a turn downhill, and well, it wasn’t long before we decided to call it quits.”
Twenty-four-year-old Brandon Johnson of Tampa, FL shares a similar sentiment.
“Unless you and that person have a really strong connection, it can go sour really quickly,” Johnson said, “Seeing and interacting with that person face to face is a lot more valuable than a lot of people give it credit.”
Johnson, who is a political science major and works two jobs, also said that he and his former girlfriend rarely had time to talk or see each other.
“It takes an immense amount of time, commitment, and patience to keep it going,” he explains, “It’s not something easy to handle.”
On the bright side, psychologist, relationship expert, author and TV host and personality, Dr. Michelle Callahan says that while just under 40 percent of LDR relationships work, they can, in fact, work. She recommends to her clients and audience alike five tips for making LDR relationships work.
These five tips include:
1) Communicate on a regular basis: In addition to talking about the serious and important things, it’s okay to Just talk about the regular day-to-day things going on in your life. This can be done by mixing it up as well. You can use letters, emails, instant messaging or video chat.
2) Do things together despite the distance: Find creative ways to participate in shared activities. You can watch a TV show or movie at the same time whilst on the phone or through video chat and talk about it during or after the show.
3) Resolve conflicts as they come up: Remember it’s normal to disagree about things. But suppressing, ignoring or bottling-up your feelings is not healthy. Resolve conflicts as they come up. It may help you to even talk to your partner over video chat rather than phone or email so that you can see each other and feel more connected.
4) Avoid jealousy: One of the easiest ways to poison a healthy relationship is with unnecessary jealousy, drama and being controlling. Be realistic from the start and recognize that your partner also has a social life outside the relationship. Avoid acting suspicious or asking too many questions every time they socialize without you.
5) Visit as often as practical: Visit as often as you can afford financially and time-wise but don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the frequency of visits. And remember, if a visit doesn’t go so well it doesn’t mean the relationship is in trouble.
For 25-year-old Jake Mulligan, who had been in a long-distance relationship, these five tips ring a familiar bell.
“I can definitely agree with those tips,” said Mulligan as he smiled and looked down at a shiny, gold band around his ring finger on his left hand.
Mulligan said, “What a lot of people don’t realize is that a long distance relationship takes a great deal of work to maintain. People tend to get complacent and lazy with their relationship, not knowing that things will start to go downhill from there once they develop that type of attitude.”
When asked how he overcame the challenges that come with LDR territory with his then girlfriend, now wife, he said that they gave each other equal amounts of space, not forgetting to focus on their own lives.
“All couples have their ups and downs. Sometimes you will argue during that precious time that you are together, but try not to!” he said.
“Any time my wife and I would argue, we would give each other space to calm down and discuss the problem at a later date.”
Speaking professionally, Dr. Callahan said, “Remember if you and your partner are happy in your individual lives, you are more likely to have a healthy relationship.”
As if Dr. Callahan’s words weren’t fitting enough, Mulligan also stated, “We agreed not to get too hung up on little issues and focused on what made us happy both together and individually.”