• Long-distance relationships can be a challenge for any couple, despite technology that has made communication easier than ever.
  • Instead of texting, arrange regular phone calls — by hearing their voice, you are more likely to maintain a level of closeness.
  • Make the most of the time apart by focusing on your career, expanding your support system and and practicing self-care.

Gone are the days where hearing from your long-distance lover took months and necessitated a town crier or perhaps a horse or two just to say “hi” back. Long-distance relationships today — with Skype, email, texting, and Twitter — should be easy, right?

Distance may no longer be an obstacle to staying in touch in the modern world, but actually connecting with someone living a few hundred — or thousand — miles away is still no easy feat. Add that to the normal ups and downs of being in a relationship and it’s no wonder that long distance relationships (LDRs, for short) don’t work for everyone. However LDRs can and do work — it just takes some creativity, communication, and planning.

Below, find five tips to improve your current or future LDR, with help from Shannon Smith, a relationship expert with the online dating service Plenty of Fish and Celeste Headlee, conversation expert at Plenty of Fish and author of the recent book “We Need to Talk.”

1. Don’t panic if it’s not perfect

Like all relationships, Smith advised that it’s OK if you struggle at first: “Expect some initial growing pains — that’s normal!” she wrote via email.

2. Talk (on the phone) about it

You need to give your partner (and self) feedback about what’s working and what isn’t, Smith said. And importantly, you should pick up the phone to have these conversations — texting is not the same as a conversation, Headlee advised. (Plus, what does the heart emoji have on saying, ‘I love you?’)

“The key to making a LDR work is good communication, and that means phone calls,” she continued. “Emails are not a replacement for the human voice (extensive research shows that it’s the voice that humanizes us, and makes us feel empathy for another). So, call.”

3. Pay attention

When you’re only communicating via phone, as Headlee would have it, you’ve got to work harder to ensure your partner knows you’re listening. Headlee suggests sending small, inexpensive gifts to make that clear: “If your partner mentions needing a good book to read, choose one on Amazon and ship it to her. If he’s had a rough day, call and have dinner delivered to him,” she wrote.

4. Find other ways to feel connected

Like any relationship, a good LDR takes a heaping dose of compromise and creativity. One way is to transform activities you would normally do physically together into something that can bridge the gap. “Try watching movies together while on the phone, reading the same books, or binging on the same shows. That will build a feeling of connecting and shared experiences,” Headlee wrote.

5. Take some space

Arguably the most important component of any healthy relationship is taking time to focus on your own growth, success, and happiness.

“Self-care and personal development will make you a better person and partner — a major key in helping a long-distance relationship (and any relationship) work,” Smith wrote. “Enroll in a course, make your health a priority, schedule time with friends, or pick up a good book that you’ve been meaning to read,” she added.

Plus, expanding your own personal and professional life will make tough situations more bearable: “In the stretches when you’re apart, you don’t feel like your world has disappeared,” Smith wrote.

Taking space to do your own thing also has the added perk of giving you something to report back to your partner about your time alone. While the temptation to be in constant contact — especially if you miss each other — is real, Smith recommends scheduling phone dates to talk every few days. “Letting a little life happen between your chats will elevate your conversation and give you more to share with each other.”

Originally published on www.businessinsider.com.

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