Communication is the key to any solid relationship. When you’re separated from loved ones, it’s even harder to maintain. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder but in order to do that, long distance communication is crucial to get right. These tips will help you grow your relationship with friends, family, and partners while you’re far apart.
My Experiences of Long Distance Communication
I am no stranger to long distance communication. Anyone who’s been travelling for an extended period will know the struggles of battling time zones, dodgy WiFi connections, and missing out on key events. When I travelled for 6 months straight, I did my best to keep in contact with those far away as best I could.
Then, on that very trip, I met my amazing partner. Who happens to be from and live in New Zealand. For those that don’t know, I am from and was living in the UK… I’m sure you can put two and two together! I soon found myself catching flights BECAUSE of feelings.
We tackled a long distance relationship for 3 years. That stuff is hard work! I’ve got lots to share on the topic, but my point here is that it’s been a vital learning experience about understanding one another through long distance communication.
And then we moved to Australia. Cue a whole new set of challenges for long distance communication with friends and family still in the UK! On top of that, I was working from home remotely for a job based in London. Sooo I really quickly learned the important role communication plays in all aspects of life, even work.
Overall in the past few years I’ve figured out what works and doesn’t work for me and my loved ones. But I’m still learning. These tips and suggestions are designed to get you started with long distance communication whether that’s because you’re currently separated by choice (like living abroad), or involuntarily (like through isolation or circumstance).
The most important thing to remember is to be kind to yourself and others. We’re all trying to do our best and through a solid foundation of communication our long distance relationships can thrive!
Learn What Works
For couples, try learning their and your languages of love. Discovering which of the 5 Languages of Love most resonates with you will reveal how you give and receive love. There are loooads of tests out there to learn your language of love, but this one is especially good.
The languages of love are:
- Physical Touch
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
I really believe that we value all of these in different ways and amounts. But knowing that your partner especially values one over the others will help you understand their needs and know what works for you as a couple.
Being in tune with your own love language will also help you to better communicate your needs to your partner.
For friends, you might already know how they and you like to communicate. Some friends are in touch daily, others can go months without chatting and pick up right where you left off. Each person and relationship is different so it’s important not to force a method of communication that doesn’t suit either of you.
You’ll soon know if it feels right, and if you’re feeling there’s a disconnect with how you’re keeping in touch, talk about it! You can try new ways to stay connected such as the suggestions listed later on in this post.
Familial long distance communication is the hardest to manoeuvre. Consider whether contacting everyone separately works or if a group WhatsApp is easier. Find a balance between keeping in touch with regular updates without feeling pressure to message all the time. Nor do you want to feel neglected, so be clear about your needs from your family about hearing from them.
As children we’re bound to feel obligated to stop our elders from worrying, and in turn will worry about them as they are far away. Channel that love for your family into a positive discussion around how you can support each other while apart.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
We are SO lucky with the connected world we live in! Without WhatsApp and Facebook I’d have never been able to be in a LDR with Kaz all these years.
Make the most of the glorious internet and all its tools and functions.
You could play a game via any screensharing app (my favourite is skribbl.io for virtual dictionary!), use Netflix Party to stream a movie together, or if you’re really advanced get yourself those long distance touch bracelets or toy things (probs aimed at couples, might be a bit weird to give your mum a vibrating piece of jewellery!).
Technology is truly bringing the world together. You don’t have to just have a 1:1 chat either! A Zoom call can display multiple call attendees so you can have gals night or games session just as you would normally. Get some wine in, grab a takeaway, and settle in for a virtual gathering.
Try to replicate the activities you enjoy together via digital alternatives. Enjoyed board games? Words With Friends is like scrabble that allows you to play against each other in real time! If you always went out for dinner, use Deliveroo or Uber Eats to send your loved ones a meal as a treat and video chat your dinner date.
There are heaps of ideas for some ways to stay connected with long distance communication using technology. Get creative, have fun, and embrace the weirdness of it all. Of course it feels unnatural at first, but you get used to it and you’ll soon have lots of fun.
Consider Their Schedule
When we’re far apart we can quickly lose touch of what’s going on each other’s lives. Be mindful of their schedule and routine so you’re setting aside quality time rather than stealing half moments here and there.
Arrange a time for a catch up that suits everyone. You’ll want to give and receive undivided attention to properly make the most of your chance to catch up. Setting aside a dedicated time with an agreed start (and end, if you’re short on time!) means you’ll both stick to it and focus on the conversations that are important.
Make a conscious effort to be aware of their work day and home life.
Try not to suggest a time that you know you or they will be busy so neither of you end up postponing and avoiding catch ups. I get it, daily life gets in the way sometimes! If you’re not able to make the agreed time, be honest about your next free slot so you won’t end up bailing out last minute or cutting it short. Let them know that you’re flexible too and want to fit in around each other’s day.
Checking your mutual free time is especially important for different timezones. Try to send messages when you’re both awake if possible so you’re not constantly playing catch up and battling a sporadic conversation. And, if you’re especially far apart think about sending them a cheery message for them to wake up to.
Voice & Video Messages
If written messages are becoming too long or you just want to see and hear your loved one, use voice and video messages. Whether they send you a voice note or video message in advance or if you talk in real time on the phone or video chat:
This medium of long distance communication is the most tried and tested to maintain a strong relationship.
Voice and video messages have the advantage of speed and accuracy. It’s much quicker to keep in touch with a quick voice or video message about your day than it is typing it all out! Also, there is less room for misinterpreting their tone. You won’t be second guessing if that text sounded a bit passive aggressive, but instead will get a clearer insight into how they’re feeling.
Speaking from my personal experience, there is no better way to start the day than a happy voice message from a loved one!
Hearing your loved ones telling you about their day is such a joy. Not only do you feel closer to one another through their own voice but it’s a quick and efficient way to get a lot of info across quickly.
Voice notes are brilliant for those short of time and for regular, quick bursts of long distance communication.
If your friend, family member, or partner are falling behind on text replies, maybe suggest a quick voice note to save them typing out all their thoughts.
I also find voice notes to feel more natural. There is no backspace or delete option. You’ll feel like you’re having a normal (albeit delayed) conversation with the same fluctuations and pauses of everyday chats.
Time for a call?
One main consideration with voice notes is length. Voice notes are perfect for regular, short communication like daily updates or a specific topic.
Try not to save up all your news for a voice note that lasts forever! A long voice note is hard to reply to. I’ve been guilty of this and end up without a reply for weeks. They’ll have to make a note of all the points you mentioned, and listen back a few times to check they got everything. This might slow things down when a simple text would suffice.
In this scenario, I’d suggest arranging a phone or video call to get all the info you want to share across in real time. That way, they can respond in the moment and it’s a great excuse to catch up properly!
Beyond hearing their voice, you’ll want to see your loved one’s face from time to time.
Using video chat (or video message) is the closest you can get to an in-person conversation. Never underestimate the boost to your relationship that seeing each other can do!
When you arrange a live video chat, remove any distractions around you. Try to look at them, not how you’re looking (cmon, we’re all guilty of doing it). Give them the attention they deserve.
If it’s been a while since your last chat, make a list of all your news you wanted to share. Remember to ask them questions and follow up on what’s going on with them too!
If you’re catching up regularly, introduce fun topics to talk about that cover your mutual interests. Are you both watching the same TV series? Or maybe you’ve been keeping an eye on a news story?
There is always something to chat about!
It can seem hard to think of conversation points when you’re on a video chat that doesn’t have an agenda sometimes. When Kaz and I have been long distance, we talk daily if not twice on video chat. That might not sound like a lot, but after you’ve talked about your day and you’re aware of having limited time it can feel like you don’t need to bother with talking about other things. This definitely isn’t the case.
Conversations on video don’t always flow the same way one-off calls or in-person talks do. Don’t be discouraged if the call isn’t as natural as you want. It won’t mean you’re running out of topics, but it might mean you need to set aside time to think about what’s important to discuss within the limited call time!
Cards & Gifts
If you can’t be together for special occasions, try to send over a card or gift to them in your place!
Something cuddly and cosy is especially great for couples and tactile friends and family. I have a teddy bear called Bertie which I LOVE and was a gift from Kaz. It’s no replacement for a proper hug but it’s incredibly comforting when you’re missing loved ones.
For friends, why not give them a fun scrapbook or photo of you together? Wearable gifts are also full of sentimental value that are treasured and let you think of your awesome pals. My lovely friend gave me a bracelet before I left to move to Perth and she had it personalised with the coordinates of home. I always thought of her, my hometown, and many happy memories whenever I wore it.
It’s these small items that can bring you closer together through physical touch of the item.
All these suggestions work for family too. I also find popping a spontaneous card or letter in the post to your family does wonders for their happiness and yours! If you’re really feeling generous, a bunch of flowers will brighten anyone’s day.
Remember, although gifts and cards are not typically thought of as forms of communication, it’s about maintaining the connection between each other and showing that you care. Your thoughts are just as much a means of communication as your words.
Remember the Important Moments
Being present can be so much more than physical presence. If they have a big meeting that day, or you know there’s a lot going on in their lives let them know you’re thinking of them. This acknowledgement of the important things in their lives adds shared connection over what matters, and lets them feel less alone.
Consider using a shared calendar where you can see what they’re up to. Remind them you’re thinking of them when they need you most.
Being apart from loved ones is really hard. Communication is as much about listening as it is about talking.
The best we can do for them and ourselves is communicate. I really can’t stress enough that if your loved one is having a tough time you can do more than you think with your words alone. If you can take action like sending something to cheer them up then even better.
Listen to their needs, validate their feelings, and keep an open heart. If you treat your relationships with love and attention you will certainly gain more from it in the long run too.
When you come to face hardship or want to share in a celebration, those who you’ve shown love will reciprocate.
Have Something to Look Forward To
This too shall pass. Long distance won’t be forever. There will be a time when you will be reunited with those awesome people in your life and HOW GOOD WILL THAT BE?!
Focus on the great memories shared together, and plan, prepare, and get excited for the good times ahead.
Communication requires honesty. There is simply no way to build a relationship or maintain a friendship if you’re not being honest. Is how you’re communicating working for you? How are you feeling both in yourself and the relationship?
Clearly and kindly tell them what you need. If you need more proactivity from them, let them know. If you need some emotional support, open up about your problem so they can be there for you.
It’s easy to gloss over the hard bits to avoid loved ones from worrying. While your intentions are well-meaning, this could easily backfire and cause you more distress. Gently tell them what’s bothering you and I promise they will only want to help.
Don’t Keep Quiet
You might think keeping quiet is the easiest solution. It’s not. More damage can be done by bottling up your emotions than sharing the load with those who love you.
Everyone knows long distance in any capacity is hard. With the right tools for communication and a willingness to open up to yourself and others, you will get through it!
These ideas and tips for maintaining long distance communication all comes from my personal experience. Every experience and situation is unique and it will take some trial and error to figure out how you can grow the most important relationships in your life from afar.
Have you got any other ideas to help long distance communication? I’d love to hear them and give them a go!
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Paul Whittle03/21/2020 at 7:46 pm
Very good, really thoughtful and helpful, from someone who knows!
acook112305/19/2020 at 2:05 am
These are some really great tips! My brother is the first one of my family (even my extended family) to move away and he’s all the way across the US from us. It’s been tough, but you are so right – communication is key!
suzystories05/19/2020 at 11:42 pm
Oh I’m glad you enjoyed them! That must have been so exciting and scary all at once, but so nice to hear you’re keeping in touch and hopefully the distance won’t feel so far 🙂