How to Transition From a Long Distance Relationship

It takes work.
couple hugging airport long distance relationship
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Carey Somerton
by Carey Somerton
Updated Jun 14, 2019

Carey Somerton is a part-time tech consultant, full-time mom and proud military wife. As part of a military couple, she has eighteen years of expertise in navigating a part long-distance relationship and its transitions.

After dating long distance for three roller-coaster years, I was beyond excited when the day finally arrived for me to pack my things and move to my boyfriend's town. While we weren't just yet moving in together, I felt my heart racing as I drove the thousand-mile distance to his town, now to become our town.

Getting settled in this new place together was a special time in our relationship. Finally, we could spend a weekend together without tears knowing that we had a simple, four-minute walk to the next person's front door. We started a nightly ritual of strolling through town after dinner, and we relished moments like cooking together in my tiny new kitchen. But that's exactly the location where we were suddenly faced with a new set of challenges in our now-short distance relationship.

It was after dinner when the eruption began. I was cleaning the countertop when I heard his voice loudly project, "What are you doing?"

I froze with a sponge in hand, asking myself: What caused the yelling?

"You're spreading germs all over the place!" he reacted. In his childhood home, sponges were banned from touching counters, and my future husband had been taught that the only sanitary way to clean surfaces was with a paper towel and a spray bottle of cleaner. This, however, was news to me.

"But that's so wasteful!" I yelled back.

As the argument escalated, the disagreement became more frustrating to navigate. We'd spent years of hour-long phone calls imagining what it would be like to be together. Now we were finally together—and here we were, yelling at each other. I started to question if moving was the right decision. I missed my friends, and I was struggling to pay my new bills. Now, I felt attacked over a small misunderstanding.

We laugh about it now: our first big fight over a sponge. But at the time, it felt jarring. We never fought over the phone. So why were we fighting in person? In retrospect, transitioning from a long distance relationship is a huge step, which requires much emotional effort, time and an added amount of understanding. Over the years, we continued to struggle with the transition from long distance to moving in together through his years of service in the military. Here's what we've ultimately learned in the process in case you're asking yourself the question: When is the time to move in together?

Know When to Get Help

Something that made this season so tough was that no one else I knew was going through it. My friends were all single or been local to the same region as their significant others since the beginning of the relationship. Sadly, the people I would typically call for advice simply didn't understand what we were going through. And couples counseling was nowhere on our radar.

One of the most accessible tools for strengthening your relationship is Lasting. It's the number one relationship counseling app out there. If you're struggling to sync your lives after a season apart, using Lasting together is a great resource to help navigate sensitive topics like conflict, sex, and communication. The app's content is written by marriage counselors based on decades of research, and a whopping 94% of couples report having a stronger relationship after using the app together.

Learn to Work Through Conflict

Issues like how to clean the countertops had never been an issue while we were living apart, so it was a steep learning curve for us to address it when it emerged. Learning simple conflict resolution tips, like focusing on someone's behavior instead of their character, can go a long way toward preventing a disagreement from escalating into an argument.

Talk About Sex

Research shows talking about sex is one of the most important factors in having a healthy sex life. Our faith led us to make a decision to wait until we were married to have sex. But this proved an easier vow to keep when we were a thousand miles apart than when we were kissing and cuddling every day. Once local, we had to revisit our decision openly and often as our wedding day approached.

Make a Chore Chart

Even if you're living separately, you're going to be spending a lot more time together at each other's places. You're essentially adding a roommate component to your relationship. Establishing clear expectations for chores and even the most minute of tasks up front—such as doing the dishes, cleaning counters, taking out the trash after dinner—will form a solid foundation in the long haul.

Make Time for Others

It's understandable if you and your partner are inseparable after spending time apart from each other. At some point, you need to find a way to nurture relationships with family and friends too. Be up front about the who, when, and why of making plans with others so no one feels left in the dark.

My husband and I started dating 18 years ago and, thanks to his military career, I joke that we've been a long-distance couple ever since. It doesn't seem to matter how long we've been married—we still face an adjustment period when he returns home after a long work trip or deployment.

Thankfully, syncing our lives together is easier now that we have a plan.

Read More: Therapists' Tips for Making Long Distance Relationships Work
You might be interested: How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Work While Planning a Wedding

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