LDR 101: Trust in Long Distance Relationships

Photo Credit: Greg Jordan

Photo Credit: Greg Jordan

In the previous installment of LDR 101, we covered communication in long distance relationships. This time around we’re going to focus on trust.

When my fiancé and I first started getting to know each other, we established one simple, yet vital rule: we will always be open and honest. It sounds like it should be obvious, but the fact that we both acknowledged this from the outset helped shape our relationship and build a foundation of trust.

While I never told my fiancé this part, this is the rule I keep for myself: be trustworthy and trust your partner will do the same. This is slightly different than expecting trustworthiness. Expectation is not reciprocation; it’s a passive aggressive demand. I don’t know about you, but I’ve rarely seen demands work out in a healthy relationship.

But trusting someone is tough, right?

I get it. There’s a lot of letting go one has to do in order to trust another person. You need to let go of your own insecurities. You need to let go of prior experiences in other relationships. You need to let go of social influences. On top of all that, you have to do this while your LDR partner is in a different location.

Awesome.

So how do you make this whole trust thing work? Well, this is what works for me:

Trust Yourself – I know myself. I know why I do things. I know why I react certain ways in certain situations. I know what I need in my life to maintain happiness. I know to a point where I don’t feel the need to think about things the way I did as a moody teenager. Because of this, I no longer have to question or think about most of my life decisions. Everything comes naturally. But this took time to develop and is something I only achieved within the last few years of my life.

Openness Is Everything – How can you expect someone to trust you if you aren’t open? Sure, this leaves you vulnerable, but that’s what trust is all about. Be open about who you are and what you want in a relationship. Don’t be someone you think your partner wants because you’ll never be able to reliably reach that standard. Instead be you; any changes from there should be focused on the relationship.

Consistency – You can’t build trust by randomly not being the person your partner has come to know. For example, I used to go to clubs a lot when I was younger, but I don’t really have the urge anymore. My fiancé knows this about me. But imagine if I went a couple times out of the blue without any type of explanation. I could go the standoffish route and say, “I don’t have to explain my whereabouts,” but I already presented myself as someone who doesn’t like clubs anymore. Of course I should say something. Otherwise, I come off as sketchy or, worse case scenario, untrustworthy. This doesn’t mean you can’t be a random person. You just need to have good…

Communication – Yes, we’re back to this because trust is damn near impossible without communication. My fiancé and I have zero boundaries on communication. This was largely established when we first began dating. So, yeah, read up on my previous article regarding communication so you get a strong sense of how important I feel it is.

Don’t Judge – You can’t expect a person to be open with you if their actions are open to judgment. This holds ESPECIALLY true for past actions. You and your partners should know your trust game changers and be open about them in the early stages of your relationship. This way, you both know where you stand and it reduces the risk of hiding thoughts/actions because you’re not sure how they will be judged.

Realistically, there’s nothing I can tell you on how to have a trusting relationship. I can talk about the components until my face turns blue, but at the end of the day, you just have to do it. Trust is one of those things that can’t have a scale in a LDR. You either have it or you don’t.

Personally, I think people often look at trust as something that their partner should just give while it needs to be built on their end. Or maybe they feel trust, in general, needs to grow over time. I call BS on that.

Trust or don’t trust. If there’s any in-between there, don’t bother calling it a relationship because mistrust isn’t one of those things that go away. Not fully, anyway. If both of you are following the rule “trust and be trustworthy” this is easy as cake. Over-think it and you’ll see how difficult something as simple as trust can get.

Anywho, that’s it for now folks! In the next installment I’ll touch on making time.

Peace out, party people.

Part 1:  Welcome to Long Distance Relationships
Part 2: Communication in Long Distance Relationships

LDR 101: Communication in Long Distance Relationships

Photo Credit: David Cosand

Photo Credit: David Cosand

Welcome to part two of this six-part feature on long distance relationships (LDR). If you missed part one, check it out here.

Do you know what’s vital to any relationship? Communication, duh. We’ve all heard this at one point or another, but communication is only second to trust as the most important aspect of LDR’s. But you can’t have trust without communication so this is truly the backbone.

There are three keys to communication

  1. Conveying thoughts/feelings effectively
  2. Listening effectively
  3. Understanding
  4. Openness

Conveying Thoughts/Feelings Effectively

There is a divide between feelings and language, but we use language so much that we forget about this divide. Outside of its more functional aspects like describing things, language allows us to translate our feelings into words. If the words are available that is.

But there’s the rub! Feelings are abstract and words are concrete, so translating them isn’t always so easy. Sometimes you know what you feel, but you’re not quite sure how to express it. The same thing happens with any translation. My fiancé speaks Swedish and there have been more than a couple times when she encountered words in her native tongue that have no English equivalent.

Knowing how to translate your feelings into words effectively helps IMMENSELY in relationships. I personally feel that many people truly don’t understand themselves well enough and it shows in the way they communicate. I can’t blame them though; most people think in their native tongue so they’re constantly translating feelings in their own minds. Language becomes the default and feelings become things that need to be analyzed and deciphered.

Seriously, when you think, it’s probably in a language, right?

This is an important hurdle to overcome in a long distance relationship because, as I stated previously, all you have is communication. That will be your bond. If you’re not sure how to express something without putting emotions like fear or anger into it, say that! You should never expect that a person “should just know.” You are the only one who knows how you feel for a fact. Anything everyone else knows is based on some form of communication (spoken, written, body language, etc.).

Learning how to effectively communicate comes easier to some than others. But if you’re LDR is something you want to take seriously, practice it alone as much as you do with your partner. I’ll be writing an article in the future on how I became better at communication, so stay tuned!

Listening Effectively

Communication is a dance. There’s an ebb and flow to it called communicating and listening.

Because, you know, it wouldn’t be communication if there was no one to hear what you’re saying.

I’m personally not a good listener. Not naturally, anyway…

Damn you, ADD!

…but I became better through age. The foundations of listening are as simple as this: What you’re saying is as important as what I’m thinking. Not more. Not less. It’s of equal importance, even if you don’t agree.

Our minds can easily become little chatterboxes, so it’s easy to get swept up and think about what you want to say next without listening to your partner. Or maybe you’re just distracted. When it comes to listening, your LDR is dependent on you and your significant other to keep an open ear.

This leads me to me next point…

Understanding

Knowing your LDR partner’s communication style is one thing, but understanding it is another. You should understand their communication style as much as your own so you can effectively put things in words that they understand without leading to a negative place.

Look for tendencies and repetitious behavior. What causes breaks in communication? What makes you or your partner shut down? When do the two of you communicate the best? When do you communicate the worst? What causes those instances? You don’t have to over-analyze any of this, but it’s something to keep in mind when things go awry.

Here’s something I like to do to help my fiancé understand me better. Wait for it…

I explain myself.

Is your mind blown? No? Well, I do it when there’s no/less emotion involved. I’m open about the way I think and what’s on my mind. If I get upset (which is almost never at this point in my life), I wait until I’m not upset to elaborate why I reacted a particular way. That doesn’t mean a situation doesn’t get addressed immediately; it just means that I go into more detail once I know how to translate what I feel into words. Hell, sometimes I even just verbalize things even when I don’t know because that helps to bring me to a better conclusion (you need a good listener to make that one work).

Openness

I’ll keep this short and sweet: being closed off eventually hinder communication. Be as open with your partner as you would with yourself. If you start with a foundation of openness, the voluntary kind rather than it being forced, communication is much easier as your relationship grows.

That’s it for now, folks! Let me know what you think! I’ll cover trust next time and the best ways to build that with LDRs. And no, you don’t need to surrender your Facebook password to attain it.

Happy (long distance) dating!

Part 1:  Welcome to Long Distance Relationships

LDR 101: Welcome to Long Distance Relationships

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If you haven’t been following my blog (shame on you), you probably don’t know that my fiancé currently lives in Sweden while I’m in the good ol’ US of A. As anyone who’s been in a long distance relationship knows, being far apart for an extended period of time isn’t the easiest thing in the world. In the case of my fiancé and I, we spent three months living together. And when I say “living together” I mean we were inseparable. Now we’re in separate countries again. It sucks, but we’re making plans to be together again, of course.

Silver linings and all that good stuff.

When she and I first started dating, I had people ask me why I would go for someone who wasn’t living in the US. That’s some old school thinking right there. With power of something like the internet, why would you ever want to limit your pool of potential partners to people who live within a certain radius?

Now that I think about it, I know friends from New Jersey who used to refuse dating anyone from New York and that was just a 30 minute drive. Hilarity!

Anyway, I’m a big supporter of using the internet to meet people and maybe even finding that special someone. If you happen to achieve the latter, good for you! Some of you may be similar to me and found someone from another state, country, or continent. If so, check out this six-part series I’m doing called Long Distance Relationships (LDR) 101. Here are the following parts:

  1. Introduction (er… this article)
  2. Communication
  3. Trust
  4. Making Time
  5. Getting Sexy
  6. Getting Over Yourself

Alright, so let’s talk a little bit about long distance relationships. They’re basically the same as regular relationships except certain aspects that can cause issues are intensified. Well, they have a greater chance of being intensified to be exact. This is the very reason why LDRs need to have a strong foundation. Obviously all relationships should have this, but LDRs should emphasize this because that foundation lacks the physical aspect.

Many people in close distance relationships take physical closeness for granted. Hell, I did when I had them. I never thought about what it would be like to have to handle pretty much every single situation with communication. When you have someone physically close, you can ignore issues with things like outings and sex. The primary method of avoidance in LDRs is not speaking and we all know how well that does in any relationship.

One last thing to note before we sign off on this intro. There will never be a perfect relationship because people aren’t perfect. But I believe you can get infinitely close. The trick is to never settle. Make the effort to be better, not just maintain. Hold yourself and your relationship to a high standard and strive each day to get closer to that level you desire. If you settle for anything less, you run the risk of either stagnating or deteriorating.

I think long distance relationships offer couples the chance to discover each other in a way that conventional relationships can’t. Sure, connecting on something like a sexual level isn’t as easy, but you’re put in a situation where, if you’re both open and honest, you can truly get to know a person. Because all you have are words.

Yes, and video if you’re lucky.

What do you think about long distance relationships? Are you in one? Ever been in one? I’d be interested to know! And join me next time when I focus on communication.

Catch you in the next installment, party people.