How can you make long-distance dating work?
Scheduling long-distance dates are one way to keep the bond strong while living apart. And no, regular phone conversations don’t count. We’re talking about scheduling a specific time to see each other virtually and do fun, creative activities together as you would on an actual IRL date. This serves as a time for you to check-in with each other, be fully present, and experience each other’s energy.
“[Long-distance dates] show how much you value the relationship as well as lessen any insecurities you might have from being apart,” Trombetti says. “It reaffirms the bond every time you connect.” Plus, it’ll build lots of anticipation for when you do see each other in person.
Furthermore, Sara Stanizai, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Prospect Therapy, says communication is the lifeblood of any relationship and long-distance dates provide an opportunity to have needed—albeit difficult—conversations. “When your time together is limited, you may feel pressured to ‘make the most of it’ and ‘not ruin the little time you have together,’” she says. “This can make emotional disconnection grow. It’s important to have the difficult conversations up front rather than let them slowly pull you apart.”
That said, it doesn’t have to be all serious. Long-distance date ideas should be fun. Regardless of how you spend your virtual time together, Stanizai says one of the keys to making a long-distance relationship work is to create a routine together which helps build trust. “What people want to know about their partner is: Will you be there when I need you?” Stanizai says. “Maintaining a routine sends the message that yes, I may not always be there, but I’m there when you expect me to be.” The frequency and details of the routine is up to you and your partner to decide but that can look like having a standing long-distance date on a certain day of the week or sending each other a nightly message.
Long-distance date ideas to keep connected with your partner
1. Have a house party
Although you may not be able to party with your significant other in person, that doesn’t mean you can’t party with them at all. Schedule a virtual DJ house party and turn your living room into a dance club. There are also plenty of Instagram Live DJ sets that you can join in on—dance and take breaks with your significant other as a date, and then invite other friends to join for a full house party.
2. Watch a live music performance together
If live music is more your scene, make a date with your main squeeze to watch a live stream performance of your favorite artist. “[You can] sing along to your favorite songs,” says relationship expert and matchmaker Tammy Shaklee. You can also tune into live streams put on by places like the Metropolitan Opera.
3. Go for a walk
Just because you’re on a virtual date doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. Pop your earphones on and head outside for a brisk walk while talking on the phone or chatting on FaceTime. “Share the nature shots from each location, hear the birds, play an eye-spy for certain colors of buds and blooms,” Shaklee says. “If you get in maximum steps and work up a sweat, perhaps a virtual shower together could be a fun end to the date.” Oh, la la.
4. Take a bath together
Speaking of getting steamy, instead of your usual phone catch-up session at the end of the day while sprawled out on the couch, why not take the conversation into the bathtub? Make it a special occasion by setting the scene with romantic music, candles, bubbles, and perhaps a glass (or two) of wine.
5. Learn a language together
If you’re planning an international trip together in the future (or even if you’re not), Shaklee recommends spending date nights learning a new language. You can set up a private virtual lesson or download the Duolingo app and get studying. And if you want to add some friendly competition to the mix, you can keep score of who learns the most words in another language, or better yet who sounds the sexiest speaking it.
6. Binge-watch together
Grab your popcorn. Thanks to the technology gods, you can learn how to watch movies together online and get your binge on with your other half even if you’re miles apart. “Netflix Party app is a great app for watching your screens together,” Trombetti says. “You both can watch Tiger King together or whatever Netflix show of your choosing and [when you] pause it, it pauses theirs as well. It’s like going to the movies together.”
7. Have a virtual dinner date
Sweeping your partner off their feet with a romantic dinner date is totally doable virtually. Trombetti recommends lighting candles, getting all dressed up, and then ordering your favorite takeout for yourself and your partner. Sending over a bottle of wine or their favorite drink is also a nice touch. Then ring them up via FaceTime or Zoom and enjoy your virtual dinner date together.
8. Watch funny videos together
YouTube is chock-full of funny videos. So whenever you need something light and casual to do to entertain each other on virtual dates, Trombetti suggests falling down a YouTube rabbit hole and watching videos of your favorite comedians or whatever else tickles your fancy. You can literally do this for hours and have a total blast.
9. Have a listening session
Making mixtapes for the person you dig most will forever be cool and thoughtful, only now you can do it digitally by creating playlists. “Send [playlists] back and forth and talk about why the songs remind you of each other and why you picked that particular song,” Trombetti says. “This really ups the communication and creates a longing for each other because, well, music just has a way of doing that to people. It’s [also] such a relaxing thing listening to music together.”
10. Go on virtual tours
If you can’t physically travel and sight-see together right now, you can have some memorable online adventures. Trombetti recommends hopping on Zoom and sharing your screen as you take virtual tours of museums or state parks. Or, if you’re planning an exotic vacation, get excited by watching videos of the destination and mapping out your itinerary. “It’s tough to be apart, and couples need to know there is light at the end of the tunnel, so this is fun and gives you both something to look forward to down the road,” she says. “There is nothing like anticipation to bond you both as a couple.”
11. Create a scavenger hunt
For couples who love puzzles and riddles, Stanizai suggests creating scavenger hunts for each other. “It will take some research, but. . .you can send them to their favorite watering hole where you have pre-ordered a drink for them,” she says. “A mutual friend or a well-tipped server can send them to the next destinations, which may include a salon appointment, a gift-wrapped item of clothing, or more. Bonus points if they are places you have been together or somehow connect to your relationship.”
What are some other tips for long-distance relationships?
Scheduling regular long-distance dates with your significant other is just one way to ensure the long-distance relationship goes the distance. Below, Stanizai shares a few more tips to incorporate.
Spend your time authentically
Long-distance relationships are not easy by any means, and Stanizai says one of the things that kills a long-distance relationship fast is pretending it is. “It’s okay to have difficult stretches,” she says. “It’s okay to unload your bad days on your partner. Sometimes there is pressure to only share the good news because you have little time together, but that time should be spent authentically, no matter what mood you’re in at the time.”
Treat it like any other relationship
Another long-distance tip: “Treat it like any other relationship,” Stanizai says. This rule especially applies if it’s a new relationship. In this scenario, Stanizai advises letting things play out and not putting arbitrary pressure on the relationship just because you don’t live near each other. In other words, she doesn’t recommend ending things solely because of where you live. And conversely, don’t ignore red flags to compensate for the distance.
Get creative with long-distance date ideas
Whatever long-distance date ideas you choose, Stanizai emphasizes the importance of mixing things up. “If you are creative, you can find ways to minimize whatever you would be ‘missing out on’ by being local to each other,” she says. “Be willing to try new apps, gifts, and messenger services; get to know the local community and see if you can enlist their help. That way you can feel present even when you’re not.”
Make your partner feel attended to
Even when you’re miles apart, it’s important that you make each other feel taken care of, which is why Stanizai recommends paying attention to what makes your partner feel attended to and incorporating those things into your dates. “For example, some may need their space and like that they are not constantly messaging,” she says. “Others may appreciate that you remembered the name of their local coffee shop and got them a gift certificate.”
Create a long-term plan
And lastly, every long-distance relationship needs a long-term plan. “The stress of long-distance is easier to bear when you know that there is a common goal that you both are working toward,” Stanizai says. “Perhaps it’s due to a job, school, visa delays, finances, or another reason why you are compelled to be apart. It’s important to keep each other updated and to be transparent about the status of your plans for the future.”