Illustration by Xiao Mei
by Gigi Engle
Looking for ways to keep intimacy and sexiness alive in your long distance relationships? Wondering how you can stay connected when physical closeness is not an option (for the time being)? You’re not alone. And we are here to tell you it’s totally possible to make an LDR fulfilling, sexy, intimate, and amazing.
We tend to scoff at long distance relationships, brushing them aside with the notion that they can’t possibly last. This is empirically untrue. When it comes to long distance relationships, it’s harder to test longevity than you might think. According to a study from sex toy company, Kiiroo, of 1,000 Americans, long-distance relationships last about 58 percent of the time.
Other conflicting research from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada shows different results, suggesting that couples in LDRs are actually happier and more stable overall. Other research from 2012 shows that long distance relationships last about as long as relationships in close proximity. The point being, long distance relationships– like all relationships– are subjective and depend very much on the couple in question.
You can totally pull one off, you just have to be willing to do the work. “I believe that they are totally doable as long as both people are committed to putting in the effort to make their partner feel loved and cared for,” says Pam Shaffer, a licensed marriage family therapist in Los Angeles.
Here is how to stay connected and keep intimacy alive in long distance relationships. You got this, partner!
Keep conversation fresh and communication open
As anthropologist Wednesday Martin, PhD., points out in her book Untrue, the key to healthy sexual and romantic relationships over the long term is spontaneity. It doesn’t matter if your partner lives 5 miles or 500 miles away, keeping it fresh is important.
This isn’t all about being sexy or hot, it’s about sparking continual curiosity in your relationship. “To keep things novel, make sure that your conversations aren't just one long ‘I miss you,’ even if you are really missing your partner,” Shaffer says. “Tell them about the absurd details of your day. Find funny things to send them (memes or photos are always good but never underestimate how fun it is to get little surprises in the mail too).”
“Communication and commitment are key!” says, Cynthia L. Dougherty, CEO The Greater Self and an executive mind performance coach. Send “frequent texts, notes, video chats and have (video) sex! Ask one another thoughtful and emotion-based questions.”
Have regular (video) sex
Just because you’re apart doesn’t mean sex is pushed to the wayside. Distance does not negate your physical need for intimacy. Make sure you’re having regularly scheduled sex dates either on the phone or on video chat. Rile your partner up with some anticipatory sexting during the day. Shaffer says to first make sure your partner is available to get sexy messages and videos. The last thing you want is a photo of your bare booty popping up on your partner’s shared screen during a presentation at work.
“Once you've established that you can send racy messages, I highly recommend teasing and getting creative,” she says. “Creating anticipation and having fun are key elements to sexting and it gives you a great opportunity to flirt with your partner while expressing your desires.”
Video chat is the preferred medium for virtual sex dates because while you’re not in the same place, seeing each other and looking into each other’s eyes makes you feel closer.
“Videos are key because you see one another. That raises the bar and the dopamine.” Dougherty says. “You will want more.”
Bring in the toys! “I think sexting with toys or sexy outfits or just plain naked is key. Whatever you can contribute to raising the sexual arousal between you should be the goal,” she says.
Make your time together count
Long-term, long distance relationships mean you have sporadic and limited time together in the same place. Whether you’re with you SO for three days or three weeks, try to make it count.
“When you do get to spend time with your partner, chances are that it's going to be high quality time because it's so rare!” Shaffer says. “When people are available all the time, we sometimes take them for granted, but it's nearly impossible to do that in a long distance relationship. Chances are good that you will get the benefit of your partner's full attention when you're together, which can make your relationship stronger than ever.”
This is one of those silver linings to all that missing each other; when you’re together it’s super special. Make sure you remind each other of this. Make fun plans, do activities, and have a LOT of sex.
Plan for the future
When it comes to a long distance relationship, you need to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. While living in different cities, states, or countries can work for a while, you need to reinforce the idea that at some point, the distance will be worth it.
“Take out your calendar and book future times together,” Dougherty says. Set “boundaries and expectations [for the relationship]. How do you (both) visualize the relationship moving forward?”
The long distance couples that survive are the ones who see a future together and are willing to work for and towards it. Both of you need to put plans into place to build a life together and not let anything stand in the way.
You have to go the distance for love … literally.
Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, sexologist, educator, and writer living in Chicago. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter at @GigiEngle.