FriendLamps Interviewer (joint interview with Jenny and Frank): So, Jenny, what is the magic ingredient that kept you and Frank growing stronger together as a long-distance couple? Our readers are dying to find out! Jenny: "Sorry to disappoint you, hon, but there's really no super-ingredient in any relationship. Frank and I just complement each other in so many ways, and we fully recognize that. What do I mean? Let me give you an example. Frank loves football and I didn't even know the name of our state's team. (Laughs) I used to joke that I thought NFL stood for Nerdy Football Losers! Boy did he get mad at me for that one! But, you know, at the end of the day, as much as I hate football and Frank loves it, we respect each other's likes and dislikes. He doesn't force football down my throat and I don't keep taking digs at him for setting aside 'alone time' for his favorite upcoming games." Commentary: Interestingly, when we asked Frank the same question we asked Jenny, he brought up the football thing as well. That's how in-sync they are. Here's what Frank had to say. Frank: "It wasn't easy for me to get over the fact that my soulmate hated football, to be totally honest. But after a while, I realized that she's got a lot of things in her life that I don't like, too. Does that mean I put them down as being stupid or silly? Absolutely not. In my book, the number one rule of any relationship is to accept what the other person loves, even if you can't stand it - or understand it." Commentary: When we read over the transcripts of the conversations, we immediately noticed one thing, and that's the first of our long-distance relationship tips:
Habit #1: Respect Each Other's Individuality - and Each OtherJust like Frank and Jenny couldn't agree on football, you may have things in your life that seem like barriers to getting closer to your long-distance lover or spouse. It might be as simple as a sport or as complicated as an old friend of yours that your bae just can't stand the sight of. Whatever it is, the mutual respect you show for each other's likes - as much as your dislikes and pet peeves - will go a long way in creating a stronger bond in your long-distance relationship. Remember that this isn't just something you turn on and off like a switch. It's a habit, which means it has to be inculcated over time. Just keep working on it every day until it becomes second nature to you. Who knows, you may end up loving football, after all! Commentary: It is equally important to respect each other, as we learned last week from our analysis of three celebrity long-distance couples in an article titled See How These 3 Celebrity Couples Handled Their Long-distance Relationships. Respect means valuing each other and not taking each other for granted, as much as it means valuing each other's viewpoints, opinions, likes, dislikes, foibles, pet peeves, and all the stuff that comes as 'baggage' when you love someone.
FriendLamps Interviewer (joint interview): So, Frank, how do you guys make sure that you communicate on a regular basis? Do you have set days of the week and times of day for phonecalls or videoconferencing? Frank: Not really. We do have a sort of open-ended schedule on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For me, the ranch is a seven-day work-week so I can't predict when I'll be free. But we do make sure that we have our phones with us at all times so we can reach each other if we need to... even if it's just to say "Hey, I'm thinkin' about you." Jenny: Yeah, my schedule is pretty much fixed but I know Frank's usually doing rounds at the ranch during the day, when it's nighttime for me, so we have a sort of secret code we use. I'll text him a clock face emoji - that means I'm asking if he's free to talk. If he is, he sends back a thumbs-up emoji with a 5, meaning he'll be free in 5 minutes. Or he'll just FaceTime me if he's not doing anything else. If he's tied up with a chore, he won't text back. But I know he'll send me a clock face emoji when he's done. It just works! Commentary: It's so great the way they've set clear expectations around communicating via FaceTime. So many couples try and fix a rigid schedule and get frustrated when one or the other person isn't able to get on a call at that particular time. Or else, they leave it loose and suddenly realize they haven't spoken for a couple of weeks. Either way, it can cause a negative mindset in one or both of them. The ego has funny ways of showing up without an invitation! To avoid all that, we recommend that LDR couples develop this useful habit.
Habit #2: Keep Communication Time Flexible but Don't Leave it LooseFrank and Jenny have their special texting code, and it helps them figure out when both of them are free to talk. They also set specific days for regular calls but, at the same time, don't expect the other person to drop whatever they're doing, especially if it's an important job that's suddenly come up. This kind of mutual understanding is very important in a long-distance relationship. It avoids ego clashes and unnecessary ill-will. Don't forget, things get amplified when you're not physically together, especially the negative stuff, so be careful about making promises you can't keep.
FriendLamps Interviewer (interview with Frank): What do you do about the time in between your calls? How do you stay so close on a mental level? Frank: "One of the things we do is visit places neither of us has been to - and we do it from our couches! The way it works is, you get your VR headsets and then get on Google Earth VR on a connected device, and pick a city both of you want to visit. We get on the phone, keep it in speaker mode or use a Bluetooth earphone, and it's almost like we're traveling together!" Commentary: This type of activity is not really expensive except for the VR hardware, but looking at what Frank and Jenny have done with it, it seems well worth the price. They go on such virtual trips about once a month, when they have their "date trip."
Habit #3: Do Something Together on a Regular BasisIt doesn't matter if you're "low-tech" or "old-school" and would rather do a book reading together over Skype or Zoom. The important thing is to engage in some kind of activity that both of you enjoy. If you don't like books, you could consider watching a movie together virtually and then talking about it. The idea here is to get involved with something at the same time. It's a magical experience and it does a lot more for a long-distance relationship than you can ever imagine. Just take Frank's word for it!
FriendLamps Interviewer (joint interview): How do you keep your relationship fresh and exciting? I know it's a hard question but we'd love your...
"The team used a similar set-up to that commonly used in brain-computer interface studies. A human subject had electrodes attached to their scalp, which recorded electrical currents in the brain as the subject had a specific thought. Usually, this is interpreted by a computer and translated to a control output, such as a robotic arm, or a drone. In this case, though, the output target was another human."The point is, you don't need electrodes or brain-computer interfaces when you have options like the friendship lamp. The habit that came out of this part of the interview was this one:
Habit #4: Reach Out at Random Any Way You CanThe very act of someone you love thinking about you is so invigorating to the soul, mind, and body that it can uplift you on the worst day of your life. We've all had that feeling in our lives; some of us have been lucky enough to feel that on a regular basis. Celebrities thrive on the energy and love that their fans send out to them 'every single minute.' So, why shouldn't we, as mere mortals, enjoy the same privilege? Use a touch lamp or send a random text if you have to, but let the long-distance love of your life know that you're thinking of them every now and then. You don't have to be obsessed with it, but you do have to be religious about doing it. It will help further strengthen the bond that you share with each other.
FriendLamps Interviewer (interview with Jenny): What about surprising each other with gifts? Do you and Frank do that? Jenny: Yes, absolutely. To be totally honest, though, Frank's a lot better at it! (giggles) He's such a darling with the roses and the chocolate and the stuffed toys. He's super-organized and has a great sense of timing. He'll order stuff online and plan it in such a way that I'll get it on the day of whatever we're celebrating. I remember this one time... it was the eve of our one-year anniversary of being apart and Frank had told me that he had to fly down to Houston the next day to look at some equipment for the ranch and that he'd have to stay overnight at a place where they didn't get cellular reception. I was sad but I knew how important the ranch was to him so I kept my disappointment to myself. Little did I know that he had a huge surprise for me. Imagine my state 24 hours later when I see him standing at my doorstep in my little apartment in Hong Kong! He'd taken a non-stop flight the previous day and suffered through something like 16 hours with no legroom and a baby in the seat behind him, just to be with me on this special anniversary. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw him standing there, grinning from ear to ear, tired as he was! Sadly, he couldn't stay longer than a couple of days but it was the best two days of my long-distance relationship. And even though I thought it wouldn't be possible, I loved him more for what he did for me that weekend than I ever did in the year that we'd spent apart. Commentary: Although we have to admire Frank's resourcefulness in planning the whole thing, it's not always possible to surprise someone with a physical visit. The expense, the time, the conflicting schedules, and other reasons will definitely come in your way. But the important thing is to keep those surprises coming in some way, shape, or form. It can be you at her doorstep or simple delivery of roses for something she's achieved at work. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you did it. And that's the basis of this next habit.
Habit #5: Surprise your Long-distance Spouse or Lover Every Chance You GetThere are tons of ways in which you can surprise your LDR better half. From a luxury gift such as renting a limousine to take her to her favorite restaurant, to telling her that you've just been visiting with her lonely mom who lives in a retirement home, surprises come in all forms, even fun gag gifts. You just have to know what triggers a positive emotion in your spouse or partner and go for it. And then do something similar every time you get a chance. One important point to note here is that you should never expect the other person to reciprocate. If they take a cue from you and start doing similar things for you, that should be a bonus, not a given.
FriendLamps Interviewer (joint interview): How do you handle the physical distance and lack of closeness that you're forced to deal with on a daily basis? Frank: "One little trick I stumbled on in the early days when both our schedules were super-crazy and we barely had time to talk every week was to keep photos of her nearby. I had her on the dashboard of my F-150 because that's where I spent most of my time, driving around the ranch. I also had a photo of her right across from the dining table where I had most of my meals. It was a little hard to get Jenny on board at first, but... well, let her tell it her way." Jenny: "I remember the first time Frank suggested that and I thought to myself: "Hmm, I don't need his picture to remind me of him. I think about him all the time." As it turned out, I realized I was so busy when I first moved to Hong Kong and started the new job that I rarely thought of him at work. And it made me feel bad every night. That's when his idea started to make sense. Right away, I printed out a favorite photo of mine with him sitting astride his favorite Appaloosa, Nelly, and stuck it to the corner of my computer monitor at work. I also printed out photos of us together and taped them all over my apartment - on the fridge, on the inside of the front door, even in the mirror in the bathroom as a gentle nudge to think of him when I brushed my teeth every morning! I had no idea how powerful that idea was until I put it into practice." Commentary: They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. In many ways, that's true. However, distance can also make you grow... well, distant. For that reason, it's important to have constant reminders of your LDR other-half around your life, whether that's in the form of visual cues, audio prompts, or whatever. And that's the essence of this next habit.
Habit #6: Keep Constant Reminders of Your LDR Partner at HandPhotos are a great way to keep the other person "in front" as you go about your daily chores, but you can also try creative things like having your wife or girlfriend record a message and use that as a ringtone for your mobile. One of our customers even recorded herself saying "John, it's the phone. Pick up. It might be me!" and put that on her husband's phone. She said he loved it and asked her to send even more recordings of her saying funny stuff. You can also try keeping objects around you that remind you of your long-distance lover or spouse. Anything that draws your attention across the miles will work, as long as it's something you automatically associate with your long-distance loved one. Editorial Note: In a study conducted in the Netherlands a few years ago on people who lost their parents in young adulthood, they found that keepsakes and memorabilia helped these kids "meet their need for the emotional experience of closeness with the memory of their parent." Habit #6 stems from a similar belief that something that reminds you of a person who is physically inaccessible to you helps you get closer to them on an emotional level whenever that something invokes a memory of them. One important takeaway from that study is that moving the keepsake or photo regularly helps refresh your memory of that person. Of course, the study was set against a much more somber background of parental loss in young adulthood, but the same principles can apply in a long-distance relationship as well.
FriendLamps Interviewer (joint interview): How do both of you handle being around other people that you might find yourself attracted to? Frank and Jenny (together): Aaaah! (both laugh and Jenny continues) Jenny: Everyone at the ranch knows how close Frank and I are despite the distance between us. Truth be told, (suddenly slipping into a Southern drawl) them cowgirls know that I'd hop on a plane in a minute and kick their behinds all the way to Mexico if they ever tried to make a move on my man! (laughs again) Frank: And she'll do it, too! (laughs) Jenny: You bet I will, Frank! (laughs) But you know something? We take our commitment to our relationship very, very seriously. We know it can be challenging sometimes, especially when you're forced to have a social life outside your love life... you know, colleagues at work and stuff. It's natural to be physically attracted to another person who's not your long-time lover, but we're also keenly aware that we're each other's best shot at happiness in this life. Sorry if I come off as too sentimental but that's just who I am. Frank: And that's one of the things I love about her. She's in for the long haul, as am I. We know that this long-distance relationship is just temporary and we'll be back together again soon. And that's one of the things that keep us going through the hard times. I'd hate to have Jenny give up her job because she's so passionate about it and great at it, and I know she doesn't want me handing over the reins for the ranch to someone outside the family. So we do the best we can until that day comes. Commentary: Frank and Jenny's perspective on their long-distance relationship is not unique. Many LDR couples live in the hope that, someday, they'll be together. The important factor here is the faith that both people have in that vision, no matter how long-term it may seem. In Jenny's case, her contract with the Chinese company comes up for renewal in a couple of years. At that time, she may decide she's had enough of coping with an LDR situation and move back to Dallas to be with Frank. The point is, during that time, both of them are committed to making the relationship work, and that commitment is based on their faith in each other and their love for one another.
Habit #7: Above All, Have Faith in Your Relationship and Your LoveFaith can move mountains, it's been said, but faith can also stop it feeling like a mountain is coming tumbling down on you. A long-distance relationship is like that in many ways, and the stronger the couple is when it comes to having that faith, the more likely that the relationship will last a long time in the face of adversity. In Frank and Jenny's case, it's an active act of will to keep that fire burning. Love doesn't come easy; and when it does come, you have to do everything in your power to make sure you don't let go.
Love is hard work. Make no mistake. Regardless of whether you're together as a couple or in a long-distance relationship, the challenges will come. They may take different forms but they'll surely come. You can bet on it.
To summarize the valuable long-distance relationship tips we've gleaned from the many interviews with Frank and Jenny, here are the 7 habits of highly effective LDR couples once again:
Habit #1: Respect Each Other's Individuality - and Each Other
Habit #2: Keep Communication Time Flexible but Don't Leave it Loose
Habit #3: Do Something Together on a Regular Basis
Habit #4: Reach Out at Random Any Way You Can
Habit #5: Surprise your Long-distance Spouse or Lover Every Chance You Get
Habit #6: Keep Constant Reminders of Your LDR Partner at Hand
Habit #7: Above All, Have Faith in Your Relationship and Your LoveInculcate these habits and become stronger in your love for each other no matter how many thousand miles separate you.