Long distance relationships are really difficult and definitely aren’t for everyone. However, when you do decide to embark on that journey with your SO, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and how to do it successfully. Having productive arguments is an essential part of having a healthy relationship because it deepens the level of trust between you and your SO. Obviously you don’t want to be arguing 24/7, but just because fights are unavoidable, they don’t necessarily have to be painful.
1. Be transparent and direct in communication
Couples in long distance relationships often let small details slip through the cracks to avoid arguments, but this can ultimately lead to more unnecessary arguing and misunderstanding. Jay Hurt, author of The 9 Tenets of a Successful Relationship, recommends being transparent instead. “Transparency encourages a deeper level of trust,” he says. “Communication adds clarity so go to the point of over communicating. Be crystal clear on both people’s expectations and intentions and how to move forward. Communicating in this way enhances trust in each other.”
In addition to being transparent, it is also extremely important to be direct. Dr. Ish Major, host of We TV'sMarriage Boot Camp Reality Stars, says being very clear and direct in communication is key to solving an issue.
“The direct approach is the best and most healthy way to handle an argument in a long distance or any relationship. Communication is always the big issue in relationships, in a long-distance relationship the chances for misinformation and miscommunication is magnified times ten!”
His method for working through an argument has three steps. “So in this case you have to do everything you can to cut down on the chances for any miscommunication. Do not wait, that only increases your chances for more false scenarios and hurt feelings that may or may not be warranted. Pick up the phone, dial the number, talk, don’t text, follow this protocol:
- Tell him what he did wrong
- Tell him how it made you feel
- Tell him what to do to fix it
The end. You brought the situation some much needed clarity and now you can make an informed decision about staying in this relationship and moving forward.”
2. Pause and figure out the underlying issue
Sometimes it can feel like the arguments that are happening in a long distance relationship are petty and can even leave one person – or both– feeling like they don’t know why exactly they’re fighting at all. Both Hurt and Dr. Ish say that constant petty arguments often signify a deeper issue.
Dr. Ish explains, “When couples constantly argue about little things that tells me they have much bigger problems. If you’re taking every opportunity to find fault with the person you’re with that means you’re not very happy with them. Don’t confuse the issue. Take a step back and ask yourself this one important question: ‘What else could this mean?’ This question will honestly save every relationship you’ll ever have! Ask yourself, ‘Am I really this upset about him being late or rude or insensitive or the way he dresses or his wandering eye or is there a much bigger elephant in the room.’”
Hurt agrees, saying, “Petty arguments are a symptom of a deeper issue. Be considerate of the other person’s feelings and what they’re going through. What’s going on with them? Try to see through the other person’s lens to better understand the situation.”
Molly Crum, a James Madison University graduate, says “I was in a long distance relationship for two summers with my boyfriend. I recommend getting to the root of the cause of the argument. For example, are you really mad that he took an hour to text you back, or is it that you’re feeling neglected, under appreciated, need more communication, etc.”
It might be that neither of you even know why you’re actually fighting, so you might need to take a step back to examine your true feelings.
3. Don’t give up on each other
Sometimes arguments lead to ending a relationship, but they don’t always have to. You made the decision to be in a long distance relationship because you love your SO and made a commitment to them. Dr. Ish suggests the three rules of engagement when arguing.
“1. One team: Realize that you’re both on the same team and want the same thing…to make each other happy. Attack the issue, not each other
2. One topic: Only fight about one thing at a time. Couples have a tendency to bring EVERY unresolved issue from their past into every argument and nothing ever gets resolved and it’s frankly a dirty way to fight. Stay focused on the one issue and you have a much better chance of actually resolving the issue.
3. Stay in the game: This is critical for a long distance couple because it’s easy to either get off the phone or stop texting until things ‘cool off’. But when you come back, the issue is still there; unresolved. Stay in the game long enough to reach some sort of resolution where you both feel okay about moving past it or simply agreeing to disagree for the moment.”
Indiana University graduate Sarah McDaniel says, “From my experience, trying to resolve the problem as soon as it arises, and preferable not in texting form, is the best way to handle arguments. I spent a semester studying abroad and my then boyfriend (now fiancé) found that things went much smoother when we took the time to FaceTime or call to work it out, rather than having angry, passive aggressive texting conversations all day!”
Always remember why you got into the relationship in the first place. You and your partner have so much love for each other and that’s not worth throwing it all away over an argument when you’re miles away. It’s okay to miss each other and be upset about it but try to think about the next time you’ll see each other and how great that will be. Stay positive and hopeful, and consistently remind each other how much you love each other. Arguments will become much easier and your relationship will thrive!