By Meredith Sheldon

Most nights, Deana Sarshory falls asleep after catching up with her boyfriend. But, he is not physically there. He is behind the computer screen FaceTiming from his home in Virginia.

Sarshory and her boyfriend, Sina Jahanshahi, have been dating for about 15 months. After meeting as co-counselors at a two-week summer program for Iranian-Americans in 2016, the two decided to take their relationship further.

Further also meant farther. Since that summer, the couple has been managing and navigating a relationship from hundreds of miles apart. “Being in a long-distance relationship is something that gets easier as time goes on,” said Sarshory, a student at the University of Florida.

Maintaining a long-distance relationship can be tough, but there are ways to make it work. Bhakti Cohen, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Gainesville, offered these tips to help your love last despite the distance.

Communication

Communication is key. Long-distance couples need face-to-face communication. Cohen said she recommends they interact as much as possible via video chat rather than text. “We can always misunderstand the written word,” she said. “[Video chat] is a better, more healthy indicator for open and honest communication.”

It is equally important to find a balance in the amount of communication. Assess with your significant other what is too much and what is not enough in terms of talking.

There is no minimum or maximum recommended amount of communication. Find what best suits you and your partner.  “Once you find the right amount that both people are comfortable with, you can maintain good communication without cutting into each other’s other life aspects,” said Jahanshahi.

Visits

While communication is essential, the physical connection can be irreplaceable. Cohen said it is important for couples to find ways to schedule physical togetherness at least every six weeks. She recommends purchasing credit cards to rack up miles to make visits cheaper and easier. You can also search for cheap flight deals and put aside a small amount of money each week to save for future travel plans.

For couples really struggling with the distance, schedule the visit in your calendar. “Some of the hardest times I’ve gone through in my relationship is not knowing when exactly I’m going to see him next,” said Sarshory. “When it’s left open-ended like that, I struggle the most because I have no date in my calendar to look forward to every time I miss him.”

For couples who can’t visit each other that often, find ways to keep the love alive by cooking dinner together via FaceTime or sending each other a surprise care package!

Maintaining intimacy

Another challenge with long-distance dating is finding ways to recreate the dating experience. Sarshory and her boyfriend eat dinner together while FaceTiming or call each other when running errands. A great way for couples to bond long distance, Cohen said, is by finding a commonality. Watch a movie, podcast or television show together, and talk about it. Read the same book and discuss it.

Intimacy is an important aspect of a relationship, and it is possible to maintain despite the distance. Writing letters and laughing are two effective emotional connections to increase intimacy. “Couples need to laugh a lot,” she said. “I’m not talking sarcastic laughter. I’m talking genuine laughter. It brings people together in a real heart-to-heart way.”

Keeping the Love Alive in a Long-Distance Relationship

1.Send surprise care packages

2. Write and mail a love letter

3. Order a surprise delivery dinner for your significant other

4. Send flowers through the mail with a note

5. Mail a cute photo of the two of you with a heartfelt note on the back

6. Record and send a sweet voice note

7. Watch a show on Netflix at the same time together

8. Make and eat dinner together on video chat

9. Plan a surprise visit