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Currently, I live about 10 miles outside Cambridge, UK. My girlfriend lives a similar distance away, but in the opposite direction. A journey to visit her is about 2 hours via public transport, which often we split by each traveling for 1 hour. We don't see each other daily but we do see each other multiple times each week. We've been dating for a month and have been best friends for almost eight months.

In a week I am leaving to go to university, in Nottingham, UK. This is around 100 miles from her, and this is a 4 hour journey by public transport.

This increased time and cost is going to significantly reduce the frequency with which we will physically be together.

I want to continue this relationship a great deal, but I have never experienced a long distance relationship.

When we decided to start dating, we did discuss that we will need to make long distance work, but not how. We have agreed that we will phone often, but not spoken as to whether we want a schedule. I was hoping answers to this question would inform me a little before we sat down to discuss! We will text when we can - that goes without saying. My concern is that if we go for a month without seeing each other and we continue as we are without a schedule it will break down.

How can we ensure regular communication between our less frequent in-person visits? Should we have a schedule where we phone every evening on specified days, or should we aim to communicate more spontaneously? I’m concerned that if we have a schedule it will become a chore, but if we don’t have one we will slowly stop bothering.

Is there a third option?

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    Do you guys have any hobbies in common you could do remotely? (Video games, movies, etc) – user5349 Sep 17 '17 at 2:15
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    Does she want to do the same? Surely you discussed it already. Also how long is this separation expected to last? Any specific future plans you have discussed? – user3169 Sep 17 '17 at 2:38
  • @EricaGrant Perhaps we could watch movies together remotely. – Tim Sep 17 '17 at 10:40
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    In your original question you were asking about generic "communication". You changed your title to only be "phone/video chat" but you didn't change the body to reflect that. You also don't tell us anything about what your girlfriend wants. Does she want to continue the relationship? Have you spoken with her about what she wants as far as communication goes? Some people are predisposed to prefer regular, scheduled communication and others tend to be better with spontaneous chats... what are you, what is she? – Catija Sep 17 '17 at 20:17
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    Well, surely with a 2-hour commute between you now, you don't see each other daily? How often do you see each other in person right now and how do you interact otherwise? Often, with long-distance relationships, you modify your existing practices... how you do that depends on what you're already doing. Also, you didn't answer my previous question about whether you've talked to her about it or not... and I'm also curious how long you've been together (approximately). – Catija Sep 18 '17 at 0:26
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Firstly, you're going to love Nottingham. It's a great place to study/live. There are plenty of things for you both to do when your girlfriend visits.

When I studied in London, my girlfriend at the time moved from London to study in Nottingham.

  • We made a deal to try and visit each other once a month, she went to London and I went to Nottingham. We both shared the burden of traveling that way, but we didn't always do it (because of exams/money etc...), we just did it when we could.
  • We arranged a skype/facetime call once a week to catch each other up on what we were doing such as the bigger things (university/work stuff) and then we just casually spoke on social media (sharing things with her) and text (just spoke when we could).

We didn't set everything in concrete, so it wouldn't put pressure on both of us to make sure we had to do anything, but more we just did it casually. We happily did this for two years before I actually moved to Nottingham.

Basically, what I'm saying is have some general ground rules/schedule, but don't overthink it. Excessive communication can kill a long distance relationship, too much pressure can too. You just smash out university, enjoy yourself and talk to your girlfriend as and when you can and she'll reply as and when she can. These rules don't have to be set in stone, but it should be something you're both happy to try and give a go.

Remember, how much you communicate doesn't define how much you care for each other. It's what you communicate when you do that matters most.

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    As an addition to this, I found with my long distance relationship that frequent texting and IM's were detrimental a lot of the time. They made the eventual ~weekly facetimes or phone calls a little stunted since we'd already discussed everything important that we had wanted to talk about and it just devolved into a lot of silences and 'I miss you'. We already knew each others university schedule, diet, weekend plans, friends gossip, family news etc inside out. Don't pressure yourself to constantly be communicating throughout the day. – Smeato Sep 18 '17 at 10:07
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My current girlfriend and I started off long distance (Antwerp to Auckland, which is about as far as a long distance relationship can get). We spent about 9 months with feelings for each other while still limited to Skype.

Most of my answer is based on issues we encountered, or things we should've approached differently.

Should we have a schedule where we phone every evening on specified days, or should we aim to communicate more spontaneously?
I’m concerned that if we have a schedule it will become a chore, but if we don’t have one we will slowly stop bothering.

I would advocate a bit of both.

Definitely have at least one scheduled day a week. Find a time that works for both of you.
Having the fixed schedule means that you can reliably make other plans. If you never know when you'll talk next, you'll be a lot more hesitant about committing to an activity.

If you're in a distant relationship, you don't know her schedule to a tee, and she doesn't know yours. It's nigh impossible to keep each other perfectly updated. The fixed day is something that you are both aware of.

However, there is a drawback to the scheduled time. If you stick to the scheduled slot and are expected to never deviate from it, it will start weighing on you.

From my experience, I would say that the best approach is a hybrid approach. By default, you can expect to talk to each other on the scheduled time. But if one of you can't make the scheduled time for some reason, then you can agree to talk at another point in time during the week.

I think this combines the best of both worlds:

  • Even with your separate lives and schedules, you get the secure feeling of talking to each other at an agreed time where you will generally ensure to make time for each other.
  • If life intervenes and one of you can't make it for the scheduled time, the onus is on them to suggest an different time to talk.
  • If it turns out that the scheduled time keeps getting rescheduled more often than not (even if it's coming from both sides equally, without any negligent behavior), you need to change the scheduled time. Try finding a timeslot where both of you are sure to be free (ideally >90%). The intention is that you're sure to talk to each other then (with the exception of unforeseeable circumstances). Being sure about talking to each other gives you a feeling of security, which is something that long distance relationships often lack after a while.
  • If either of you wants to talk more, you can talk during the week in a more casual setting (e.g. an IM chat). The benefit of this is that it's without pressure. If you send her a message and she doesn't respond, she's busy and that's okay (since it's not the scheduled time). You're only allowed to expect an immediate response during the scheduled time, yo ucan't expect her to be free to talk whenever you send her a message (and vice versa of course)
  • However, if there is no scheduled meeting planned, you are relying purely on spontaneous conversation. If this is the case, and she then doesn't respond to your IM, you may subconsciously grow resentful that she never has time to speak when you want to speak (forgetting that her schedule may be different from yours), plus you may worry about whether you're disturbing her or not. You might also feel imposed on when she texts you out of the blue, seemingly expecting you to immediately respond because you're relying on spontaneous conversation.

I may have focused on different schedules more than you'll realistically encounter problems with. Me and my girlfriend had to deal with a 12 hour timezone difference, hence why I insist on working around each other's schedules and understanding that you guys might not always be available to talk at the same time.


Long distance relationships often entail some problems. They are not big problems, but because you're less connected than if you shared a residence, you start relying on inferences, which can have a snowballing effect.

E.g. Your girlfriend may be rescheduling for a valid reason, but if she's a bit short when explaining it to you for an unrelated reason (feeling sick, rough day, ...) you may infer that she's being evasive. Being a good boyfriend, you won't immediately bring that up, but it lingers in the back of your mind nonetheless. If she then responds slowly a couple of times in the near future, that keeps reinforcing that lingering idea, until it fester and eventually blows up in your faces. A simple misunderstanding, given time to fester and not be refuted by the other person (who is unaware of the misunderstanding) can have devastating impacts.

My approach is to suppress these misguided emotions before they have a chance to linger and fester in your mind. You need to hold yourselves to a higher standard than you would for a normal relationship, because even a small misunderstanding can grow to be a big problem in a week's time.

  • Text chat does not carry tone of voice. Pretty much anything you say, especially with a light-hearted intention, can be interpreted as sarcastic by the other person. I've been on both sides of these misunderstandings, and they are very hard to address once they take hold of you (and one of you is convinced that the other was being sarcastic or dismissive). If you reach a point where one of you seemingly escalated an otherwise innocent conversation, try using voice chat. Even sending a short voice clip can immediately defuse a situation (by conveying your tone of voice) that would otherwise escalate over time.
  • Remember that you have different schedules. Just because you're bored one night and want to talk to her, doesn't mean that she's equally bored. Even if you know she's home, that doesn't mean that she's up for a big conversation (e.g. she may be exhausted after a long day)
  • It's okay to be quiet from time to time. It's very hard to keep a conversation going for multiple hours, every single week. Just like every couple, you'll encounter times where you're happy to be together, but have no conversational material. Our solution was to keep the chat open but doing something else (watch a show, read some news). You can still have emergent conversations, just like how a married couple can sit in the same room, doing different things and occasionally talking about something. This is healthy behavior. Don't try to force a conversation, or get upset that the other is being less talkative than usual.
  • If you've run out of conversational material, watch a movie together. Get the same movie, start it at the same time (and make sure to always keep the movie in sync). It's a great way to spend time without talking, and the movie may prompt some talking points as well. Me and my girlfriend bonded over Game of Thrones this way.
  • Do not lie to each other. Avoid white lies as well. Even if you both accept the fact that you tell white lies to each other, there will likely come a time where one of might think that you're being lied to. This is a breeding ground for mistrust. When you feel unhappy, talk about it. You need to clear the air as fast as possible.
  • Conversely, if she is being very direct about disliking something you said or did, understand that she's simply clearing the air to prevent growing resentful.
  • Some days, one of you will be less happy or talkative. That's normal human behavior. Never resort to blaming each other for not upholding your expected standard of conversation.
  • Do not hide your lives. Being in a long distance relationship makes it very easy to hide your activities. Don't fall into that trap. Don't lie or omit something simply because you don't want to talk about it. Be open and honest about your activities and your opinions. This is good relationship advice for any relationship, but doubly so for a long distance relationship.
  • Never use the silent treatment. Eventually, you'll have a fight. It's normal. Everyone does. You can't avoid it. However, what you should avoid, is abusing the long distance in order to easily ignore each other. Me and my girlfriend are both hotheads from time to time, and we've been in some Skype arguments. However, we quickly identified that exiting the video chat without saying anything does more damage than the fight itself. Don't jump offline because you're upset. Don't block eachother or set yourself to offline. It's the equivalent of storming out of the house (not just the room). If you're too upset to talk, keep the chat open anyway. Even if you're doing different things. If you need a moment to emotionally process something, tell her. Tell her you need a moment and will be back in a couple of minutes, rather than going offline without saying anything.
  • Your bit about dealing with long distance relationship problems deserves to be accepted to a different question. It's really good. – Philbo Sep 19 '18 at 15:58
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I think this is a very personal decision based on the maturity of the relationship and your communication styles. I have been in a long distance relationship for 2.5 yrs (friends for 2 yrs before that - also long distance, after the first couple months).

We rarely ever schedule a time to talk! The only instances I can think of were:

  • One of us was traveling, so we had a different schedule and possibly different time zones to work around
  • We had something serious to discuss: scheduling gave us time to mentally prepare, and underscored the seriousness of the topic
  • We hadn't talked lately because one or both of us was abnormally busy; one of us would say "hey, when are you free to video chat this week?"

Otherwise, we typically text and IM throughout the day and video chat a few times a week. It's not constant, and (for texts) often asynchronous.

It works well because:

  1. We both know each other's schedules and have set our expectations accordingly

At my old job I could have IM up and chat during the day, but I can't at my current job. It took some adjusting, but we learned when the other is usually available and got used to having hours between texts. It also helps that we're both very computer-oriented people, so there is a lot of overlap when we are both online.

(This in contrast with an ex-boyfriend, also long-distance, who once sent me a barrage of texts asking why I was ignoring him, while I was in class..)

  1. We trust each other

Very important! Trust will grow with time, but you have to have a good foundation now to even consider it.

My boyfriend can be a bit light on details, and I do get a little sad or annoyed when he disappears for an evening without notice - but I know him well enough to think "oh, it's Friday, I bet he's playing board games and forgot to tell me".

You also need freedom to make new friends and live your life, without having to check in constantly with your girlfriend or reassure her that you're not secretly falling for your term project partner. (Another thing my ex-boyfriend did.. did I mention he was an ex?!)

  1. We found a way to "hang out" remotely

We like to watch movies together online and play video games (Minecraft, so it's more like a joint creative project than other types). This will depend on your interests, but try to find something that you can do together remotely.

Another option is to have video chat up while you work on your own things. We do this occasionally too - that way we don't resent the other for taking up so much time when we need to get stuff done, but we still get to see and hear each other.


You mention you have been dating a month and friends for 8 months before that. So while you're probably still learning, you have some usual form of communication now. How often do you phone now? Is one of you more communicative than the other? This will help inform your "policy".

It's a great idea to discuss this before you move. Ask her what she would like from you in terms of communication - texts? phone calls? handwritten letters? Have you discussed the idea of scheduling with her? Perhaps she has strong feelings one way or another. Some people like the sense of ritual in getting a call every Sunday at 8pm, or are too scatterbrained to ever call unless their phone reminds them. Others don't want to commit to the same block of time every week, or would rather talk about life as it happens instead of saving it for a week at a time.

Once you move, whatever you agree on, try it for a month or so and then check back in. Does she want you to call more? Do you want her to text more? You'll soon get a sense of what works and what doesn't and can adjust from there.

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Something you could do is that a few weeks after both of you settled and began your activities (so you can have an idea of what your weekly timetable will look like), is to contact your girlfriend and find together a time that suits you best to phone/Skype/whatever. I understand your concerns about how boring it is to plan your chatting, but according to my own experience, once you're apart from your beloved, it's not a chore at all and you're waiting for this time to come. But to make it work you need to find a time that will suit both of you.

I want to continue this relationship a great deal, but I have never experienced a long distance relationship.

Neither did I when my boyfriend and I began our Erasmus semester. But we scheduled a weekly meeting on Skype and it worked! We used to do this when he was studying in Sweden and I was in Hungary. We were apart for six months and these weekly calls were great to maintain the relationship as well as regular texting. Well, actually we didn't have a meeting scheduled in the week but we knew we wanted to phone once a week so we managed to make it work each time, even if scheduling could ease the situation. We also visit each other twice during this period (each came once) but not more.

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Assuming she also wants to continue the relationship, I would advise you consider finding some reason to be near her (but not on her doorstep) on a reasonably regular basis, perhaps weekly (or monthly), depending on what feels right.

For example, if you could get a weekend job in Cambridge, that would give you the perfect opportunity to see her every so often.

Of course it is a long journey, and this way puts all the travelling on you, but I'm not sure how well a distance relationship would work, one would have to know the two of you to know. So I suppose it comes down to whether its worth the effort... which again only you can know

  • Weekly is not an option - I cannot spend all my free time in Cambridge. Monthly is a possibility; a likelihood in fact. Perhaps I should have clarified this, but this question is asking for advice on communication between visits, not advice on how to visit. – Tim Sep 17 '17 at 16:34

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