- The holidays might look different this year, especially for those in long-distance relationships who may not be able to see their partner in person.
- Knowing your love language and your partner’s love language can make communicating from afar a lot easier.
- Be sure to switch up your forms of communication, whether it’s through video chats, phone calls, or physical letters.
- Plan ahead when you can so you both have set expectations and plans to look forward to.
- This article is from a series called Mastering Milestones.
Long-distance relationships can be tough â€” especially when it’s time to celebrate major milestones.
With the ongoing pandemic causing many to avoid travel and practice precautionary protocols like social distancing, long-distance couples may be feeling further apart than ever. But with a little bit of creativity, the distance doesn’t have to be so daunting.
Insider spoke to three relationship experts about some of the ways long-distance couples can stay connected while celebrating anniversaries and special occasions this year.
Lean into you and your partner’s love languages
Gary Chapman’s best-selling book “The Five Love Languages” was released in 1992 â€” and it remains popular and relevant to this day for a reason. Its general premise is that individuals experience and express love through words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time, and/or physical touch.
Knowing your and your partner’s love language can help you express love effectively and plan special activities for anniversary celebrations, said NYC-based relationship expert and best-selling author Susan Winter
Winter said that those who appreciate words of affirmation may enjoy taking turns sharing cherished memories, no matter how big or small they may be.
“You’re going to create a list to share with each other of the times you remember that were the sweetest, funniest, most poignant, and silliest,” she told Insider. “What we do is we reignite our partner’s remembrance of why we are together as a couple.”
Individuals who appreciate words of affirmation may also enjoy receiving a physical love letter in the mail, said Lauren Cook, a therapist who specialises in working with couples and families.
For those who value acts of service, Cook recommends finding little things that you can do to help your partner out, like ordering them food after a particularly stressful day at work.
“That’s something really cool about those apps. You can be on the other side of the country and send a meal to somebody,” she explained. “These are all things that you can do to make your partner feel loved from a distance.”
Keep showing up for each other, especially during special occasions
As the end of the year approaches, Cook said, it’s worth setting intentions together and talking about what you both want to cultivate and look forward to in 2021.
“I think it’s so important to take time with your partner in the week before New Year’s Eve to really sit down and write out what you want your goals to be â€” both individually for the upcoming year and as a couple,” said Cook.
NYC-based psychotherapist and relationship expert Rachel Sussman said it’s worth thinking about ways to create a festive atmosphere, which may include borrowing ideas from your usual celebrations.
For example, she said, you can plan a virtual party with other long-distance couples or your mutual friends.
“You would have an itinerary that might include some sort of a trivia game or board game that you would play together and then everyone would buy and eat the same things,” she told Insider. “You can have some caviar and some champagne together.”
Start making plans in advance
Making preparations for anniversaries and holiday festivities will go a long way toward making the day more manageable while also giving both parties something to look forward to.
“Don’t leave it until the last minute,” said Sussman. “Put it on the calendar and have an agenda.”
Winter also said that gift-giving can be important around the holidays, so it’s worth planning ahead and putting thought into what you wish to send.
She also said that thoughtfulness, not extravagance, is key when it comes to giving presents.
Winter said that, whether handmade or store-bought, gifts should show that you have listened to and paid attention to your partner this year. For example, giving a scrapbook of photos your partner has always meant to get printed or a pair of earbuds to replace the ones they broke last week.
Be mindful of the challenges, and find ways to switch up your forms of communication
Virtually staying connected can be easier than ever with new technology, but video calls can quickly feel stale.
“I think it’s also really important to acknowledge that it is hard right now,” Cook told Insider.”We talk about Zoom fatigue often from an employment lens but I think a lot of long-distance couples are also experiencing Zoom fatigue.”
Cook suggests finding other ways to connect through calls, texts, and letters so you don’t feel like catching up with your partner is just another meeting.
Sussman said another way to switch things up is by scheduling activities, whether it’s signing up for a virtual cooking class privately or with friends, watching a movie together, or hosting a private book club where you read and discuss a chapter each day.
“The more you can do activities and enjoy yourselves together, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to feel connected and hopeful about the future,” she explained.
But no matter how your plans shape up, Cook said, it’s important for couples to connect before 2021 begins.
“It’s going to be a complex holiday this year. People have a lot of mixed emotions about it. And so make sure that you do set the time with your partner, see their face and maybe take a moment to be vulnerable,” she said.