If you and your partner made it through the long-distance portion of your relationship and are on track to move to the same city—or, better yet, the same apartment!—you’re probably excited to say the very least, though perhaps a bit nervous about adjusting after your long distance relationship. Long distance relationships can be tough for many reasons, but mainly because you don’t get to see each other nearly as often, and have to make sacrifices in your personal lives in order to make it work.
“When in a long distance relationship, issues arise such as how often should you visit or communicate with one another, how you negotiate physical intimacy and sex, when you should discuss what is annoying or irritating to you about the relationship and how much you share with one another about your daily life issues and experiences,” says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert, professor at Oakland University and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. “Plus, each time you see one another, many people want to be on their best behavior because they have limited time to see each other and be with one another.”
What many couples forget, however, is that once you make the transition from long distance to living together or in the same city, those issues are still present. The difference, according to Dr. Orbuch is that you’re more pressured to actually negotiate and work out those issues.
The good news is that reuniting and adjusting after a long distance relationship can be a powerfully beneficial thing for your partnership—and your future together. You also have the ability to be physically intimate, affectionate and have sex when desired (or more often if desired), notes Dr. Orbuch.
To make the transition easier on you, both as a couple and as individuals, here are some expert-approved tips for reuniting and adjusting after being in a long distance relationship for so long.
Discuss expectations ahead of time.
Before you pack up the boxes and move them into your new shared humble abode, sit down together and discuss the changes that will occur. “Talk about your expectations for each other and your relationship now that you're living together,” advises Dr. Orbuch. “Get everything out into the open from the get-go so you can both be on the same footing (or at least understand what is in your partner's head and heart).”
Give each other time to adjust.
When preparing for this milestone, it’s important to understand that the two of you may need time to adjust after your long distance relationship. This could mean making the decision to live in the same city before you take the plunge into moving in together, notes Rhonda Richards-Smith, LCSW, psychotherapist and relationship expert, who also recommends considering the other adjustments that living in a new city can bring for yourself or your partner. “Establishing yourself in a new work space and finding a new social circle can present other challenges that need to be managed as well,” she says.
Schedule relationship time.
Even though you’re living together and are likely spending more time side-by-side than ever before in your relationship, you might be spending less quality time together. Dr. Orbuch suggests putting dates and times on your calendar to set aside some opportunities for special activities, be it date night, a short weekend getaway or a day at the park. And don’t forget to add in some plans that are new, novel and exciting together in order to keep the passion alive in your relationship. You might even consider download a relationship-health app like Lasting to squeeze in some counseling sessions to help strengthen your partnership even more.
Factor in alone time.
Yes, you should do some things together, but it’s equally important to give each other time to pursue your different interests, hobbies, and friends. “There is no harm in alone time as long as it is discussed and agreed upon before one of you wanders off for the afternoon while the other spends the latter part of the day trying to figure out where you disappeared,” says Dr. Orbuch. “Too much space or separateness isn’t good, but partners who pursue their own hobbies, interests and friends tend to be happier than those who depend on each other for everything.”
Acknowledge the stress.
Moving in together is certainly romantic and exciting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t come with its own stressors. “One or both of you might be adjusting to a new city which can be very difficult,” says psychiatrist Susan Edelman, M.D. “You might be feeling pressured to make the relationship work or having a hard time balancing a relationship and a social life.” In these situations, she recommends communicating your struggles with your partner so that you can work together to find solutions.
Deal with your differences.
You’re two individual people, raised two different ways by two different families and likely in two different locations. For these reasons and more, you’re going to have your differences and your disagreements. It’s okay that you won’t agree on everything—but it's how you deal with those disagreements and differences that is important in the long-haul of your relationship, according to Dr. Orbuch. “Listen to each other carefully, compromise and dealing with the differences (rather than pushing them under the rug) is what will determine your relationship in the long-term,” she says.
Communication is one of the most important qualities a relationship can possess. While it’s important when you’re not seeing each other on the regular, it’s still important when you’re living together and adjusting after a long distance relationship. “These discussions and disclosures build emotional intimacy,” says Dr. Orbuch. “Don't omit events or interactions simply because they might inspire a twinge of jealousy.”