There’s no two ways about it, long-distance relationships are hard. Whether you’re forced to live apart because of a job, family commitments or something else, the reason doesn’t make dealing with physical distance any easier.
When you’re not able to spend as much time together as you wish, or touch one another as much as you might be used to, it can lead to a build-up of frustration or even a feeling of detachment. You may feel like you’re not able to give one another what you need.
So whether you’re apart for a couple of weeks or a couple of years, the good news is there are ways to keep your sex life alive and maintain a healthy relationship, despite the miles between you.
While initially you might feel that sex is a vital part of your romantic relationship and that it will be impossible to enjoy sexual intimacy when you are apart, rest assured. Many couples have gone through the difficult challenges of a long-distance relationship and come out the other side to tell the tale.
Perhaps it might help to reframe the idea of sex and what it means to you. Of course we associate sex with physical pleasure, but it is about so much more. Sexual activity is about togetherness, exchange, reciprocity and having fun. It’s about building emotional intimacy, growing closer intellectually, sharing your innermost feelings and desires.
The good news is there are still plenty of ways to do all of these things in a long distance relationship, it just might take a little more creativity and flexibility.
One of the problems with long distance relationships comes if one or both partners assumes that missing physical intimacy is going to cause a problem or closes their mind to the options available. Try to stay open to any and all ideas, try things out and allow yourselves to explore what feels good. Focus on emotional connection and look for opportunities within your daily lives to let your partner know you’re thinking about them.
Don’t underestimate the impact of meaningful conversations. Instead of mutual masturbation or video sex one evening, why not pare it back and simply talk on the phone. Focus one hundred percent of your attention on you partner. Take yourself back to the days when you could talk for hours and fall into bed as the sun was coming up. Talk about hopes, fears, disappointments and even sexual fantasies if you’re comfortable taking it that far.
There can be something super erotic about using audio only, leaving plenty to the imagination. It can be a huge turn-on. Make sure you mix things up to find out what works for you and keep things interesting.
Gone are the days when you had to rely on the telephone when you weren’t physically with your partner, the options are almost limitless these days when it comes to tech. Which means that at the very least you shouldn’t get bored if you’re willing to have a play.
Video chatting and sharing in masturbation sessions can be a lovely sensual starting point if you set the mood and give over time to one another. But why not introduce haptics to restore some semblance of physical touch and help to manage your sexual desires? Long-distance sex toys or partnered sex toys can be remote-controlled allowing you to provide stimulation to your partner from afar. Or simply using sex toys at the same time while talking dirty may provide the fun and sexual connection you’re missing.
Investigate new gadgets that are coming onto the market. Bracelets that respond to your touch and allow you to send morse-code like messages in the form of vibrations are one thing being tried out by physically distant partners. A lovely way to say 'I’m thinking of you' throughout the day.
Don’t knock the old school ideas though. Texting flirty messages throughout the day can create a nice fantasy space. And the asynchronicity – creating a time lag between sending and receiving messages – can make for moments of surprise or spontaneity – unexpected moments of desire.
If you’re finding it difficult to manage in between more practical messages or you’re worried about sending a kinky picture while your partner is in the office, consider trying out a separate app. A quick search will help you find couples apps that allow you to send photos and videos, play games and sync up your sex toys all in one place. Better to avoid any embarrassment and keep yourselves safe.
Another common challenge of physical separation is the lack of spontaneity. When you’re living separate lives and communicating via technology, it’s necessary to arrange times to call so that you both know you’ll be around and able to speak. Particularly if you want to arrange something for which you need privacy.
The problem is that planned sex never sounds very fun. Don’t be disheartened though, there are plenty of ways to make it more inviting. Introducing sex toys like those above can help, or try role playing or talking dirty to one another in ways you may not have before. While this may feel odd or embarrassing to start with, a long distance relationship is a great way to try it out. You may cringe a bit at the beginning but just remember you’re in it together, laugh the nervousness off and you may find you start to enjoy it.
Don’t necessarily ‘try’ to be spontaneous. Arrange a time to connect, over video call for example, but don’t make any plans. If you don’t expect it to be a sexual experience, you might just be surprised. If something comes up spontaneously, you can engage with it and see where it takes you.
And what about going non-digital for a moment. Mail your partner a treat or surprise, perhaps something tasty you know they’ll enjoy. Or make and send a little photo book or even a skimpy outfit you promise to model for them on their return.
For many long-distance couples, not knowing when they’ll be able to spend time together in ‘real life’ can cause stress and anxiety. So it’s a great idea to make sure you always have a date in the diary. By planning ahead you’ll give yourself something to look forward to. You may find this helps to manage some of the frustration and sexual tension that will naturally build.
The trouble is, putting a date in the diary like this also allows nervous expectation to develop. And can mean a level of performance pressure by the time the date rolls round. Have you ever found yourself bickering with your partner on a special occasion simply because the pressure for everything to be perfect is too much?
Try to enjoy the time you have together and not put pressure on one another or yourselves to do anything in particular or behave in a certain way. Remember, just because you’ve effectively arranged a time to have sex does not mean you have to. Aim for renewed connection and, once you've relaxed, the sex will follow.
Creating and maintaining a healthy long-distance relationship without physical closeness takes a bit of effort. It’s important to consider how the other person is feeling, commit to be open about your own feelings and make sure you make an extra effort to provide the reassurance your partner needs.
Many of the difficulties faced by long-distance couples are the same as those affecting couples who live together. If you feel sex therapy could help, discover more about the Blueheart app here. You can both get started on the solo plan, and then continue whenever you meet in real life (in case the sparks don't immediately start flying around when you get to touch each other's real body again).