Does the Heart Grow Fonder?

(By Jose Luis Merino)
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Seeing less of your far-away loved one than you used to? We chatted with Chris Bell and Kate Brauer-Bell, authors of "The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide: Secrets and Strategies From Successful Couples Who Have Gone the Distance" ($14.95, Ten Speed Press, 2006), and they offered some tips:

Don't: Try to hyper-schedule your visits.

Long-distance couples often fall victim to a quality-over-quantity mentality. "They focus so much on what they're doing that they forget the relationship that they're supposed to be nurturing," Brauer-Bell says.

Do: Build unstructured time -- what true relationships are made of -- into your visits.

Go grocery shopping, cook, watch a DVD, play a board game. "Not only are you going to have quality time together," Brauer-Bell says, "but you're going to save money in the process, and it's going to take pressure off the relationship."

Don't: Travel more than you can afford.

"People tend to get so caught up in activities [together], especially during summer months when there are lots of weddings, lots of parties and lots of holidays," Bell says.

Do: Stick to a travel budget.

"That's real life," Bell says. "If you imagined yourself five years from now being married and having to set a budget and raise a family and deal with all these things anyway, what better way to get that experience [than] with this other person?"

Don't: Assume any time is a good time to chat.

"If there's a certain time of day that you like to have to yourself, maybe one particular person, come 9 or 10 o'clock at night, they're just totally wiped out and they can't even focus, and they just want to go to bed," Bell says. "That's not the right time to start . . . a phone call that might last an hour."

Do: Plan a virtual Saturday night together.

Order carryout from the same kind of restaurant, rent the same movie, and talk afterward. "As corny as it sounds, that is essential when you're just not seeing each other as frequently," Brauer-Bell says.

Don't: View the cost of travel as an obstacle.

"The long-distance relationships that last are the ones where you're willing to make an extra effort to bring it down to a real-world level where you're working through these problems," Brauer-Bell says.

Do: Use rising costs as an opportunity to evaluate the relationship's importance.

"You really learn whether or not this is the relationship that you want to commit yourself to," she says, "and so as painful and as difficult as some of these personal decisions have to be, they can really teach you how deeply you feel about the relationship you're in."

-- Alex Baldinger

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