Advice from a married couple who’s been there, done that.

By Real Simple
Updated August 30, 2016

There’s nothing that elicits sympathy quite like telling someone you’re about to enter a long distance relationship. They act concerned, ask—in hushed tones—if he or she has “gone yet,” and delicately inquire about how you two are doing. But sometimes an LDR is a necessity—maybe one of you is going away for graduate school, or a great career opportunity. That’s what happened to Real Simple’s Adulthood Made Easy podcast host Sam Zabell, so she sought out the help of two long distance relationship veterans: Executive Editor Laura Schocker and her husband, John Templon. The couple spent two years in a long distance relationship early on—seven years later, they’re married (and living in the same place!). Here are four of their best tips for making the distance work. (You can listen to the whole podcast—and subscribe—here.)

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Credit: AE Pictures Inc./Getty Images

Embrace Snail Mail

Sending care packages for holidays like Valentine’s Day or birthdays is obvious, but small, unexpected tokens can be appreciated, too. Mail a card or a small package to remind your partner that you’re thinking of them. One idea from Laura: Hide a card somewhere unexpected, so they won’t find it until a few days after you’re gone. Or leave behind three cards: one to open right after you go, another a week later, and a third for when they’re really missing you. These thoughtful gestures—on both ends—can help break up the time apart. And spending time dreaming up creative ideas can be just as fun as receiving them.

Make a Plan

John and Laura tried to avoid going more than six to eight weeks without seeing each other—anything more was difficult. Figure out what works for you. But what’s more important than the amount of time, they found, was knowing exactly when they’d see each other again. Having a concrete plan to count on makes the waiting tolerable. Keeping the plan open-ended can be torture.

Pick Up the Phone

An unexpected upside of being in a long distance relationship? Becoming really good at talking to each other—a direct consequence of spending hours on the phone together, Laura says (despite John’s reluctance to consider himself a “phone person” in the beginning). Things can get misconstrued over text and, though Snapchat is a great way to show each other snippets of your day, social media can only take you so far. Be sure to spend some time actually talking to each other as often as you can.

Take the Pressure Off

What if we spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets and then he moves here and it doesn’t work out? What if we don’t like living in the same city? What if this is a waste of my time? What if after all this waiting we have a bad weekend together? You can come up with a lot of what-ifs over the course of a long distance relationship. But here’s the reality: You could come up with a lot of what-ifs in any relationship. Try to take it one day at a time, they suggest. Do you want to be with this person today? There’s no good way to predict the future—all you can do is make the best decisions you can in the moment. And what if it does work out? It did for them.

Listen to the rest of John and Laura’s advice, including some surprising upsides of being in a long distance relationship, in Real Simple’s Adulthood Made Easy podcast.