TIME relationships

6 Ways to Strengthen a Long-Distance Relationship

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You're defining and redefining your core values

Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind blows out candles and fans fire.” -Rochefoucauld

Love doesn’t always respect geographic boundaries, or easily take a backseat to educational pursuits, familial obligations, and career opportunities.

With an unprecedented number of dual-career couples in the modern world, being near the one you love is no longer always a guarantee.

Long-distance relationships (LDR) are proliferating, with an estimated 14 million couples defining their relationships as such and a staggering 75 percent of engaged couples reporting having been in a long distance relationship at some point.

Even as they become more common, in no way is a long-distance relationship easy.

They are hard … really hard. Living every day without the person you love most is like living on one meal a day instead of three. You can’t help feeling the gulf, the disconnection, the absence. You know ‘this is what it takes’ to keep the relationship going, and you don’t want to give up … but some days that pit in your stomach aches.

You wonder if, and for how long, you can keep this up, or worse, are you crazy for even trying. Surely no sane person could handle this, you tell yourself.

This is the unavoidable doubt and anxiety that accompanies all long distance relationships. Each day you consider how to make things work — and you wonder how many compromises you must make or how many other priorities must take a backseat before “too much” is just truly too much.

And then you remember how much you love this person, and like an alarm clock that snoozes, but won’t turn off, you push the anxiety away for awhile, delay thinking about it. But it’s always a part of the landscape of your relationship.

So, on the tough days when missing your far-away love feels like more than you can take, here are some ways to reframe the struggle to help make coping a bit easier:

1. Your relationship is stronger than you think! A 2013 study found that long-distance relationships are capable of being stronger and, even, more intimate than those that are more proximate. Long distance forces communication skills to develop and improve if a relationship is to survive. Not only is writing to each other a fantastic way to drill down into your true feelings and express yourself (which helps you), it is also builds needed intimacy with your partner and strengthens the relationship.

2. You’re defining and redefining your core values. Values are sometimes tricky to define and yet, they play a fundamental role in decision-making. Being away from your partner forces you to decide every day whether it’s worth it to continue, and ultimately helps you decide how to prioritize being together — these decisions are strengthening your values and personal sense of self.

3. The glass is half full. Instead of focusing on the separation, try celebrating the connection and love you feel. Research shows that gratitude strengthens relationships by promoting a cycle of generosity and other pro-social emotions. Yet another study found that gratitude boosts happiness … something that helps offset the misery of being alone. Next time you’re feeling like you can’t take another moment alone, redirect your attention to your blessings — that you feel love and connection with a partner who loves you. This a tremendous gift — one many never experience.

4. Novelty is boosting your bond. Doing something novel and interesting with your partner boosts your relationship satisfaction. What could be more novel than navigating the vicissitudes of connecting across time zones, and continents? You’re in this together, and that sense of teamwork creates a bond between you that deepens your relationship. If you can handle this, you can handle anything.

5. Overextending isn’t necessary. Long-distance relationships require costly sacrifice that may tempt you to forgo your needs for the sake of the relationship. Skype sessions at extreme hours, expensive plane tickets, maxed out vacation leave, telling yourself that you’re “OK” being alone (when some days you just aren’t). You risk putting your wellbeing (and the relationship) in a dangerous place when you continuously overextend yourself. Just like we put on our own oxygen mask before helping others, apply that logic to your everyday life; taking care of yourself is critical to maintaining healthy balance in your relationship. Any partner worth keeping will understand and support you in this.

6. It’s OK if long distance isn’t for you. Long distance isn’t for everyone or every relationship — in fact, 20 percent of relationships are ultimately negatively impacted by the distance. If your relationship breaks under the pressure, it’s not necessarily the distance’s fault … or yours. This just isn’t the right relationship to fight that hard for. No matter how painful it feels at the time, this is an important truth for both of you to know. Recognizing the wrong relationship is a crucial step in finding the right relationship.

With our global culture, expanding professional opportunities, and technological advances … long-distance relationships are here to stay.

The good news is, both you and your relationship will gain strength through these obstacles — if you allow yourself to engage with your struggle and channel any anxiety into healthy choices for yourself, as well as the relationship.

In strengthening yourself, you’ll not only survive the distance, you’ll be better for it. Absence can indeed fan the flames of your passion, even if it’s for yourself and your own future.

This article originally appeared on YourTango

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TIME celebrities

American Sniper Star Bradley Cooper And Suki Waterhouse Have Split Up

Bradley Cooper and Suki Waterhouse summer party on July 1, 2014 in London, England.
Fred Duval—FilmMagic Bradley Cooper and Suki Waterhouse summer party on July 1, 2014 in London, England.

24 months of romance is at an end

It’s over for American Sniper actor Bradley Cooper and model Suki Waterhouse, who first got together in March 2013. The Hollywood couple broke up ahead of January’s Oscars but now, People says, the news is official.

Despite the breakup, there will be enough to distract both: Cooper, 40, was out attending an Elton John concert Wednesday and dancing at Las Vegas clubs with Jonah Hill and Miles Teller.

Neither has work taken a back seat for either of them. Cooper is currently filming Joy and the Netflix remake Wet Hot American Summer, while Waterhouse’s Insurgent comes out Friday.

[People]

TIME viral

Watch a Woman Go Into Shock When Her Boyfriend Proposes During a Fake Selfie

Maybe the cutest thing you'll see today

Selfies aren’t just good for perfecting your faux-surprised face or proving you saw the Mona Lisa.

Redditor bigbrainonb-rad recently posted a video that shows a man proposing to his girlfriend while pretending to take a selfie. And her reaction — caught by the smartphone’s video recorder — is pretty priceless.

In the last week, the video has been viewed more than 550,000 times.

We’re waiting for the proposal belfie.

See more: This Video of a Guy Proposing in a Photo Booth Is the Sweetest Thing You’ll See Today

 

TIME People

This Husband Passed Away But Arranged to Send His Wife Flowers Every Valentine’s Day

Close up of bouquet of roses
Jamie Grill—Tetra images RF/Getty Images

Now that is true love

A devoted husband took romance to an ethereal level on Valentine’s Day by sending his wife a bouquet of flowers from beyond the grave.

Jim Golay, from Casper, Wyo., was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor almost exactly one year ago. He wanted to make Valentine’s Day special for his wife but he knew he wasn’t going to be around for much longer, reports KCWY13.

So before he died, Golay hatched a plan with the local florists to send Shelley Golay a bouquet of flowers each Valentine’s Day for the rest of her life, just to remind her how much he loved her.

“He’s such an amazing man and he just can love beyond boundaries,” Shelley Golay said. “There is no boundaries with him, even in death. He’s just amazing.”

The flowers arrived two days before Valentine’s Day. When Shelley saw they were from her deceased husband, she phoned the florists and found out about his eternal Valentine’s Day plan.

[KCWY13]

Read next: Watch a Husband Surprise His Wife With the One Thing She Always Wanted

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Sex/Relationships

6 Weird Things You Never Knew About Kissing

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Who knew kissing could make you healthier in so many ways?

Romantic kissing happens in more than 90% of all cultures, and with good reason: “It helps us find a partner and stay with them,” says Laura Berman, PhD, assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and author of Loving Sex ($25, amazon.com). But it also has a slew of surprising functions, including some major health benefits. Pucker up to these fascinating facts.

It may be the most fun way to build immunity

Just 10 seconds of French kissing can transfer 80 million germs from one person’s mouth to the other, according to a Dutch study published this past November in the journal Microbiome. While that may sound gross, there’s a big potential benefit. “It’s a way to pass around bugs so your body develops immunity to them,” Berman explains. In fact, a 2010 paper in the journal Medical Hypotheses suggested that kissing between partners could help protect their babies from being infected in utero with cytomegalovirus, which can cause birth defects such as infant blindness.

Read more: 13 Reasons to Have More Sex

It really is ‘in his kiss’

Women rate romantic kissing as more important when they’re close to ovulation—in other words, when they’re more likely to get pregnant. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, researchers say: Kissing offers a way to assess a mate through taste or smell.

It may boost your libido

While both sexes enjoy French kissing with long-term partners, guys “preferred more tongue contact” than women with short-term mates, according to a study published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology in 2007. (The study was done with college students, so you might want to take it with a grain of salt.) “One theory is that their saliva transfers testosterone to the woman, which in turn increases her sexual desire,” explains Berman.

Read more: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

It boosts happy hormones

“When you kiss, your brain releases this chemical that leaves you feeling connected and bonded to your mate,” explains Berman. It also releases endorphins, those same feel-good chemicals your body produces when you work out. Another relaxing bonus: kissing lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a 2009 study done at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

It may save your relationship

Both men and women who report frequent kissing in their relationship report more sexual satisfaction, according to a 2011 Kinsey Institute study. Guys who frequently smooched were also three times happier in their relationship than guys with limited snuggling. (Interestingly, frequent kissing didn’t predict relationship satisfaction for women.)

It can last for days—literally

The longest kiss award goes to Ekkachai Tiranarat and Laksana Tiranarat, who smooched for 58 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds in Pattaya, Thailand, on February 12-14, 2013. They beat out eight other couples who entered the competition. Wonder how much training they had to do to prepare for that one!

Read more: 20 Ways to Fall in Love All Over Again

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

MONEY gifts

5 Valentine’s Day Gifts If You Want Her to Break Up With You

Vermont Fifty Shades of Grey Teddy Bear
John Goodman Vermont Fifty Shades of Grey Teddy Bear

These five gift ideas could be exactly what your very special someone wants for Valentine's Day. More likely, however, is that they'll come across as creepy, tacky, or otherwise ill-advised.

We’ve seen all of the ideas below promoted in earnestness as good gift options for your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day this year. And sure, for the right recipient, these gifts could be seen as hilarious, romantic, charming, and perhaps even deeply thoughtful. But you better be 100% sure you know your significant other well enough to foresee her reaction, because these oddball ideas also come with the serous risk of misfiring, to put it mildly.

S&M Teddy Bear
Falling somewhere along the spectrum of amusing to downright creepy, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company is selling a bear with “smoldering gray eyes, a suit and satin tie, mask – even mini handcuffs,” based on the erotic novel and movie Fifty Shades of Grey. “She can’t help but submit to loving him,” gushed the company’s description of the limited-edition bear, which retails for $89.99.

A warning at the bottom of the bear’s web page states “Contains small parts. Not suitable for children.” And, well, to state the obvious, the fact that it contains small parts is hardly the only reason this bear, made with “the silkiest fur we can get our paws on,” isn’t a good idea for kids.

Clearance Sale Lingerie
According to a survey conducted on the behalf of Offers.com, the top two items that women DON’T want to receive from their sweethearts are stuffed animals (presumably, especially not stuffed animals that come with handcuffs) and lingerie. In a separate survey, from BeFrugal.com, nearly 90% of women (and 79% of men) said it was OK to look for ways to save on Valentine’s Day gifts.

Still, buying lingerie is a risky proposition for guys, seeing as the recipient could be insulted if the article in question is deemed too slutty, too prudish, or the wrong size. And if the main reason the buyer decided to go with a certain article of lingerie is that it was 80% off, then you’ll certainly give the impression you’re too cheap. So let’s hope the only folks following the advice to buy deeply discounted lingerie for Valentine’s Day are women making the decisions for themselves.

Candle-Lit White Castle
In what has become an annual tradition, the blue-collar mini-burger chain White Castle is welcoming customers to “enjoy a romantic evening with tableside service” at select locations around the country on February 14. Reservations are required. Dozens of Waffle House locations are doing the same, with special Valentine’s Day dinners including normally unheard-of amenities such as candlelight and tablecloths.

On the one hand, with the right dinner partner it could be an absolute hoot to mock-celebrate Valentine’s Day at a down-and-dirty fast food joint, or perhaps a so-called “breastaurant” like Tilted Kilt. On the other, bringing an unsuspecting date expecting a fancy romantic Valentine’s dinner to such an establishment could be a recipe for getting a drink thrown in your face.

Animal Sex Lecture & Dinner
On February 14, the Detroit Zoo is hosting the fourth annual “Love Gone Wild,” a three-and-a-half-hour long adult-only event that includes a champagne welcome drink, passed hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, a commemorative gift, and, most interestingly, “a candid and entertaining look at how zoo animals do the ‘wild thing,'” according to promotional materials.

Yes, the $85 event’s focus is animal sex at the zoo, which ranges from “prolonged public bouts of coitus to brief clandestine assignations,” a press release explained. And yes, the lecture is quite detailed and graphic. “We not only talk about [sex], we name names, show pictures and critique performance.”

Vacant Lot in Newark, N.J.
Let’s just say it’s probably unwise to buy a vacant lot in Newark and promise to live on the property for five years without consulting your significant other. That goes even if the property is being sold for a mere $1,000, which is the special “lovebirds” Valentine’s Day offer on the table on February 14. Couples who are interested in any of the 1,000 available vacant lots should go to Newark City Hall on Saturday morning with a $500 down payment, as well as proof you and your partner can cover construction costs needed to make the property inhabitable within 18 months of closing.

MONEY Love and Money

3 Super-Expensive — and 3 Super-Cheap — Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Here's your chance to spend $93,000 on Valentine’s Day...or enjoy a thrifty romantic treat from Dairy Queen.

TIME Travel

Snuggle Up Next to the Best Hotel Fireplaces

Post Ranch Inn, CA
Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn Post Ranch Inn, CA

Kindle your sparks by the light of these romantic hotel fireplaces

After a day out in the snowy Adirondacks, you pull up two chairs and a bottle of Cognac by the crackling fireplace at New York’s Whiteface Lodge, where a golden glow suffuses the dining room.

If you’ve been stuck in the winter doldrums, nothing will change your outlook on the season faster than a dose of heartwarming fireside romance—and that doesn’t require booking a trip some place frigid. We’ve road-tested hotel fireplaces the world over, from the California coastline to Chile’s starkly beautiful Atacama Desert, and added irresistible newcomers in Newfoundland, Australia, and Argentina. The most bewitching include historic hearths whose stones could tell a thousand stories as well as contemporary fireplaces in urban boutique hotels.

Some hotels treat guests to a gas fireplace in the privacy of your room, while others use a roaring fire to make a bold design statement at the center of the lobby or restaurant. Then there’s the hip, art-filled Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It’s most famous for the spa, which sports its own apothecary—and its own fireplace.

“The fireplace area in the lounge is a favorite spot for couples, who enjoy quiet, private time together before and after a couples’ massage or a hammam experience for two,” says Alondra Saldarriaga, manager of Spa Matilda. “The ambience is so intimate and romantic, with many candles burning, that one guest proposed to his girlfriend there.” Her answer? Sí, of course.

The love stories date back centuries at Ireland’s Ashford Castle, which was once the Guinness family estate. “The Ingelnook wooden fireplace surround has two Irish mythology figures carved into the wood,” explains Paula Carroll, Ashford’s director of sales and marketing. “These two figures are Diarmuid and Grainne, who were involved in a love triangle with Fionn MacCumhaill.” The imposing fireplace has inspired modern-day lovers—and also witnessed many proposals.

Whether your idea of the perfect fireside tryst involves snowy slopes or the African savanna, there’s just something about snuggling up with your loved one while gazing into the flames and nursing hot chocolate—or something a wee bit stronger—that sets the mood, on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Read on for the hotel fireplaces that are heating things up.

Calistoga Ranch, CA

This Napa Valley gem is a favorite among wine-country-touring lovebirds. Each of the 48 freestanding guest lodges centers around a double-sided, indoor-outdoor fireplace. That means you can snuggle from the plush comfort of the lounge room on one side to the private outdoor terrace on the other, below the canopy of stars and breathing in that pine-scented Napa air.

Tierra Atacama, Chile

The activities at this high-design lodge in Chile’s Atacama Desert include exploring vast salt flats and bubbling geyser fields, climbing volcanoes, and hiking through some of the world’s most arresting and otherworldly terrain. So it’s thrilling to come home to a convivial lounge area where the waiters mix perfect pisco sours and there’s always a fire burning in the artful modern hearth—a long stone bench on which flaming twigs are piled. Even more gratifying: sitting fireside or on the terrace (which has its own fire pits) and watching the sun set behind the brooding Licancabur Volcano.

XV Beacon, MA

One of Boston’s hippest hotels, this boutique player in Beacon Hill sports modern gas fireplaces with brushed stainless steel in every room, along with other top-shelf luxuries like cashmere throws, private bars stocked with premium spirits, and Italian marble bathrooms with rain showers. Reluctant to leave the comforts of your room? The hotel can arrange an in-room massage fireside.

Cottar’s Camp, Kenya

There’s nothing quite like a sundowner overlooking the savanna at dusk, as the African wilderness comes to life. That treat comes daily along with guided game drives at this lovely lodge at the edge of Kenya’s legendary Masai Mara game reserve. The camp meticulously re-creates the romance of the 1920s safari experience, down to individual tents filled with turn-of-the-century antique furnishings and liveried waiting staff. Four family-size tents come with crackling log fireplaces in the lounge area, an idyllic spot to gather for story swapping as night closes in on the Mara.

Hotel Matilda, Mexico

A relative newcomer to the artsy Spanish Colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, this boutique hotel is already renowned for its avant-garde contemporary art collection and a groundbreaking spa—guests can have locally sourced ingredients blended into customized formulas for treatments. The fireplace in the tranquil relaxation area is a favored spot for guests to bliss out before or after a couples massage or soak in the hammam.

Read the full list HERE.

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MONEY Office romance

4 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Dating a Coworker

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Make sure that pursuing love won't cost you your career.

After firing CEO Dov Charney last month, American Apparel decided to update its company code of ethics with stricter guidelines regarding interoffice relationships. According to the new policy, “No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate.”

Considering Charney’s time with the company was riddled with allegations of sexual harassment, it’s no surprise that the company wants to take a more conservative approach to fraternization.

But here’s the thing: Whether or not there are policies forbidding them, office relationships happen.

A recent survey by CareerBuilder found that nearly 40% of employees admitted to having a romantic relationship with a co-worker. And a whopping 31% of office relationships result in marriage—meaning they can’t always be a bad idea, right?

Here’s how to make sure pursuing love won’t cost you your job:

Avoid Getting Involved with the Wrong Person

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 24% of intra-office relationships were with someone higher up in the organization.

Dana Brownlee, president of professional training development company Professionalism Matters, advises against initiating a romance with your manager, or, likewise, with anyone who reports to you directly or indirectly.

“If you’re a manager, you should be held to a higher standard,” she says. “You’re creating a climate where people are going to see bias whether there really is bias or not.”

Relationships with your peers are generally more acceptable—assuming they’re unhitched. A stunning 20% of people who told CareerBuilder that they had dated someone at the office admitted that at least one person in the relationship was married.

Perhaps that makes sense given the amount of time we spend at work: In an office relationship, you can relate to the struggles someone faces from 9 to 5, says Brownlee. That’s not easy to do with a spouse or partner who works in a different field.

But getting involved with someone who’s married can end up damaging your personal reputation as well as your professional one—if people find out, you could lose integrity—not to mention the pain it could inflict on loved ones (yours or your partner’s).

For those of you considering an office relationship with a married coworker, here’s some sage advice: Don’t dip your pen in the company ink.

Know Your Company’s Policy Before the First Date

Some companies have very strict rules about relationships, and you should understand those boundaries—and the possible consequences of crossing them.

“Of course we know those policies aren’t always adhered to,” says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of etiquetteexpert.com, “but it certainly should be considered, especially if there’s a policy that says, ‘We won’t hire married couples.'”

In other words, assuming you think this relationship could get serious enough to get to the altar, you could end up having to choose between your lover and your livelihood. And that’s a tough choice. Of people surveyed by Workplace Options, 57% said they’d opt to protect their career, but 43% said they would lean towards leaving their jobs.

Does your company strictly prohibit relationships of any kind? Before deciding that you’d be willing to pack up your desk in some grand romantic gesture, Brownlee advises that you consider your skill set, resume and future goals.

“It might be smarter for your career development to consider smaller changes instead of radical shifts,” she says. Maybe there’s an opportunity to switch to a different team or project, or to get some needed experience in a different department.

Consider the Worst-Case Scenario

With 7% of respondents to the CareerBuilder survey saying they had to leave a job after a breakup, you’ll be glad you did some critical thinking before jumping into any new relationship with a colleague.

First of all, ask yourself how well you know your potential partner. If things turn south, the last thing you’ll want is someone gossiping about your private life or what you said about your boss after a particularly tough performance review.

Also, consider how much you’d continue having to work with the person after breaking up—or even how regularly you’re likely to run into him or her at work functions or around the water cooler. “It can make for a very uncomfortable situation,” she says Whitmore.

Plus, if the two of you are uncomfortable around each other while working on a common project, your performance may suffer—and that could in turn hurt your prospects for promotions or raises.

To avoid some of these consequences, Brownlee says you’re better off asking out someone in a different department vs. someone whom you work with on a regular basis.

Remember that During Business Hours, Work Comes First

If you decide to pursue the relationship, set up some ground rules before things get too serious, says Brownlee. Think of the discussion as “a prenup for dating,” she says.

Make sure you are both clear about who will know about the relationship and when. You’ve hopefully already looked into the company policy, so you understand which superiors need to know. But what about Amy in the next cubicle over?

“In the early, casual stages, it’s probably better to keep it quiet,” says Brownlee. “If it’s serious, it’s probably a little harder to play it close to the vest. The key is that you guys are on the same page.”

You’ll also want to make sure you set some boundaries about how much time you spend together in the office in order to actively manage your coworkers’ and managers’ perceptions. No one thought anything of a random chat you two had in your office before the relationship, but now it can be misconstrued as a social call or, even worse, a risky-business meeting.

“You can get a reputation, whether it’s earned or not,” Brownlee says.

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