5 Tips to Strengthen Your Long Distance Relationship in College

College is tough — but add a long-distance relationship, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands.

Sure, you have to deal with the stress of separation on top of your other obligations at school; but at the same time, you also have to put up with loneliness, difficulty communicating from a distance, and not getting to experience college life with your partner in the same place.

In spite of the popular disbelief that long-distance relationships are not worth pursuing, you can survive and foster a healthy one if you keep a few things in mind. Try these tips to survive the time away from your mate:

Commit to the Relationship (Or Not)

Your relationship will only survive if both people invest in making it work. If one of you feels uncertain or lukewarm about the situation before you even spend time apart, those reservations will probably intensify in the future.

Reflect on your willingness to commit; if you can’t (or won’t) keep up with the responsibilities of staying in touch, you may be better off breaking up. On the other hand, the challenge of a long-distance relationship will seem more bearable if both of you believe it is worth maintaining.

Set Ground Rules and Goals

Ground rules can build trust and make you both feel more comfortable with distance. If you aren’t comfortable having your partner hang out alone with someone of the opposite sex, for instance, you should talk and reach a compromise that you’re both satisfied with.

Set goals for how often you want to visit, what you will do for anniversaries or birthdays, or how often you want to talk. These guidelines allow you to focus on long-term outcomes of the relationship instead of its daily struggles.

Encourage Independence

You should stay in close contact, but you shouldn’t smother each other. While texts, Facebook, and video chats can strengthen your connection, don’t make your partner feel like she can’t spend time on anything else. For everyone’s well-being, allow time to focus on other priorities like homework, friends, and campus jobs; they can take your attention away from missing each other.

Get a Support System

You will miss your partner plenty of times, but leaning on friends and family will make the distance much more bearable. Get involved at school through clubs or other social groups, build connections with people in your hall, and even consider counseling if the weight of school and your long-distance relationship becomes too heavy. A support system that believes in your ability to overcome the separation will help you stay strong even when you wonder if the whole ordeal is worthwhile.

Keep the Romance Alive

Real long-distance relationships don’t look like the ones in movies: your partner may not write you love letters every day, send spontaneous care packages, or visit you every weekend. But small acts of kindness toward your partner can go a long way, and with them you will avoid getting bored or feeling like you never connect anymore.

Also, when you are far away, it can feel like your entire relationship consists of conversations, when a large part of being a couple that’s in the same location is connecting through activities. Here are some ideas of distance-friendly romance boosters to make sure all your time together isn’t about talking on the phone:

  • Create a wake up tradition: Starting the day with the person you care about, even if she is far away, can make a difference. Create a routine you start together every morning, like sending a wacky selfie before fixing your bedhead, a picture of what you’re eating for breakfast, or just a text saying “good morning.”

  • Have a romantic dinner: Pick a recipe and cook it at the same time over video chat. You can see who does it faster or better, and share in the experience of getting to cook (virtually) together.

  • Pick a daily time: Some couples find it helpful to pick a certain time of day when, say noon or 4:15pm, for that minute each person is supposed to think of his or her significant other and send him or her good vibes.

  • Watch a movie: Choose a Netflix series or movie that you both like, and watch it together over video chat.

  • Play a game: Pick a game, like pictionary or hangman, that you can play over the web.

Don’t forget that your creativity can always trump the distance.

Lose the Drama

It can destroy a long-distance relationship, especially if you can’t tell the difference between real conflicts and simple frustration over missing one another. Instead of freaking out over unanswered texts or accusing your partner of ignoring you, relax and assume the best of her. A sense of humor goes a long way, and can mean the difference between a simple misunderstanding and an all-out fight.

If you make the effort and remain committed to your partner, the two of you can survive the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Extra preparation, creativity, and support can help you and your mate survive the school year and make it to your next visit together.