Q: “Can you offer some realistic tips for two single parents who want to make a long-distance relationship work? We live about three hours apart and it can be difficult for both of us to get time off from our jobs. I work in substance abuse and I am often required to work weekends; he is a teacher.” — Andrea Naturalista Wilson
A: It is very difficult to maintain any long-distance relationship — especially for two single parents. The success of a long-distance relationship is going to depend on how committed you are to the relationship, regardless of whether you are a single parent or not. For some people, that commitment is difficult to make because you are apart. However, others treasure the time apart in order to make the time together more special. Hopefully, the long-distance relationship is a temporary situation. It is easier to be committed to the relationship, and sacrifice the convenience of having the other person around, if you know this is only for a limited amount of time. It becomes incredibly difficult when the separation is indefinite.
The first key to making any relationship work is communication. Having a clear understanding of your expectations of one another, and of the relationship, is critical. You must make “real time” for the relationship. This may mean that you schedule a designated time as often as possible to talk. I highly recommend that you use a webcam when possible during your designated time together. If you are involved with each other’s children, allow them to be in front of the camera also and part of the initial conversation. That way, they feel connected as well. Once the children are out of the room, spend some “alone” time with each other. In addition to talking on the telephone with one another as often as possible, utilize social networks to share information and send lots of pictures (e.g. Facebook, Twitter). Given that you live three hours apart, plan to meet halfway at a special place. Plan a fun and romantic getaway as often as possible. It may be as elaborate as reserving a room at a nice hotel for a night or as simple as packing a picnic lunch and finding a special spot to sit for a few hours. For now, your time is limited, so utilize every moment you have! — Dr. Sherry