Long distance relationships have sort of a stigma around them, and it’s widely thought that they won’t last as much as “normal” relationships do. But this doesn’t have to be true, especially if you and your partner know in which direction you’re heading and what you plan for the future is.
Now, there are many different ways to set your goals, and the key is, to be honest with each other, get on that deep level of understanding each other’s needs and set plans for the future.
This can all depend on what stage you’re on at your relationship, how long have you talked to each other to get to know one another, and so on.
You should start with the basics and then go to the fundamental questions such as – does your career choice match your partner’s, do you see yourself together in the long term, will you eventually start living together… You get the idea.
One of the most common, yet effective ways you can do this is by creating a Five-Year Plan. And, if you think about it, knowing what your goals and aspirations are in a five-year period will surely keep you focused on them and will be a constant reminder why you need to keep having this relationship.
But, before we give a look at the five-year plan, let’s see why the setting goal is important in the first place.
The Importance of Goals
Even though some people think that having the big talk is a little awkward, or that it is too early for it, don’t ignore the importance of knowing where your relationship is headed.
And even more so in a long distance relationship.
Most couples believe that their long distance relationship will end with both of the partners in the same place, but how can you know that before you talk about it.
Maybe your partner feels the same way, but you both just believe that the other one will move to you and all will be solved.
So, popping up the big question might help you realize and crystalize a lot of things, and your relationship may thrive even more.
And although these long term goals are of great importance, you surely don’t want to forget about short term plans.
For example, when will you meet again, when will you go on a date again, and similar things.
Without talking about things and making plans, your whole relationship will be one huge question mark.
Take it easy
If you are reading this, and suddenly start panicking because you do not have a plan, take a deep breath and relax.
You don’t have to call your partner right this moment and demand to know when the two of you will finally live together.
If you do so, they might feel that you are suffocating them and they might start to panic!
So, before you actually start the conversation, take some time for yourself to think about the way things are and the way you want them to be. For example, ask yourself:
- What do you want?
- Do you like things the way they are?
- Is there anything that you would like to change in your relationship?
- Do you want to live with your partner one day?
- Do you like the idea of long-distance freedom better?
It is very important that you know what you want before you two start asking each other what the other partner’s idea of your future is.
Unless you do, you will never know if the two of you are synchronized and moving towards the same mutual goal.
The Five-Year Plan
Making a Five-Year plan is all about commitment, and you need a strong bond with your partner to have any chance of it actually working out.
And it doesn’t even matter if it’s a five, ten or thirty-year plan, the concept is the same – prove to yourself and your partner that you want to build a future with them.
And of course, this goes both ways, because in a relationship it’s important to bear some of the weight of your partner, but not all of it.
Anyways, how a five-year plan should look like is you both take a pencil and a piece of paper and talk to each other about your personal short and long-term goals and the goals you want to achieve together.
Once you’re done, you put the piece of paper on your wall or a visible place, so it acts as a reminder every day why you’re with your partner and why it’s important to maintain your relationship.
The great thing about this type of planning is that literally any couple can do it and it doesn’t matter if you’re still in school or college, or you have a full-time job, and if you’re 18 or 55 years old.
Why do you ask?
Well, think about it, if you’re both still at college and you’ve planned out how to start careers and move in together in a five-year span, then you’ve practically done half of the job already by knowing where you want to be in the future.
Of course, there’s always something which can go unplanned, for example, what if your partner will still be in college in five years? Then you have to set the foundations of your future lives so your partner can catch up to you, whether it’s career-wise, financially and so on.
A similar, but different approach goes when you’ve both have jobs already, but maybe live in different cities, so you might be thinking of making the right career choices and eventually end up having jobs in the same city which should be one of the goals listed in your Five-Year plan.
What the Five-Year plan suggests you do as a couple is:
- Making a list of your goals – If your goals match your partner’s ones, then you’ll be on solid ground about how you and your partner see yourself in the future and a clear guideline of which things you need to accomplish by yourselves and together in order to achieve your goals.
- Planning it all out – It’s easy to make up a list of 10 or 20 goals and just say: “Okay, we’ve made a Five-Year Plan”, but actually knowing how to accomplish them is a more complicated process. You have to be ready for failure and know that you’ll need each other’s support, you also have to be persistent and not allow yourselves to quit when the going gets tough.
- Bearing each other’s burden – Making any commitment to yourself is something not many people stick with, and when you add one more person into the mix, it’s even harder, so at times you’ll have to be ready to literally drag your partner to the goal line and never forget why you’re doing it – because when love endures even the toughest times, it just gets even deeper and real.
- Baby steps –The only way you’re going to achieve the goals you’ve set with your partner is if you try to be consistent and adapt to the challenges ahead. You also shouldn’t put all of your energy into this plan right at the beginning, because there’s a possibility for both of you to burn out and the whole thing will seem pointless to you.
- Carrying out the plan – There’s an old Latin phrase you’ve probably heard about, ” Acta, non verba“, meaning “Actions, not words”, and really the hardest thing to do of all the things listed is actually implementing all of it into your life and making it less of a commitment and more of a habit. Be honest with each other, be persistent and be focused on your goals in order to really achieve them.
You see a long distance relationship is like any other, it just needs a lot more compromise and will-power in order for it to work, but at the end of the day, many long-distance relationships turned out to be much stronger and last much longer than ordinary relationships.
Setting the Right Goals
You can look at the Five-Year plan as sort of a template for making plans, and there are endless ways you can plan out your future with your partner apart from the Five-Year Plan, but what all the plans you can ever make have in common is that in order for them to work you need to set the right kind of goals.
Of course, there are different kinds of goals. Some are
- career choices,
- countries you want to live in,
- what kind of car you want to drive,
- how many kids you want to have,
- what you want to do every morning when you wake up next to your partner
I mean, the list just goes on and on!
Also, there are long-term and short-term goals.
Now, short-term goals for any long distance relationship are pretty much the same, and they’re in the ballpark of you talking to each other more often, planning when you are going to meet up getting to know one another better as time passes.
It’s the long-term goals are the ones you should be more focused on, and they’re the ones we’ve talked about in this segment the most, but keep in mind that the short-term goals are also very important because, when achieved they show how much the relationships means to both of you and they motivate you to pursue your long-term goals.
It all depends on the person really, and the more your goals match your partner’s ones the more chance you’ll get in accomplishing them together, and it takes a lot of commitment, compromise, and good communication in order for all of it to work.
When you finally sit down and talk to your partner face-to-face about both your personal and mutual goals, you should try to answer these questions together:
- Where do you see your relationship in the future?
- Do your goals match the ones of your partner?
- What do you think your partner expects from this relationship?
- Should you go slow into the relationship and see where things go before you start listing future goals?
- Are you both ready for such a commitment?
- Do you think there should be any changes made before you achieve your goals and, if so, what are they?
There can be an entire book written filled with all the questions you need to ask yourself and your partner before such a commitment, so this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Supposing that you are both mature young adults, surely you see that this is a serious conversation you need to have with your partner, so be prepared for that.
Communication Is the Key
Not just with cheating, setting goals and achieving them, but also with maintaining the relationship for a long time – communication is crucial for success.
At the very start of any relationship communication changes over time, and if you think that you have a great bond now, there’s always room for improvement.
You should follow these five points, so you develop a deeper connection with your partner:
- Taking things slowly – You don’t want to be the person who, at the very start of the relationships starts talking about marriage, having kids, moving in together and all the future goals we’ve mentioned earlier. It’s going to make you seem way too obsessive.
- Talking about goals – When you mention your goals to your partner, try to find out what goals do they have and if you have mutual goals, but don’t be too direct about it at the beginning, see how things go first and then start asking questions about the future.
- Being direct – In contrast to the previous point, you need to know when to be direct and when not, and it all depends on how your partner feels and what might insult him or her if you mention it too directly. Also, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your partner something directly while being completely honest and open.
- Being a good listener – You need to listen to what your partner has to say in order to understand his or her needs and be respectful to them when they have something important to say, and this will result in mutual respect for one another.
- Being engaged in the conversation – Try to be engaging when speaking but not so much that you interrupt your partner and no so little that you just nod with your head and seem uninterested
At the end of the day, getting better at communicating with each other is a goal by itself, so keep that in mind next time you talk to your partner.
What to do when priorities differ?
Sometime, the priorities that you and your partner have may differ, and that can be a big problem for most of the couples, if not even a deal breaker.
Imagine that the two of you are working on your plans, and then, when you go over them together, you find out that they truly differ.
This can be something rather difficult!
As you already know that the communication is the key, take this as a reminder to talk to your partner about your priorities and goals and to come up with a mutual one, rather than two separate plans.
If you find out that your plans are different, please, don’t take this as an indicator of a doomed relationship before you talk with your partner about it.
If you can talk openly, and not let the conversation grow into an argument, you might as well find a solid mutual plan that will work for both of you.
Have in mind that the plan you make is not carved into stone and that the one you make is more of an outline for what you have to do than a strict schedule.
Just because your partner doesn’t have some goals that you do on their list as of the moment, it doesn’t mean that they will not pop up sometime in the future.
But if you take these little things as a sign of damnation and leap into conclusions, there is a big chance that the overall relationship will suffer.
Instead, you should be completely open with your partner and tell them that there is something that is worrying you. As in many cases, it can be that they just oversaw to put something there, and not that they don’t want it.
And, maybe you won’t be able to have this conversation with your partner face to face, but it is all the same. The key is to be fair, honest, and open.
Moreover, always be sure to ask for clarifications instead of just assuming something that will hurt you or make you angry.
If you are not open with your partner, both will suffer.
Mutual Plans and Exclusivity
One of the things that might make you wonder is why we are talking about exclusivity when we are setting goals.
Well, it is rather simple: if the two of you don’t have the initial agreement on the status of your relationship, of what good are any plans?
If both partners are not in the relationship with their whole heart, or if one of you just assumes exclusivity of your relationship, even if you have made some plans, they can easily fall apart.
So, if you haven’t discussed this matter just yet, maybe you should wait with making plans for the future until you have this matter solved first.
Do you really want to have the conversation about moving in with someone or starting a family with someone who is still seeing other people?
Let’s face it – long distance relationships are difficult the way there are. There is no need to make them overcomplicated with involving other people or partners in it. Well, if mutual life in future is the plan, at least.
So, this is something that should be discussed, really.
Maybe you took that the two of you were exclusive, but your partner didn’t – there are different people! – so be sure to check this sensitive matter with them before you start making any serious plans.
Besides, exclusivity might mean a different thing for different people. So it is often not enough to say “Yes, sure, we are exclusive!”. Better take some time and discuss what this means for both of you.
This is one of the most important decisions in a long distance relationship. And if you are going to give it some effort, it is fairly natural that you expect the same from your partner.