Battling the boredom during long-term, long-distance relationships

March 25 | Guest post by AmeliaJane
How can Battleship help you fight the boredom of communicating during your long-distance relationship. (Photo by Derek GaveyCC BY 2.0)

I have something to confess: every relationship I have ever been in has been a long-distance one at some point in time. Most recently I have been in a four-year-long relationship with a lovely man, who asked me out over the phone as he was going through security at the airport to leave the country for four months! After he returned I still had two years of college, eight hours away, to finish up. So, while I am by no means an expert, I can say that I have some experience with the long distance experience.

Now, let me just say, long-term, long-distance SUCKS but here are my tips so that you don't get bored with the standard text/call/Skype routine…

Invest in an Xbox and a Netflix subscription

This was actually my boyfriend's idea. I came home one night to find an Xbox headset gift wrapped on my doorstep. It turns out if you plug in said headset (the one with the little mic) you can listen and talk to each other while you binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix together! You just have to set up an Xbox live party, and voilà, movie night where you can watch and talk to each other at the same time, without having to run up your cellphone bill!

Put your Skype to good use!

Ok here's the thing, I get bored with Skype really easily, but it's nice to see your lover's face now and again so what's a girl or guy to do?

Strip poker
All the fun of sexy Skype time with none of the awkward pauses trying to figure out who should initiate. Also if you are very self-conscious about phone sex or dirty talk, this is for you! We used a free game program online in a smaller window on the screen and it was a BLAST!

Battleship, or strip battleship
We bought the Battleship Game, and we each took one side home. This was one of our favorite games, since he could take it with him when he traveled to other countries.

Legos
Anyone who knows us knows we love us some Legos, but most people don't know that we started building them together over Skype. Honestly, this one just gave us something to do with our hands while we talked, and it was always fun to pick out new sets when we saw each other, then build them later on.

Kindles/books

For a good amount of time my boyfriend is working on government projects that he can't talk about. So our conversations go: "How was your day?" "Good." THE END. Enter our Kindles! We would decide on what books we wanted to read and then each read a chapter or more a week. This not only gave us bookworms something to read and do during the day, but when we did talk on the phone we had something in common to discuss. We would usually take turns choosing which books to read so that no one got bored.

Scavenger Hunt

This one is my favorite. We chose a list of things we both had to find or do, and then take pictures with our phones, and send them to each other. The person who got the least on the list, or finished last, had to pay for our next in-person date night! Neither one of us are big texters or phone people, so this gave us a great way to check in throughout the day and also make each other laugh.

Some of our favorites were: a picture of an authority figure in a wig, recreate your favorite movie scene using breakfast foods, and take a picture of you and the person with the most outrageous outfit at the bar.

Long distance isn't ever easy, but sometimes you can make it fun! Talk with your partner about what you enjoy doing together when you are in person and then go from there!

What are your tips for not getting bored with long distance relationship communications?

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  1. Aw, this is a sweet list! I was in a LTR LDR for four years (2004-2008) with my now-husband when he was in the Army and I was in college. It was sort of before the era of Skype (we had it but it was crap, plus he didn't have consistent Internet access in Iraq) so we did it all by telephone.

    One thing that I found helped a lot was switching up the medium. Specifically I'd write him really long letters, mostly about nothing, and mail them all together when I had a bunch saved up. When I was in Russia and he was in Iraq, and I couldn't send him things, I kept a notebook with letters and gave it to them at the end. I think it brightened his day a little to get actual real mail from me and now that we're finally together it provides a nice (if a little embarrassing) history of our time apart. I also did goofy little crafts–like once I bought a plastic canister at Walmart and filled it with 365 slips of paper, each with a memory, inside joke, or quote I liked so he had one to read a day for the year he was gone. He really loved it and usually ended up reading more than one a day. I think if you were actually talking every day you could share them and it'd be even more derpy and romantic and awesome.

    3 agree
  2. This is great!

    I would like to add MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) to this list 😛 There's nothing better. I actually don't like MMOs as much anymore now that we're together IRL. But when he was in the military, it was awesome to just get lost in an MMO together (while chatting on Skype). It made it feel more like we were together, even though he was 1000 miles away. There's lots of great free ones out there (Guild Wars 2, League of Legends, Diablo III), but World of Warcraft was the best one. Dang $15 a month fee.

    Also, if you can't afford an xbox, there's always the option to stream Netflix together online while on Skype! Also, you can use the same account if you're watching the same thing. We always just shared an account because we'd only watch it together.

    9 agree
    • I met my husband over WoW, and our first 10-12 months was a long distance relationship (1000 miles away from each other) – WoW and teamspeak/ventrilo together was how we spent our time together! Playing a game with someone is good fun – and a good way to work together even though you're far apart, which gives you ideas about conflict resolution and your interaction styles.

      1 agrees
    • I'm still a little sad that City of Heroes (et al) shut down since my spouse and I spent so much of our early dating time playing. We moved away to other games, though, and hadn't seriously played it in ages when they did shut down, so really we were part of the problem.

      1 agrees
    • I've had 2 long-distance relationships (one NZ-Australia, one NZ-America!) with guys I've met on WoW, and it's fantastic for maintaining your relationship (just sucks those guys turned out to be sucky at the whole in-person relationship thing in the end….). Ventrilo was a great way to keep talking for free and definitely made you feel much closer. Raiding together was awesomesauce 😀

      1 agrees
    • OGN games the old fashioned text based games was how i met my husband but I was very cautious and we had 3 years long distance friendship then a year on dating while 4500kms away.

  3. Yes yes yes! Just looking at the photo I'd hoped that there would be advice for games. My current fiance and I tried lots of the above when we did long distance. Back when we first started dating, we'd play casual games on Yahoo Games- like pool and dominoes. Playing other online games together can be awesome too.

    To add to the Games and Reading together- we did or own RPGs over skype- they can be a little sexy, too! Our dwarves had a little sexy time on their adventures.

    I really love the scavenger hunt idea! I'm going to try that next time one of us has to travel.

    1 agrees
    • Yes! Yahoo games helped SO much when my then-fiance (now husband) and I were a couple thousand miles apart for a while. It's funny how doing something stupid like online battleship or dominoes can help. You run out of things to say so quickly but you so want to spend time with the person.
      I used to send him little care packages, too, with stupid things like cheap toys or baked goods and cheesy notes. Silly Bands were a big deal then, and I bought a few and jokingly insisted he wear them. He actually did, so then I felt obligated to do so as well…and it was cheesy, but it was nice to have that little connection and reminder throughout the day.
      We were also wedding planning throughout the long-distance part, and while I'm sure that's not everyone's situation, I will say that it helped to have some sort of big project to collaborate on and discuss at length (plus distract each of us). I would definitely encourage undertaking some kind of project that you can both work on/look at/give ideas for/research…a vacation you'll take, remodeling something, something collaborative that will make you money (writing future-bestseller erotic fiction together?), things like that.

  4. May I add: Skype dinners. Eating is a huge social thing for me, I hate the awkwardness of eating alone and will fall into an unhealthy diet of pudding, sandwiches and Chinese takeout if a movie and my cactus are my only company. Both of us love cooking and having dinner together while talking about our days and everything. So we've made a point of having dinner together with a real homecooked meal, sitting down at a table and using proper plates and cutlery like grown-ups do, albeit via Skype with 3,000km between us. We'll even agree on what to cook beforehand and both have spaghetti with the same kind of sauce and argue about whose cooking is hypothetically better, because we're weird like that. I love our Skype dinners, because it gives our everyday lives a sense of normality and quality time "together-ness".

    Stupid mobile phone app minigames. We're both not into "real gaming", but we love stuff like Scrabble and Draw Something. It's a nice little pastime and you can send little messages with every turn you take.

    12 agree
    • Yes! We have had lots of Skype dinners. Or Skype dinner and movie dates where we would go see the same movie in the theater (alone or with a group) and then come back and make dinner together over Skype and talk about what parts of the movie we liked/disliked etc.

      3 agree
      • Double yes! My partner and I used to do movies all the time. Long-distance or not is practically the same experience since you're going to be focused on the big screen whether you're right next to your date or a hundred miles away… well, minus a little hand-holding.

        1 agrees
    • Yes! We often had "lazy Sunday morning" Skype brunches, followed by us streaming a movie at the same time and messaging comments to one another (though the Xbox live idea is genius!).

      1 agrees
    • I LOVE Skype dinners!

      When I dated long-distance for the first time ages ago, it was before Facetime/Skype/etc. existed. You couldn't see the other person and eating together was weird because it was mostly silence and mutual chewing. When video sharing first became available, I loved to eat while chatting! It was a wonderful change, and it allowed us to have longer conversations since we often chatted when it was breakfast time for one person and dinnertime for the other.

    • We totally do this! Haven't for a while, should reinstate it. We choose a recipe in advance so we're eating the same thing.

      Just to add a layer of complication we had a 12 hour time distance (now 6 hours). So we swapped – one week we'd have 'dinner' and the next 'breakfast'. Days when I had spaghetti for breakfast were a bit odd, but days with pancakes for dinner were awesome.

      2 agree
  5. My ex and I used to "go for a walk" when we were long distance. One of us would walk and take pictures as we went, every 2 or 3 minutes, and send them via iMessage so that we could walk "together".

    4 agree
  6. Also, snapchat. Although it's easy to get lost sending pictures and not actually talking, so make sure u do still talk! But it's really good for sharing some random things I saw today, that maybe wouldn't make it in to an actual conversation.

  7. Well, my partner and I have not had to do the long distance thing since 2010, and even then I had a terrible internet connection (and no smartphone) so a lot of these great suggestions weren't an option. Prior to that, we were long distance (with several extended visits) around 2007-2008. We watched the same shows and talked about them afterwards, but we definitely didn't have the ability to watch shows together in real time like you describe. We are old fashioned (relatively!) and stick to email and phone while apart. It has always worked fairly well for us . . .

    BUT I have a confession to make. I get crushes (sometimes really big ones) on other men when I'm away from my partner for an extended time. This became almost a real problem during the 07-08 long distance era. I would never say that I felt "bored" talking to my partner – we always had so much to talk about, and I never got tired hearing about what he was up to on the other side of the country. I always wanted to talk to him. But along with that, my desire to have real contact with another person, or my hormones, or whatever, always drove me to want additional attention from someone more immediate. I wonder if some of the suggestions described would have helped, or maybe it's just something deeper or more fundamental – the animal version of myself seeking out the next available partner who interests me.

    8 agree
  8. We would also surprise each other with random cards, gifts, and other snail mail goodies. Something about just having a physical card is great.

    We'd also do set things while we Skyped, like check certain websites together (Zooborns, I apologize now if you haven't seen it), talk about a book we were both reading, or just play Wikipedia scavenger hunt (wherein you have to both take a random wiki page and try to get to each other's in the fewest amount of link clicks).

    5 agree
    • I totally second the snail mail and gifts!

      In my relationship, I was the one leaving our hometown and "going long distance" to a different country to live and work in a really great city. I would hunt for neat postcards of all of the major sights and some artsy ones and send one home once a week or so. When he came visiting after some time he was all "ohhh I really liked that castle, can we go there?" and "hey, I remember this place from the postcard you sent me!", which was awesome. And, in retrospect, I just love having all the postcards assembled to a little journal / tour guide thing, which is somehow like a travel blog, but so much more personal and tangible.

      And having him send me my favourite kind of chocolate from back home saved my sanity. 🙂

      5 agree
      • Sending chocolate or other goodies to each other via snail-mail (or even just silly or romantic or heartfelt cards) is a fabulous idea. 🙂

        2 agree
        • Yes, it is. But attention: if your long-distance relationship is international you should double-check customs regulations. Mailing – that is, "importing and exporting" – foodstuffs is prohibited in some cases and you don't want to get into trouble.

          4 agree
          • Notice! Anything 13oz or less can be sent without any packaging other than a shipping label. The happiness that my boyfriend got from receiving a giant tub of cheese balls (I checked before sending) with messages written all over was AWESOME in fact his friends asked if I would send them some too!

  9. I'm in the middle of a 13 month long distance stint with my husband. The Xbox is amazing. He bought me one for my birthday and I thought, there is no way I'm going to use this. We have played games together a couple times. Its so much better than the phone because there aren't really awkward silences and it gives you something to talk about when you had a boring day at work….I'm excited to try the Netflix with it!

    1 agrees
  10. My (now husband) and I did this when we first started dating – and I think the bottom line is that long distance relationships DO WORK – but only with BOTH people want them to work. We were together for 6 months, then had distance for a year, then together for 3 months, then distance for 3 months before we finally moved in together.

    All these little tips and tricks and ways you find to shorten the distance help a lot! I think xbox gaming/movie watching is an especially good idea. But the main thing is:

    IT REALLY DOES WORK IF BOTH PEOPLE WANT IT TO.

    5 agree
  11. My husband and I have been together for almost 9 years but only lived together full-time for about 3 years (and that was several years ago.) In the beginning it was different countries and now only different states. Anyway, GTalk (Google's voice and video chat program) enabled us to stay connected when services like skype and vonage were blocked. Sharing a kindle library to discuss what we were reading and breakfast dates worked out really well for us, too. We also agreed on a foreign language to learn together online so that we could discuss new things and practice with each other. The new language gave us a project and a goal we could work together on and filled those empty conversation spaces that happen after the 85th day straight that year where we raced to ask "How was your day?" first. And this probably sounds lame and unromantic but… I started keeping a tiny notepad and pencil in my car to write down funny or strange or interesting things that happened during the day. When I was home for the evening I set it next to my phone for reminders when we talk before bed. I realized I was so tired at the end of most evenings that I had forgotten most of the duller points of my day. Our conversations were shorter and we were both unfulfilled by them. Those small and inconsequential things turned out to be really important in making the other person feel like they were part of your day every day. Long distance is hard but not impossible; sometimes it just requires a bit of homework.

    5 agree
    • I love the idea of the notepad to write down little tidbits about your day – often, by the time I get home, I'm mentally exhausted and collapse on the couch, so sometimes my spouse and I (face to face) don't have much to say. This sounds like a fantastic idea to (a) be mindful about the little rays of sunshine (or weird rainbows of weirdness) in my daily life, and (b) be able to share those little things with the person I love. Also, super awesome that you two decided to learn a language together – that's flippin fantastic! A great way to connect and keep your minds engaged.

      4 agree
      • I write down little tidbits to share, too! I've been doing long-distance for just about 3 years now, and often forget little things to share, so I just write them down and then I can remember them!
        Also, I think something that has helped me is remembering that not every conversation has to be an amazing 4 hour long commitment. Sometimes we're busy. Sometimes we're in different time zones that don't sync up well and I want to sleep by the time he gets home. So sometimes we only talk for 15 minutes, or check in with each other via a couple quick texts. But those shorter conversations also mean we usually have more to talk about the next day, so it all works out.

        3 agree
    • I am not currently in a long distance relationship, but I do the notepad thing too because my husband and I are on completely different schedules (we average 1-2 half-days together a week). So when we do get time to chat, I don't want to leave out the funny personal things about my day. If I don't do this, our conversations can easily become, "Hey, I put a load of laundry in the dryer so please bring it up & put it away, also we need eggs, and our kid said a new word today, have you heard him say [word] before?" Relationships suck when they're comprised from a highlight reel of your chores. Having toddler updates kind of saves things, but after awhile you realize you share that same level of intimacy with your child care provider and dude, that's lame. Notepads may have saved things for me.

      After using a notepad for that purpose, I decided to use a (slightly nicer, book-style) notepad to write down my favorite family moments for a year. I haven't told my husband what I'm doing yet, so I'm planning on it being a new year's eve surprise… so we can go through it and recap the highlights of the bits of time we did get to spend together. I'm excited about this mini project. I don't write in it everyday, but I do include the little surprises we leave for each other, and make an entry each time we do get time for a date (so far, twice this year… we try for once a month but don't always hit that goal). Of course, anytime we carve out family time gets added into the book. I keep the entries short and sweet, a few sentences each. Just a summary, a funny detail, and what it meant to me. I hope when my husband reads it, he sees what a big part of my life he still is, even though we don't get to spend much real time together right now.

      3 agree
  12. Back when my husband and were still dating and doing the long distance thing – before we could afford cell phone and internet charges (way more expensive back then!), I used to keep a daily journal and just write in it whenever I thought about him or a quote that he would like or a memory that I had, and when we were together, I would bring it along and let him read it until we had to be apart from each other again – so he could physically see how often I thought about him and how much he really was a part of my life even if we werent always together

    3 agree
  13. Definitely late to the comments on this, but I've been thinking about what I'd add to the list. I'm long-distance with my husband six weeks out of the year so I can do research (this year will be year 8).

    We do a lot of postal mail letters, postcards, and packages. We usually talk every few days. But since we really enjoy reading books aloud when we're at home together, we're thinking of reading over the phone this year. An added plus for us is that I'm on a University campus with access to the library, so we have a lot of choice of what to read. It can be really interactive, with us talking a lot about the books, or just a nice way to hear each others' voices.

    My husband also makes a new music comp for me every year along with selecting a range of his music to send with me to listen to. In our case, we do this on CD: we have HUGE music collections on CD so we're set up to do this. Making the comp on CD also lets my husband set up the set with proper levels and mastering and I get a physical memento complete with hand drawn and colored insert. Since I'm the one leaving and I live in a place that's not very homey and impossible to decorate on my luggage allowance, it helps to make things feel like home. It also gives us something extra to talk about when we do talk, especially since he tries to pick things I haven't heard.

    1 agrees
  14. THIS!

    Thank you. Husband and I newly long distance. We need to do all of these things.

  15. I love this list. I just finished the long distance part of my current relationship. We were apart for 3 months from Alaska to Florida and my favorite thing was portal 2 on steam. Now we play pocket tanks which i highly recommend and you can play it on the phone.

  16. It's really great to hear how many other couples do creative things. My husband and I are operating on a 12 hour time difference right now and I'm in a country with a lot of internet challenges (some because if infrastructure, others because of an overly involved government shall we say). We usually only talk on Skype or Google Video once or twice a week because we want to make sure both of us are having healthy social lives and getting our work done, and not sequestering away from the world to sit on the phone for hours on end. We've been long distance like this a few times because I keep running off to parts of the world unknown, so we have some practice. Love hearing all these ideas!

    1 agrees
  17. Along with the Kindle idea, my now husband and I when we were in a LDR would each have a copy of a book (Moomin books were our favourite!), we would take turns reading out loud to each other over the phone.

    Another life saver was an app called Voxer. You can send voice messages back and forth like texting, so you don't have to respond right away, but you get to still hear each other's voice. It was so fun. Sometimes with the time difference, one of us would send a few messages while the other was sleeping so when they woke up, they could listen to the other's voice, even if they were at work etc.

    • I love the read-aloud idea, as well as the two-person book club idea. (Yes, my s.o. and I are huge nerds.) So far, we've been reading books on each other's recommendations, but I like the idea of syncing up. The recommendations thing has worked for us too, as we discover more about each other through reading books that have influenced/shaped us. Also: reading poetry aloud to each other is fun… I'm on the ace spectrum, so that's sort of our version of phone sex.

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