So you and your SO are spending the summer apart. While it’s great to get some time to yourselves and to have the opportunity to miss one another, being apart for the season can also really test a relationship. That’s because, let’s be honest, there is plenty of temptation this time of year, when the weather is warm and everyone is out living their best summer lives. However, just because you are apart for a while, that doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed — it just means you may need to add a few ways to build trust in your relationship so that you’re both feeling confident in the relationship while you’re at a distance this summer.
To help with this, I reached out to sex and intimacy coach Irene Fehr to ask for her expert advice on ways to improve the trust in a relationship so a couple can weather longer periods of time apart and still feel confident in their commitment. Fehr tells Elite Daily that the first step is to understand how trust works, because by understanding the different factors, you can address them all and strengthen that bond. “There are different elements that make up trust: transparency [and] being open about what’s going on for you and consistently delivering on your word or promise to do [or] not do something," explains Fehr. "Being apart creates a level of opaqueness in a relationship, making trust harder and also necessary.” Makes sense, but how do you put that into practice? Here is Fehr’s advice on how to tackle this tricky issue.
1. Talk about your needs in advance.
If you know that you are going to be apart for an extended period of time, Fehr says the best defense of your relationship is to have a good offense, and by that she means you need communicate your needs and expectations in advance of the separation. “The more you can let your partner know what you need, and vice versa, the more you can provide that ahead of time to each other and prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings — instead of troubleshooting them later,” says Fehr. Her advice is to sit down with your partner a few weeks before the separation begins and start exploring questions you both have. “You might not arrive at an answer right away, but it starts the conversation and explore solutions that work for both,” she adds.
Erika Ettin, dating coach and founder of A Little Nudge, agrees. She says the best way to build trust is
“Communication, communication, communication!” It’s essential to get on the same page as much as possible before you go your separate ways, says Ettin. “Everything from how often you’d like to talk to whether you plan to visit each other," she tells Elite Daily.
2. Agree on a set of boundaries.
One of the key things to discuss, Fehr says, is setting boundaries with one another. “Boundaries are agreements about what you are going to do and not,” she explains. “They can be about how you relate to others: do you agree to stay together and be monogamous or are you open to seeing other people while apart? They can be about anything else that is important to the relationship.”
As you discuss these boundaries, Fehr says this is also a good opportunity to be frank about your fears about being apart. “Sharing fears can be a very vulnerable and bonding experience when both partners can listen to each other and also talk about what needs to happen to avoid making the fear come true," she notes.
3. Be transparent while you are apart.
While being open about your feelings and needs before you are are apart is an important first step, the work doesn’t end there. Fehr says it’s just as important to be open and honest while you’re away from one another. “Be transparent about whatever comes up and avoid secrets. Know your partner is trusting you and giving you the benefit of the doubt, and even the smallest slip-ups can erode that trust,” she says. Fehr emphasizes that secrets should be avoided at all costs if you want your relationship to survive the summer. “Keeping secrets while apart is both easy and dangerous. No secret is small enough to ruin trust in a long-distance relationship. It’s not the size of the secret, but it’s the action. It’s easy to rationalize small things you do that can potentially be problematic for your partner as irrelevant and keep them secret,” Fehr explains.
What if something happens and you’re not sure you can keep to your predetermined agreements and boundaries? While Fehr acknowledges its not always easy to be transparent, it’s essential if you want to build and maintain trust. “If you know you cannot keep an agreement with your partner, talk to them about it as soon as possible — before you end up acting on it. Talking about and renegotiating an agreement does not necessarily yield broken trust; however, breaking an agreement through action does,” explains Fehr. “If you feel like there is something that you don’t want your partner to know about — and you’re rationalizing in your head how it’s not a big deal — it is likely to be so and to come between you if not addressed.”
4. Keep your promises to each other.
Along with being open and honest, Fehr says it’s important to be consistent and reliable or you will undercut any trust you have built. “Keep your promises,” she advises. “Trust is built through action. Whether you carry out your word about what’s happening for you will ultimately build trust or not,” she concludes.
While spending the summer apart won’t always be easy, by building and maintaining trust you can at least look forward to reuniting in the fall. You may even end up closer with a stronger bond, which, if you think about it, actually makes the whole thing worth it.
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