In a long distance relationship this Christmas? Here’s how to celebrate

Being long distance at Christmas is hard – here’s how to celebrate with your partner and make the most of a tricky situation.

Spending Christmas away from your partner is never easy, but after the ups and downs of 2020, being away from the one you love at this time of year may feel even more of a challenge.

Not only have long-established plans now had to be changed last-minute, but if you don’t live with your partner, chances are you’ve struggled to see them much (if at all) since the beginning of the pandemic. 

But just because things are extra-challenging this year, doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for you to make the most out of a bad situation. 

Chatting over Zoom may not be the same as cuddling up on the sofa after Christmas lunch, but that doesn’t mean making the effort isn’t worth it; by embracing the strange nature of Christmas 2020, you can create memories that you and your partner will be able to look back on for years to come.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, either. Even scheduling in some time to open your presents together or watch the same film can help you to establish a sense of connection, even when you’re apart.

To give you some inspiration for your long distance Christmas plans, we asked relationship psychotherapist Heather Garbutt to share her top tips for staying connected with a long distance partner over the festive season. So whether you’ve been long distance throughout the pandemic or are just separated for the holidays, here are six ideas to help you make the most of Christmas 2020.

  • Make a plan

    Long distance at Christmas: make a plan for when you’re going to meet online.

    Don’t attempt to wing it – to help you make the most of your long distance Christmas Day, Garbutt recommends having a clear idea of how you’re going to celebrate together.

    “Make sure that you have clear times set when you can meet online,” she recommends. “Between those times, give yourself something in common to talk about. Watch some fun stuff on YouTube, listen to a piece of music that means something to you or chat about your Christmas memories from when you were very young. Favourite toys, food or family traditions are also great topics of conversation.”

    If you want to mix things up, why not have a go at playing a verbal game like 20 Questions or Pancakes vs Waffles? If you’re struggling to feel festive, it’s a good way to lighten the mood and take your minds off of things. 

  • Do things together

    Long distance at Christmas: cooking a meal on Zoom is a great way to spend time together.

    It’s easy to feel disconnected when you’re not physically with your partner but doing things that unite you can help to strengthen that bond.

    “You could choose to cook and eat the same food, watch a film together or read a book and tell each other about your feelings and reactions to it,” Garbutt recommends.

    To make watching a film together that little bit easier, make sure you download the Chrome extension Netflix Party, which allows you to watch a show at the same time as your date via the internet. Not only does it remove the stress of trying to press play at the exact same time, it also means you can pause at crucial moments and discuss what you’ve watched.

  • Share how you’re feeling

    Long distance at Christmas: share how you’re feeling.

    Try not to hide away from how you’re feeling – being long distance at Christmas can be difficult, and it’s OK to verbalise how you’re feeling to your partner. In fact, Garbutt suggests setting aside a specific time in your day to share those emotions.

    “Have sharing times when you just listen to one another without comment,” she recommends. “You might say what you’re missing about the other person or about anything you are experiencing. Just sit and listen or ask if there is anything else they have going on.”

  • Celebrate each other

    Long distance at Christmas: take time to share what you love about each other.

    Christmas is a time for celebration, so try to make some time in your day to focus on the positives, too. To do this, Garbutt recommends a simple exercise.

    “Each time you meet, tell each other something that you’re grateful for, something you appreciate about the other person and something you’re patting yourself on the back for,” she says.

    Not only can practising gratitude help to boost both your moods, but it’s another great way to connect with each other even when you’re apart.

  • Make plans for the future

    Long distance at Christmas: make plans for when you can see each other again.

    One of the worst bits about being long distance due to coronavirus is not knowing when you’ll see each other again, so looking forward to a future where you’ll be able to do that is a great way to boost both of your moods.

    “Make plans for when you are together,” Garbutt suggests. “These can be absolutely practical and obviously doable or you could share fantasies about things that you would really love to do in your life, both together and individually.”

    If you fancy making it into a little activity, you could even put together a series of lists with ideas for things you want to do when the pandemic is over, such as dream trips and extravagant date ideas.

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