Make the most out of limited conversation time with your loved one. Knowing what to talk about in a long-distance relationship will bring you closer to your partner and help you get to know each other better than ever before.
If I had a nickel for every time I asked, “So…how was your day today?” I would have bought myself a first-class ticket to Serbia (where Filip lives) by now. We’ve all asked the same questions over and over again. The longer the time apart gets, the more you’ve exhausted topics relating to how the other person’s day went.
Why Is It So Hard to Think of Things to Talk About?
Meaningful conversations can be hard to come by in some long-distance relationships. That might come as a surprise to some but once you take a look at the logistics you’ll see why. Most people have to consider massive time differences. When one partner is waking up the other needs to go to bed so they can make it to work in the morning.
Filip and I are 9 hours apart, so when I’m jazzed up for an afternoon walk and an invigorating talk about our shared business or plans for the future, Filip is getting sleepy and ready to wind down before bed. “Normal” couples don’t realize that waking up at the same time and getting sleepy at the same time is a big advantage toward synchronized feelings, attitudes, and more meaningful discussions.
Know the Difference Between Expectation and Hype
Besides the time difference, there’s also hype and a sense of expectation when it comes to video chatting with your partner online. Whether you think about it consciously or not, you’ve been waiting all day for the person to wake up, or finish work, or whatever it is that’s been stopping you from talking. When you’re finally on the phone, you’re hoping to have a great time.
Two neuroscientists, Elena Rusconi and Timothy Mitchener-Nissen, did a study on the theoretical concept of expectations and the potential consequences of those expectations. They labeled expectations as “goals, promises, and visions of the future,” and wanted to see what effect they have on scientific and technological advances.
They specifically studied the concepts in the context of brain imaging and neuromodulation. Rusconi and Mitchener-Nissen also explored the role of hype to see if that helped or hindered the scientific process.
In the end, they decided that expectations were what keeps scientists going in the toughest of times. As an example, they mentioned J.F. Kennedy, who presented his exciting idea of a man on the moon to Congress. He explained the benefits, shared his vision, and just 8 years later, his expectations were fulfilled. At the time, he knew that technology didn’t even exist. But he believed it was possible and promoted the hell out of his idea.
But Hype, on the other hand, often creates a limit on technological achievements. Over-hyping an advancement can take away from the future achievement of the goal and place all the enthusiasm on one short moment – now. They use the word ‘hype’ to refer to “unrealistic, unattainable expectations.”
Similarly, we’re all in long-distance relationships because we have expectations for the future. We have a goal, a dream, a reason to persevere, and eventually, an end game. Our expectations guide and drive us to the end. But over-hyping things can limit the benefits of a relationship. Hype can detract from the connection that you have deep-down. It can get in the way of your final destination.
How to Set Yourself Up for a Meaningful Conversation
So how do you avoid over-hyping your video chats or phone calls with your partner and still keep your eye on the prize? Find a system that works for you. And in case you haven’t noticed, a system usually means organizing a plan.
You can always keep a little room in your life for spontaneity, but you also need some type of schedule. Knowing what time you’ll talk that day can take a lot of stress out of the other things in your day, so you don’t have to wonder when the phone is going to ring.
You can even plan what general topics you will talk about. Before you write me off as nerdy, I can explain. Since Filip and I run a business together, it’s easy to find ourselves spending all our time talking shop and making plans. Sometimes that gets in the way of discussing normal things, laughing, and hanging out. So we started separating our calls into two. Early in the day, we make a business call; later in the evening, we talk about us.
In every long-distance relationship, you’ll have to talk about some heavy stuff. Where do you see us in the future? Are you happy? What are your goals in life? But you also need to have fun, learn each other’s quirks, and share small moments of happiness. It’s totally fine to decide ahead of time that you’ll just enjoy yourselves one night and talk about serious stuff the next day.
Put Yourself in a “Real-World” Setting
As a language teacher, I believe in putting my students in a natural environment where they feel comfortable learning and practicing English. How can someone learn to function in the real world if nothing in the room represents what they’re trying to reach?
Long-distance relationships are no different. If you were with each other in person you’d have a drink at the bar, go for a hike, and make dinner. But when you’re far away, all the pressure is on the conversation. Many couples who’ve submitted here have told us how they share activities through video chat. Instead of sitting on a chair staring at the wall, they’re both eating breakfast, doing yoga, going for a walk, or jerking off together.
When you share an activity, topics are bound to pop out at you and you’ll be much more likely to think of what to talk about in your long-distance relationship. But even so, there are still moments with no flashing lights, exciting hobbies, or any other distractions. When you can still have a conversation in these moments, you’re building something powerful together.
When All the Glitter Is Gone
Topics to Talk About in a Long-Distance Relationship
If you’re older than 2nd grade, you’ve probably outgrown topics like favorite colors and favorite animals. Since you’re looking for something a bit more advanced, I’ll break my conversation topics into two groups:
1. Fun, random, and unique conversation starters
2. Digging deeper to stretch your mind
1. Fun, Random, and Unique Conversation Starters for Long Distance Relationships
Role models and influential people in your life
Ask about your partner’s friends, past and present.
Myths and legends from your country’s history
Jane Goodall (Why not? She’s a badass.)
National parks you want to visit
2. Digging Deeper: Conversation Topics That Stretch Your Mind
Books: A great way to start a conversation is by reading the same thing. Sonja, a relationship coach who submitted her story to our site, said that she and her partner both read the same book. They talk about what inspired or interested them in their mini book club.
Articles and Podcasts: Reading news articles and listening to podcasts is another perfect conversation starter. Discussing a common article can bring up a lot of topics you never knew you needed to discuss. A solid way to find a variety of topics is by looking at the Opinions, Culture, and Lifestyle sections of well-stocked magazines and news sites. My top favorites are:
Black Lives Matter: One of the most important topics you can discuss right now is the huge civil rights movement that is happening everywhere. Whether you’re from the US or not, you’ve heard of George Floyd’s murder. If you didn’t know about the plague of systemic racism we have in our country, you’re learning about it now. To educate yourself, there are books and even free zines you can read for personal education. Here are two suggestions:
“Me and White Supremacy” by Layla Saad – More like a workbook, this is designed as a resource to make your way through little by little, by examining your own life and the system we’re all a part of.
Sherwood Forest Zine Library – This free virtual zine library has made a special collection of zine PDFs about black resistance, policing, and activism how-tos.
Netflix has put together a special Black Lives Matter collection you can watch. Here are my recommendations:
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Dear White People
Time: The Kalief Browder Story
Opinions: Here is a list of specific topics that can be analyzed together:
How to make friends as an adult
Is marijuana healthy/should it be legal?
Is it okay to steal from a company that treats its employees badly?
Do millennials have it easier than baby boomers?
Should people start new relationships during the Coronavirus lockdown?
What are the positive and negative sides of globalism?
Can your perspective change reality?
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
It may feel a little strange when you can’t think of what to talk about in your long-distance relationship. But it’s totally okay not to say anything every once in a while. Sitting silently and enjoying the presence of another person is a great achievement.
At the same time, you’ll be with your partner for many years to come so you’ll need to master the art of conversation for your long and happy future together.
If you try these suggestions, please let us know how it worked out for you. And feel free to contribute any other ideas you can add. We are always looking for submissions from couples in long-distance relationships, so let us know if you want to be featured on our website.