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Long-distance relationships can be challenging enough when entered into by choice, and even more frustrating when imposed by external circumstances. With the global pandemic and many cities having undergone quarantine and lockdowns, many have found themselves in long-distance relationships for the first time or at least the first time in a while. Some of us might even have considered ourselves professionals in such romantic relationships long before the pandemic. Between college romances and living in the Caribbean as an expatriate, I’ve had quite my share of both excruciating and highly rewarding long-distance relationships.

While much advice exists on how to navigate these types of relationships, I’ve found that it’s best to just focus on the five senses and how to keep the connection even when you are not able to be around your partner as much as you’d like. Yes, the five senses are the key to a happy relationship in person and even more so when there is some distance between the two of you. Here are some keys on how to use your senses to keep your distant love ablaze.

Sight: In your sight, in your mind

This goes without saying, of course. One of the most helpful keys to a long-distance relationship involves holding the faith and vision of togetherness in your mind as well as surrounding yourself with images of your partner. Photos, especially of the two of you together, are great to place physically in your home and workspace and perhaps even as the wallpaper or lock screen on your phone. Continue to show love on each other’s social media posts if you choose to follow each other. Revisiting photos and videos of when you were together, in the same place, is also helpful, as long as you allow yourself to live in the present and create new memories there as well. We are in the FaceTime and Zoom age so it’s nothing to see your sweetie’s face in real-time at any given moment. However, remember to get creative with how you keep your partner in sight and in mind during those in-between times. And yes, selfies still matter, and risque photos are always appreciated. Just do what comes naturally to you both.

Sound: Smile with your heart

Sound plays such a vital role in relationships, and even more so in long-distance ones. From the sound of your lover’s voice to the deeply rooted association of your favorite songs, your ears can play a major role in keeping love alive. One of my all-time favorite long-distance relationship exchanges is a custom playlist. My partner and I would make them for each other all the time, sometimes with a specific theme or purpose and sometimes for no other reason than to share love and express feelings. There’s nothing like having a little piece of your partner’s heart in your ears in the form of music. Learn to appreciate all the little sounds as well. Laughter, for example. Instead of getting annoyed if they fell asleep on the phone, take a second to appreciate their deep breathing. There is so much you can learn to appreciate about your partner or share with them to make your time together and apart sound like heaven on earth.

Scent: Set the tone, spark a memory

It’s no secret that scent plays a huge part in our memory retention and how we process emotions. Keep your space inviting with candles, incense, or your fragrance of choice, preserving the atmosphere of fire and desire you would experience when your partner is around. Don’t wait for those special days when you will be together again. Maintain your signature scent and even spray or rub it on your letters, cards, and care packages. Hold on to those hoodies and T-shirts and think twice about washing them, allowing yourself to savor your partner’s natural scent and/or cologne, even if for just a few days. When you and your partner do get to spend time together, pause to soak in the entire scene, including the scents. You will appreciate the smell of fresh-baked cookies at the cafe and the saltwater air of the beach even more when you can recall times you spent together in those spaces.

Taste: Add some flavor to the mix

Order in from your favorite restaurants if you have one, or research new dishes or spots you would like to try when you’re finally in the same space again. One of the most challenging aspects of a long-distance relationship was motivating myself to cook for one when I was so used to cooking for two. I would let the distance inspire me to learn new recipes and perfect meals I knew I could improve on. You can also surprise your significant other with a special delivery of their favorite food, and most apps have a gift feature to add a personal touch. In college, I never got tired of my long-distance boyfriend surprising me with a pizza. The little things go a long way. You can also keep the romance alive when your partner isn’t around by pampering yourself. Grab that chocolate at the check-out counter, take a moment to savor it, and be sure to describe the moment with your partner when you catch up for the day for some sensual bonding. You can also get creative with your virtual dates. Pick a cooking show to binge-watch and set up a FaceTime date where you both compete to see who can make the better version of a dish. By keeping your taste buds stimulated, you can keep your mind off those kisses you’ve probably been missing — at least for the moment.

Touch: Feel some type of way

Physical touch is one of the hardest elements to emulate in a long-distance relationship, especially if it is the love language of one or both partners. Besides incorporating tangible items such as photos in a picture frame or holding on to an item of clothing, there are a few other ways you can keep the warming effects of touch alive in a long-distance relationship. The most obvious choice is mutual or voyeuristic self-stimulation, again, enhanced by the video calling era. You don’t have to be a professional or OnlyFans expert to create meaningful experiences for you and your partner to emulate the ability to touch on one another. There are also a wide variety of toys and gadgets designed for long-distance partners, from vibrators that one partner can wear and the other can control, to stuffed animals designed to stimulate your partner’s cuddling style. Without dishing out tons of money or experimenting with new technology, you can keep items around that remind you of the intimacy of touch. Using satin sheets, soft linens, fuzzy pillows, and wearing your favorite fabric can keep your skin satisfied while missing your partner’s touch. You can also give the gift of touch literally by treating your partner to a deep massage from your favorite spa. Get creative and find ways to keep your hands busy and your epidermis soothed until you can touch all over your partner once again.

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