For the nine months that my husband and I were apart during our courtship and engagement, my nightly routine was always the same: I'd get all ready for bed, grab the phone, and curl up under a pile of blankets for an evening chat with my sweetheart. The nighttime chats helped us feel closer together, and I went to sleep each night with the things we'd discussed fresh on my mind.

Trying to keep your relationship strong and healthy while you're far away from your partner can be difficult. Without the ability to show love through touch, or bond through shared activities, it's easy to feel like the challenging aspects of your relationship are thrown into sharp focus.

If you're wondering how to make your long-distance relationship work, don't forget these tips:

Work on communication skills

When you're spending time with your partner in person, you have a wealth of nonverbal resources to fall back on. The ability to touch each other and to read facial expressions and observe body language goes far in helping the two of you to stay on the same page.

In a long-distance relationship, however, you're left with only one form of communication: Talking. Although online video chats can give you the chance to have eye contact with your partner and catch some of their facial expressions, you're still forced to rely largely on your conversation skills.

Good communication is essential in any relationship, but in a long-distance relationship, it's crucial. Take this time to work on improving your communication skills. Do you and your partner struggle to have meaningful conversations? Do you have a tendency to try to talk over your partner, or monopolize your chats with your own stories? Does she get impatient when you try to express your opinion? Do the two of you tend to ignore potential problems, rather than talking them through and finding resolution?

Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to communication, and set a goal with your partner to work on improving the areas where each of you fall short. Make a goal to really listen to your partner when he's talking, and encourage him to share with you what is going on in his day-to-day life. Not only will the communication skills you learn help your long-distance relationship now, but they will ensure that your relationship remains strong and loving once you're back together.

Take advantage of technology

During our long-distance engagement, my husband became known among his co-workers as "the man who virtually dated his wife." In an effort to stay close during our time apart, my husband and I took advantage of all the technology we had, using the telephone, social media, e-mail, text messages, and instant messaging to keep in frequent contact throughout the day.

So much technology is available today that can help you and your partner stay in close contact - despite the distance. Most computers and many cell phones and other personal devices are equipped to support face-to-face Web chatting. The ability to see each other can help bring an extra level of love and connection to your conversations, as well as opening up wonderful possibilities for your interaction. One friend of mine even had weekly video chat date nights with her fiancé in which they would each dress up and plan activities according to a predetermined date night theme.

Be creative in your use of technology, and you might just find that you and your partner feel closer than ever!

Remember compassion

When dealing with the stress and frustration of a long-distance relationship, it can be very easy to find yourself becoming irritated with your partner on a regular basis. Because a long-distance relationship takes more work and offers less of an immediate reward than being with your partner in person, it can sometimes feel like her quirks and idiosyncrasies are brought to the fore.

Long-distance relationships can also become difficult when one or both partners are very busy or have a lot to deal with in their day-to-day lives. It's easy to feel like your partner is either demanding too much of your time and energy, or not giving you the love and attention that you need. Balancing the needs of your relationship with the needs of the rest of your life can be particularly hard when the two of you are far away, handling separate responsibilities.

A long-distance relationship is a time when compassion becomes especially important. Remind yourself often of the things that you love about your partner and the reasons you've chosen to be with them. Recognize that your own faults are probably magnified by the distance as well, and understand that your partner is extending compassion to you, too.

Get to know each other through conversation

Use this time apart to focus on having great conversations with your partner. Discuss your plans for the future, and share with each other your goals and hopes for your relationship. If you're engaged or planning marriage, exchange views on things like parenting, division of household responsibilities, and how to celebrate holidays.

If you're having trouble getting a conversation started, look for inspiration! Find a book of conversation starters for couples, or do a Web search to give you ideas for topics to bring up with your partner. Make a goal to grow closer to each other through conversation as you spend your time apart.

Make your partner a priority

When you're in a long-distance relationship, it can sometimes feel like your relationship isn't really a part of your "real life" - the activities and responsibilities that make up your days. Make sure that, despite the distance, you are still making your partner, and your relationship, a priority.

Although helping a long-distance relationship to thrive is tough, it can also be one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do. By the time you're back together, you might just find that your relationship is stronger than ever!

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