Anthony Lionel Alex knows his girlfriend, Nia Imani Williams, pauses a lot when she speaks.
When the couple, who are now in a long-distance relationship, are together, it's easy for Alex to pick up on Williams' physical cues.
"In person I can tell when she's done," Alex said. "But over the phone it's like trying to come in on the right part of a song. You don't know when to come in."
Alex and Williams are one Southeast Texas couple trying to navigate being together while being apart. In today's world, technology makes keeping touch in long distance relationships easier than ever, but that doesn't mean there aren't hiccups.
There's just nothing quite like being in the same place. Local couples know that. In the meantime, they take comfort in knowing their significant others are just on the other side of a FaceTime call.
Appreciating Tech Kristen Tran and her boyfriend Jon Domingue quickly learned the value of technology.
When Domingue, a Marine, went to boot camp, his phone communication with Tran was heavily regulated.
"The entire time, letters were all we relied on," Tran said.
Going old school helped. Tran even began using the Sandboxx app, which gets letters to military personnel faster by having them printed closer to where the person is stationed.
When they were able to text and video chat again, Tran was ecstatic.
"It's definitely come a long way from that," Tran said. "Because of all the steps we've taken from boot camp, I'm really thankful for where we're at now."
When Williams and Alex started doing distance, they had to rely on web-based services.
"I eventually got an iPhone and then we were able to FaceTime," Williams said. "That's way more convenient."
Lauren Malmay, whose boyfriend Chris Hagner lives in Minnesota, said she's not sure she'd be able to do a long-distance relationship without modern technology.
Malmay said she and Hagner text, Snapchat, tweet and share photos on Instagram throughout the day.
"We have so many things to talk about," Malmay said, and technology lets them do that.
All About Communication Malmay and Tran said one key to long-distance relationship success is knowing where you stand when you start and keeping up with each other's daily lives while you're apart.
While technology breaks down a lot of barriers, it can also add them.
Alex and Williams said it has taken a while to get into a routine.
"I have to put forth the effort to communicate even more now," Alex said.
Getting on the phone doesn't solve all communication problems.
To communicate well, we need to see how others react to what we're saying, says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. "This kind of synchronicity of communication," he says, is very important and something romantic partners expect.
When communication with your partner happens over typed messaging, phone conversations and grainy video calls, and that vital information is lost, a partner can easily seem inattentive or out of sync.
Alex said this comes up for him a lot over phone calls and lagging video chats.
"When it's face-to-face conversation, I can tell when she wants to speak and when she's done speaking, but with a phone call it becomes very hard to gauge that," Alex said.
Malmay said for her and Hagner it's about finding little ways to let each other know they care even if there are missteps during communication.
Taking just a few seconds to send a "Hey, I'm thinking about you," text can go a long way.
Keeping It (Sort of) Normal Tran said when they lived in the same place, Domingue would show her he cared by doing things for her.
"Doing whatever he can to make life easier for me was his main way of showing his affections," Tran said.
That's something he can't do while they're apart. But the couple tries to keep things as normal as they can.
They hit play on Netflix shows at the same time so they can watch them together or just connect while doing different things.
"Just having the comfort of him being on the line is nice," Tran said. "Just knowing that his presence is there is comforting enough."
Alex said he's watched movies with Williams over video chats.
"I had to finesse the angle of the TV and the phone," Alex said.
Malmay said she tries to do the same things. Nightly FaceTime chats are more like hangouts with Hagner and they can go on for hours, as if they were in the same place.
But that's not to say every conversation is highly interesting. Sometimes, the couples talk about things like running errands or their college workload.
Cait Lamberton, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh who studies online behavior and decision-making, said it's important to keep asking those questions about day-to-day happenings.
If you'll be making occasional visits to see each other in person, don't just stay in weekend vacation mode, says Galena Rhoades, associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver. Make sure you see your partner in various settings, like at work and with new friends, to know more about their daily life.
While no one really likes long-distance, Tran said doing it has given her an appreciation for when she is in the same place as Domingue.
"It's not gonna be easy at all and it's definitely going to require both people to really work hard together," Tran said. "But it's all worth it in the end when you're able to be together again, even if it's just for a bit."
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