The Internet has had a major influence on how we begin, develop, maintain and end relationships. No longer limited by distance, we can be in contact with friends, family and lovers any time, from anywhere.

Whether it’s because you met online or because one partner has to move away or travel, couples can sometimes face long periods of time away from each other - even years. Such separation can be difficult and it often leads to the end of the relationship. After all, it’s hard to feel close to someone you can't touch. As a result, maintaining intimacy and sharing sexual pleasure may just be the most important elements of a long-distance relationship.

How can you spark things up when your partner is 1,000 miles away? Here are some ideas - both traditional and high-tech - to help you stay close to your lover even when you're far apart.

Internet-Enabled Sex Toys

The Web has given birth to many attempts at providing a realistic sexual experience for long-distance lovers. Are app-controlled sex toys the way of the future? As more and more people interact with others - and yes, their lovers too - through smartphones, we’ll find an increasing variety of app-controlled sex toys that can be used in long-distance situations. It can never replace skin-on-skin contact, but it's a fun substitute and a good way to keep the home fires burning.

Toys to Try: We-Vibe 4 Plus,OhMiBod blueMotion NEX 1 and NEX 2, We-Vibe Nova

Good, Old Love Letters

For describing intimate details and firing up the imagination, nothing comes close to a hand-written letter from your lover. Back in the days before email, couples in long-distance situations would exchange letters as a way to maintain intimacy.Think of letters as your own personal erotic novel. Couples can go on writing the same story for weeks at a time, switching points of view and exploring fantasies that would otherwise go unexpressed.

If you prefer the speed and convenience of email, it can be a lot of fun too, but there’s something special about reading dirty details from your lover’s own handwriting. And boy will you ever be hot for each other when you're finally reunited!

Sexting

It’s what the cool kids do! Seriously: They may just be on to something. Sexting is a great tool for long-distance relationships. Whether you use it to tease your partner in the middle of a meeting or to let them know you’re horny and ready for a more intimate session (whether real or virtual!), sexting is spontaneous, instantaneous and effective!

Sexting is great for a distraction at work (I’ve had day-long sexting sessions with my partner while we were both at the office) or to give your lover a taste of things to come.

However, before you start exchanging hundreds of sexts every day, make sure that it won’t incur any extra costs on your cell phone bill. There are many alternative texting apps you can use to avoid extra costs - because nothing cools the digital flames more than a big, fat phone bill. (Read: Yes, Sexting Has Benefits; Here Are 5 Awesome Things About Getting It On With Your Phone.)

Skype

When video chat became a free and practical option, long-distance couples gave a collective sigh. Finally, you could see your lover every day without the need for complicated setups or expensive data charges. Just start the app, turn on your camera, and let the fun unfold!

You don’t need a crazy imagination to figure out what’s possible with Skype (and other video chat apps). People have been watching other people do dirty things on camera for decades. (Check out some pro tips on how to work it in How to Be a Webcam Goddess.)

Phone Sex

Phone sex is a staple of long-distance intimacy. More modern than letters but more old-fashioned than Skype, phone encounters still have a magic all their own.

A bit like letters, phone sex lets you imagine scenarios and fantasies that may not happen in real life. It gives you control over your own pleasure without the risk of feeling self-conscious, and it gives you a chance to simply close your eyes and enjoy your lover’s voice (and vice versa).

You don’t need to be a phone sex expert to give your partner a good time; a few dirty words, an understanding of what your partner likes and a little imagination can take you much further than you think. (Find out how to turn up the heat in 10 Expert Tips for Phone Sex Beginners.)

Long Distance Loving

In this interconnected world, distance means less and less every time a better, faster technology is invented. But humans still need to feel close to each other to develop strong relationships. With these ideas, you can enjoy sexual play with your partner no matter the distance between you.