It would be a lie to claim long distance relationships are for everyone.
In saying that, there are certain ways to make long distance relationships easier.
What is it like to be in a long distance relationship?
It’s not the easiest of things, let’s be clear.
Try to imagine, for a moment, the absence of your closest friend. You and your best friend are connected at the hip. Both of you share common interests, beliefs, and the same sense of humour. There is a love between you like no other friendship you share.
So, you two have been together all day, and now you must say goodbye. But you’re not sure how long it will be until you see them again. In fact, you’re not even sure you will still be speaking if too much time passes. Especially without seeing each other in person.
It is essentially parting ways with your best friend, and feeling an overall sensation of detachment settling over you. You know there’s a basis of a solid friendship, yet the minute you aren’t face-to-face anymore, the experience wears off. In that moment, you slowly lose touch with what it means to be together.
Long distance requires your strength and perseverance. You run on the belief that you’ll see each other again, sooner rather than later. It takes a certain commitment to the belief in a positive outcome. The idea of overcoming long distance in the future shines as a beacon for why you ARE doing this!
So, why are long distance relationships so hard?
The biggest factor competing with the strength of your long distance relationship is.. the distance! A lack of physical proximity to your love-interest can be at odds with the idea of what constitutes a ‘relationship’.
Distance in any relationship is a complex thing. Your situation may be that you see your partner every day, yet feel emotionally distant. Distance, manifested in the physical sense, then compounds your emotional dissonance. The inability to touch or see your partner frequently, as usual in a normal relationship, can play havoc on your emotions.
You may come up against invisible barriers which make it harder to connect and communicate openly. Lacking the ability to read visual cues and body language makes it hard to bring up an issue that is on your mind.
Challenges you may come up against in a long distance relationship
There are many long distance relationship struggles a couple may face when dating in this manner. Challenges come in the form of emotional, financial, mental, physical.
Some major challenges to overcome include:
The first few months apart can be light-hearted as you’re still getting to know each other. Infatuation helps keep you feeling secure in what you have. But beyond infatuation, as you begin to settle in, jealousy and trust issues can arise. It’s advisable that you use social media with a grain of salt. Maintaining trust in your connection helps reinforce messages of security. Honest communication creates space for intimacy, leading to better trust in your partner’s ability to comfort. Show up daily, and be trustworthy with time, words, and confidential matters. Trust in your partner’s words and actions and their ability to satisfy your needs.
This comes in the form of boundaries. For example, if your partner has to wake up early for work, respect their need to get to bed early. Try to avoid having heavy conversations that will keep them up. Respect their need for rest, and resolve to talk about what’s on your mind tomorrow. Use the alone time to decompress and chill out, and recognise, having space is a great gift to explore your talents and passions.
The simple fact that you rely on text messages, phone calls and video chats limits your means of communicating strongly. Texting is difficult because your tone of voice and true emotion isn’t easily readable on a screen. So any disagreement you may have is compounded by the fact that you can’t know for sure what your partner is thinking or what their words meant. Also, things like inside jokes become hard to interpret as your language skills may be limited.
This ties in with trust. If you agree to have a phone conversation at a certain time (because scheduling time to speak in a long distance relationship is a real thing!), stick to the plan. If you can’t make it due to unforeseen circumstances, tell your partner. Or, If you can’t tell them straight away, apologise for the late notice when you do get on to them. When something fails to happen, don’t be flaky or lazy and let it be a bore. Hold yourself accountable to set things in motion and get the ball rolling. Long distance requires accountability, or else nothing would ever come of it! Use the momentum to propel your relationship closer to your end goal.
It’s very easy to lose your cool when you think the worst of your long distance partner. Intrusive thoughts such as, ‘”They’re never here to talk when I need them,” “I bet they’re enjoying their alone time away from me,” “Why haven’t they got back to me yet? It’s been twenty-four hours,” etc. can put a damper on your experience of a loving relationship. Expecting the worst is no way to be, so cut yourself (and your partner) some slack and leave your expectations and judgement elsewhere. The whole premise of dating long distance is enough to cause strain, so do yourself a favour and reduce any other strain where you can. You can do this by remaining calm, taking a few deep breaths, and remembering why you are doing this.
With yourself and your partner. Sometimes you’ll fear that talking about your emotions will mean losing your relationship. That an upset partner will mean poor communication, arguing, and ultimately the end of the relationship. Struggling to tell your partner how you feel can become a strenuous task. But the best thing you can do for your relationship is to be honest. Clearly communicating any issues you are experiencing in the relationship can be a great way to connect. By highlighting issues where you’re struggling, your partner knows how to better be there for you and help you work through it. Honesty provides a stable ground on which to share your deepest worries, knowing they will be met with compassion.
Comparing your partner to someone ‘better’
It’s so easy to say “If I was dating someone else, I wouldn’t have these problems.” True, you may no longer have the problems of your current relationship, but every relationship has inherent problems. Just of a different variety to your ex, current, or future partner. By choosing your partner, you are saying yes to dealing with the issues at hand. Accepting your partner for all the good about them helps to deal with concerns as they arise. Highlight the positives, and you will minimise the negatives. You just need to change your perspective.
How to Know if a Long Distance Relationship is Worth it?
I really believe this is a question you must look at subjectively.
For me, the question is much larger than “why does this hurt now?” Well – of course – it hurts because you can’t be with someone you’re very much in love with as often as you’d like.
But on a larger scale, are you committed to what you’re doing? Have you agreed to enter into the relationship on the proviso you’re both working to be together (if that is your ultimate goal)?
If you are committed to seeing success come of your long distance love, you will find a way to make it work. All of the challenges you come up against, all of the moments that beg your patience, all of the times you feel like quitting – ask yourself if you have more left in the tank (often you will).
When it stops being ‘worth it’, only you know. It remains worth it as long as you believe it so.
It helps to know what your lives will look like when you overcome the distance. Using this as a touch point to reflect on how far you’ve come together and how much further you may need to go, keeps it in perspective.
If you’re able to keep moving forward and putting in the work to keep the love alive, do it. Every relationship requires work, plain and simple. No matter what kind. And the commitment to making it a success is all you need to work toward. The sooner you accept this, the better and easier your love-life will be. Do the work now, and reap the benefit of a stronger relationship later.
How you Know a Long Distance Relationship is Over?
These are some factors to consider if you believe that time is up on your relationship:
You feel communication is a one way street.
If it becomes progressively harder to keep in contact or make your partner a priority, you may wish to reconsider.
You see each other less frequently.
Perhaps it was a lot easier in the beginning while infatuation was present, but now the hard task of going the distance has sunk in. If financial woes, taking time off work, failure to stick to plans or arrange the next visit becomes standard, you may wish to reconsider.
The joy is no longer present.
Remember that overwhelming joy you felt in the beginning of the relationship? Where is it? If every ounce of it has been sucked from the relationship, can it be recovered? If you can’t remember what your relationship looked like at it’s happiest (as in, it no longer resembles you as a couple), you may wish to reconsider.
You have negative thoughts about your partner as a person.
If you look at your partner with disdain, or see them as a burden rather than a blessing, this is a red flag. A couple in love should always be able to find more positives than negatives in their partner. In fact, 5 positive interactions to one negative is needed to make love last. If you have trouble meeting this ratio, you may wish to reconsider.
These are but a handful of identifiers signalling healthy or tired long distance relationships. While each relationship is specific to the couple, the premise of long distance requires a different set of skills.
You will encounter hardship of many varieties over the course of a long distance stint. It is how you deal with these that ultimately guarantees your success or failure in the relationship.
Developing a coping skills toolbox in your relationship will save you hours of heartache. I will be adding resources and articles on relationships and long distance in the future in regards to coping mechanisms.