Long distance relationships get a bad rap, but they’re actually very common and frequently do work out. If you’re worried that your relationship isn’t working, ask yourself how you feel about your partner and how you feel about the distance between you. If you feel loved and trusted, and if you have a plan with your partner, your relationship should be in good shape. On the other hand, if you feel guilty, stuck, or blown off, your relationship might need to end.
Noticing Encouraging Signs
Check in with your feelings. If a long distance relationship is working, you should feel as much or more trust and satisfaction as people in geographically convenient partnerships. Think of your partner. If you get a warm, thrilling feeling, that’s a good sign. Some other questions you can ask yourself to check on your feelings include:
Am I happy?
Do I feel fulfilled and supported by this relationship?
Do I feel listened to, cared about, trusting, and open?
Consider your communication style. Is it a pleasure to talk to your partner? Do you love sharing details of your day? Do you love hearing details of your partner’s day? All of these are good signs that you are actively building a loving relationship.
Is your conversation affectionate? Do you tell your partner what you appreciate about them, and do they do the same for you? Every time you share appreciation you are building your attachment.
Try doing video chats over Skype or FaceTime so you can still have face-to-face quality time with each other.
Ask yourself how you’re handling the long distance intimacy. How are your conversations about physical intimacy? Couples in long distance relationships often have better communication about sex than couples who live nearby. If you have frank, happy conversations about the things that you like and don’t like, you’re building a healthy sex life.
Can you have conversations about things you remember doing together? Things you haven’t tried yet, but would like too? If you both feel free and comfortable sharing fantasies and desires, that’s a great sign.
Conversely, if you feel like you can’t talk about sexual things, or if one of you is always demanding photos and messages that the other isn’t comfortable with, your relationship might not be working out.
Examine the trust you share. Long distance relationships only work with great degrees of trust. In fact, the best long distance relationships have a stronger element of trust than other relationships. Being long distance means you can’t check out one another’s stories. You have to take your partner at their word.
Ask yourself: Do you trust your partner? Do you feel like your partner trusts you?
Watching Out for Red Flags
Watch out for controlling behavior. If your partner doesn’t take you at your word, that’s a bad sign. If they frequently get mad at you for not answering your phone or texting them back quickly enough, they may be trying to control you. Watch out for phrases like “I’m checking in on you” or “I don’t want you hanging out with someone I don’t trust.”
Similarly, if you are feeling distrustful or controlling, you may want to back off.
Notice if the relationship demands too much of your time. In an unhealthy relationship, one partner often tries to control the other by insisting on a greater time-commitment than is actually enjoyable or practical.
Ask yourself: Does your partner insist on more of your time than you want?
Do you feel like you “have to” visit every weekend?
Does talking and texting with your partner interfere with your social life? If you try to negotiate this, what happens?
If you mention to your partner that you are feeling pressured to always be on call, your partner should respond by asking you what schedule you would prefer.
If your partner responds by getting angry or cold, you should take that as a sign that your relationship is not working out.
Check in when you visit. Does it feel wonderful to see them? It may be awkward at first, but after a day or so, do you settle in? Can you still talk about all the things you talk about when you’re at a distance?
Meet their friends and family. Your partner should want to introduce you to some of their friends. Make sure that their friends know who you are and are friendly towards you.
If anyone acts nervous around you, or if nobody seems to have heard of you, something might be going on.
When your partner visits, are you proud of them? Do you want to introduce them to the people in your life? You should be pleased to bring your sweetheart into your community—if you aren’t, that might mean you aren’t that into them.
Take your bad feelings seriously. Do you feel trapped, or stuck? Do you feel guilty for not thinking about your partner all the time? This may mean your relationship is not working.
Making a Plan
Decide how long you can handle being in a long distance relationship. Do you know how long you are willing to be long distance? Does your partner know? It is important to agree on a length of time. If the distance depends on a circumstance with no certain end date, your reunion may keep getting pushed off. Make sure that you discuss the financial aspects of maintaining your relationship with your partner as well. Being in a long distance relationship can be expensive, especially if you travel often to see your partner.
If your partner is waiting for a controlling parent to “back off,” that means neither of you have any control over the date.
Similarly, if you are waiting for a job to open up in your partner’s city, you may be stuck waiting with no date in sight.
To avoid this, agree on a date by which you will either move (with or without the job) or break up.
For instance, you might say “I’ll move to your city as soon as I find a job there. However, if I haven’t found one in the next six months, I’ll just move and take my chances.” However, make sure that you have a conversation about finances before doing something like this to make sure that one partner is able to support the other as they look for a job.
If you are planning to be in a perpetually distant relationship, make sure you are both okay with that.
Keep a communication schedule that works for both of you. You should both feel comfortable with the amount of texting, calling, emailing, and visiting you do. Ask your partner if they feel you’re at the right level, and ask yourself how you feel as well.
If you find that one of you is feeling neglected or inundated, agree on a different schedule together.
If it feels like only one of you is willing to compromise, your relationship might not be working.
Make sure you can both maintain a social life. You should still be able to hang out with friends, visit family, go to parties, and have time to yourself. If you feel like your long distance relationship is making it impossible for you to have a social life where you are, you need to draw some boundaries.
Tell your partner you can’t visit them as frequently. Explain that you are feeling lonely from never making any friends where you are.
Explain to your partner that you will schedule a certain amount of time to talk to them, but that you can’t be on call constantly.
If your partner freaks out or refuses, your relationship might not be working.
Clarify your expectations. Do you know the terms of your relationship? Does your partner? Ask yourself what you expect, then make this clear to your partner and ask what they expect as well.
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