Couples embark on long distance relationships for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes one of you needs to move for a better job, or it might be a matter of necessity because one of you needs to look after a relative. Often long distance relationships start because you already lived in different places when you met. Whatever the reason for living apart, it’s no secret that long-distance relationships can come with difficulties. What’s less understood are the ways in which these difficulties can affect your relationship.
What kind of problems might arise in a long distance relationship?
In any long-term relationship having the chance to spend quality time together helps build your connection. This can mean planning nice things to do together, like days out or date nights, but it can also be the little things that you might take for granted: a cup of tea in the morning or a shared joke with friends.
Without getting to experience these things regularly it can be easy to begin to feel disconnected as a couple. Relationships aren’t always self-sustaining – they need nourishment to stay strong. These little interactions – although we may not always realize it at the time – give our relationships this nourishment, and make them more resilient to inevitable challenges. Without the chance to regularly check in with our partner we can begin to feel less close to them. You probably will be facing these problems:
#1: Getting stuck in a rut
Do you ever struggle to find things to talk about with your long distance love? Have you every felt heartsick with longing to be with your partner, but feel like you just have the same-old tired conversations over and over again when you get on the phone?
This is one of the most common long distance relationship problems. These sorts of “dry periods” are normal in long distance relationships, but that doesn’t make them any less depressing and frustrating.
#2: Stalling in life
Do you find yourself moping around all the time–thinking about how much you’re missing your partner–while you wait until your next skype call or visit?
Do you feel as if the rest of your life is on hold until you can be together?
Does it seem like too much effort to go out with friends or do something by yourself?
When you’re in a long distance relationship, it’s alarmingly easy to allow important things in life—family, friendships, hobbies, exercise—to stall. But this will only make you more depressed in the short term, and hurt you in the long run.
#3: Neglecting other important relationships
Are you spending all your spare time on your phone or computer? If you focus all your free time and energy on your long distance love, your relationships with those close to you will suffer. In a nutshell: this is bad news.
You will be happier and healthier if you have a strong network of friends beyond your partner. To do that, you need to spend time connecting with them.
#4: Growing apart
When your love moves far away and some aspects of your relationship pause or slow down, the rest of life continues. You don’t stop learning and growing and changing just because the person you love isn’t there every day. Neither do they. You are both accumulating experiences. Some of these experiences will change you.
When you’re in a long distance relationship it can be harder to identify ways in which your partner is changing and track with them through that process.
The reverse is also true.
No matter how much you love each other, there is a real chance that a slow drift during your time apart will cause you to grow away from each other in ways that frequent flier miles cannot fix.
#5: Getting too tired or lazy to talk well
Couples in long distance relationships often speak about how the distance has actually helped them learn to communicate well and at a very deep level. However, the opposite can also be true. Distance can also enable poor communication patterns to become established.
For starters, especially when one or both of you are busy, it can become easy not to invest in connecting deeply with your partner. In-depth conversations can become fewer and farther in between. It can become habitual to mostly talk about how your day was, or keep the conversation fairly superficial and brief.
Feeling a little jealous now and again is not unusual in a relationship, particularly when you are separated from your loved one. A little jealousy can even spark fresh attraction and a new appreciation for your partner.
However, while a single candle can illuminate a room, a blaze can burn it to the ground.
Uncontrolled jealousy can lead to a destructive combination of suspicion, possessiveness, insecurity, anger, and shame. If you’re feeling jealous, it’s a good idea to figure out how to control your jealousy before it starts to control you.
#7: Jumping in the deep end
Growing apart is a particular pitfall for couples that were established before they started doing long distance. Couples who start their relationship across distance face almost the opposite problem—the temptation to become too emotionally intimate, too quickly.
In some ways, getting to know someone via email and phone calls can help your relationship. When there’s nothing to build your relationship on but words, you can get to know someone’s heart and mind at a very deep level, quite quickly.
On the other hand, falling in love long distance is a risky business. When you start dating someone you’ve never met in person, it’s very easy to assume that they possess all sorts of charming qualities. It’s easy to believe that they are “perfect” for you. It’s way too easy to move too fast in your head and your heart and to make serious commitments before you’ve ever met.
Miscommunications and misunderstandings happen frequently in relationships. They happen when you share the same house with someone. They happen even more frequently when you’re miles apart and sharing life via emails or a phone line.
When you’re in a long distance relationship it is much harder to access nonverbal cues like gestures, body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and even voice tone. This makes effective communication harder.
“My boyfriend hasn’t answered my calls or texts for three days now. I don’t know what I did wrong. What should I do?”
That, my friends, is stonewalling. It is using silence as a weapon or an escape. It is controlling the situation by simply refusing to engage. Distance makes this particularly easy to do, and it can drive your long distance partner crazy with frustration, second-guessing, and self-doubt.
#10: Becoming possessive
If stonewalling is controlling someone by holding them at a distance, becoming possessive is trying to control someone by grasping at them too tightly. Distance can make it harder to trust and easier for jealousy and insecurity to run rampant. This combination often fuels possessive and controlling behavior.
Do you want the good news? Here it is: Several research studies have concluded that cheating does not occur more often in long distance relationships.
Now, here’s the bad news: Cheating is not uncommon in relationships (whether same-city or long distance). Lying and cheating happen in relationships, and distance makes deceit easier to hide, for longer.
How do you make a long distance relationship work?
The honest answer is that, in some cases, it may not. Some couples find the challenges presented by being in a long distance relationship are too great – and that, if they’re to survive, they need to think of a different way forward. However, this isn’t always the case. Some couples do manage to sustain their connection – but it almost always takes a lot of extra work. It’s important that you have a couple tips and tricks up your sleeve to make a long-distance relationship work. Here are some of them:
#1: Avoid excessive communication
It’s essential that even when you’re living in different cities or counties that you continue as usual. If you only spoke on the phone once a day before, continue doing that. If you spoke throughout the day, do that. It’s important that long distance doesn’t add an extra element of pressure to your days. You’re only going to exhaust yourselves.
#2: But do communicate regularly and Effectively
Be conscious of how you do communicate. Greet each other each morning and night. Update each other on the moments, the highs and lows, of your lives. Technology has made this all so much easier. A few years ago, you might have had to write letters to one another. Now you can text, email, send videos and voice notes, and voice chat. All of that will make you feel like you’re in the room with your partner, even though they might be on the other side of the world.
#3: Talk dirty to each other
Your feelings of desire toward your partner are what will keep your relationship alive. It’s important that you fan the flames of your desire by keeping things interesting. And not much will fan those flames more than sending dirty texts. You could explain in detail what you’d like to do to them the next time you see each other. You could tell them how you’re fantasizing about them while using sex toys. And then, when you next see one another, you can demonstrate exactly how that looked.
#4: Avoid "tempting" situations
There are some situations which might just end up with you doing something you shouldn’t. This might be a seemingly casual trip to a nearby bar after work with colleagues. Be sure to tell your partner your plans so they don’t hear about it later and wonder why you didn’t mention it. Or it might be a more intentional slip-up like hanging out with your office crush or meeting up with a former fling. Those are both very tempting situations. And long distance could be the thing that makes these that much more difficult to avoid.
#5: Do things at the same time
Recommend books and movies, music and videos to one another. Watching and listening to things at the same time will give you different topics to discuss. Keeping the conversation going is essential to keep you both interested in one another. And this creates common interests and experiences even though you’re living apart.
#6: Make visits to each other
Visits are the highlight of every long-distance relationship. And another way to make this even more thrilling is to always meet up somewhere new and exotic. Let’s say one of you is living in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg. Meet up in Durban or somewhere along the Garden Route. You’ll be able to enjoy the planning process and discuss your feelings of excitement during the lead-up to the trip. And afterwards, you’ll be able to reminisce about how special and memorable your time together was. Not just because you (finally) were able to see each other. But also because you were able to experience something new together.
What if it’s too hard?
Long distance relationships aren’t for everyone. Although it can be painful to accept, sometimes, it may come down to choosing what’s more important: the reason you’re living apart or the relationship itself?
This might come about because you’re both finding things too hard – or because one of you is. Both are equally valid. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a compromise – it might be that you agree to set a time limit on how long the distance will continue. Or you could try to think about ways that you could continue at a distance, but adjust how you do things: speaking more regularly, or even trying to lessen how far apart you are by changing your living situation.
However, it is important you’re making these decisions together, as otherwise the potential for someone to feel hurt or let down can be very high indeed.