Long-distance relationships may often require additional effort to be successful — especially when challenges arise. But you can make it work.
Long-distance romance can present unique challenges and roadblocks.
How do these long-distance relationships work? The key might be in how you look for ways to make the distance work for your relationship, rather than working around it.
You can feel and stay connected with your partner by developing specific skills and strategies to manage these five common challenges:
When it comes to long-distance couples, your communication method may make a difference.
One 2018 study with 295 participants explored why text messages seem to lead to more misunderstandings than phone calls or in-person conversations.
Researchers found that arguments in text-message-based communication are more likely because these four reasons:
- a lack of nonverbal cues, such as facial expression or body language that gives context to the words
- the tendency to text when engaged in other activities
- how acronyms and punctuation are used, which can alter the meaning of some words
- technical difficulties that may interrupt the flow of conversations
All these reasons can make it easier to misread the intention behind messages, which could affect your interaction with your loved one. Language or cultural barriers may also play a role.
Strategies that can help with miscommunication
When miscommunications happen, you may find yourself reacting, rather than responding. This could spark arguments, create worry or anxiety in one or both partners, or even lead to saying things you may not mean.
If you find misunderstandings and arguments are a challenge in your long-distance romance, consider using text messages for casual contact only — for example, “I’m thinking about you” or “good night” type of messages.
Try to leave longer, heartfelt conversations and arguments for video calls or in-person time only.
If you want to improve communication with your partner in general, especially if you’re living apart, consider implementing these tips:
- When something upsets you, take time to respond to your partner, rather than reacting right away.
- Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand your partner’s intent.
- Cultivate patience, particularly when there’s a language or cultural barrier that may make it easier to misunderstand what the other person meant.
- Opt for being open and clear about how you feel without blaming your partner for your emotions.
- Talk about communication and how each of you prefers handling arguments and everyday contact.
As you and your partner grow as a long-distance couple, keeping the door open for honest dialogues can help promote a closer bond and prevent miscommunication moving forward.
Some challenges in long-distance relationships are often rooted in fear: Fear that the other person no longer cares, has met someone else, or is hiding things from you.
While it’s natural to feel these things from time to time, it’s important to check in with yourself and become aware of negative thinking patterns that might be fueling your fear.
Becoming aware of and working through some of your personal challenges may also help. For example:
- fear of abandonment
- impostor syndrome
- anxious attachment style
- dependent personality disorder
- codependent traits
- borderline personality disorder relationship cycle
Strategies that can help with fear
Open and clear communication can help you express how you feel and prevent fear-based behaviors.
If your partner needs you to be more precise with where you are and what you’re doing, consider making this concession. If you’re thinking of specific scenarios that make you feel insecure, try to let your partner know so they can clarify these situations.
You might also want to consider seeking the help of a mental health professional if you’re experiencing challenges like anxiety, trauma, or a personality disorder. They can help you develop specific skills that can make it easier to establish secure bonds. Getting your long-distance partner involved may also be a great bonding experience.
Maybe your partner lives in a different time zone and is getting ready for bed when you’re just starting your day. Maybe they work the first shift, while you work the third. Or perhaps one partner simply has a more jam-packed schedule than the other.
Whatever constraints exist in your long-distance relationship, time can create a variety of obstacles for couples living apart.
If busy or different schedules start to interfere with when, how, and how often you communicate with your partner, it can put a strain on the relationship. Becoming aware of the challenge can save your bond.
Strategies that can help with time constraints
Consider setting a schedule to help turn missed connections into quality “us” time.
Calendaring your love may not seem romantic, but it can help you prioritize your relationship and keep your romance alive.
Consider designating time for specific exchanges. This can give you and your partner the opportunity to become a part of one another’s regular routine, much like couples living in the same space often do.
For example, try to set up 15 minutes to have breakfast together while you share a video call. Consider setting up lunch or dinner or before-bed dates every night. This might require one or both of you to change a few things during your day, but it could be worth it if your romantic connection grows.
Maintaining physical or sexual intimacy can be hard when you’re living far apart — especially if you don’t see each other for weeks at a time.
If physical intimacy is important for one or both of you, not having it may create some tension in the relationship or make it more difficult to feel closer in the distance.
Strategies that can help with the lack of physical touch
Leaving in-person physical intimacy for those moments you see each other can make it particularly intense and rewarding.
If you are at that point in your relationship and you both agree and feel comfortable, you could fuel your physical connection and enjoy sexuality together in the distance by trying these activities:
- periodic phone sex or erotic conversations
- video sex
- erotic emails or text messages
You can also strengthen sexual intimacy by being open and honest about what you expect and how comfortable you are with some of these activities.
If you feel it’s difficult for you to engage in phone sex, for example, it’s important to let your partner know. You can both work on finding alternative ways to feel intimate together.
Being in a long-distance relationship sometimes means each of you participates in different activities, socializes with separate networks, and faces unique individual experiences.
It’s natural to feel apprehensive about growing apart when you’re in a long-distance relationship.
Even though you may still love one another, you might feel that your relationship no longer fits your needs and lifestyle.
If you’re still willing to work on the relationship, there are ways you can use these new experiences to your advantage.
Strategies that can help with separate lifestyles
You might want to consider that enriching your personal world can contribute to the relationship. You may now have more things to talk about and more opportunities to learn from each other.
It’s also important to consider having open and honest discussions about individual growth and how it can affect your relationship.
Expressing how you feel about the possibility of drifting apart can help you manage “growing pains.”
To use your individual growth to improve your long-distance relationship, consider these tips:
- spend time with each other’s network of friends whenever you see each other
- when together, visit each other’s places of work or study to familiarize yourselves with scenarios you talk about
- talk about how your individual experiences can impact your future couple goals
- give each other virtual tours of some of the activities and places you visit when apart
- share details about new activities you’re engaged in
- save time for each other so each of you knows you’re still a priority for the other person
- in addition to only describing them, talk about how you feel about your new experiences and how that impacts your personal goals and plans
Maintaining love in your long-distance romance is also about avoiding certain behaviors.
Consider steering clear of the following:
- bottling your emotions: Sharing how you feel keeps the lines of communication open between you and your partner, which can help you overcome challenges when they arise. If it’s hard for you to talk about emotions, consider writing them down and sending a letter or email instead.
- making accusations without evidence: Trust is a fundamental aspect of any relationship, but is especially important for long-distance relationships. Try to identify those thoughts and personal challenges that may lead you to make assumptions. Consider focusing on evidence only and asking for clarification when you have doubts.
- not enjoying the little moments: Try to find pleasure in everyday exchanges, whether you’re spending time together or apart. Living away can make you feel that you need grand gestures and exciting adventures all the time, but doing laundry or cooking together, or sending good night messages can be a part of building a life together too.
Maintaining love in a long-distance relationship requires intent and effort, but it’s possible. Improving communication, establishing trust, and finding ways to enjoy sexuality together can help.