Long-distance relationships are in a category of their own. Most couples don’t have to worry about the cost of traveling to see one another, and they have a built-in cuddle buddy whenever they want one. But most couples also don’t get to cherish limited time they have together. Plus, if each of you live in different cities, you basically get to go on a trip every time you go to see them. There’s one way, though, that long-distance relationships are not different than other relationships: They have their ups and downs. And knowing how to fix long-distance relationship problems is the key to the relationship’s success.
Because you see one another in intensely condensed periods of time, the highs and lows in a long-distance relationship are all the more extreme. If you are just entering a long-distance relationship, knowing the trials you have in store can help you be practical and also forgiving of yourself and your partner when they inevitably do come up. Tons of people have been in long-distance relationships and survived it. It just depends so much on whether you and your partner can communicate your troubles to one another, and if you can anticipate coping strategies for when these problems do, inevitably, arrive:
1. Your Conversations Concern The Past, Not The Present
When you and your partner are not able to be in your day-to-day lives in a tangible way, then you miss out on talking about the little idiosyncrasies of your day as they come up. A phone call in the evening might contain a summary of what your day was about, or texts throughout the day might alert one another to funny things that happened, but there is a difference between getting information in sound-bytes and seeing it for yourself.
When it comes to talking about each other, your conversations are going to involve what you did when you were together. Although it’s nice to recall memories, if you want to talk about shared experiences, then you have to discuss that visit three weeks ago, or reminisce about something funny that happened during sophomore year.
When you find yourself only talking about the past with your partner, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed. It just means that you need to find a way to have shared experiences from afar. One easy way is to pick out a book to both read together, or a television show to watch on the same night. Or both. Instead of relying on the past to inform your present, you’ll be able to bond over something fun and lighthearted, while also being entertained.
2. Your Imagination Will Get The Best Of You
Depending on how you met and how long your long-distance relationship has been going on, there are going to be certain things about your partner that you don’t know. When you’re dating in the same city, this can feel like a fun process of discovery. You can meet that funny co-worker they are always talking about. If your partner goes out dancing, then you’re invited along and you don’t have to read into the pictures they post on Instagram because you were there.
Not knowing builds jealousy and room for misinterpretation. If your partner is talking about their funny co-worker all the time, then it is easy to build it up in your head as someone they have a crush on. If you lived in the same city, you probably would have met their friend and might have even befriended them yourself. Assuming you have healthy coping mechanisms, you would probably know that any jealousy you felt had more to do with your own insecurities then something your partner was actually doing.
Having a conversation with your partner about how you are going to be clear with one another about crushes you might develop on other people and how you are going to address jealousy in your relationship is going to be an important one. If you notice you are having jealous feelings come up, then talk to your partner and tell them what you’re feeling before allowing your imagination to get the best of you.
3. Your Partner Can’t Be There When You Need Them
The hardest thing about a long-distance relationship is the constraints it puts on both of you to be there for one another. It sucks to hear that your partner is sick and not be able to bring them chicken soup. If your car breaks down, then your partner can’t be the one to come and scoop you up. You have to have a contingency plan, and it can feel basically like being single.
There’s nothing wrong with being single — I’m single, and I like it — but it does make things harder. You have to rely on a rotating cast of friends to support you when you’re down. There’s nothing quite like dragging yourself to the urgent care when you have the flu to make you envious of partners who have built-in support systems for themselves.
You and your partner can still figure out ways to be there for one another even if it’s not in physical form. Maybe it is calling up a local restaurant and getting food delivered to your girlfriend when she is sick; maybe it is arranging for a rental car to pick her up. Granted, some of these support systems are contingent upon whether you have the money and resources to provide them, but if there’s one thing long-distance couples are good at, it’s being creative. Your love can last from afar, even on bad days.
4. Traveling Takes A Toll
Traveling is fun, but it can also be a big stressor in a long-distance relationship. Vacation days get used up. Even bus tickets can be kind of expensive. Being away from home might mean you have to get a petsitter or postponing housekeeping you need to do to manage your own life. Depending on how far away your partner lives, you might spend the first day you see them exhausted from your trip. And at the end of the week or the weekend, you have to say goodbye. You cry or get a pit in your stomach. Being in a long-distance relationship can have the weird and sad effect of making you miss your partner even when you are with them.
I don’t really have a solution for the toll that traveling to see your partner might take on you when you are in a long-distance relationship. The only advice I have to give is to be kind with your emotions, and patient, and know that nothing in life is ever permanent — including this distance.
5. A Fight Feels Like A Wasted Trip
Couples have conflicts. It’s always stressful, but when you are in a long-distance relationship, spending a weekend together in an argument feels even more fraught. One of you came a long way to see the other, and now you wasted it butting heads. Couldn’t you have done that over the phone? At the end of the weekend, even if you have reached a reconciliation, then you know it’s going to be probably at least a few weeks before you see them again and can actually have fun together.
Look, the conflict had to happen. If you hadn’t confronted your issues, then it would have led to some seething resentment that would have bubbled up eventually. A long-distance relationship is not going to be idyllic all the time. If every fight makes you feel like you are going to break up, that’s one thing. But if you just feel like you wasted time together, you didn’t. Figuring out how to have conflict and compromise is key to building a strong foundation for a relationship. The hardship of doing it long-distance is that the pressure gets turned up.
Ultimately, your happiness in a long-distance relationship depends on your disposition and your mindset. If you know that your love can overcome these difficulties, then you have a stellar foundation to build a lasting commitment on. And if it doesn’t work out, then you can take solace in the fact that your relationship was more intense than it is for other couples. You can’t be faulted for trying.
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