You’ve met someone amazing, you’re crazy about them, and you can see a potential future with them. You talk with them every day, things are heating up, and you’re excited about where this is all going.
The only problem? You both live on opposite sides of the state—or different sides of the country. Heck, maybe you live on opposite sides of the world.
That’s a long-distance relationship (LDR), baby. It can work, but it comes with some serious challenges.
Do Long-Distance Relationships Even Work?
An LDR is an intimate relationship in which the partners are geographically separate from each other. They’re “locationally challenged.” They enjoy talking with each other and spending time with each other via phone or video chat, but they’re not physically with each other most of the time. Can this work long-term?
I’m a believer that a long-distance relationship can work—as long as it doesn’t go on indefinitely. Here’s why:
At some point you’ll have to actually BE WITH the other person to make sure you’re compatible in real life. Otherwise, it’s not quite a “real” relationship. It’s a vacation or a fantasy at best.
I’ve seen long-distance relationships work:
- When one person lives in one city (on their own), and the other person lives in a different city, and they come together on the weekends
- Where people are together for a year on opposite coasts—and one person decides to pull the trigger and move closer
In these situations, you can make it work. But this can’t (and shouldn’t) go on forever. At some point, one of you may need to uproot your life and make a permanent move to be with the other person. While you don’t have to rush this, just know that at some point, being together is the end goal.
Why a Long Distance Relationship Can Be Difficult in the Long Term
Dating with that kind of distance for more than a year is tough because it’s hard to not feel like you’re always on vacay when you spend time together. It’s not the “real” thing, because you don’t experience any of the regular grinds involved not only with dating but with being in a relationship.
For example, say you find out about a comedy show happening in town in a few days, and you want to invite your special person to go with you. This isn’t possible if they live on the other side of the country—unless they’re OK with booking a spur-of-the-moment flight. By not living near each other, you miss out on this spontaneity.
If you’re beyond dating and in a committed relationship, it’s hard to feel like you’re in a real relationship if you’re not seeing the person physically. Relationships are about sharing life’s challenges and joys with each other as they happen. That’s hard to do if you’re in different geographic locations.
Say you have a bad day and you need a hug. That’s not going to happen if your honey lives far away from you.
Most people get into a relationship because they want an amazing partner to share their life with. You want your partner to be close to you—that’s the whole point. You want to experience all of life with someone, including the ups and downs, the exciting stuff, the mundane stuff, the wins, and the losses, the spontaneous things, and the planned things. This is difficult, if not impossible when you live far away from your partner.
Not to mention, the costs of traveling, the time it takes to travel, and the logistics—can all be a burden on you and/or the relationship. The dynamic of “visiting, and then leaving” can also be a burden. LDRs aren’t for everyone. Some people are certain they wouldn’t be able to tolerate an LDR. And it makes sense—they’d be missing out on a key component of being physically with someone.
How to Make a Long Distance Relationship Last
Ironically, the way to make an LDR last is to understand that it shouldn’t be an “LDR” forever. It’s an LDR “for now.” If you treat the “long-distance” part of an LDR as something short-term (not a forever thing), then you can make it work.
For an LDR to really “go the distance,” one or both partners will have to move in with the other partner at some point. This can look like you uprooting your whole life to move to another state (or even another country)—or your partner choosing to do this instead. Or maybe both of you move to a new place to be together for a fresh start.
That requires a major sacrifice—and only you can decide if it’s worth it. You may have to leave behind family, friends, a workplace, a business, or other things in order to venture into a new geographic home with your partner (and/or vice versa). Aside from the usual challenges of dating—where you’re trying to figure out if you’re even compatible with this person and if there’s potential for something long-term—the LDR makes everything even more challenging.
While moving can be totally worth it, sometimes partners will realize they don’t want to be with the other person, and they don’t want to relocate to be closer to them.
Plan on having LOTS of open, honest conversations with your partner about this. Remember to share your feelings—not just the logistics.
If you find the partner of your dreams and you’re both super into each other, you can definitely make it work. (And why wouldn’t you want to make it work with the partner of your dreams?)
Commit and Make the Move
As the relationship progresses (as best as it can remotely), you may find that you and your partner naturally want to make plans to move closer. This can simply be an ongoing conversation, an exploration, and a discussion about possibilities.
Always keep communication with your partner at the forefront of everything you do. Is your communication getting better over time, or worse? Is it bringing you closer together emotionally, or further away? Are you both becoming more excited about the possibility of living with (or near) each other someday? Are you actually open to moving closer to each other? Are the feelings mutual?
If you and your partner both agree that at some point, this should happen, that’s a good sign. Before one person moves, both partners need to be fully committed to the relationship. Both need to be committed to seeing the relationship deepen and become more intimate over time. Again, you don’t have to rush this, but just know it should be on the horizon at some point.
You can have a common goal, such as, “We will move in together by X date,” or “We’ll have more clarity by X date.” If you don’t have this clarity, this excitement level, or some sort of plan, then the LDR may lose steam and fizzle out on its own.