2 Important Considerations To Make Before Going 'Long-Distance'
Making a long-distance relationship work can take some effort, but it doesn't have to be hard. Here's how to make your love stand the test of time and distance.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | February 06, 2024
Many couples and individual partners come to therapy before commiting to a long-distance relationship, wondering if they truly are capable of making it work. They may say things like:
- "I'm worried that the physical distance might create emotional distance as well. How can we ensure we stay emotionally connected in a long-distance relationship?"
- "I'm nervous about how to negotiate time together and time apart. How can we find a balance that works for both of us without feeling stressed?"
- "I've noticed negative tendencies in our relationship, and I'm scared it might make going long-distance even harder than it already seems. How do we address this before making the change?"
Beginning a long-distance relationship can be both thrilling and daunting. The very thought of being physically separated from your partner can instill trepidation, yet with dedication and careful consideration, many couples may find that distance can indeed make the heart grow fonder. Here are two points to reflect on before taking the long-distance leap.
1. Long-Distance Gives And Takes
Long-distance relationships have a unique dynamic that combines both enabling and restricting contexts. Research from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows that time apart can serve as a powerful reminder of the quality of the relationship, constructing valuable memories for partners to cherish. Contrastingly, the researchers highlight that time together can create expectations for quality interaction that may be challenging to achieve when miles apart.
Long-distance couples often navigate a precarious balance, segmenting their time together from time spent apart. While this allows for focused, quality time when together, it can also lead to partners returning to their separate lives feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Despite these challenges, the time apart can be a catalyst for personal growth and the accumulation of new experiences to share upon reunion.
Quality time becomes paramount in long-distance, serving as a means for partners to negotiate their needs for certainty and spontaneity. The scarcity of time together encourages couples to make the most of their moments, engaging in both conventional and unique activities. Partners can find joy in the ability to focus on personal pursuits during separation, allowing for a clean divide between self-improvement and relationship-building.
2. You Both Have To Be On The Same Page
Understanding the intricate emotional dynamics that underpin long-distance relationships is not only insightful, but also fundamental to their success. A study from The Journal of Social Psychology delves into the critical role of both negative affectivity—a combination of poor self-concept and heightened negative emotions—and relational security in predicting the stability of relationships, shedding light on nuances that can either fortify or undermine the connection.
For heterosexual couples, the impact of negative affectivity varies significantly between genders in long-distance relationships. The study suggests that males with higher negative affectivity have a distinctive association with breakups in long-distance relationships, a phenomenon not as pronounced in couples residing in the same city. This gender difference emphasizes the need for tailored considerations when embarking on a long-distance journey.
Couples can use this information to understand how personal vulnerabilities interact with the specific challenges posed by physical separation.
The study underscores the importance of maintaining relational security, irrespective of the physical distance. As long-distance partners may face more hurdles than others, addressing individual vulnerabilities becomes crucial in fortifying the foundation of the partnership. Couples, particularly those with more negative male partners, could remain vigilant about potential challenges and actively seek strategies to enhance relational security before making the change.
The research prompts a thoughtful consideration of the interaction between personal characteristics and the circumstances in which a relationship unfolds. The impact of negative affectivity in long-distance relationships highlights the need for tailored support and coping mechanisms.
Additionally, the ebb and flow of a long-distance relationship involves a constant negotiation of time, space and shared experiences, ultimately contributing to the resilience or fragility of the connection between partners.
Navigating a long-distance relationship requires reflection and an understanding of the commitment and readiness of both you and your partner. While distance undoubtedly poses challenges, it can also strengthen the bond between partners.
Maintaining a team mentality is crucial in long-distance relationships. If one partner falters, the entire team suffers. Open communication, trust and a shared vision for the future become the pillars of success in overcoming the hurdles presented by physical separation.
Embarking on a long-distance relationship demands introspection, understanding and a commitment to weathering the challenges that come with geographical separation. While the road may be arduous at times, the potential for growth, shared experiences and a strengthened connection can make the journey worthwhile. Remember, in the realm of love, distance may be a test, but with the right mindset and dedication, it can also be a testament to the strength of your bond.
To see whether your connection can stand the test of distance before physical separation, take a test to see how you fare when losing control in a relationship: The Relationship Control Scale
A similar version of this article can also be found on Forbes.com, here.