One question I get asked time and time again on my Youtube channel is… do long-distance relationships work? Many people won’t even consider them as an option because they know how difficult they can be. Others, whether it’s someone they know in person, or the result of an online dating website, may try to make it work.
Either way, long-distance relationships are difficult, and most of the time they fail if you can’t make consistent trips to see the person.
Knowing why they fail could give you the advantage, so here are 9 challenges to keep in mind when deciding if you’re going to commit to this guy and this relationship:
1. Communication Is Intermittent
I’m not talking the day-to-day check-ins like “how was your day” or “what’s going on in your life?” I’m talking about the down-in-the-dirt, “lets solve this,” connecting-on-an-intimate-level type communication.
This type of communication is essential, especially when the relationship gets stale or goes through other challenges.
Sure, you can talk and text every day, but real communication is intermittent. Talking over video is going to be difficult, and face-to-face is what real communication and intimacy are built on.
Your relationship is literally at the whim of technology working correctly.
How can you help overcome this challenge when you’re wondering “do long-distance relationships work?”
You do this when you’re able to visit the person, make intimate communication a priority and when you’re (counter-intuitively) not afraid to have a couple fights.
When you’re working through tough topics, always talk on video chat — avoid using the phone and NEVER use text-based mediums.
No matter how you talk, make it a priority to be vulnerable, express your feelings, and practice good communication skills like active listening, feedback, admitting when you’re wrong, and talking and listening an equal amount.
2. Your Vibrations Will Never Be In Sync
You know that feeling when you just connect with someone? You’re breathing at the same rate, or you know what each other is thinking without having to ask?
You can’t ever have that long-distance; it relies on physical touch and being close to each other.
A large part of this phenomenon occurs through building rapport through body language and the production of the oxytocin hormone, which can only be accomplished through physical touch.
When this hormone is produced, especially when it’s paired with mirrored body language, we feel deeply intimate with someone.
It’s this feeling of connection that often forms the basis for early relationships and gets them through troubling times.
How can you help overcome this challenge? Well, you can’t really…
When you visit each other, take time for cuddling. This can be even more important than sex!
Apart from that, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to foster a mental and emotional connection with the person, and your relationship will need to be built off dedication and commitment than physical connection.
This is a great mental feat, but the right people can make it work.
3. Jealousy Is Amplified
You can be the most trusting person, and in a long-distance relationship, you’ll still have some doubt and some trust issues. If you’re a normal person who feels normal amounts jealousy, you’re going to have to work really hard to talk yourself down.
The problem with being long distance is that you don’t really have a set routine that tells you how committed he is to you. He doesn’t have a dinner to show up to every night. You can’t show up to his workplace. You can’t hang out with his friends…
Apart from relatively superficial acts of affection, like sending you flowers, there’s really no way to tell which of you is more committed.
It’s that very doubt that will tempt you toward ever-increasing amounts of jealousy…
Adding to this, you’ll never really know what he’s up to. You’ll never really know who he’s seeing or if he’s in a relationship with someone else.
No matter how irrational you know these may be, you’ll never be able to truly talk yourself down.
How can you help overcome this challenge when you’re wondering “do long-distance relationships work?”
First, try not to boarder on abuse or codependency with how much you check in. You both have your own lives and you have to be OK with that.
If you’re that worried he’s going to cheat on you, you shouldn’t be in the relationship.
You’ll need to work really hard not to be jealous until you have tangible reason to be. Is he consistently missing pre-scheduled calls? Is he talking about his female friends more? Does he seem more distant than normal?
If you don’t see any evidence to be jealous, make the decision not to be. Expect the same from him.
4. Intimacy Can Never Grow
Just like your vibrations, you can never have true, genuine intimacy without proximity. Of course, deep intimacy isn’t just sex (though that’s a big part of it), but it does require a physical presence — it’s all about that oxytocin…
Sure, you can get to know each other and learn each other’s deep secrets, but so can roommates, co-workers, best friends, and siblings — those things don’t make a romantic relationship.
Eventually you’ll hit a wall, at which point intimacy can no longer grow unless you see each other often and for extended periods of time.
How can you help overcome this challenge? It’s at this point the long-distance relationship has to end one way or another. You either need to fully commit or end the relationship all together.
Sure, you can travel back and forth to see each other, especially if the distance isn’t that long, but that will get exhausting and wear on both of you.
You’ll find yourself in the exact same spot — commit or break up.
5. Technology Never Tells The Tale
When you’re in a long distance situation, instead of being a tool to bring you together, social media is more likely to drive you apart…
The reason is, it presents absolutely no context into what you actually see on your partner’s profile.
Do you see him out with a bunch of women, partying, drinking, and having fun? There could be a reasonable explanation, but will you believe it?
Do you see that he sees your message, but he takes forever to respond? You can be understanding, but on some level, that’s going to cause you anxiety.
Maybe he makes “hot takes” or controversial statements. Maybe he shares offensive memes or fake news without any context or commentary.
Maybe he flirts with other women you don’t know. Some of these have reasonable explanations, some don’t, but without any context, you’ll just never know.
How do you help overcome this challenge when you’re wondering “do long-distance relationships work?”
It’s a radical idea in the 2020’s, but limit your connection social media as much as possible. Don’t friend him on Facebook. Don’t follow him on twitter. Above all, don’t look at his Instagram. It’ll be a breeding ground for jealousy…
But don’t you want to know if he’s up to something? You probably do, but you’ll never be satisfied with any answer. There will always be a lack of trust — unless he doesn’t use social media, in which case you’re good to go.
You should also limit any serious conversation to voice or video chat. Sure, texting and instant messaging can go a long way for more superfluous conversations…
But don’t try to build real intimacy or talk about difficult topics over it — you won’t get the context of voice tone and body language.
6. Resentment Loves Distance
Much like jealousy, it’s easy to breed resentment at a distance. Resentment is the feeling that he’s not doing everything he can (or should) to make this relationship work and that you’re getting the short end of the stick.
Resentment is the number one underlying cause of all relationship death…
Resentment is cured by understanding, communication, and presence. When you don’t have the chance to talk with the person, you don’t have the chance to resolve the issue, and it sits and grows as a tumor in your relationship, a tumor that can never be completely removed…
How can you help overcome this challenge? Mostly by using healthy communication. Talk about things as soon as you can (over phone or video chat) so things don’t have time to fester and you don’t have time to ruminate.
When you talk about your feelings, be completely honest, and expect him to be as well. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Don’t judge him for what he’s feeling.
If you both present your perceptions, why you have your feelings, and what you can do to fix the situation, it’s more likely you’ll both diffuse the resentment and work to fix the problem.
This is all a lot easier in person, as you can have physical touch, better body language, and it’s easier to communicate you still care about each other.
It’s possible to resolve these issues at a distance, but you both have to be exceptionally mature and have good communication.
7. It Never Feels 100% Right
Something will always feel slightly off to you when your relationship is long distance. You may have some great intimacy… so why does something feel slightly off?…
On some level, you know that true romantic relationships are physical and emotional.
You can have some intimacy at a distance, but you’ll never have the physical, heady thrill of being in the presence of your man, nor can you have true sensuality that separates you from a being just a friendship…
Because you’re missing these significant parts of your relationship, you’ll never feel completely settled as long as you’re long distance…
You’ll regret what you can’t have, what other people have, and this lack of satisfaction will always be a wound. You’ll always wonder what makes you more than just friends?
How can you try to overcome this challenge when you're debating “do long-distance relationships work?” Try to see each other as much as possible. Enjoy the aspects of your relationship you can. Try some cybersex.
8. Your Needs Are Never 100% Met
Even if you’re a woman with a relatively low sex drive, you still have needs that are both emotional and physical. In a long-distance relationship, both kinds of needs are less likely to be met than in a “proximal relationship.”
Emotionally, he won’t be able to be there whenever you need him.
You can’t wake him in the middle of the night to talk. He can’t rush to the hospital to meet you when there’s an emergency…
He can’t attend work parties, funerals, or weddings. He can’t even really meet your family…
His emotional support is limited to those moments when you can reach him through technology.
Physically, he won’t be there to give you a hug when you need it. He can’t hold you tight in bed and make you feel safe. He can’t wipe your tears or hold your hair back when you’re sick…
Unless you’re flying back and forth and visiting each other at least once a month, you’ll never get the oxytocin you really need.
How can you help overcome this challenge? You can’t, really, unless you’re making it a point to physically visit each other often.
This reduces the effects of being long distance, but gets really expensive and time consuming.
9. You’re Already Growing Apart
So, do long distance relationships work? They can, but it requires a lot of effort.
All these things lead to a slow decay. You may feel like you’re growing even closer, especially in the beginning, but on some level your doubt is already planting the seed that will end your relationship.
In reality, this is always happening to every relationship. It’s a constant tension, a give and take, of simultaneously growing together and apart.
Relationships take constant effort to keep together. They take late nights and early morning talks. They take hugs and kisses and cuddles.
The problem is that with long distance, you don’t have the tools to constantly repair it like you do in other relationships. The weight of growing apart is greater than the weight of coming together…
How do you help overcome this challenge when you're struggling to figure out “do long-distance relationships work?” Every single one of the challenges I’ve discussed can be overcome by seeing each other as much as possible.
But at least once a month is required if you’re truly going to overcome them.
Additionally, you both need to be very mature and have excellent communication skills. Finally, you need to both be OK with each of you needs not being met in the relationship.
If you can do all that, you just might have a chance of being in the 5% of long-distance relationships that stand the test of time.
You have commitment, which counts for a lot, and you have found one of the few people like you who can make this work!