Long-distance relationships are a total whirlwind of the lows of missing your partner and the highs of holding them in your arms again. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but it certainly doesn’t come without its fair share of trials as well. Her Campus went on a mission to figure out the three most common problems of LDRs and how to deal with them. Here’s what dating coach Scot McKay, founder and CEO of X & Y Communications, and collegiettes who have experienced LDRs had to say.
Jealousy is an ugly emotion, and it’s a hard one to avoid, especially in an LDR. It’s difficult to see photos of your SO on Facebook with other girls and not get that angry feeling in the pit of your stomach. Sometimes it isn’t even jealousy of other girls, but jealousy of their friends for even getting to spend time with them.
“At the beginning of our relationship I used to get so jealous of anyone my boyfriend was with,” Sarah, a freshman at the University of Arizona, said. “Going from seeing him every day to once a month was a really hard transition. I wasn’t only jealous of the girls he was meeting, but just of his new friends in general. Somehow everyone felt like a threat to me.” After adjusting to seeing him less often and communicating her feelings, Sarah says her jealousy “slowly began to fade.”
While jealousy here and there, particularly at the beginning of an LDR, is normal, overwhelming jealousy is not. There is a difference between being occasionally jealous and being a jealous person, and according to McKay, “LDRs are not for jealous people…period.” If you’re feeling jealous in your LDR, make sure to communicate with your partner about what it is they’re doing that is making you jealous or uneasy, and then work together to find a solution that makes you both comfortable. While it isn’t okay to ask your partner not to go out and have fun, it is okay to set up reasonable boundaries that help you both maintain trust and comfort and avoid jealousy in your relationship.
Having unreasonable expectations
In an LDR, it’s important to be on the same page as your partner in terms of your expectations for one another. An LDR cannot succeed if one partner can’t provide what the other is asking for, whether that is how often they expect to see one another or how often they expect to talk.
In order to avoid unrealistic expectations, McKoy recommends “getting on Skype on a regular basis and making sure you’re communicating transparently with each other.” Letting your partner know what you need in order for your relationship to succeed is the best way to avoid confusion and hurt feelings, as well as discuss what you’re both able to give. If your partner expects to hear from you constantly throughout the day but you’re unable to text because of your job, classes or purely because you want to live in the moment, discuss ways to meet in the middle so you are both happy.
“If that’s not possible and/or at least one partner is making it difficult, then get out,” recommends McKoy. A relationship, especially one that is long-distance, can only succeed through open communication and compromise. If compromise doesn’t seem to be on the horizon, it may be time to reevaluate.
Not living separate lives
Relationships are meant to bring you up, not drag you down. While McKoy does recommend trying to “see each other as much as possible,” it is vital that you and your partner lead separate, independent lives apart from one another. Ditching your friends every Friday night to Skype instead of watching movies or heading to the bars is not only detrimental to your friendships, but your relationship as well. Being too dependent on one another is unhealthy and can put unnecessary strain on the relationship, and make you or your SO feel trapped.
“When I was in my first LDR I made the mistake of halting everything the second my boyfriend wanted to talk,” says Courtney, a sophomore at the University of Michigan. “It wasn’t healthy and I really feel like I missed out on a lot of opportunities because I was always dropping things for him. I was also asking him to do the same for me, and I think it built up resentment between us because we were holding each other back from really experiencing school,” she says. Courtney tried long distance again a few years later with a new partner, and she says she learned from this mistake. “The next LDR I was in I made sure to make it clear that we had to let each other live our own lives. Of course we had boundaries and expectations for one another, but they never stopped us from having fun. We made time for one another but we were able to say, ‘Hey, I’m at a bar right now, can we talk later?’ and have the other understand. I think that was a much healthier relationship to be in.”
It’s tricky to find a balance between leading your own lives and coming together, but tons of couples in and out of college in LDRs make it work. If you rely too much on the relationship and your whole weekend consists of only Skype dates, your friendships will begin to deteriorate. Even if it’s not now, one day you’re going to need your girls. Be there for them so they will be there for you. A relationship that is perfect today may not be perfect tomorrow, but as long as you have friendships to fall back on you will always end up okay.
You’re tempted to cheat
In every relationship there will be temptation, whether that relationship is long distance or not. However, it can become significantly harder to resist temptation if you are not physically with your partner often. It can be easy to get lost in the moment and think that your partner has no chance of finding out if you do cheat because they don’t reside on your same campus, but this mentality is super problematic. It’s normal to find other people cute while in a relationship, but when you begin to seriously consider taking things further than just the acknowledgement of their attractiveness, it’s a sign you either need to get out of your relationship or find a way to feel satisfied inside it.
Nicole, a junior at the University of Michigan, knew her LDR was coming to an end when she began to seriously consider hooking up with other individuals other than her boyfriend. The problem came when she wanted to wait until she saw him in person to break it off. “I thought it’d be more kind to wait until I saw him to articulate how I was feeling, and that I could wait until then,” she says. “But when one of my best friends who I had a thing for for years kissed me I couldn’t resist it. He was there for me in a way my boyfriend couldn’t be and it seemed easy. But looking back even years later I still feel bad about it and I should’ve broken it off before I ever did anything with anyone else.” While not everyone is considering ending their LDR when they are tempted to cheat like Nicole, the temptation to cheat may be a big indication that that’s what you need to do.
There’s no end in sight
In LDR’s it’s vital to have an end goal; you can’t do an LDR indefinitely. If you and your partner are struggling to find an end goal, it may be time to talk about where your relationship is heading.
“When my boyfriend and I first started long distance when he was a freshman in college in California and I was still a senior in high school, I really wanted to go to school in California as well,” says Courtney. “It made sense for us as a couple who had already been together over two years to do a year of distance and then be reunited when I headed out to school the next fall. But when I accepted my admission to University of Michigan, we knew continuing our relationship wouldn’t be possible and would just end up hurting us both, so we decided to split ways.” Though her decision wasn’t easy, Courtney knew the uncertainty of when they’d see each other next for her entire college career would hurt more than their break up would.
While the end of long distance doesn’t need to be immediate, there does need to be an end goal. Having a time frame can help ease feelings of frustration during long periods of separation, and makes the relationship feel worth it. If you and your partner are doing long distance for years with the knowledge that one of you wants to move to New York and the other LA after you graduate, it’s most likely time to accept that the relationship isn’t meant to be. Maybe in time you two will find a way to be together physically, but until then, live your own lives and trust that if it’s meant to be, it’ll be.
Though jealousy, unrealistic expectations and dependency are common issues in LDRs, they are ones that can be fixed through communication and an open dialogue with your partner. While being transparent in any relationship is helpful, it is especially vital in an LDR where the relationship literally depends on the upholding of boundaries and expectations you and your partner have set. Being open about what you need and what you’re looking for will allow you to stress less and enjoy your relationship more, which is what relationships are all about. Your relationship should make you happy and you should be able to work through and tackle the problems you two are facing head on as a team. After all, you’re better together, even if you’re miles apart!