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Wellness > Sex + Relationships

Why Long-Distance Relationships Aren’t For Everyone

You know that feeling when you’re with your partner, and you don’t think you could be any happier in that moment? That feeling when life seems to be in slow motion, and your responsibilities don’t seem so daunting and overwhelming. Who would want to let go of that feeling?

Unfortunately, life isn’t in slow motion. Responsibilities don’t just go away—you have dreams you need to attend to and a life of your own that needs to be worked on. Sometimes that means having to move away from your fling, your lover or your long-time relationship. It may mean you or your partner is going off to a new school or a new job. It means change and excitement, and that’s bound to cause some stress, but if you’re able to overcome the initial disruption, and maintain that level of trust, there’s a great chance you’ll learn to like—maybe even love—your new arrangement.

Long distance tends to teach people a lot about themselves. The time and energy going into a relationship may hinder at first because physical interactions and quality time seem to diminish to phone calls and Skype sessions. Both partners need to readjust and consider their options through intense and honest conversations. Before you say your goodbyes and proclaim that you’re in an LDR, there are factors and questions you should address both personally and as a team.

Do you see a future with your partner?

This is tough to just blurt out to a partner. The future is scary on its own, but factoring in another person complicates it even more. It requires introspection about what you think of your SO, and how you envision them in your life in the long run. You want someone that you’re willing to wait for, and that’s willing to wait for you. Picturing your future with them should make you happy because you want to hear about what’s happened while you’ve been away and vice versa. You should want your partner to succeed even if that means being apart for a while. That level of support is the difference between short- and long-term relationships. Putting aside your personal attachment so both of you can grow and come back to each other is what’s going to make the future better. If you can see that with your partner, then maybe an LDR is the right choice.

The person you’re with should help make you better because you’re great on your own. If you don’t believe their presence will amplify who you are already, then long distance may not be for you.

Related: 5 Ways To Transition To a Long Distance Relationship

Do you believe you can commit to this person without physically being able to be with them?

This may seem difficult to answer because it’s hard to know if you’ve never been in an LDR before. You may feel like you need to test the waters for before you fully declare you’re capable of it. However, you know yourself, and you know your SO as well. If you or they have a history of cheating even before going the distance, try to think of reasons why this would or wouldn’t happen again.

Micki Wagner, a senior at the University of Missouri-Columbia, can attest to this type of dilemma. “I just recently went through a breakup with a guy who couldn’t do long distance. A big reason why distance is hard for him is because he and his ex were long distance, and she cheated on him. So that made it difficult for him to be fully trusting, even though I’m not her and I wouldn’t have done the same.”

There’ll be new people and new places with long distance, and while these conversations aren’t the most comfortable, knowing someone has been unfaithful is a hell of a lot more uncomfortable. Be clear on what you want and expect. You might even discover this is or isn’t something you can truly handle.

Do you trust this person?

When work runs late and someone misses a phone call, how will you react? Are you comfortable with your partner going out on the weekends and drinking? Are you uncomfortable when they don’t check in regularly? These questions may seem to have simple answers, but you’d be surprised at how many people stare at their phones waiting for the same explanations. Can you handle the instances where life gets in the way or will you simply jump to conclusions because it’s all too much?

Molly Crum, a recent graduate from James Madison University, says, “My boyfriend and I did long distance every summer break of college. At first, it was really hard, but I tried to focus on who I did have around me and how I could spend our time apart to make it go faster. I spent a lot of time with my family and high school friends I hadn’t seen all school year. I took on a full-time job and redecorated my whole bedroom because having fun goals or projects to work on distracted me from missing him and gave me something exciting to tell my boyfriend about later!”

If you’re someone who needs constant attention and reassurance, you may think an LDR is impossible, but we’re here to tell you it’s not. If anything, being apart from someone who seems like your whole world might actually show you that they’re not—you are. You may even be able to reconnect with old friends and hobbies.

Nobody’s perfect, and there will be times we assume the worst because we’re human. But being curious about what’s been going on is different than accusing your partner of cheating. Both people in a relationship are accountable. If your partner has made comments about their insecurities in the relationship, you should be able to thwart their concerns. Trust works both ways.

Is this person your friend?

This is one of the most important aspects of LDRs. Couples who choose to do long distance are usually successful when the relationship is built on a foundation of friendship. Meaning, you should like your partner for more than the physical reasons. These relationships tend to highlight the other beautiful reasons people choose to be together.

For example, you may be with your partner because they’re easy to talk to and they just “get you.” If that’s the case, long phone and FaceTime calls will allow you to still feel close to your partner, or you can watch your favorite movies together by screen sharing. There’s obviously a lot more to relationships than hooking up. Being actual friends with your partner allows LDRs to work more smoothly because you’ve already established a liking for each other outside of sexual attraction. If communication is lacking in your relationship and you don’t actually like talking to your partner, an LDR may not be for you.

How long will you be apart?

The logistics of LDRs seem to be many people’s first reaction to the thought of this type of relationship. How often will the couple see other? Who’s going to visit who? What’s the maximum amount of time you can go without seeing each other? You may not have the answers right away, but know that these questions will come up.

A warning for those who are thinking about long distance: love isn’t always enough. It’s common to think love conquers all, but honestly, that’s just not the case. Things get lost in translation, and sometimes you’ll feel like you need more love and support. It’s okay if you feel like you’re not getting enough, even if you know you love each other.

Dania De La Hoya, a sophomore from Illinois State University, says, “My long distance relationship ended a couple months ago, I think because of this very reason. Not everyone can do long distance. It’s hard not seeing your SO on a regular basis and in my case, my ex needed more than long distance could give him—more seeing each other, more physical affection, so we just grew apart. I think it helps if there’s a specific end in sight because long distance can’t go on forever. If you know it’s just temporary, you have that to hold onto.”

Dania’s right; an end goal is important to these types of relationships. There needs to be a conversation about the conclusion to an LDR, which can seem almost impossible in college. People are just barely becoming adults and joining the workforce in this age, and assuming that you’ll both graduate and get jobs near each other is pretty optimistic. Honestly, this conversation may be best for people nearing a new chapter in their lives (graduation), because if you want the long distance to end, you have to be willing to compromise for your future with your SO, which isn’t applicable for many young adults.

Time and time again, we’ve witnessed couples who don’t seem to have these types of honest conversations and end up hurting more than loving each other. Save yourself and your SO the trouble and talk to them.

The rewards of an LDR are almost exactly the same as any other relationship: love, understanding, support and comfort. It can be hard missing an SO, but amazing when you get to hold them after a long time, and to a lot of people, that’s worth it. But if you’ve realized that an LDR is not for you, remember that this doesn’t make you a bad person, nor does it make you better or worse at relationships. It just means you have different needs, and that’s okay. It may mean the person you’re with is not willing to commit. Maybe they’re not the person for you, and that’s okay too. There’s no perfect couple who can handle any change or disruption that comes their way. Relationships are complicated and messy, and whether or not you choose to be long distance is just another difficult decision ahead in your beautiful life.

*Originally written 5/2/2017

Stephanie is a senior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where she is currently studying international relations with a minor in psychology and Asian Studies. When she's not researching and writing assigned articles for Her Campus, she is working on-campus jobs and saving up for her next traveling adventure!