Long-distance dating is a romantic relationship between two people that are geographically too far apart to regularly spend time together.
When partners are not within close proximity of one another, they lack intimacy in their relationship and face many challenges.
Communicate regularly and make plans to see each other in the future to maintain the relationship during the time you’re apart.
Give long-distance dating a chance because you might learn something about yourself in the process.
In 2023, long-distance dating is easier than ever due to technology but you may argue that it still lacks real intimacy. There’s a lack of physical touch and quality time together when romantic partners live apart from one another.
No matter how many times you video call or text each other, there’s still a huge part of the relationship missing. Maintain a realistic image of your boo when long-distance dating and make plans together to maintain hope in the relationship. There are strategies you can use to nurture your relationship and keep the spark alive – even over many miles.
What Is Long Distance Dating?
A long-distance relationship, or LDR for short, is a romantic relationship between two people who live too far apart to see each other on a regular basis. Whether the distance is a few hours by car or a few hours by plane, geography has a major impact on the relationship. When you are unable to see each other in person, communication must happen virtually. When video calls are the most intimate interaction experienced in a relationship, it is difficult to connect as romantic partners.
Stages of Long-Distance Dating
Whether your relationship started out as a conventional one or you were far apart from the start, there are classic stages a relationship goes through as it transitions to long distance.
The first part of any long-distance relationship is when you decide to remain a couple, but far apart from one another. One person takes a job in another state or wants to go for a long trip abroad, but the other decides to stay put. Together, you decide to break up or dive into an LDR. This is a difficult decision to make, but it’s beautiful to love someone enough that you are happy to even do it from afar.
When a couple decides to continue a relationship long-distance, they often spend every moment possible together leading up to the parting. During this time, you make decisions and set expectations for what happens while you are apart. It’s useful to set a timeline of when you expect to see one another and discuss whether you’ll be able to change your status from an LDR back to an in-person relationship.
After you say your goodbyes and temporarily part ways, you face a stage of transition in your relationship. When you move away from a partner, it’s easy to focus on the big changes in your life without thinking much about the changes in the relationship. You likely message often and feel as though you are still geographically close to your boo.
Once the novelty wears off, the transition hits you and you feel the dynamic shift in your relationship. You face the reality that you no longer sleep next to your partner or hold their hand on nightly walks. Perhaps you and your boo are even in different time zones.
Although this phase is painful, there is an upside. People typically find more independence while increasing physical and mental health.
Jealousy is a common experience in LDRs. You may feel jealous of their partner going to nightclubs or talking to coworkers they may find attractive as they worry their partner is open to new romantic interests. You may also feel jealous of the friends and family who get to spend a lot of time with their significant other. Jealousy is the most common negative emotion to experience during a long-term relationship.
Keep open communication with your partner and focus on your own life to reduce feeling jealous as much as possible.
The more time you spend at a distance from your boo, the more likely you are to doubt how solid the relationship is. Sometimes this comes from forgetting what it feels like to be together. Other times, doubt is due to idealizing the relationship to a point beyond reality.
It’s totally normal to doubt a relationship, but analyze why you feel this way to overcome your doubt and continue working on the partnership.
Validation is the final stage of LDRs as partners choose to accept the dynamic for what it is and continue experiencing new things without their significant other. Long-distance relationships innately come with a lot of jealousy and doubt, both of which force people to rethink their relationship.
In a successful LDR, you choose each other over and over again, validating that you are a good match after all.
Tips For Navigating a Long-Distance Relationship
An LDR is far different from a relationship within close proximity. There are different expectations for each other and unique possibilities for the relationship. Set clear boundaries with your partner as a physical distance grows between you, and follow these tips to navigate the relationship from afar.
Expectations of a long-term relationship are different than when you are in the same place. Before there is a physical distance between you and your love, set some ground rules and expectations of what happens while you are apart.
Are you remaining monogamous? Are you going on dates with other people? Do you want to know if your partner sleeps with someone, or are you taking on a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy? How often do you aim to see each other? Do you have a shared vision of the future?
Be careful not to set your expectations too high, but find mutual ground to continue to show love to one another from far away. Be prepared for your expectations to shift as you get used to the new dynamic of your relationship. Communicate new boundaries or expectations with your partner, and remain open to their changes too.
According to Dr. Wendy Patrick, an expert on the psychology of attraction, “Research seems to indicate that LDRs can not only survive but thrive—with the right mindset and the right partner. Choosing a like-minded paramour who is similarly emotionally equipped to weather the challenges of remote romance will increase the chances of relational success. Discussing relational expectations at the outset will allow both parties to enjoy their time apart, with an eye towards enjoying their reunion all the more."
Always Have a Plan
The ongoing uncertainty of an LDR causes frequent problems and hurt feelings. The longer you spend apart, the more you question aspects of the relationship. Do they still feel the same way about you? Will the relationship be the same when you reunite? Is this worth it? Are they meeting up with other people?
The longer you’re apart, the more these questions press on your mind and the more you doubt the connection. To ease these uncertainties and have something to look forward to, always have your next plan to see each other scheduled. Plan a vacation together or a weekend in one of your cities.
When you stop having something to look forward to together, enthusiasm and anticipation quickly fade.
Did you and your boo decide you would live in different cities for your jobs? Did you both go to your hometown for a while to see family? Do you want to live in different climates? There are countless reasons for your relationship to take on a geographical distance. However, it’s important to have a goal to reunite with your partner – assuming you don’t want to maintain an LDR in perpetuity.
Be clear with your partner about your long-term goals for the relationship and location. You both need to have the possibility in mind that you eventually live happily ever after in the same city. Without a plan to reunite and be in a no-distance relationship, hope is quickly lost and the relationship crumbles.
If your plans for the future don’t align, there is no real purpose in having a long-distance relationship. Love is not enough to date someone; you must also have a shared vision for your lives to maintain a relationship long-term.
Without the possibility of a future, there is no point in suffering through an LDR.
The classic advice for an LDR is to schedule a time to talk to each other and keep in contact as much as possible. Having to call someone turns your FaceTime date into a chore rather than something you choose and look forward to doing. Allow your communication to happen organically, so you are sure it is something you both want to do rather than something you must do.
Keep communication with your long-distance partner a priority without setting rules for each other. Forcing communication leads to awkward and unproductive conversations. Save your chats for when there is something to talk about to keep some excitement. If someone feels obligated to talk to their partner, resentment grows and damages the relationship.
If you’re more interested in the football game that’s on TV than the phone conversation, it’s best to wait until tomorrow and give your full attention then. Communication is best when it happens organically and both parties are in the right headspace to chat with each other.
Less is more in communicating; don’t get bored of talking to each other. Sending a simple good morning or good night text goes a long way to show that you are thinking of each other. Not every message needs to be a full life update. If you expect a long conversation every time you chat, it takes far more commitment when reaching out at all. Remain intentional when you reach out to your partner.
If you are unhappy with the amount of communication with your long-distance partner, whether you want more or less, talk to them about it with compassion and reasoning. Talk as much or as little as you want!
Keep It Interesting
Getting bored of a relationship is a big risk when you can’t be in each other’s physical presence. Rather than mundane texts about how your day is going or complaining about work, send a photo or a voice memo to add a little spice. Remind them often what you love about the relationship.
Show them you care in creative ways such as sending take-out to their house for a “dinner date” or writing a letter to send via snail mail. Small gestures show them you care and keep the LDR as interesting as possible.
Plan an online date to take a walk on a video call or eat at the same time. Play a game against each other on your phones. Binge watch the same series and chat about your favorite characters and the plot.
To maintain some sexual chemistry and satisfaction, send sexy photos or dirty texts. FaceTime sex is fun to fulfill some of your sexual desires too. When you’re feeling horny and missing your lover, video call them to masturbate together and facilitate some virtual sexy time.
Long-distance dating proposes different issues than most relationships. You don’t experience the typical issues of relationships rooted in spending too much time together, but rather face issues of doubting the relationship and lacking intimacy with one another. Rest assured that many couples experience these sources of turmoil when trying to make their relationship work with distance between them.
When you’re apart from someone for an extended period, it’s natural for your image of them to shift. It becomes difficult to see someone as they truly are when they’re not right in front of you. You start to see someone with an exaggerated view – either positively or negatively.
Some people get jealous and possessive of a partner when in a long-distance relationship. It’s common to feel threatened by casual outings or hearing a friend’s name you’re unfamiliar with. Remind yourself that your partner does not automatically become disloyal to you just because they’re not in front of you.
Some people have a perfect—and false—image of their partner because they’re not experiencing the small annoying things that they notice in person. Do not idolize your partner when you are apart, or you set yourself up for disappointment when you reunite. It’s nice to think that the perfect partner for you exists, just from a distance, but be careful not to set your hopes too high.
Is It Worth It?
It’s easy for your mind to wander and wonder if it’s worth your heartache to maintain the relationship. What if you put in all the work and the relationship fails? It’s easy to have doubts when you don’t have your loved one in front of you in all of their glory.
Your relationship is worth giving long-distance a chance. Even though it feels lonely at times, you’re still lucky to have someone who cares so much about you, so give it a shot!
In the best case scenario, you reunite and live in the same city to enjoy each other on a regular basis. Worst case scenario, the relationship doesn’t work but you gave it your best shot and learned more about yourself in the process.
Lack of Reality
Having an LDR is like having a virtual relationship. You don’t see the full reality of your partner or connection. You know what their personality is like, what you like about them, and the details of their life. However, you don’t know that the way she chews gets on your nerves, that he likes to spend an hour alone after work in the evening, that they leave a mess in the bathroom every morning, or any of the annoying habits you might see when you are together.
It's easy to live in a fantasy world about a long-distance partner and remain unaware of their full reality. No matter how much you talk or how well you know them, some things are out of sight and out of mind.
True intimacy exists when you are in each other’s faces all the time. This simply cannot happen in a long-distance relationship. In some ways, it feels good to have your space rather than seeing things you dislike about your boo, but delaying reality can be dangerous.
The reality of spending a lot of time together is essential in determining whether or not the relationship lasts.
There IS a Bright Side
When dealing with distance in a relationship, see the struggle as an opportunity to grow. Caring about each other enough to remain loyal and reunite after an extended time apart is a testament to the strength of your relationship. After dealing with distance, the time you finally spend together feels far more precious. Focus on gratitude when you get to hold their hand, smell their hair, and enjoy cuddling up for a movie together again.
Use the time you spend away from your partner to focus on yourself and other relationships. Dive deeper into your career, set a regular schedule for the gym, connect deeper with friends, or pick up a new hobby. Find enjoyment in this “single” life until you combine your life with your partner’s once again.