All relationships go through tough spots, and going long-distance is a challenge for any couple. That being said, when things get difficult, it can be easy to focus solely on what your partner is or is not doing. This is an important part of the equation, of course, but only half of the story.
If things feel like they’re not quite working out, consider whether you might be unintentionally neglecting some aspects of your relationship.
Here are 6 ways you might be sabotaging your long-distance relationship, and what you can do about it.
1. Being indifferent to their communication style
There are a few conversations you should have with your partner before you go long-distance, including what kind of support you need from each other and how you like to keep in touch.
For instance, do you want to talk every day? Do you prefer to text in little amounts throughout the day, or to have only long conversations with a definite beginning and end? If your styles are mismatched and neither of you is willing to be flexible, one of you can easily come across as distant, whilst the other might seem overly needy.
If one of you is constantly leaving the other on read, think about how you can meet halfway on communication so that things feel more balanced.
2. Not being honest about your values
When you’re physically present with your partner, they’re going to notice when you’re down, when you’re anxious, when there’s something on your mind and when you’re not speaking your truth. But when they’re so far away and your interactions are limited to screentime and texting, it’s easy to pretend.
This is understandable: people in LDRs have less time with their partners, so it’s natural to want to avoid conflict. But if you’re bottling up your feelings, or not revealing your true values and beliefs, things will only become more difficult later on when you can no longer hide it.
It might be hard, but if you feel something, it’s best to acknowledge it.
3. Not making your partner part of your life
When you live with someone, or are at least dating each other in the same city, it isn’t much effort to make them part of your everyday life. You go places together. It’s easy to drop in on friends and family. When you’re long-distance, it takes a little more care and thoughtful planning – but it’s an important part of feeling like you’re truly an item.
If you haven’t yet introduced your partner to your friends and family, it’s not too late. Don’t let distance get in the way – if you can’t get everyone together, set up a group FaceTime, Zoom or Skype call.
When your partner visits you, go out with friends together. When your friends and family ask how things are going, take care to mention your partner when you update them.
4. Trying to control their everyday life
When you’re miles away from your partner, it’s tempting to quiz them on absolutely anything and everything: where did they go today? Who are they hanging out with? Are they wearing that scarf you sent them? Are they still following that keto diet?
This often comes from a place of good intention, and a little of it may be okay. But after a while it can become wearing and they might start to feel like a puppet on a string.
If you find yourself doing this a lot, think about your intentions when you ask these questions. Are you just curious, or do you want to ‘fix’ your partner in some way? If so, this isn’t a good sign for the relationship. Also, think about how the conversation normally goes. If you feel irritated when they’re not doing what you want and you double down on why they should be doing it, this is a danger sign.
If you feel the need to change your partner fundamentally, it may be time to think about whether the relationship is really right for the two of you. However, if you really do like them for who they are and have accidentally started doing this, try asking less pointed questions. Ask open questions that invite them to talk about what they’re passionate about, and celebrate their victories rather than focusing on other things they could be doing.
5. Refusing to set goals
A successful long-distance relationship is one where the couple share goals that are both large and small, long-term and short-term. The smaller, short-term goals (like saving for a trip together) help to reinforce your status as a couple and give a bit of a ‘trial run’ for larger goals (such as managing finances). The long-term goals, like moving in together after a certain period of time, give overall structure to the relationship and a light at the end of the long-distance tunnel.
That’s not to say that having a ‘one day at a time’ approach is always doomed – not if that’s what you both honestly want! But if one of you wants to talk about the future and the other keeps changing the subject every time, that could be a sign that one of you is more invested than the other. On the other hand, it may just be that you feel like there are smaller milestones to be reached first.
If this is the case, think about what (if anything) would need to change for you to want to have those big conversations, and then work towards those smaller goals together.
6. Not expressing affection
A really quick way to send a relationship downhill is to stop showing signs of appreciation – like saying ‘I love you’, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’, and telling them what you love about them.
Maybe you just feel like you shouldn’t need to express these things because they should already know how you feel? Well, some people don’t need as much verbal affirmation as others do. But if your partner has indicated that they’re insecure about how you feel, make the effort to express it more, even if you feel like it should be obvious.
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